Tromso in Winter

14 March 2013

Day One

When I went to Tromso in June last year I had always intended to come back later to see what it was like within the Arctic circle in winter.  For various reasons I missed winter, but was able to go back in March, which for all intents and purposes is winter enough for me.

The trip to Tromso from England took over 12 hours this time.  I caught the bus from my house at 8am to the station for the train at 8.30am. In peak commuter time unfortunately.  I've gotten quite used to having a train carriage to myself when I've been travelling off-peak recently.  Things didn't start well when I ended up on the wrong platform for the next train (usually that platform is for northbound trains), so I ended up catching the next one which wasn't too far away.

I'd booked  a ticket on the Gatwick Express online service that would be delivered to my mobile phone in an effort to speed up my travel (and because I like things like that), but it never turned up.  After several frustrating phone calls it turned out that I would have to buy a ticket in person at Victoria Station and they would refund me.  So much for speeding up my travel time.  
As it turned out though there was only a tiny queue and I had to wait for the train anyway.

The Gatwick express was just as run down as I remember it from my first entry into the UK.  But at least this time the promised food cart did arrive.  Where I indulged my taste for the extremely yummy cheese and onion crisps they make here.

I got to Gatwick and made my way through check in and security.  Not once was my bag weighed (I was carrying what I hoped was under 10kg in hand luggage).  

Fortunately or unfortunately, all my planning meant I had an hour to wait before boarding, in the pokey boarding ‘lounge’.  I had brought a sandwich and some fruit with me, but ended up eating that at 11am and so I thought I’d get something to eat on the plane.  Just as I was thinking this I got a text message from the airline telling me there would be limited food available on board.  Freaky!  So I grabbed another bag of crisps and a bottle of water from the vending machines at the gate.  As I had bet, they were a pound or two cheaper than the onboard stuff.

I spent most of the flight listening to the BBC3 Radio Baroque festival podcasts.  They were very interesting but couldn’t prevent me dozing off on the three and a half hour journey.  When I did wake up, we were flying over a white wasteland on the way towards Trondheim.  Fantastic landscape – like nothing in NZ.  Kinda flat and bulgy, and caked with snow.

Approaching Trondheim.
Trondheim was very pretty to see from the air, you could trace the length of the frozen river to the sea where it became liquid again.  Another obvious feature from the air were, what I guessed at the time and have since had confirmed, the many ski trails across the hills that showed up as straight white lines in the darkness of the forested areas.  As it was nearing dusk these were glowing across the landscape.

Frozen lakes.
When we landed I looked for my onward flight and saw that it was departing at 5.30pm.  Since my ticket said my flight had arrived about 4pm I went to the loo and got out some Norwegian Kroner then looked about for my gate.  I couldn’t find it nearby so I followed the way out symbols and went back to check-in.  Here I realised I needed to make my way from international arrivals to domestic departures which meant going through security again.  It was also here that I realised that I had landed at 4pm UK time, which equalled 5pm Norwegian time!!  Thankfully the guy checking boarding passes let me jump the queue for security since by now my flight was boarding.  Also thankfully the security team weren’t in a bad mood and didn’t take affront to my frantic and disorderly dumping of luggage in the tray.  

I got to the gate only to find it wasn’t there!  I re-checked my boarding pass and the monitors in the waiting room and sure enough I was supposed to be at gate 41 but I couldn’t see it anywhere.  Then I heard my name being called (or some almost unrecognisable version of it) saying final call, gate about to close.  Finally I noticed the room was an L shape, and right around the corner at the back was my gate.  Whew!  

When I got onboard it turned out I didn’t have a seat number on my boarding pass (some fault in the system) so they just said pick an empty seat by the wing.  So I took a window seat until someone even later than me came to claim it as rightfully theirs.  Fortunately the two men on either side of me were very pleasant and spoke perfect English and we had a polite little chat and then took off.  When the pilot said welcome to this flight to Bodo one of them explained that yes this flight would eventually go to Tromso, but would touch down in Bodo first.  (Turns out Bodo is pronounced Boo-dah.)

So by this time the sun was beginning to set and there was little to see on the way to Tromso except the lights of the city as we landed.  I paid 45kr ($9.50) for a substandard calzone at the airport because I knew I wouldn’t have time to go to the supermarket once I had checked in at the bed and breakfast, and then caught a taxi for the 10 minute ride up the hill for 150kr ($31).  Just a friendly reminder that Norway is not cheap.

My destination was the same bed and breakfast I had stayed at in Summer.  The owners are both very nice and seemed glad to see me again.  I ended up in the same room.  A nice continuity contrasting with the dramatically different environment of the city in Winter.


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