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Monthly Archives: April 2018

Another highlight of this trip up north is to see reindeers.  We joined a tour to visit a reindeer farm located about an hour’s drive inland from Tromsø.

Reindeer pull a sleigh through the night sky to help Santa Claus deliver gifts to good children on Christmas Eve. We see them on festive cards and decorations.

None had a red nose or responded to the call of Rudolph.

It was around midday when we got there. The sky was steel grey with a hint of pink in the direction of the sun.

According to Wikipedia, reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as the caribou in North America, is a species of deer that is native to Arctic, sub-Arctic, tundra, boreal and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia and North America. Some populations are sedentary and the ones we saw are migratory.

Upon arrival, after getting off the bus, we were led to a shed where we were provided with an extra layer of waterproof one-piece outerwear because the temperature was around -20°C. It was the coldest afternoon I had ever experienced in my life.

We were allowed to pet the reindeer when we were inside the fenced area.

All were keen to approach us since we had food in our hands.

The reindeer loved lichen, presumably one of the very few things the reindeers can find and eat on the frozen tundra.

They were not shy with the lichens but did not like people touching them. Many of them are youngsters.

The tour was run by ethnic Sami people. The Sami’s have historically been known in English as the Lapps or the Laplanders, but the guide explained that these terms are perceived as derogatory as they mean “rag” or small pieces of textile.

They made hot tea for us in the tent and also explained various aspects of nomadic life while passing around traditional artifacts.

We sat in a “sleigh” made of slabs of wooden planks crudely made to form a frame and a platform, covered by animal skin.  The reindeer were pulling us just like how the Sami’s or Santa Clause was transported.

Overall, we had fun but the reindeer “sleigh” ride was not as exciting as we thought. It was similar to the speed of a donkey ride. We could have walked faster. Rides pulled by dogs (huskys) would have been more energetic.


We had two main objectives on this trip to Tromsø in Norway: Northern lights (aurora borealis) and reindeers.

We joined a lights-chasing tour one night – spent four hours with a “guide” who directed the driver to take us inland, looking for a cloud-free patch of night sky. There were plenty of stars, and even a galaxy(?- Chris saw a small hazy oval patch), but no aurora.

On the next night, we saw the Northern Lights from our balcony, appearing behind the mountain across the harbor – it was weak but visible and persisted for about 15 minutes. This is the best Northern lights photo from the whole trip.

We stayed in Tromsø over Christmas  – practically everything was closed for a couple of days, including that what appears to be the city’s main souvenir store.

A Christmas tree in the town center park.

Did you know that the giant Christmas tree at New York’s Rockerfellar Centre is a gift from Norway every year ?

Most of our activities were centered around the Radisson Blu hotel and Scandic Ishavshotel, both next to the port. This spot was effectively the center of town for those few days – most people that were out and about were tourists. All the tours including those originating from the cruise ships started from there.

Tromsø was selected by the Norwegian National Olympic Committee as Norway’s candidate for the 2018 Winter Olympics. This would have made Tromsø the first city north of the Arctic Circle to host the games. In 2008, the NOC suspended Tromsø’s bid, citing excessive costs

Arctic hunting, from Novaya Zemlya to Canada, started up around 1820. Tromsø was the major centre of Arctic hunting and became a major Arctic trade centre from which many Arctic expeditions originated.

Hence, there is a Polar Museum (Polarmuseet i Tromsø) by the harbor with all sorts of seal hunting and polar bear trapping paraphenalia.

Lots of histories and stories about life on Svalbard and explorations to the north pole.

View of the bridge that connects the island to the mainland.

Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen, literally “The Cathedral of the Arctic Sea”) across the harbor is a landmark for the city.

Dedicated in 1965, glass mosaic added 1972 and new organ installed 2005.

Modern, simple, severe.

Tromsø is a port of call for the Hurtigruten.

Hurtigruten (literally The Fast Route) is a ferry line along Norway’s jagged coastline. Originally, Hurtigruten was used as a means of transportation for passengers, goods and mail along the coast of Norway. The ships still transport a limited amount of cargo, but today the ships resemble cruise ships more closely than the original coastal steamers.

The southbound ships arrive at 23:45, and depart at 01:30 in the night, to Finnsnes, … Lofoten, Trondheim and Bergen all year round. MS Nordnorge has her own on-board Expedition Team and serves as a university at sea.

Tromsø’s city’s library.

It would be nice to come back in the summer. Things will look so differently.