This past weekend, I made the two-hour pilgrimage to Tromsø, Norway with my friend Angela – the only other Mizzou student studying at the University of Bergen this semester. Located within the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is one of Norway’s northernmost destinations for travelers and tourists, as it is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. For Angela and me, the prospect of seeing such a natural phenomenon was something we could not pass up, seeing as studying in Bergen is probably the farthest north either of us will either live. After this weekend, I can honestly say that I have learned so much more about Norwegian culture than I knew before, and that Tromsø is a place I will never forget. Flying into the Tromsø Lufhavn Langnes is breathtaking. Greeted by the never-ending mountains and Arctic sea, I was awe-struck. Unfortunately, we were in the eye of the storm, and had no idea what was coming our way.
Angela and I decided to book an Airbnb slightly outside of the city to save some money and then take the public bus to and from the city center during the day. Turns out, contrary to what our Airbnb host said, city buses did not run to the accommodation and we had to rely on him to drive us the 30 minutes to town each day, which he charged us for, as he knew we did not have any other option. We were scheduled to do a Northern Lights Minibus chase the first night we were there, and because of the extreme cloud cover, ended up having the tour canceled on us. There are a lot of factors that go into being able to see the lights: the amount of wind, the season, the amount of light, and the cloud cover. There are three layers of clouds, but unfortunately, on this evening all three layers were thick, and the chances of seeing the lights were so low that the company we were booked with had to cancel. Luckily, we were able to find two open spots with another company the next evening. We ended up having to drive nearly to the Finnish border, but saw the lights three times. The human eye cannot pick up the light nearly as well as cameras can – most of the pictures seen online or on post cards of the lights would not look the same if you were to see them in person. The night we went, they were fainter than usual but were a good reminder that nature is both unpredictable and uncontrollable. The chase went from 7 p.m.-2:30 a.m.
Our host picked us up in City Centre and we were about 10 minutes late so he quickly became upset with us, which was understandable. Then, he decided to tell us the ride was an extra 100 kroner than the others because of the timing and because he does not like driving into the City Centre. Turns out he had not been to the City Centre on a Saturday night in six years. Angela asked him why he did not tell us about the price difference earlier, even though he knew he would be picking us up so late, and he became defensive and said he should be charging us even more because we were lucky to have him. We decided the price was okay and just went with it.
Sunday was our last day in Tromsø which was spent spent mainly at a Sami camp 25 minutes from town. The Sami are the indigenous people of Norway and are the only people who are allowed to keep and take care of reindeer, which only about 10% of all Sami people do. We got to feed the reindeer and be pulled in a sleigh by them, and even had hot reindeer stew afterwards. Moral of the story: do not always trust your Airbnb host, even if there are good reviews; do your research before traveling; and be willing to be flexible and have a good traveling partner.