dancing lights and day-long darkess

For an awfully long time I had dreamed of going to see the Aurora Borealis, and at last, in December last year I was able to do just that.  It was off to Tromsø with Chrissy, Billy, and Amber, to the Arctic Circle, the dancing lights, the Sami and their reindeer, to long nights and short days, and a sun that barely grazes the horizon.

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Touching down in Oslo and waiting for the connecting flight offered up several hours of wonderful people watching. Having come fresh from Kyrgyzstan, which was still bathed in sunlight, seeing Canadian Goose jackets and Ugg boots wander past, still shaking off the snow, was remarkable. I love people watching at the best of times, so I was quite happy sitting and watching, trying to pick out the Arctic scientists, the fishermen, and the explorers.

We landed in the snow and the twilight – which turned out to be all but perpetual at that time of year – and navigated the darkness of Tromsø to find our beds for the night.  Up first thing for an incredible breakfast of Norwegian salmon, we headed out to explore. It’s a delightful little place, all winding streets and little old buildings, as well as the very impressive Polaris museum, the amazing Cathedral, and not to mention the northern most brewery  in the world (bearing in mind that almost everything here is the northern most something, we all still got disproportionately excited by this fact!). Having spent the last 6 months landlocked in Kyrgyzstan, it was amazing to be back by the sea…

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The island around Tromsø – Tromsøya and Kwaløya – were absolutely breathtaking.  Incredible fjords and huge, rugged mountains, it’s a stark and beautiful landscape, with tiny little villages nestled into the smallest of cracks. In the terrific cold, huge long icicles had formed, not to mention the frozen waterfalls and lakes.

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Of course, it was the lights we were here to see, so for three nights, all bundled up against the plummeting temperatures, out we headed in a tiny, rickety car, braving sleet and frost.  We had expected to see the lights in all their brightness and dancing with the naked eye, and hadn’t quite put it together that you don’t get their full brilliance until you see the photographs.  There is something quite magical though, about seeing them come alive in a photograph.  In reality, they are a pale, ghostly white tinged through with greens and reds, and whilst they do move it isn’t quite like you see on television.  And yet despite that, there is something undeniably otherworldly about them. I, for one, was entranced.

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Tromsø is still a busy port town, so all around the harbour are boats at various stages of preparation either heading out to see or winding down having just come back in.  Having spied a likely looking scientific expedition vessel, I decided to invite myself on board and have a little nosy! I also met, and drank several hot chocolate with, a lovely young Sami man and his reindeer. He explained the herding, and left me with a perfect little souvenir from Norway, a stitched piece of the reindeer sleigh harness.

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