I’d always wanted to see Tromso and I finally got to do so in September 2017.
Like so many other other places I was introduced to Tromso by Michael Palin. This time during his Pole to Pole adventure. Standing inside the Arctic Circle, one of the most Northern Cities in the world and being on the ideal latitude for spotting the Northern Lights meant that there was every chance that I’d end up there one day.
My trip sailing through the fjords started in Tromso which meant that I had an afternoon and and most of the night before meeting the Hurtigruten ferry at 1am. Although early in the season, this gave me the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. I’d seen them once before in Iceland, but not at any real strength. Then it was a dull smear, mostly obscured by clouds and only really recognisable in photographs taken with long exposures. In truth it was something of a let down as I’d wanted to see them for so long, that to catch a glimpse in bad conditions that hinted at their glory was somehow more disappointing than not seeing them at all.
On that day it was bitterly cold, and I was stood in a field of volcanic rock covered in layers of snow and ice. In Tromso, despite being further North the conditions could not have been more different.
What I found was more akin to a pleasant winters day back home. The late afternoon sun was shining, and whilst not exactly warm there was little need for my hat and gloves and layers under a coat. This turned out to be a theme for the whole trip with unseasonable warmth the entire way.
The only hints of snow and ice here were atop distant mountains. The city itself is physically smaller than I expected, much more akin to our own Town rather than what comes to mind when I think ‘city’. This meant that there was plenty of time to wander around and then walk back along the waterside and find a good position to take photos.
The other thing that surprised me was how little had changed since watching Pole-to Pole.
Usually when I get to see somewhere that Palin had been to, the passage of time means that they have changes quite drastically in some fashion. In Tromso this wasn’t the case. In the video I can see and recognise buildings and streets that are in the same layout as before. No glass fronted rebuilds or additions that change the character of the place.
I spoke to a few people and they were universally friendly. Mainly wanting inquiring how my photos were turning out and suggesting places that may make for a good place to capture the lights if they were to come out that night. One person, who’d seen and spoken to me when the lights appeared briefly in the evening even knocked on the window of the cafe I was in after spotting me to let me know that the lights were back!
All-in-all I enjoyed my short time there and next time I re-read or watch Poloe-to-Pole I’ll have my own memories of sights, noises and smells to go along with it.