Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dreams of travel in northern Norway

I live in Oslo and have not traveled farther north in Norway than to Trondheim, which is about 552 km (342 miles) north of Oslo, so there is still a lot of Norway further north of Trondheim to be explored. Northern Norway is often referred to as the land of the midnight sun, because during the summertime the sun does not really set. Northern Norway starts with the county of Nordland followed by Troms and Finnmark, and some of the larger cities in these counties are Bodø, Narvik, Rana, Tromsø, Vadsø, Hammerfest, and Alta, among others, according to Wikipedia. The distance from Trondheim to Alta is about 1755 km (1097 miles), and this plus the distance from Oslo to Trondheim gives you an idea of how long Norway is from south to north, and that’s just if you start from Oslo, which is not the most southernmost city in Norway. The map you see in this post gives you a good idea of how long Norway stretches from north to south.

After watching the BBC program from 2008 the other night on NRK1 (Norwegian TV channel), I thought that now it’s absolutely time, after twenty years of living here, to visit north Norway and see the land of the midnight sun as well as the land of the Northern Lights. Because that is what the BBC program was about—Joanna Lumley was the hostess and she took us on her personal search for the Northern Lights (the program was called 'Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights'). Why did she want to see them? Because it was a lifelong dream of hers from the time she was a child and had read the children’s book Ponny the Penguin by Veronica Basser from 1948; the book is unfortunately out of print or I would have purchased it on Amazon. In the book there is a black ink-drawn picture of a penguin with the Northern Lights as his backdrop. The Northern Lights look like hanging curtains with folds in them in the picture. I am including a link to the amazing video from this BBC program –with her wonderful and moving commentary. About 5 minutes into this video (which is part 5 of her journey) you will see some fantastic footage of the Northern lights that danced for her that one evening in Tromsø. Her search for them was not in vain, and as she said in the video, it was as though they knew she was waiting for them. It is an amazing and moving experience, even just watching it on video. So I know already it will be an extraordinary experience in person. I was also curious to know if there exist Southern Lights in Antarctica, and lo and behold, they do exist, and according to what I read on internet, the Northern and Southern Lights ‘occur simultaneously and are almost mirror images of each other’

So many other things in her documentary were interesting as well—among them her visit with the Sami people in Finnmark and her overnight stay in the Ice Hotel in Alta, which is rebuilt every year as it melts each year in the spring I have not been to any of these places, but I want to see them. How we are going to get to these places (train, boat, or car or combinations thereof) and when we are going to travel (time of year is important for seeing the Northern lights—preferably between September and April) will be topics for discussion in the very near future. But I have no worries about this becoming a reality, because once an idea is planted in my mind, well, then I’m on my way!


  1. oh my God, an ice hotel! wild. would absolutely love to see that, it's sort of unbelievable. toilets, showers, a bar? just so strange.

  2. I agree. Joanna Lumley stayed overnight in the hotel and commented on how cold it was. But she had a good night's sleep and really enjoyed the experience. I don't know if I'd manage that due to my claustrophobia, but who knows? But I'd like to see it in any case.