Category Archives: Norway

Tromsø Highlights

Tromsø has a rich history dating back approximately 11,000 years, but little is known about which ethnic group and language group the original settlers may have belonged to. Sami culture stretches back at least 3000 years. Scandinavian language and culture in the Tromsø area go back to around 200-400 CE.

Tromsø first enters the history books in 1252 when the northernmost church in the world was constructed there, in order to secure the surrounding coastal areas for Norway. Indeed, until the late 18th century, Tromsø consisted of little more than a church, its vicarage and several outlying farms and simple dwellings. In 1794, with a population of barely 80 souls, Tromsø was granted town status in an attempt to promote free trade across the north. Freed from restrictive trade practices previously imposed by Bergen and Trondheim, which until then had held a monopoly on trade with the north, the town began to prosper.

Despite suffering a naval attack by the British in 1812 during the Napoleonic Wars, the town continued to grow, largely due to the lucrative hunting of whales, seals and walrus off Svalbard that began in 1820. The harbour was often full of British, Dutch, German and Russian ships drawn here by the rich pickings in the Arctic Ocean and by 1850, Tromsø had overtaken Hammerfest in the rush to harvest the waters of the north.

Tromsø’s links with the Arctic took a new turn in the early 20th century when expeditions to the north by Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen and Umberto Nobile departed from here. Indeed, it was from Tromsø that Amundsen set off by seaplane in search of his missing Italian competitor, Nobile, and other members of the Italia Expedition in 1928; Nobile returned, Amundsen did not. There is a statue erected in his memory in Tromsø harbour.

In May 1940, Tromsø served as the capital of free Norway for several weeks, welcoming the king and the Norwegian government, who fled here from Oslo as the resistance in the south showed signs of collapse. However, on 7 June 1940, they were forced to flee to England, continuing their fight against Germany in exile and urging the Norwegian people to resist the occupying forces on broadcasts on the BBC. Unlike many other places in the north of Norway, Tromsø escaped the scorched earth policy of the retreating German forces, which laid vast stretches of Lapland to waste. The post-war years were good to Tromsø: in 1964, the airport was opened, transforming communications with this part of the country in one stroke; and in 1972 the university was founded with specialist departments of Sami studies and marine biology. Today is not only a service centre for the surrounding fishing and agricultural settlements but it is also the home of the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Tromsø harbour area

It is a pleasure to wander around the streets and harbour area in Tromsø. Since the city was relatively untouched by World War II, there are plenty of old timber buildings, painted a mêlée of reds, greens and yellows. Although the city has a sizeable population, teh centre is not big and is easily negotiated on foot.

Original houses on Sjøgata
In a 19th century building that functioned as a butcher’s shop until 1996, Aunegården is rich in character and serves excellent salads, sandwiches and mains.

In the town centre, the main sight is the domkirke, Tromsø Cathedral, built in 1861 in the Gothic Revival style, which dominates the surrounding streets from its imposing position on Stortorget off Kirkegata. This is the northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world and the only one in Norway made of wood. The construction of the handsome timber building was part funded by the town’s merchants who had grown rich on the trapping trade in the Arctic.

Tromsø Cathedral

Enjoying a prime location on the harbour front, Tromsø’s Polar Museum is housed in a former customs warehouse dating from 1830 and contains some of the most fascinating exhibits you will find. It is fitting that Tromsø has an entire museum dedicated to its links with the Arctic, since the town owes much of its prosperity today to the trappers and hunters who based themselves here in the first half of the 19th century.

Tromsø Polar Museum

On the first floor of the museum, one of the greatest explorers the world has ever known, Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) is given pride of place. After dropping out of university where he was studying medicine, Amundsen did everything possible to improve his qualifications as a polar explorer, first joining a sealing trip in the Arctic and then participating in an expedition to map the magnetic South Pole. It was during this voyage that he decided to lead an expedition to the North Pole through the Northwest Passage. After buying the former sealing ship Gjøa, in Tromsø in 1901, he sailed from Oslo (then called Christiania) to the North Pole where he spent two years collecting data. On arrival in Nome in Alaska in 1906, the Gjøa became the first vessel to sail through the Northwest Passage.

However, it is Amundsen’s race against Britain’s Captain Robert Scott to reach the South Pole that really earned him international fame. He and four of his men reached the pole on 14 December 1911, over a month ahead of Scott’s expedition, who died on their way back to base camp. Among a glorious selection of Amundsen’s thermal underwear and other polar necessities, a series of evocative black-and-white photographs of the men and their expedition really bring the exhibition to life; the expressions on their faces clearly show the hardship they endured.

Amundsen’s next goal was to reach the North Pole by air. In May 1926, he flew the airship, Norge, with an international crew of 16 members from Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard across the Arctic Ocean and the North Pole, dropping the Norwegian, American and Italian flags at the pole as they crossed to Alaska. Amundsen had now planted the Norwegian flag on both poles and sailed both the Northwest and the Northeast passages. Just two years later, when news reached Amundsen that one of his former crew members, Italian Umberto Nobile, had crashed while returning from the North Pole in the airship, Italia, Amundsen set out from Tromsø in the flying boat, Latham, to search for the missing explorer. Tragically, although Nobile and eight of his men returned to safety, radio contact with Amundsen was soon lost and he and his crew were never seen again.

Predominantly a photographic museum, Perspektivet aims to recount the contemporary history of Tromsø and has a collection of 400,000 images to draw on. The building the museum occupies is also of interest as it was the teenage home of local writer Sara Fabricius (1880-1974). After moving here from Oslo at the age of 13, Sara lived in Tromsø for five years – a period which left a clear mark on her literary work; her breakthrough came under the pseudonym of Cora Sandel with the publication of her debut novel, Alberte and Jacob, in 1926. A modest exhibition in the museum recounts key moments in Fabricius’ life – today she is regarded as one of Norway’s most significant authors.

Perspektivet Museum
Sorgata 95
Bergen-style architecture with a door at each end.

Another Norwegian author who lived in Tromsø was Jonas Lie (1833-1908) one of The Four Greats of 19th century Norwegian literature, together with Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Alexander Kielland. When Jonas was five years old, his father was appointed sheriff of Tromsø, and young Jonas Lie spent six of the most impressionable years of his life at that remote port. His two collections of short stories called Trold involve the superstitions of the fishermen and coast commoners of northern Norway. The much anthologized short story Elias and the Draugh was included in a collection originally published by Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, and was reprinted by Roald Dahl in Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories (1983).

Next to Perspektivet is a cinema which first opened its doors in 1915. Attached to it is an artsy & airy cafe with orange walls and orange stools.

Verdensteatret (movie theatre)
Storgata 93B

The Tromsø public library and archive building is constructed under the original roof of the old Fokus Cinema, which was designed by the architect Gunnar Bøgeberg Haugen and completed in 1969. The roof structure is based on the Spanish architect Félix Candela’s cascarones (thin shells made out of reinforced concrete).

Tromsø Public Library and City Archive
Interior of Tromsø Public Library and City Archive

Storgata, the main street in Tromsø, on late Saturday afternoon. No trading on Sunday and early closing time on Saturday.

Tromsø on a Saturday night!

At least the reindeer are out and about 🙂


Narvik is another fantastic gem located in Norway, 249km south-west of Tromsø and just 45km from the Swedish border.

Tromsø to Narvik

Home to what was once one of the harshest and coldest railway constructions in the world, the Ofoten Railway extends for 42 km from Narvik to the Swedish border and winds its way through rugged mountains, deep fjords, and mountain plateaus. The journey is a tourist attraction in itself. The line was once described as the 8th Wonder of the World. There’s a museum dedicated to the railway and local history of the area, close to the city centre.

There is also a War Museum for an interactive exhibition documenting the events that took place between 1940 and 1945.

Hitler viewed the port of Narvik as an important conquest because it could provide Nazi Germany with an ice-free harbor from which to ship iron ore to build his war machine. The British had similar ideas, and the stage was set for one of the first great naval battles of World War II.

In April 1940, German warships sailed to Narvik. They were met by Norwegian and British ships, and the ensuing clashes left hundreds of sailors dead and the wrecks of more than a dozen destroyers scattered in the fjords.

Narvik’s war history is chronicled in the little museum next to the fish market that attracts visitors from around the world. The museum also exhibits information on worldwide conflicts and human rights. But we arrived on a Sunday and everything was closed! Including the aurora hunting which has office hours, Monday to Friday 🙂

Nowadays, scuba divers prospect the World War II shipwrecks, part of the town’s busy tourist trade.

Narvik is a major trans-shipment point for iron ore from the rich Kiruna-Gällivare mines in northern Sweden, since the Swedish ports on the Gulf of Bothnia are frozen in winter. The site was chosen as an ore port by an Anglo-Swedish consortium in 1883 and was named Victoriahavn (“Victoria’s Port”) in 1887 to honour the crown princess of Sweden. The original developers went bankrupt in 1889, but the Norwegian government took over the work in 1892; the name Narvik was adopted in 1898. The town was incorporated in 1902 and grew rapidly after the completion of one of the world’s most northerly rail lines between Narvik and Kiruna. After the war, Narvik was rebuilt and resumed its function as an ore port.

Narvik has a double personality. On the one hand, its location is spectacular, pincered by islands to the west and mountains in every other direction, while spectacular fjords stretch north and south. At the same time, heavy industry casts a pall of ugliness over the rather scruffy downtown area.

We can only say we stopped in Narvik and we’ll remember it for one of the best sleeps ever! Even dinner in Tøtta Skybar didn’t entice us out of bed. But at one point, when I noticed the auroral oval over northern Norway, I got out of bed and dressed in record time. Little Puffles and Honey were not impressed at being so unceremoniously woken up 🙂 And all for nothing. We waited outside for a while, checking the sky, but the kp was only 0.67 and eventually we gave up. The next 3 nights are being forecast for exciting aurora displays. And we hope Abisko National Park, our next stop, will live up to expectations!

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

The little camera is gone. To wherever cameras left on a bus go. This will make it all better!

And a weird story!

Once on a time there was a poor husbandman who had so many children that he hadn’t much of either food or clothing to give them. Pretty children they all were, but the prettiest was the youngest daughter, who was so lovely there was no end to her loveliness.

So one day, ‘twas on a Thursday evening late at the fall of the year, the weather was so wild and rough outside, and it was so cruelly dark, and rain fell and wind blew, till the walls of the cottage shook again. There they all sat round the fire busy with this thing and that. But just then, all at once something gave three taps on the windowpane. Then the father went out to see what was the matter; and, when he got out of doors, what should he see but a great big White Bear.

“Good evening to you,” said the White Bear.

“The same to you,” said the man.

“Will you give me your youngest daughter? If you will, I’ll make you as rich as you are now poor,’ said the Bear.

Well, the man would not be at all sorry to be so rich; but still he thought he must have a bit of a talk with his daughter first; so he went in and told them how there was a great White Bear waiting outside, who had given his word to make them so rich if he could only have the youngest daughter.

The lassie said “No!” outright. Nothing could get her to say anything else; so the man went out and settled it with the White Bear, that he should come again the next Thursday evening and get an answer. Meantime he talked his daughter over, and kept on telling her of all the riches they would get, and how well off she would be herself; and so at last she thought better of it, and washed and mended her rags, made herself as smart as she could, and was ready to start. I can’t say her packing gave her much trouble.

Next Thursday evening came the White Bear to fetch her, and she got upon his back with her bundle, and off they went. So, when they had gone a bit of the way, the White Bear said:

“Are you afraid?”

“No!”, she wasn’t.

“Well! Mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,” said the Bear.

So she rode a long, long way, till they came to a great steep hill. There, on the face of it, the White Bear gave a knock, and a door opened, and they came into a castle, where there were many rooms all lit up; rooms gleaming with silver and gold; and there too was a table ready laid, and it was all as grand as grand could be. Then the White Bear gave her a silver bell; and when she wanted anything, she was only to ring it, and she would get it at once.

Well, after she had eaten and drunk, and evening wore on, she got sleepy after her journey, and thought she would like to go to bed, so she rang the bell; and she had scarce taken hold of it before she came into a chamber, where there was a bed made, as fair and white as anyone would wish to sleep in, with silken pillows and curtains, and gold fringe. All that was in the room was gold or silver; but when she had gone to bed, and put out the light, a man came and laid himself alongside her. That was the White Bear, who threw his beast shape at night; but she never saw him, for he always came after she had put out the light, and before day dawned he was up and off again. So things went on happily for a while, but at last she began to get silent and sorrowful; for there she went about all day alone, and she longed to go home to see her father and mother, and brothers and sisters. So one day, when the White Bear asked what it was that she lacked, she said it was so dull and lonely there, and how she longed to go home to see her father and mother, and brothers and sisters, and that was why she was so sad and sorrowful, because she couldn’t get to them.

“Well, well!”, said the Bear, “perhaps there’s a cure for all this; but you must promise me one thing, not to talk alone with your mother, but only when the rest are by to hear; for she’ll take you by the hand and try to lead you into a room alone to talk; but you must mind and not do that, else you’ll bring bad luck on both of us.”

So one Sunday the White Bear came and said now they would set off to see her father and mother. Well, off they started, she sitting on his back; and they went far and long. At last they came to a grand house, and there her brothers and sisters were running about out of doors at play, and everything was so pretty, ‘twas a joy to see.

“This is where your father and mother live now,” said the White Bear; “but don’t forget what I told you, else you’ll make us both unlucky.”

“No! bless her, she’d not forget”; and when she had reached the house, the White Bear turned right about and left her.

Then she went in to see her father and mother, there was such joy, there was no end to it. None of them thought they could thank her enough for all she had done for them. Now, they had everything they wished, as good as good could be, and they all wanted to know how she got on where she lived.

Well, she said, it was very good to live where she did; she had all she wished. What she said beside I don’t know; but I don’t think any of them had the right end of the stick, or that they got much out of her. But so in the afternoon, after they had done dinner, all happened as the White Bear had said. Her mother wanted to talk with her alone in her bedroom; but she minded what the White Bear had said, and wouldn’t go upstairs.

“Oh, what we have to talk about will keep,” she said, and put her mother off. But somehow or other, her mother got round her at last, and she had to tell her the whole story. So she said, how every night, when she had gone to bed, a man came and lay down beside her as soon as she had put out the light, and how she never saw him, because he was always up and away before the morning dawned; and how she went about woeful and sorrowing, for she thought she should so like to see him, and how all day long she walked about there alone, and how dull, and dreary, and lonesome it was.

“My!” said her mother; “it may well be a Troll you slept with! But now I’ll teach you a lesson how to set eyes on him. I’ll give you a bit of candle, which you can carry home in your bosom; just light it while he is asleep, but take care not to drop the tallow on him.”

Yes! she took the candle, and hit it in her bosom, and as night drew on, the White Bear came and fetched her away.

But when they had one a bit of the way, the White Bear asked if all hadn’t happened as he had said.

“Well, she couldn’t say that it hadn’t”.

“Now, mind,” said he, “if you have listened to your mother’s advice, you have brought bad luck on us both, and then, all that has passed between us will be as nothing.”

“No,” she said, “she hadn’t listened to her mother’s advice.”

So when she reached home, and had gone to bed, it was the old story over again. There came a man and lay down beside her; but at dead of night, when she heard he slept, she got up and struck a light, lit the candle, and let light shine on him, and so she saw that he was the loveliest Prince one ever set eyes on, and she fell so deep in love with him on the spot, that she thought she couldn’t live if she didn’t give him a kiss there and then. And so she did, but as she kissed him, she dropped three hot drops of tallow on his shirt, and he woke up.

“What have you done?” he cried; “now you have made us both unlucky, for had you held out only this one year, I had been freed. For I have a stepmother who has bewitched me, so that I am a White Bear by day, and a Man by night. But now all ties are snapped between us; now I must set off from you to her. She lives in a castle which stands East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and there, too, is a Princess, with a nose three ells long, and she’s the wife I must have now.”

She wept and took it ill, but there was no help for it; go he must.

Then she asked if she mightn’t go with him.

No, she mightn’t.

“Tell me the way, then,” she said, “and I’ll search you out; that surely I may get leave to do.”

“Yes, she might do that,” he said; “but there was no way to that place. It lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and thither she’s never mind her way.”

So next morning, when she woke up, both Prince and castle were gone, and then she lay on a little green patch, in the midst of the gloomy thick wood, and by her side lay the same bundle of rags she had brought with her from her old home.

So when she had rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and wept till she was tired, she set out on her way, and walked many, many days, till she came to a lofty crag. Under it sat an old hag, and played with a gold apple which she tossed about. Her the lassie asked if she knew the way to the Prince, who lived with his stepmother in the castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and who was to marry the Princess with a nose three ells long.

“How did you come to know about him?” asked the old hag; “but maybe you are the lassie who ought to have had him?”

Yes, she was.

“So, so; it’s you, is it?” said the old hag. “Well, all I know about him is, that he lives in the castle that lies East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and thither you’ll come, late or never; but still you may have the loan of my horse, and on him you can ride to my next neighbour. Maybe she’ll be able to tell you; and when you get there, just give the horse a switch under the left ear, and beg him to be off home; and, stay, this gold apple you may take with you.”

So she got upon the horse, and rode a long long time, till she came to another crag, under which sat another old hag, with a gold carding comb. Her the lassie asked if she knew the way to the castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and she answered, like the first old hag, that she knew nothing about it, except it was east of the sun and west of the moon.

“And thither you’ll come, late or never; but you shall have the loan of my horse to my next neighbour; maybe she’ll tell you all about it; and when you get there, just switch the horse under the left ear, and beg him to be off home.”

And this old hag gave her the golden carding comb; it might be she’d find some use for it, she said. So the lassie got up on the horse, and rode a far far away, and a weary time; and so at last she came to another great crag, under which sat another old hag, spinning with a golden spinning wheel. Her, too, she asked if she knew the way to the Prince, and where the castle was that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon. So it was the same thing over again.

“Maybe it’s you who ought to have had the Prince?” said the old hag.

Yes, it was.

But she, too, didn’t know the way a bit better than the other two. “East of the sun and west of the moon it was,” she knew – but that was all.

“And thither you’ll come, late or never; but I’ll lend you my horse, and then I think you’d best ride to the East Wind and ask him; maybe he knows those parts, and can blow you thither. But when you get to him, you need only to give the horse a switch under the left ear, and he’ll trot home of himself.”

And so, too, she gave her the gold spinning wheel. “Maybe you’ll find a use for it,” said the old hag.

Then on she rode many many days, a weary time, before she got to the East Wind’s house, but at last she reached it, and then she asked the East Wind if he could tell her the way to the Prince who dwelt east of the sun and west of the moon. Yes, the East Wind had often heard tell of it, the Prince and the castle, but he couldn’t tell her the way, for he had never blown so far.

“But, if you will, I’ll go with you to my brother the West Wind, maybe he knows, for he’s much stronger. So, if you will just get on my back, I’ll carry you thither.”
Yes, she got on his back, and I should just think they went briskly along.

So when they got there, they went into the West Wind’s house, and the East Wind said the lassie he had brought was the one who ought to have had the Prince who lived in the castle East of the Sun and West of the Moon; and so she had set out to seek him, and how he had come with her, and would be glad to know if the West Wind knew how to get to the castle.

“Nay,” said the West Wind, “so far I’ve never blown; but if you will, I’ll go with you to our brother the South Wind, for he’s much stronger than either of us, and he has flapped his wings far and wide. Maybe he’ll tell you. You can get on my back, I’ll carry you to him.”

Yes! she got on his back, and so they travelled to the South Wind, and weren’t so very long on the way, I should think.

When they got there, the West Wind asked him if he could tell her the way to the castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon, for it was she who ought to have had the Prince who lived there.

“You don’t say so! That’s she, is it?” said the South Wind.

“Well, I have blustered about in most places in my time, but so far have I never blown; but if you will, I’ll take you to my brother the North Wind; he is the oldest and strongest of the whole lot of us, and if he don’t know where it is, you’ll never find anyone in the world to tell you. You can get on my back, and I’ll carry you thither.”

Yes! she got on his back, and away he went from his house at a fine rate. And this time, too, she wasn’t long on her way.
So when they got to the North Wind’s house, he was so wild and cross, cold puffs came from him a long way off.

“Blast you both, what do you want?” he roared out to them ever so far off, so that it struck them, with icy shiver.

“Well,” said the South Wind, “you needn’t be so foulmouthed, for here I am, your brother, the South Wind, and here is the lassie who ought to have had the Prince who dwells in the castle that lies East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and now she wants to ask you if you ever were there, and can tell her the way, for she would be so glad to find him again.”

“Yes, I know well enough where it is,” said the North Wind; “once in my life I blew an aspen leaf thither, but I was so tired I couldn’t blow a puff for ever so many days after. But if you really wish to go thither, and aren’t afraid to come along with me, I’ll take you on my back and see if I can blow you thither.”

Yes! with all her heart; she must and would get thither if it were possibly in any way; and as for fear, however madly he went, she wouldn’t be at all afraid.

“Very well, then,” said the North Wind, “but you must sleep here tonight, for we must have the whole day before us, if we’re to get thither at all.”

Early next morning the North Wind woke her, and puffed himself up, and blew himself out, and made himself so stout and big, ‘twas gruesome to look at him; and so off they went high up through the air, as if they would never stop till they got to the world’s end.

Down here below there was such a storm; it threw down long tracts of wood and many houses, and when it swept over the great sea, ships foundered by hundreds.

So they tore on and on – no one can believe how far they went – and all the while they still went over the sea, and the North Wind got more and more weary, and so out of breath he could scarce bring out a puff, and his wings drooped and drooped, till at last he sunk so low that the crests of the waves dashed over his heels.

“Are you afraid?” said the North Wind.

“No!” she wasn’t.

But they weren’t very far from land; and the North Wind had still so much strength left in him that he managed to throw her up on the shore under the windows of the castle which lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon; but then he was so weak and worn out, he had to stay there and rest many days before he could get home again.

Next morning the lassie sat down under the castle window, and began to play with the gold apple; and the first person she saw was the Long-nose who was to have the Prince.

“What do you want for your gold apple, you lassie?” said the Long-nose, and threw up the window.

“It’s not for sale, for gold or money,” said the lassie.

“If it’s not for sale for gold or money, what is it that you will sell it for? You may name your own price,” said the Princess.

“Well if I may get to the Prince, who lives here, and be with him tonight, you shall have it,” said the lassie whom the North Wind had brought.

Yes! she might; that could be done. So the Princess got the gold apple; but when the lassie came up to the Prince’s bedroom at night he was fast asleep; she called him and shook him, and between whiles she wept sore; but all she could do she couldn’t wake him up. Next morning as soon as day broke, came the Princess with the long nose, and drove her out again.

So in the daytime she sat down under the castle windows and began to card with her golden carding comb, and the same thing happened. The Princess asked what she wanted for it; and she said it wasn’t for sale for gold or money, but if she might get leave to go up to the Prince and be with him that night, the Princess should have it. But when she went up she found him fast asleep again, and all she called, and all she shook, and wept, and prayed, she couldn’t get life into him; and as soon as the first grey peep of day came, then came the Princess with the long nose, and chased her out again.

So in the daytime the lassie sat down outside under the castle windows, and began to spin with her golden spinning wheel, and that, too, the Princess with the long nose wanted to have. So she threw up the window and asked what she wanted for it. The lassie said, as she had said twice before, it wasn’t for sale for gold or money; but if she might go up to the Prince who was there, and be with him alone that night, she might have it.

Yes! she might do that and welcome. But now you must know there were some Christian fol who had been carried off thither, and as they sat in their room, which was next to the Prince, they had heard how a woman had been in there, and wept and prayed, and called to him two nights running, and they told that to the Prince.

That evening, when the Princess came with her sleepy drink, the Prince made as if he drank, but threw it over his shoulder, for he could guess it was a sleepy drink. So, when the lassie came in, she found the Prince wide awake; and then she told him the whole story how she had come thither.

“Ah,” said the Prince, “you’ve just come in the nick of time, for tomorrow is to be our wedding day; but now I won’t have the Long-nose, and you are the only woman in the world who can set me free. I’ll say I want to see what my wife is fit for, and beg her to wash the shirt which has the three spots of tallow on it; she’ll say yes, for she doesn’t know ‘tis you who put them there; but that’s a work only for Christian folk, and not for such a pack of Trolls, and so I’ll say that I won’t have any other for my bride that the woman who can wash them out, and ask you to do it.”

So there was great joy and love between them all that night. But next day, when the wedding was to be, the Prince said:

“First of all, I’d like to see what my bride is fit for.”

“Yes!” said the stepmother with all her heart.

“Well,” said the Prince, “I’ve got a fine shirt which I’d like for my wedding shirt, but somehow or other it has got three spots of tallow on it, which I must have washed out; and I have sworn never to take any other bride than the woman who’s able to do that. If she can’t, she’s not worth having.”

Well, what was no great thing they said, so they agreed, and she with the long nose began to wash away as hard as she could, but the more she rubbed and scrubbed, the bigger the spots grew.

“Ah!” said the old hag, her mother, “you can’t wash, let me try.”

But she hadn’t long taken the shirt in hand, before it got far worse than ever, and with all her rubbing, and wringing,, and scrubbing, the spots grew bigger and blacker, and the darker and uglier the shirt.

Then all the other Trolls began to wash, but the longer it lasted, the blacker and uglier the shirt grew, till at last it was as black all over as if it had been up the chimney.

“Ah!” said the Prince, “you’re none of you worth a straw: you can’t wash. Why there, outside, sits a beggar lassie, I’ll be bound she knows how to wash better than the whole lot of you. Come in, lassie!” he shouted.

Well, in she came.

“Can you wash this shirt clean, lassie, you?” said he.

‘I don’t know,” she said, “but I think I can.”

And almost before she had taken it and dipped it in the water, it was as white as driven snow, and whiter still.

“Yes; you are the lassie for me,” said the Prince.

At that the old hag flew into such a rage, she burst on the spot, and the Princess with the long nose after her, and the whole pack of Trolls after her – at least I’ve never heard a word about them since.

As for the Prince and Princess, they set free all the poor Christian folk who had been carried off and shut up there; and they took with them all the silver and gold, and flitted away as far as they could from the castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

No Sunday Trading

In Norway!

That was a bit of a shock, as we only found this out late Saturday afternoon. Incredibly we never came across this information during our research. Then of course, our research went nowhere near this topic. We managed to get past this restriction even in Perth!

As luck would have it, our plan included going from Tromsø to Narvik this Sunday, which took care of almost half the day. The other half has now become a day of rest! While waiting for another northern lights show. The weather is perfect for it! Fingers crossed…

And luckily, none of the days we’ll spend in Oslo is a Sunday. Seriously!

Norway passed a law in the late 1990s that restricts Sunday shopping. There are some exceptions to the law: it’s allowed in areas considered tourism centers, on the three Sundays before Christmas and all year if the shop in question is less than 100 square meters in size. So the only store options on a Sunday are flower nurseries, petrol stations stores and small stores with limited choices and even more exorbitant prices.

The high prices still found even in Norwegian stores billed as billig (cheap) result from a combination of taxes, costs, regulation of dairy and meat products, government subsidy and agricultural protectionism that restricts imports, and wholesalers’ grip on the market. There’s a reason selection at Norwegian grocery stores is so much poorer than in most other countries including neighbouring Sweden (and why Swedish stores in border areas are packed with Norwegian customers). There’s also a reason why lists of Norway’s wealthiest individuals invariably include grocery store magnates. They’ve made lots of money over the years on often-passive Norwegian consumers.

But I just saw the public library in Narvik open on a Sunday afternoon. And busy! Which is cool in so many ways.

It’s not only grocery stores and other types of stores that are closed. Most restaurants, cafes and pubs are also closed (no Sunday brunch!), along with other places such as some visitor information centres. While some hotel restaurants are open on a Sunday, the restaurant at Scandic Narvik is closed today. Yay! But the Tøtta Skybar on the 16th floor is open, with a simple bar menu featuring hamburgers, pasta and other light bites. While not the cheapest place to eat, the terrific views across the city and the fjord should make it worth a visit.

Tøtta Skybar also has an outdoor roof terrace. Could be the perfect cold spot for the northern lights!

Bites in Tromsø

Not quite breakfast in bed, but breakfast in pyjamas 🙂 at Scandic Ishavshotel, which apparently serves one of the best breakfasts in Norway. The hotel won the award for Troms county’s best hotel breakfast in 2017. It is pretty good! With lots and lots of choice. In addition to breakfast, the hotel restaurant, Roast, serves lunch and dinner of local produce and locally produced meat and several local beers.

Breakfast at Scandic Ishavshotel

In addition, the hotel has delightful rooms and a spectacular location.

Scandic Ishavshotel
View from our room at the Scandic Ishavshotel – not the best photo but you get the idea!

The hotel is the perfect base from which to explore Tromsø. A number of Tromsø tours have their meeting point outside the entrance. Another plus is that the airport bus stops right outside the entrance.

Lunch was a fishy affair at Emmas Drømmekjøkken.

Emmas Drømmekjøkken

Little bears were greeted by Anne Brit herself who promptly changed the rose on the table to one of perfection, like Miss Honey 🙂

Soup of the day
Emma’s fish au gratin
Emma’s fish au gratin with a Mack beer 🙂
A sweet temptation!

As a child, Anne Brit Andreassen dreamed of running a res­taurant. Around 30 years ago, that dream came true and ever since, Emmas Drømmekjøkken has been renowned as one of the best restaurants in the north of ­Norway. On the ground floor is Emmas Under, a more informal alternative to the fine dining restaurant upstairs. Here, they serve refined home cooking, such as the rustic Emma’s fish au gratin in a heart-shaped oven dish – comfort food at its very best!

Mack long held the title of the world’s most northerly brewery until they started brewing beer on Svalbard. The brewery dates back to 1877 and it added a more experimental microbrewery a few years ago. Kjeller 5 caters for the most discerning of beer ­lovers and the adjacent Ølhallen, the oldest pub in Tromsø, has 67 Norwegian beers on tap. The Hall, as it was called in its younger years was a place of sanctuary. At that time it was teeming with fishermen, farmers and townspeople.

A little Christmas beer at Ølhallen

Dinner was another fishy affair with Sørøya Havfiske Cruise, on the catamaran MB Havcruise. Gulli cooked a delicious fish dinner (fish caught that morning by herself) while Cato found the best place to watch the aurora activity.

Sørøya Havfiske Cruise – MB Havcruise

Little bears ate dinner in the warm comfort of the cabin while I was outside looking at the northern lights 🙂

Three Nights Lucky

These photos are more for play. We went on an aurora dinner cruise and while it’s amazing watching the northern lights over water, a moving boat is not the ideal location for taking photos with any kind of exposure.

The point is, we have now seen the northern lights three nights in a row! The lucky bears factor 🙂

The aurora forecast for Sunday and Monday is good, so here’s hoping for more!