Trip to Tromsø, Norway -
A short summary
The trip begins
It didn’t take long to get out of the airport and I went outside in the cold to wait for a taxi. After a short time we were about 20 people waiting in line and there were no taxis in sight. But luckily there was a sort of indoor area where we could wait for the taxi without being exposed to the cold wind directly. I was prepared for this kind of weather so I did have a fleece hat and gloves and it gave me some sort of protection but I saw a few others that were freezing. After a while the taxis did start to pour in and soon I was on my way to the hotel. Tromsø is located on the small island Tromsøya and it only takes about 10 minutes to the the downtown area. I stayed at Radisson Blu and you can read about my hotel experience here.
There are a few places to choose from when it comes to eating in Tromsø – one of the most popular places seems to be Skarven and we headed over there in hope to find a table even if we had no reservation. But when we got there, all the restaurants were full and even if we begged the manager to squeeze us in he did not give in. I guess they must have been completely full due to the Nordlysfestivalen (a music festival held in Tromsø). As we were starving and cold we just tried to find the first place with a vacant table and we ended up at Egon – a Norwegian version of Applebee’s I guess. Decent food at a reasonable price. We paid 600 kroner for chicken dish for me, spareribs for Nikki and some house wine.
Sightseeing in Tromsø
Many of the attractions in Tromsø are related to the location of the city and its history. So we started at the Polar museet (Polar museum) and it gives a nice introduction to Norwegian polar and arctic activities. Here we learned about Norwegians “discovering” Svalbard or Spitsbergen, how Norwegians have carried out hunting on various islands in the arctic, about Roald Amundsen’s expedition when he reached the South Pole as the first human etc. One of the rooms at the museum shows an old cabin used at Svalbard for hunting and it is hard for a modern Norwegian to really picture what it would be like to survive in a harsh environment without modern day facilities. On our way out of the museum I was planning to go the bathroom but it was closed as it was frozen! And the waves outside the museum were waves of ice slurry – another reminder of how cold it was.
A peak with a view
If you want a cup of coffee I can recommend the place called Kaffebønna – they had a pretty good Caffe Moccha there (but I would have liked to see a bit more chocolate in it :-). They also had some nice sandwiches if you are looking for lunch and free wifi.
As it was sooo cold we decided to check out the shopping facilities of Tromsø and we went to the shopping mall called Nerstranda. It is a Steen og Strøm outlet and we have similar ones in Stavanger and hence there were no “exciting” new shops to browse for us. The mall is located in the middle of town (near Skarven) and you can see the shop directory here.
Dinner at Emma’s
We wanted to try out something exotic while we were in the north but unfortunately it did not seem like seal was in season. But the first course at Emma’s was a first for us anyway: fried tongues of cod served with grated carrots, chili marinated cucumbers and some sort of mayo. The cod tongues did remind me a bit of fish and chips as they were deep fried but when I picked out the tongues to taste them on their own, they did have a good taste and consistency. The next dish was a red fish called Ishavsrøye (Arctic charr) which is similar to trout. This was served on top of a creamy risotto with a lobster sauce on the side and topped with parsely butter. The fish was excellent (I like salmon and trout) and the risotto was also very good even if it was slightly overdone and a bit too salty according to Nikki.
The third course was a red berry sorbet which was excellent – great in taste and creamy in consistency. But it was a weird getting this in the middle of the meal as I think this would be better as a dessert. The main dish was a steak of reindeer, served with “røstipoteter” (shredded potatoes baked in a cake tin) and a pure of Jerusalem artichokes. The Jerusalem artichoke is popular these days and seems to be served quite a lot with meat. To round of the evening was a chocolate trio – the dark chocolate cake was exceptional (can I have the recipe Emma?) while the chocolate pairfait was maybe served a bit too cold as it was quite hard and the white chocolate ice was quite anonymous. But the dark chocolate cake was great together with the fresh berries that came along with the dish.
All in all it was a delightful meal and I would love to go there again if I get the chance. The only negative I can put my finger on was the fact that the food came a bit too fast to start with and it was hard to finish of the wine to one course before we got the next. The 5 course dinner was 600 kroner per person (100 US Dollars) and the wine was 500 kroner per person for a glass of wine for each of the 5 courses.
Once again we headed back to Skarven to see if we could eat lunch there but the restaurants were closed and only the bar was open – they did seem to have some interesting things on the menu but it was completely full as it was a Saturday afternoon and everyone else were out and about. Many of the other places that we also wanted to check out were crowded as well. We ended up at Sjøgata XII which is a restaurant that seems to serve Italian and dishes based of dried fish. Klippfisk is salted and dried cod and is used in dished like bacalau (served in places like Portugal and Brazil). We tried the lunch bacalau which was served with scampi and saffron and that was OK. In the counter area they had large klippfisk on display – the typical dry and salted fish typically for this part of Norway and of course used in bacalau.
The great outdoor adventure
It seems like the tourist activity has gotten quite a boost after Joanna Lumley did her BBC show about the area and that is of course great news. When is she coming to Stavanger so that I can show her Kjerag?? Anyway, we went over to the Rica hotel (next door from Radisson Blu) to get picked up at 5 PM. A guy came in and asked if we were all going on a tour and all of us said yes and we went out to a large bus waiting outside. The driver didn’t say anything as we drove off and Nikki and I were just hoping that we were on the right bus – they should really have some sort of welcome when you get on the bus. We drove out of Tromsø and after about 1 hour we had a short stop at a gas station. Some of the guests on the bus freaked out a bit when some of their friends went inside and the driver decided to move the bus – they thought he was going to drive away without their friends :-) We got to the Lyngsfjord adventure center after about an hour as it is about 90 km out of Tromsø. We first had to sign an insurance waiver form – I guess they don’t want to get sued right, left and center.
We had brought all our warm clothing but the staff
at the center made sure that we got dressed properly as it was cold outside.
I was wearing my
Kilimanjaro stuff – wool underwear, fleece pants, thick
woolen sweater, a balaclava made for cold conditions etc. I also had
Gore-Tex to wear on top but Lyngsfjord Adventure had stuff that we could
borrow so I got some thick shoes and an insulated body suite. I also had
thick fleece mittens and Gore-Tex mittens on top of these. I think we were
the only Norwegian guests that day and I think the rest of the guests were people from China,
Australia, Germany etc. Our guide actually said that it was a bit weird doing the
intro in Norwegian for us and I guess that shows that it is a popular
destination for foreigners :-) We got a brief introduction on how to drive the
snowmobile – the rest of the guests went off to do reindeer and dog sledding
so it was just Nikki and I and our guide. There is not that much to the
driving of a snowmobile so we put on the helmets and started up and soon we
were driving through the winter landscape lit by the full moon – I started
driving and Nikki was riding along with me.
We got to about 1000 meters above sea level (about 3300 ft) and we stopped to take a look at the view – only problem was that there was not much of a view due to fog and snow. We don’t have many photos of the trip and the reason is of course the cold weather. Once we took of the mittens that hands felt frozen after only a couple of minutes. On the way down again I did manage to get the snowmobile stuck but our guide helped us get it free again. At another point I almost got the whole thing to tumble over but I managed to get control over it again. When we came back to camp the team had lit up a bonfire in a lavvo (a traditional tent used by the Sami/Lap people) and we met all the people that had done the dog and reindeer sledding. It was great to gather around the fire and warm up a bit and get some warm lapskaus (a traditional stew). The team from Lyngsfjorden were joking about the fact that it was not that cold outside that night – the night before it had been -30 and very windy. After having some food and coffee it was time to get back on the bus and we drove back to Tromsø. We did not get to see Northern lights but we did have an excellent Arctic adventure and we got to feel the elements. The next time we have to try the reindeer sledding :-)
Last day in Tromsø
Time to go home
Feel free to check out the next section of this trip report: Interactive Tromsø Google map.