After our camping road trip to Nordkapp in 2021, it was clear to us that we wanted to visit Tromsø again. You could see the city as the Weimar of Norway, because it also has a lot of culture and is a small university town. In the summer it was already quite beautiful and you could do a lot, but many people advised us to come back in the winter. That’s when the city is at its most beautiful and with guaranteed snow and darkness, many activities are possible, such as dog sledding or seeing the Northern Lights.
It was simply too short notice for Christmas and New Year’s 2021/2022. On one hand, there were still certain unforeseeable Corona regulations, and on the other hand, we had just returned from our Scandinavia trip and many accommodations and leisure activities were already fully booked. You have to book them at least a quarter of a year in advance, if not even earlier, because they are all fully booked during the high season at New Year’s. Our planning started in the summer of 2022. We asked friends if they wanted to join us in spending the New Year in Tromsø.
Planning the short trip
Just as with our short trip to the Polish Baltic Sea in 2020, we also wanted to travel with people from our circle of friends this time, as this is a different experience compared to the big trips we always take as a couple. To our delight, Mark, a mutual friend from our university, immediately agreed to join us. He had just returned to Ireland after a longer professional stay in the USA and was open to such an undertaking. Thus, we started planning the trip together as a group of three.
The planning began in September. Booking the husky activity was less problematic. In the summer, we had already done a husky hike at the Wilderness Center in Tromsø. We enjoyed it a lot and it sparked a desire in us to see the huskies again in the winter when we could admire them in their parade discipline, pulling the dog sleds. As we only had a few days to spend in Tromsø, we booked a short morning sled ride. Finding accommodation was a bit more challenging. We didn’t want to stay in a hotel because of the high prices in Norwegian restaurants, and having a kitchen to cook for ourselves was important. The hostels that were still available were either located far from the city center or had poor reviews due to unclean rooms or sharing the space with many people, similar to the Jakobsweg. The first accommodation we found was snatched away from us just as we were about to book it. In late September, we checked Airbnb again and stumbled upon a new listing without any reviews or photos yet, but it was cheap and located in the city center. We didn’t hesitate and booked it immediately, almost blindly. The owner later contacted us to say that the listing was not complete when we booked, but we were lucky to have secured the booking.
In the end, we had to book our flights. There were direct flights from Frankfurt am Main or Munich, but they would have been twice as expensive. We decided to book flights with a layover in Oslo. We started from the new airport, the BER, which allowed us to visit it (and satisfy Nathalie’s curiosity about airplanes and airports). The train connections from Weimar forced us to arrive the day before, so we went to Berlin on December 28th to take the flight to Oslo and from there to Tromsø on December 29th. We had already brought the cats to Greiz for Christmas.
By train to Berlin and cool hotel
On Wednesday, we took the train at 10:00 am to Erfurt, from where we continued to Berlin Südkreuz. There were only a few free seats in the train, so we squeezed into a 6-person compartment. At the beginning, there was a man and a woman with their little daughter in the compartment with us. Later, two men with a dog joined us, who was already a proud 14 years old but still looked around curiously and whined a little because he wanted to be picked up. The whining was funny in a way because eventually the child made the same noises and then told her mother that she wanted to be a dog and started crying…how should a parent react to that? However, the mother reacted well to the daughter and went through the train with her to tire her out a bit.
After changing to an S-Bahn at Berlin Südkreuz, we arrived shortly at the BER. Here, we first looked for a restaurant to have lunch. We found one at a stand and ordered lasagna and quiche. Furthermore, there was a Rewe nearby with fairly normal prices, so we bought more food there.
Nathalie really wanted to go to the observation deck of the BER to see the arriving and departing planes, but since we had a large travel suitcase with us, it was probably better to take it to the hotel together with our backpacks. This was easier said than done. Although our hotel was only a few minutes by bus (but a 45-minute walk) from the airport, we first had to find the bus stop. The signs for local and long-distance transport were very confusingly placed and only when we asked an employee, did we find the stops for the regular bus lines. Fortunately, a bus that only runs once an hour came just then, and we quickly arrived at our hotel.
The hotel was located in a hotel complex that was clearly very new, just like the airport. Some buildings were still under construction and our hotel also looked very freshly furnished. Perhaps it was precisely because of this, but on Google Maps it was incorrectly marked (we thought we still had to walk a few meters, but it was right at the bus stop). Surprisingly, the interior of the hotel was very cozy and hip. There were corners where you could do some crafting (such as making paper airplanes from a book), benches with books on architecture and design, or sofas with board games. At the reception, we were greeted in English (the staff struggled with German) until it turned out that the friendly receptionist was from Poland and Nathalie just switched to Polish. The room on the highest floor had a nice view and was also very cozy furnished.
It was already past 3 pm and Nathalie wanted to go back to the airport to visit the observation deck and a small museum about the BER which we found there. However, I managed to convince her that it wasn’t worth going back because the round trip alone would have taken almost two hours and it would have been dark by then. Besides, the hotel was so well-equipped that we could easily spend our time here. As it turned out later, the observation deck was closed anyway, which would have made the excursion even more pointless.
We went back to the lobby on the ground floor in search of a board game. We chose Scrabble, even though it was the English version. In the end, Nathalie won by a large margin. (Kevin says it was luck, Nathalie says it was skill!)
As a last activity, we went to the gym. It was, like many other things in the hotel, full of modern equipment. This included a treadmill and a bike, both equipped with a screen where you could either be presented with a virtual scenario or simply access your social media pages such as Twitter or Youtube. After trying both the treadmill and the bike for about 10 minutes, I went back up to our room. Nathalie, on the other hand, completed a circuit training and was done in about an hour. Back in the room, I watched some Youtube or anime. We had our previously bought provisions as dinner and then went to sleep. The next day, our journey to Tromsø was about to begin.