I travelled to Norway from 12th to 17th, with my stay in Tromso from 14th to 17th March with 3 nights stay. And what a great time I had...
I flew to Oslo with Ryanair from Stansted. Spent half a day visiting Vigeland Park and Oslo opera house with very sunny and bright weather. Then I took 18hours train to Bodo with a stopover at Trondheim. At about 3.30 in morning we were woken up to be moved in to 'rail replacement bus service' because of the tracks covered with landslide..We changed to the bus in about 1 foot of snow..but the journey from then on was amazing. Initially we were hit by snowstorm..but as it started the brighten up..the landscape around us turned blue and it as something straight out of Narnia. Snowstorm or not, the bus was doing 60km/h on icy road which was unbelievable. Our bus journey came to an end at some town where we again moved to the train for the rest of the journey with the sea on one side and mountains on the other...didn't feel any bump when we crossed into the arctic circle though. Reaching Bodo at 11am was beautiful...again very sunny and bright. Had read that it was very non-significant town as far as spending just few hours was concerned. I had to then catch Hurtigruten at 3pm, so spent most of the time in between in the cafe right above the train station. Bodo is the terminus for the trains travelling north.
No sooner did the MS Nordlys set off from Bodo port, the view started to get from stunning to marvellous within half an hour. The snow covered mountains, rising tens and hundreds of meters from the sea, and the beautiful Lofoten in background was just beautiful. I managed to get some great pics from the deck of the boat..with very sunny evening. It was a bit windy in the evening..but it started to calm down towards the night and the journey became more smooth when we approached the fjords. It was clear night, pitch dark and one could see the stars in 3d. I hung around till very late in the night hoping to catch elusive Northern Lights. But there was probably no activity that night.
Calling at few ports on the way and making our way through the fjords with snowy/icy mountains all around us, we finally arrived Tromso at 2.30 in afternoon with a view of the bridge and the cathedral in the distance. First thing gets to your mind is the view of large, densely populated town, dotted with contemporary architecture on the waterfront which is somewhere 300kms inside the Arctic Circle. I had little than 3 hours to settle myself at this very cosy accommodation called homesleep (homesleep.no which was truely a home away from home) and get ready for the guided tour to see the Northern Lights.
I took a guided tour with Guide Gunnar (from now on I shall refer him as Gunnar the Great.) All 10 people on board the mini bus were very lucky to see the Northern Lights on that night(the first night for me in Tromso). The show was simply mesmerizing and surreal. The ambient part of the show lasted for about 3 hours. Gunnar drove us to some very scenic locations...between the mountains, plain snow fields and finally to the sea side where we had mountains on three sides and Arctic Ocean on the fourth..and the Auroras all around us. At one point it got so dramatic that even if I had 20 cameras it wouldn't have captured everything. In the end Gunnar, who has been doing these tours for many years certified what we saw that night as 8-9/10 on the scale. I have decided to make a little shrine for Gunnar and dedicate all these pics....http://www.flickr.com/photos/25691236@N00/sets/72157623542007485/
It took a good night's sleep to sink in the feeling and absorb the glow from Aurora. The following day I decided to take it easy, take a wander around the town and meet the friendly lot at tourist info centre. That is where they suggested me that I take a bus ride around Lyngen Alps since the weather was sunny. Took their advise and bought a ticket on the bus just outside the info office. Not feeling to do anything, I comforted myself on the window seat and enjoyed the majestic view for next 4 hours. The journey comprised of changing 3 buses in all and part of the journey was on ferry near the place called Svensby. Returned back to Tromso town centre in the evening, full of great views, more than my brain cells could absorb.
The third day in Tromso was dedicated to the cable car ride, Polaria musuem, souvenier shopping and a visit to the Cathedral. I knew I will not get lucky with the weather on 5th day in Norway, so museum was a good idea. You can buy a 24hour bus ticket which works on all the bus routes in and around Tromso. Which also meant that I didnt have to buy any ticket on the morning next day on my way to the airport (was still under 24hours). I flew back on Norwegian Airlines to Rygge airport (about 1 hour bus ride outside Oslo) and had few hours to kill before I take my late night flight to London. I decided to go to a nearby town called Moss which I could see on the map had very interesting topography: two large land masses seperated by a small canal and a tiny vehicular bridge over it. I treated myself with couple of pints and a good pizza in a pizzeria just overlooking this canal and the bridge. The restaurant had very great rustic decor with odds bits and pieces from the ships and maritime accessories hanging all around. I thought it was very appropriate finish to the grand tour. Took a few minutes train ride back to Rygge and then a flight back to London.
I went to the Arctic in search of calm and some solitude...That was what I got, topped with the blessing of Northern Lights viewing.
I would certaingly go back to Norway to experience its great nature and to meet its very friendly people.