Trondheim was to be a one night stop over before travelling by air to Tromsø, nicknamed the ‘Paris of the North’ in the 19th Century by visitors who were impressed by the very sophistication of the city.

We were really excited at the idea of going there as it is considered one of the best places from which to see the Northern Lights. Just another 24 hours and we will be there. But first we needed to see what Trondheim had to offer.

On arrival in Trondheim we were greeted by a blizzard. This, plus the fact the hotel was not within walking distance of the wharf, meant that we had to take a taxi. This was another unexpected cost of NoK175 for taxi fare, double the regular price as it was a holiday. Once again, I remind those who travel that these kind of expenses need to be built into your budget when planning your trip.

The weather was very erratic in Trondheim that afternoon. It changed from blizzard to blue skies in half hour intervals. In between the blizzards we went to the station to book our seats on the train to the airport the next day. A bit later we were able to enjoy a walk around the harbour created by the fjord. We were now so far North, more than 350kms into the Arctic Circle, that it was dark by around 3pm so made the most of the time we had.

We got up early the next morning and went for a walk before breakfast. Yes, in the dark! Later we discovered that we had been out in minus 5degC weather! Once it was fully light, around 09:00, we enjoyed time spent discovering the city. It was the simple things which drew us – very large flocks of birds on the lake, the variety of ships moored along the wharf and the beauty of the stained glass windows in the Nidaros Cathedral.                                                                                   

Today was the day we left for Tromsø where we would specifically go out and look for the Lights. After 9 months of planning and the hours spent flying and travelling through Norway hopefully would prove to be worth it.

We had to be at the airport at 13:00 for our 90 minute flight to Tromsø. We were glad that we had validated our Eurail Pass in Bergen so we could take the train to the airport instead of paying another fare, this time the airport bus. Checking in and security checks went well, as did the flight, with the exception that I quite forgot about the bottle of water in our back pack which was confiscated. Thank goodness it was just tap water. On arrival in Tromsø we were greeted by another irritation – Trevor’s luggage did not arrive. All he had were the clothes he was wearing! His real concern was that he would have to purchase a full wardrobe of clothes, in Norway, the most expensive place we had ever visited.

As we made our way to the Customer Service desk we met a young lady whose luggage had also not arrived. We were amazed at their unconcerned attitude. They simply responded that it would be sent on to him the next day but he was not convinced. I don’t blame him. How could they be so sure that it would be recovered so quickly? On enquiring about his luggage at the Hotel Reception in the morning they too said ‘not to worry, it will arrive.’ At lunch time we saw the SAS bus at the hotel entrance and discovered that it had brought Trevor’s suitcase as well those of 5 others whose luggage had gone astray! A First World airline which treated it as a normal daily occurrence; very poor customer service; no apology ar anything similar.

We had 2 nights in Tromsø and something exciting was planned. First, we were to go searching for the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights as commonly known. This was the main reason for our travelling to Scandanavia in the middle of Winter and we were really looking forward to seeing this natural phenomenon. The 2nd night was scheduled for us to go dog sledding which sounded really exciting even though we had no idea what it would entail. Boy, was there a surprise awaiting us.

Most of the city of Tromsø, the 3rd largest city in Norway, is located on an island. By crossing a kilometre long bridge over the Tromsøysundet or Tromsø Sound, to the mainland one where approximately the other third of the town is located.

It had been arranged for us to meet our transport to take us Northern Lights hunting at 19:00 at the hotel across the road from ours. There were about 40 people there by the time we arrived and it seemed extremely disorganised. What had actually happened was that there was a total of 3 groups all told to meet at the same spot at the same time. It took about half an hour to check lists and get everyone on to the correct bus and off we went. Trevor and I were really excited as we knew so much about the Lights and now we really hoped to see them. We accepted the reminder we had received on each brochure and e-mail, “The northern lights are a natural phenomenon and sightings cannot be guaranteed.”

We drove across the bridge on to the mainland, passing the Tromsø Cathedral also known as the Arctic Cathedral, and took the road into the interior of the mainland. We drove for what seemed like hours, stopping every now and then to see if there was any activity in the sky. Not a scrap. We did not see any lights that night and returned to the hotel at 23:00 exhausted and disappointed. Night number two was still to come and we waited in suspense.

(Since returning home, I learnt that the Cathedral architect had designed the building with a clear window above the Sanctuary but a few years later the window was replaced with one of stained glass because the sun streaming through the clear window made it impossible for worshippers to be comfortable. Due to this change the architect never entered the building again.)

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