|Around Lakselvbukt, near Tromsø, Northern Norway|
It's been, therefore, over a year since the fact, but I find myself still talking and reading about the places we went, and if I don't document this, in about 3 years I'll hate myself for having neglected the task.
I want to write a bit about the first part of the trip - the frozen, snowy, rural parts of Northern Norway, because those were the most foreign and made a lasting impression on me. I've written about Svalbard already, and as for the food at the two "big name" restaurants in Sweden, while important, would never have been fully understood had I not been to the Nordic countryside.
|Tromsø from the top of the cable car|
"Paris of the North", they call it, but I have no idea why. It is a quaint town of a city, and beautiful in its own way, but Paris it is not. We stayed outside of the "city" - the charm of these parts, like many remote places in the world, was not to be found in the urban centre, but about an hour away in the fjords. Now, people, including Norwegians themselves, love talking about the fjords as excellent holiday destinations - many of them keep a holiday cabin, one of which we were staying in - but they only talk about how great they are in the summer. Winter is mostly dark (in February, the sun rose at around 10-11am and set at around 2pm), and "sunlight" hours are basically twilight: sunrise, then suddenly, sunset. But I loved it - the snow, the icy roads (thank goodness G drives stick), the solid rivers, the cold, the bleakness - it was everything I'd never known.
|Sunrise in the fjords|
|Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), from our cabin in Lakselvbukt|
Food shopping was an interesting experience - there were basically no "mom and pop" shops. Even our local corner store in our tiny village was a Coop. There wasn't much in the way of fresh vegetables, and if they were available, they would be hideously expensive (basically every supermarket was a Citysuper, in Hong Kong terms). But unlike Hong Kong, they had brilliant bread and seafood for cheap. We had salmon almost every single night, and I haven't tasted anything like it since.
|Rare to find trees aside from pines in the area. Our car also got stuck in the snow here...|
One thing I did notice, especially this far north - they're incredibly unaccustomed to having foreigners. The whole lounge at the place where we went downhill skiing stopped to stare at me when I took my helmet off, although apart from some teenagers who couldn't stop laughing and pulling their eyes to make "Asian" faces at me, no-one was ever rude.
Wanting to learn more about these "mysterious" people, I read a very interesting book recently called The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth. It has, in a way, helped decode the cultural complexities of the region, and it's a fascinating read, especially if you plan on going to Scandinavia, or have already.
I don't know when we'll make it back, but I hope it's soon.