Tromso – trolls, tunnels and beer

26 Aug

Norway is probably not for those who like wall to wall sunshine. Packing up Bertie on another wet and breezy morning we thought of our Italian biker friends Max and Miriam basking in the Spanish sunshine. Still, remaining optimistic we set off to retrace our steps from Nordkapp down to Alta knowing that the scenery and roads would be worth the drizzle. By the time we reached Alta the drizzle had turned into a deluge and we took refuge at a fuel station and warmed through. We took advantage of the break to see where we could get to that would have a campsite. Burford was to be the lucky recipient of our patronage that night and our eternal thanks will go to Lynne at Arcticfjord Camping for a pre-warmed cabin and the loan of a clothes horse to help dry out all our dripping kit.

The view from our cabin – Arctic Camping

The next day Tromso was awaiting us and a 2 night stay with a day off the bike was eagerly anticipated. The route we had chosen would involve our first 2 ferry crossings of which there will be many as we head south in Norway. No pre-booking required, just turn up and wait for the next boat to arrive. Our first ferry was a 40 minute crossing and the second 20 minutes but they gave Jim a breather and saved about 90 kilometres of riding.

The city of Tromso is on an island accessed by either bridge or tunnel. It is quite a compact town and having secured Bertie in an underground parking bay at the hotel we set off to explore. We soon discovered we may have moved a little further south but it was still cold. Guess the swimsuits will stay packed for now but we are still 350 kilometres above the Arctic Circle (although Norway’s tourist info declares Tromso has a mild climate due to the warming effect of the gulf stream. Hmmm).

A day off the bike is a good excuse to explore without being weighed down with bike kit, although Jim still smiles at all the layers I don to go sightseeing. A trip to the tourist information office is our first stop to ensure the best use of our time. We ask if there are any quirky things to see and promptly get our map marked with numerous watering holes; we must look like we’ve arrived in town for a pub crawl!

The famous Arctic cathedral stands at one end of the Tromso bridge. Built in 1965 it is a good example of Norway’s love of contemporary architecture. It is actually a parish church but became known as the Arctic Cathedral almost as soon as it was opened. It is home to one of the largest stained glass windows in Europe.

Tromso harbour looking across to the Arctic Cathedral

Next day a visit to the Perspektivet museum was a photographic delight, with photos by the local photographer Knut Stokmo showing the town and its residents during the early 1960s.

Moving on, the excellent Polar museum gave us an insight into the life and groundbreaking adventures of the explorers Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen. Truly inspirational.

The great arctic explorer, Roald Amundsen
Lots of great exhibits about life in the Arctic

In order to digest all we had seen we set off for one of Tromsos watering holes (that the kind ladies at the tourist office has marked on our map). The ‘Mack’ microbrewery offered us an hour long tour but we were keener to just sample their wares and they came in the form of a 5 beer taster menu; what an excellent idea. Leaving the choice to our bartender, we compared colours, smells and tasting notes before giving up analysing and getting down to what we were there for…the tasting. Four were good but one was ………. We decided that smoked beer was not something we would be trying again, smelling like smoked meat, but all the others were delicious and a good way to round the day off.

My dear mum had told us she remembered a tunnel in Tromso that had a roundabout in it when she visited on a cruise and toured in a coach. We wondered why the dear ladies at the tourist info office had not told us about this. An internet search revealed more information about the elusive tunnels (after quite some searching) and we decided they would have to be checked out in the morning; what we discovered was indeed quirky.

What looks like the entrance to the underground car park of a block of flats is one of the few entrances to the network of tunnels that run across Tromso island, extend up to the airport and contain several roundabouts and some car parks. It is a bizarre experience going round a roundabout underground so we did it twice!! HAPPY DAYS??
Video link here:

the old ….
and the new

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