Day 14 Tromsø arrival
I skimmed over the days in Tromsø, so I want to go back and revisit them.
On the ship at dock in Longyearbyen, we were up for a 6:30 a.m. breakfast, having got our suitcases ready at 6 a.m. for disembarking. At least we weren’t in the group that had to disembark (with their suitcases) by zodiac about 1 a.m. because they had early flights to catch. The rest of us hung about in Longyearbyen – it was rather cold and a bit rainy so not condusive to long walks – and caught up with our emails (there had been no internet service on the ship) or did some last-minute shopping, then a bus took us to the airport for the 90 minute flight to Tromsø. The Arctic circle officially starts at 66°33′N so, as Tromsø is at 69°65′N, we were still within it.
It took positively aaages to get through the passport-stamping line after getting off the plane from Longyearben. There were only two officials doing everything by hand. This was in stark contrast to other airports where everything was done electronically and speedily. It didn’t help that we Aussies are not part of the Shengen agreement so didn’t have the fast-through option.
The waiting bus then took us to our very swish hotel (Clarion @ The Edge) at the waterfront and handily witihin a short walk to the centre of town.
Now we were back to a group of 14 Aussie ‘gardeners’ rather than an international group of 80-ish wildlife enthusiasts. While the others went for a pizza, I went for a stroll around the town – I’d rather use such time being what the French call a flâneur, especially since the sun was virtually up all night and the shops didn’t close till late. The town was quite touristy, as is to be expected. There were souvenir shops selling more or less the same ‘cute’ (ugly) trolls, some Sami stuff (the indigenous people from the north, a few of whom are still reindeer herders), and a lot of knives with reindeer-antler handles. Wooden spoons also seemed to be hot sellers – I guess they are light and easy to slip into the suitcase for presents. And ‘Viking helmets’ with horns – urgh, Hollywood has a lot to answer for. The helmets of the ancient Vikings definitely did not have horns.
I find restaurant and cafe menus interesting for what they can tell you about local eating habits – the flavour of the place, so to speak. Since whale is sustainably fished in Norway, one would expect it on a menu. I wasn’t disappointed. Having eaten whale in Japan – I wouldn’t dare insult my hosts by refusing to eat it as they had bought it especially for me – and not being impressed, I wasn’t going to try it here. Divide by 6 to get the Aussie dollar equivalent at the time.
By the way, the Egyptian foul (below) was not foul – it is the legitimate name for a dish with fava beans.
Next morning, with overcast skies, we were taken by bus to the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden, the most northerly botanic garden in the world. This amusing ‘Fasten your seatbelt’ sign was in the bus. My Norwegian is limited to ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ so it wasn’t until I looked up the relevant website that I found out what it was all about, and also that the fine for not wearing a seatbelt was then 1500 kroner (about A$250).
Here’s an explanation from the Nettbuss website:
Without a belt, you will be the elephant in the bus
“Few know how dangerous it is that the others on the bus do not wear a seat belt. What we often see in accidents is that passengers are thrown around in or out of the bus. In this way, passengers can do great damage to both themselves and each other,” says Jon Molnes in the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
You enter your weight, and find out which animal you will be at 80 km/h. While your child may become a moose, you may even end up as a much larger animal.
“Few people want an ox on their neck. We want to make passengers more aware that they not only fasten their seat belts for their own part, but also for those they travel with. Fortunately, there are few accidents with buses, but the potential for damage is great if something should happen,” says Molnes.
The gardens are neatly divided into sections, displaying alpine and Arctic plants from mountainous regions all over the world. Each plant has a label. I wonder how they survive in winter – my relative who lives in Oslo has to replant her garden every year after the winter snows have killed everything off.
Being spring, many were flowering.
As well as areas covering families of plants, they had plantings of mixed plants under the headings such as ‘fragrant plants’, ‘aphrodisiacs’, ‘native traditional plants’ and, my favourite, ‘witchcraft plants’. I just love the Norwegian word for the last: trolldomsplanter.
Naturally, with Mark on the case, we just had to see some orchids.
I’m not a botanist as such, but I really enjoyed these plantings. After lunch, we were due to go on a walking tour of the city, which I’ll cover next time.