Arctic Circle

For the last two weeks, I’ve been drifting around northern Norway, spending a few days in the university town of Trondheim, before moving further north to Bodø and the Lofotens.

Trondheim sunset

I was lucky enough to arrive in Trondheim during the St. Olav festival, a week-long smörgåsbord (ok, that’s a Swedish term) of music and food, including a concert by one of Sweden’s biggest bands, Kent who, surprisingly, have absolutely no profile in English-speaking countries whatsoever.

Å

My visit to the Lofoten islands included a couple of nights in a small fishing village with the simple, easy to spell name of Å, after a three hour ferry ride from Bodø, which left me feeling decidedly nauseous, although I’m not entirely sure if that was from the rough seas, or just the smell from the other passengers who had thrown up. Either way, I was glad to get back onto land.

The Lofotens would be, I imagine, a hiker’s ultimate dream. Huge dramatic peaks emerging from the sea, and unbelievable views from the top. I’m not anywhere close to being an experienced hiker or bushwalker, but I have been getting out and walking up quite a few of these mountains, and in one case, high enough that there was still some snow at the top. On a clear day, you can see for miles, and there’s virtually no sound other than the wind, and in some cases, running water.

I’ve found Norway to be particularly easy to travel in; almost everyone speaks English to some degree – and furthermore, Norwegian is very similar to both Swedish, which I took a short-course in three years ago, and written Danish, which I’ve attempted to teach myself, in the past, thus reading signs, menus and travel websites isn’t too much of a problem. Being a Germanic language, Norwegian also shares quite a bit of vocabulary with German and Dutch (both of which I’ve had quite a bit of exposure to), as well as English itself, or at least the parts of it that weren’t bastardised by the Normans. Unfortunately, my attempts to try a bit of Norwegian don’t usually work too well, and I usually have to fall back to English.

One thing that is really fantastic here is the extent of good broadband internet access; I’ve been in tiny little towns, often with populations of one hundred or less, and it’s been clear from the wifi signals (and, admittedly, a little prodding of the open ones, on my part) that good broadband is available widely. There would be towns of similar size in Victoria who still have trouble getting a reliable dial-up connection. Mobile broadband also appears to be widespread, and not just from the former monopoly telco Telenor, but also a second carrier Netcom – and while the prices are, naturally, fairly expensive for an Australian, Netcom at least allows unlimited downloads for 20kr (AUD$3.6 / €2.50) per day, rather than capping or just pretending that it’s unlimited and then charging for excess usage (ie, more than 50Mb per day) like a certain telco in the Netherlands did to me.

I’m now in Narvik, a port city and part-time ski-resort, waiting for a bus to take me to my northernmost destination, Tromsø. I had originally planned to go further north to Nordkapp, but unfortunately the Australian election has put paid to that, and I have to get to Stockholm before August 21st, to vote.

Narvikfjelle summit

While the midnight sun has long passed, it still does not get completely dark at night; it’s possible to wander around at midnight and not require any artificial lighting at all. Two evenings ago, I walked up Narvik’s closest mountain, leaving at about 3.30pm and not reaching the summit until around 8pm – the sun was still high in the sky, and it was as bright as it had been in the middle of the day. It took me another two hours to walk back down again, and at 10pm, the sun was only just beginning to drop below the mountains to the west.

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