Tromsø – A dream in the north
In the early morning we left for Tromsø. We drove past a sign that said “Sami Shop”. The Sami are an indigenous people who live here. Curious, we drove off the Autobahn to see what was to await us there. As great as the curiosity was, the disappointment about what we found there was even greater. From the outside, the traditional tents still made a good impression and the fireplace at the entrance also exuded a certain atmosphere, but inside everything was crammed with the cheapest junk from the Far East. From animal bones made of plastic, skins that you didn’t want to know which animals they came from to absolutely cheap and kitschy Christmas decorations (in August!), everything in this shop literally screamed “cultural prostitution”. Of course, the prices were also horrendous – the aim was to get the greatest possible profit from the unsuspecting tourists who strayed here. So we quickly returned to the car and drove to Tromsø without any further detours.
Tromsø should also be a little break from the campsites for us. So not only did we want to stay here longer than the other places, but we rented an AirBnB so that we could get a break from the campsites at the same time. In order to use the time until check-in in the early afternoon, we headed for the local aquarium, which was called Polaria. It was a bit small for being fairly well advertised online and unfortunately we also narrowly missed the seal feeding, but there is still something calming about watching the marine life in the large tanks. And at least we could see at least one seal that ate chopped up ice cream with relish, almost as a dessert. Since we were faster than expected, we walked a bit through the city. Such a short walk is enough to fall in love with Tromsø. The city is divided in two by the fjord in the middle. On one side there is a church with the magical name Arctic Cathedral and behind it the picturesque mountains begin. On the other side we were on was the city center. The weather was kind to us, with a summer temperature of 18°C for this region. The small, cozy, typical Scandinavian wooden houses were able to present themselves from their best side in the sunlight. In some of the houses there were busy cafés downstairs full of young people, as Tromsø has a large university and is therefore considered a student city. Strolling along here felt like having landed in a very far north Weimar. Maybe that was one of the reasons why we felt so comfortable here right away.
Just walk 1203 steps
Finally it was back to the car and to our accommodation. This was about a 20-minute walk from the city center in a residential area. What you should know about Tromsø at this point is that although the paths down by the water are quite flat, as soon as you get a little further from the coast it gets very steep very quickly. So it happened that we had to drive up mountains that were similar to the much too steep mountain in Trondheim. The road surface was covered with cracks resulting from snow chains and we seriously wondered how a car could even make it up here in winter. However, the journey was worth it, because our AirBnB was really great. We had a basement apartment in a pretty little blue house to ourselves. The owners, an elderly couple named Heidi and Øystein, had already turned on the heating for us and stocked the fridge with essentials. Shortly thereafter, the two also came down to welcome us. Øystein was very enthusiastic about our plans to travel to the North Cape and told us that he only got there on his motorbike last week. He showed us photos and enthusiastically told us how beautiful it is there. I immediately took the opportunity to ask him for tips for Tromsø and he suggested us hiking the Brosmetinden Trail, as it is considered very easy and short, but offers an excellent view. But since it’s a good hour’s drive away, it wasn’t an activity that could be done in the same day. So Øystein encouraged us to climb the mountain Fjellheisen via the so-called Sherpatrappa instead.
Fjellheisen is Tromsø’s local mountain. There are three ways to get to the mountain: via a cable car, via a hiking trail or via the Sherpatrappa. The Sherpatrappa is a staircase built by Nepalese Sherpas, the people who accompany climbers to Mount Everest and carry their bags. It leads all the way to the top and has a whopping 1203 steps… and yes, we climbed all of the steps of these stairs. The steps are not always level and not really the same size. In addition, every now and then a number was engraved into one or the other step, which should clarify how many steps you have already managed. At this point I have to commend Kevin, because despite a few small breathers he held on bravely and made it to the top. On the last step of the stairs we both proudly posed for photos. From the Fjellheisen you have a fantastic view over the city. The blue water of the fjord, the colorful houses and the snow-capped mountains in the background made the scene look like a painting. Since Kevin persevered so bravely, I agreed to his suggestion that we take the cable car down instead of going back down all the steps.
Reindeer, the botanical garden and a perspective that wasn’t one
While Kevin was still relaxing at our accommodation, my morning started with putting on my running shoes and going for a jog. In the immediate vicinity there was an area which was used for cross-country skiing in winter and which was made for cross-country skiing here. I not only discovered several ski jumps, but also an enclosure with reindeer. After my run, Kevin and I headed to the Perspektive Museum. The name sounded like illusions and the reviews seemed positive, so this was a promising target after all? Not quite. We don’t know why the museum is called “Perspective”. Instead, there was only one exhibition about a Norwegian artist (or was it a writer?) with whom we admittedly didn’t get much to do. Our second destination for the day was the botanical garden, which is also the northernmost botanical garden in the world. For the location, the variety of flowers was remarkable and entry was free, but unfortunately the weather didn’t quite cooperate, as it rained all the time. Since it was Sunday, only certain supermarkets were open again, so we had to walk a little further. Kevin then dropped his mobile phone on the way and numerous cracks adorned his screen from then on (luckily it turned out later that the actual display was intact and only the tempered glass film was damaged).
As sobering as the previous day had been, the next day was supposed to be good. We have made a very special program point for this. The real tourist season is in winter, when there are numerous offers for dog sledding. But since we were there in the summer, the Tromsø Wilderness Center in the area offered an interesting alternative: a husky hike. The center was just outside on the island of Kvaløya and on the way there we encountered some free-roaming reindeer. Arriving at the center, we were greeted by a young Belgian woman who was supposed to be our guide. She was thoroughly infatuated with huskies and had a great talent for passing this fascination on to visitors. The area was much larger than expected, with a husky cafe and an area full of kennels and dogs. In addition, there was a kind of playpen next to it that we were let in, where there was a bitch with her puppies that we could play with while the lady prepared everything else. One puppy named Macaroni was particularly bright and cute. Generally, each litter has been named after a theme, such as Game of Thrones characters, or in the case of these puppies, noodles. As we found out later, playing with the puppies was a win-win business for the operators, because of the Husky Café, it is important to the operators that the huskies are well socialized from an early age. So you could actually pet every dog, big or small, on the premises. In general, the Wilderness Center was a fabulous place. The huskies were trained here primarily as sled dogs. However, if they got too old or were not suitable for other reasons, the dogs were given to families in the area free of charge. Even after the mediation, the dogs are still taken care of to a certain extent. For example, they were accepted when the new family wanted to travel and free health checks were also provided. All in all, you could tell that there was a lot of heart and soul and a lot of love for the dog in this place.
After visiting the puppies, our husky guide showed us around a bit before we were supposed to get to know our dogs for the day. Kevin was assigned a bitch named Cherry and my bitch was called Daisy. In addition to rubber boots and rainwear, we each received a waist belt to which the dog leash was attached. As a result, we immediately noticed what a pulling power huskies have, because there was no question of a leisurely hike. The dogs pulled you through the beautiful landscape of Kvaløya. We walked cross country so we really needed the rubber boots as it was very muddy. But the great dogs and the impressive view made up for it right away. In addition, it was berry season, so we could pick and eat blueberries and cloudberries at the same time. The latter look like orange raspberries and only grow north of the Arctic Circle, but they are very tasty.
Back at the Wilderness Center we got coffee or cocoa, bacalao (a fish dish that actually comes from Portugal but is an integral part of Norwegian food culture) and chocolate cake. We chatted a bit with the husky guide. Although she comes from Belgium, she lived in Canada for a while, where she also discovered her enthusiasm for sled dogs. Actually, she was only supposed to go to Norway for six months to get to know the work with the dogs on site, but the corona pandemic more or less stranded her here. Although she added with a wink that there are much worse places where you could get stranded. She added that when she does have vacations, she has traveled to Belgium to visit her parents, but she really doesn’t need to travel because she’s already working in paradise. I have to admit that I was very impressed by this comment, because it was true: This place was paradise: Tromsø as a beautiful, lively little town, the beautiful nature and the huskies. What more do you want?
After the meal we went back to all the huskies on the premises to cuddle and pet them. After that we went to the souvenir shop again, if only because they really like to support this place here. It was with a heavy heart that we were able to part with the dogs, but there was another item on the agenda that day: the Brosmetiden Trail.
As already mentioned, the Brosmetiden Trail is a particularly easy hiking trail that Øystein recommended to us and which is also located on Kvaløya. The path leads up a small and fortunately not too steep mountain and rewarded you with a breathtaking view. After trying to capture photos of what we saw, we went back to the car and to the accommodation, making a short photo stop at a number of free-roaming reindeer on the way. So ended our last day in Tromsø, a true paradise on earth.