Living a fairytale in Tromsø

This article is also available in: Dutch

Last Wednesday, after a somewhat sloppy landing, we arrived at Schiphol Airport again. Because we had to go back to work the day after coming home and there was quite some housekeeping to do, it took me some time to write this story. It was worth it though, because we had such an amazing week. Walt Disney can’t even compete wih our stories, because what we did was absolutely magical. Send two adults to Tromsø and they make their own fairytale. The most beautiful fairytale in the world.

I hereby promise that I will write about all our expeditions and activities in seperate posts later on, for everyone who’s interested in doing something like we did, but for now I just want to give you a (somewhat long) summary of our amazing mindblowing vacation.

Day 1 – A rusty start and bitter cold

This trip to North-Norway was the first trip we booked at a travel organization. Normally we prefer to pick our own routes, tickets, hotels and activities, but because of the lack of time we decided to book a package deal. It turned out that package deals weren’t really our cup of tea. The communication was very minimal, curtly and sometimes even non existent. We brought a lot of money to the organization to realize this trip we dreamed of for a very long time and were pretty disappointed about it. But we would not let it get in our way of having the time of our lives.

We started the week as a rusty diesel car, but it turned out to be an oldtimer, waiting to show us his true colours. After two delayed flights and a not-so-easy transfer, we arrived at Tromsø airport. A cab drove us to our hotel, where we were welcomed by the best hotel staff of Norway at the Thon Polar Hotel. And yes, I am namedropping here, because I never met hotel staff that was this heartwarming, helpful, kind and proactive. Same goes for the restaurant that was inside our hotel; Egon Restaurant. They served AMAZING food (we had breakfast, lunch and dinner there) and the kindest staff ever. We even made sure we have a place to visit the next time we go on holiday to a nearby town called Senja! Thanks again Robin, you made our holiday extra special!

We decided to spend our evening exploring the city and figuring out where our pick-up point of the next day would be. Even though the temperature was just 2 degrees Celcius below zero, the wind was SO cold I had to burry my face in my scarf. But the cold night made the city even more quiet, serene and beautiful. We couldn’t feel our faces at the end of the evening, but loved every second we spend in the city centre of Tromsø.

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Day 2 – Cute reindeer butts and living like Sami

The next morning a minivan of Lyngsfjord Adventure came to pick us up in the harbor close to our hotel. After an hour and a half drive past fjords, lakes and mountains we arrived at Camp Tamok. A cheerfull young lady called Linda welcomed us and explained what the day was going to be like. They gave us super warm bodysuits, offered everybody warm(er) hats and mittens and devided the group per activity. We appeared to be the only two persons for the reindeer expedition. YAY, PRIVATE TOUR! More reindeer for us!

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We were introduced to our guide Roar (yeah really, except you pronounce it as Roo-ar), a playful man with a very good sense of humor and years and years of experience in the Norwegian mountains. He owned a bunch of reindeer, but wouldn’t tell us how much exactly. According to the Sami asking how many reindeer someone has is like asking how much money someone has and it’s considered rude. For example: he knows exactly how much money is on his wife’s bankaccount, but he has NO clue how many reindeer she has!

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Roar welcomed us to his lavvu (some sort of tipi tent made of reindeerskin with a fire place in the middle) where we enjoyed his amazing stories. He told us lots of things about the Sami way of life, his family, ancestors, religion and reindeer. Because we kept on asking him a LOT of questions, we were almost an hour behind schedule when we went outside for a sledding tour with the reindeer. Roar let us fetch the reindeer ourselves and then put them in front of the sleds. We made a tour right across the frozen lake Tamok, listening to nothing but the clicking reindeer hoofs and the crisping snow under our sled. If I had any words in my vocabulary to describe how I felt at that moment, right then and there, I would have written them down. But I just can’t. Also: do you have ANY idea how CUTE reindeer butts are?

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After the sleighride we had lunch back at the camp with all the other tourists who enjoyed their afternoon out in the snow. We had some super tasty reindeer soup in a big lavvu with a camp fire with some super hot and steamy coffee on the side. After we were all warmed up again (and maybe threw some snowballs at Roar), the minivan took us back to Tromsø.

That evening we had dinner in Bardus Bistro, where we tried out the reindeer shank. It looked so tasty it made my mouth water, but I could help but think of the cute reindeer butts of that afternoon. We talked about how amazing our day was, discussed our plans for the next day and sighed really deep. It was such a magical first day of our fairytale..

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Day 3 – Snowmobiling through the mountains and romance under the Aurora

On the third day we had another trip to camp Tamok planned, only this time we were going to sleep over at the camp! Because we felt right at home between the lavvus, piles of snow, high mountains, amazing views and breathtaking silence the day before, we couldn’t wait to get back! We packed our suitcases and left for another hour and a half drive to Lyngsfjord Adventure. This time they handed us a bodysuit, helmet and mittens. I was wearing two pears of gloves, since it was -16℃ outside and we were about to go on a snowmobile tour in the dark!

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The snowmobiles were a little bit hard to handle, because you have to steer with both arms. They also have the temper of a sports car, with which I didn’t really trust myself, so I decided to let my boyfriend drive. It was super cool to sit on the back as well, enjoying the amazing views, the (full) moonlight and to play with our GoPro a little. The full moon made the snowy mountaintops even prettier and because of the clear sky we could literally see every single star.

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We drove all the way up the mountains, above the treeline and were rewarded with an amazing view over the clouds that were hanging above Finland and Sweden. Because we brought an amazing camera with us (a Sony A7S) we could take pictures as if we were on another planet. At least; it really felt like we were. I mean.. Look at this!

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When we returned to the camp we got a nice cup of hot coffee to warm up our hands and had some dinner at the camp fire. While we were eating our snowmobile guide told us that the Northern Lights were supposed to be seen from down in the valley. We we quickly finished our dinner to get our stuff and head down to the valley with a Dutch/Spanish couple we met earlier that day. We were just setting up our tripod and fooling around with taking some test shots when I saw a green line appearing on our screen. I asked Bart-Jan “Honey? Do you think this is the Northern Lights?” He ran over to the camera and screamed “FUCK YES THIS IS NORTHERN LIGHTS!”

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We looked up to the sky and before we knew it we saw green stripes everywhere. They showed up from behind the mountains, danced across the sky, only to disappear behind another mountain again. And then show up again, dance, fade away, etcetera. It was SO pretty, we almost forgot that our fingers were freezing because we were taking pictures without our gloves on. The lightshow lasted for almost 20 minutes and it simply took our breath away.

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After the lightshow was over and even my hair was beginning to freeze up, we decided to head back to the lavvu to warm up. On our way to the camp, two guides were on their way down to come looking for us because they got a little worried. Whoops, were we gone for that long? The six of us walked back to the camp, but not long after arriving back at the camp, we saw another glimpse of Aurora showing up. And once you saw the Northern Lights, you just know it’s gonna be good when you see it.

Within 5 minutes the sky completely lit up. The green was SO intense, it must have been the prettiest thing I’ve EVER seen with my naked eye. An explosion of variations of green was dancing over our heads and I couldn’t do anything but just stand there, gaze at the night skies while holding my breath and trying to seize the moment.

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At least until my boyfriend caught my attention. He pulled out a present from backpack. It was wrapped in white sparkling paper and had a bright green bow around it. I didn’t really understand what was going on, but while Aurora arranged the most romantic scenery EVER, he said three words (containing the L-word) that ment só much to me.. The present contained a beautiful silver necklace with a reindeer head on it. It was the exact necklace that I fell in love with a couple days earlier when we walked past the jewelery store, but I decided not to buy it. This is probably the most romantic thing that anyone has ever done for me. I felt like I was in a movie! It made this super special day even more special and I also learned that even tears of joy hurt pretty bad when it’s that cold outside..

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Day 4 – Trying to beat the cold with Alaskan huskies

The next morning, still a little wobbly from the night before, we sat down at the breakfast table at camp Tamok. Through the small windows of the cabin we could see the huskies impatiently walking around in their kennels. They couldn’t wait to go out for a run! They were howling and barking so hard, that we couldn’t even hear ourselves think.

With our stomachs all filled up with Norwegian goodies, we stepped into our warm bodysuits again and walked to the kennels where we met our guide Marcus. Every couple was assigned to their own sled with 5 Alaskan huskies. Ofcourse I had to lie down in the snow and cuddle with them first! I am such a dog person and have been dreaming about getting my own Siberian husky for years. Unfortunately our house is too small to keep such a big dog. But hey, now I had five for the coming 2 hours!

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After our guide and dog whisperer Marcus gave the go-ahead, the dogs spurted away as if a canon fired them off! They ran like they were chasing kitty cats and instantly stopped barking and howling. It felt like they were running for their lives! Even though you could really see that they were having an amazing time.

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On the go the dogs take a mouthful of snow every now and then to stay hydrated. They even poop and pee while running (sorry, they really do)! I was a little surprised, but it does not change the magic of a dogsledding tour through a snowy valley with blue skies popping up from under the dark grey clouds. Even though I had to burry my face in my scarf and hide my eyes behind my sunglasses to keep my face from freezing off, I couldn’t help myself but grin the whole time. We were kicking Norwegian winter’s ass!

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We could take turns controlling the sleigh and riding along, so on the way back Bart-Jan took place on the reindeerskin and I got to control the sled. My gosh, that was SO much fun! The lower I squated, the faster de sled was going and all seven of us really enjoyed getting behind on the group and then speeding up to catch up on them.

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We spend the rest of the afternoon in an afterglow of emotions, cuddled up by candle light and had lots and lots of food. We probably fell asleep around 8, but we can’t even remember because the cold weather and all the emotions got the better of us.

Day 5 – Information and emotion overload

After three days of ‘living the dream’, we were feeling kind of exhausted by everything we experienced, so we decided to spend the day easy going. We ended up spending the day with a very slow breakfast, some cuddles, looking at pictures and walking around Tromsø.

That afternoon we went to visit the Polaria: an aquarium located in the harbor of Tromsø. The aquarium was recommended to us by one of the guides in camp Tamok, so we decided to go and check it out. Even though the seals looked very happy, we had mixed feelings about them living in a relatively small tank. You could tell they were used to the visitors, because they came over to watch our umbrella from up close. We enjoyed that moment a lot and I hope that the seals did as well. Sometimes I’d really wish I could talk to animals!

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Day 6 – A blizzard at sea and hot chocolate in Finland

Because our last day would mostly consist of traveling, we decided to live day 6 to the fullest. We booked a whale safari the night before, so had to be at the pick-up point in the harbor early morning. We were welcomed to the Polar Girl (boat) of Polarcharter by guide Jon. After a short introduction and some coffee and tea, Jon took us and our cameras out to the deck.

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As soon as we got out of the harbor it started to snow REALLY hard. And I mean, REALLY hard. We ended up in some sort of blizzard at sea and we had a hard time keeping our eyes open to take pictures. Luckily we brought a pair goggles which allowed at least one of us to look out for whales and take pictures. After a short boat trip we ran into a couple of different groups of humpback whales. It took me a while to see them but the first moment I saw a tail coming out of the water I had a hard time holding back my tears. Those animals are so super impressive. One humpback decided to swim right across our boat, so we could have a close look at how big they our. It left me speechless..

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It appeared to be a perfect day for whale watching, Jon told us. The male humpbacks like to come out and play in this kind of weather and they gave away quite the show! One whale repeatedly smacked his tail on the surface of the water and another one even jumped out of the water a couple of times! Every time a whale popped up, I squeeled like a little girl. And the enthusiastic Jon joined me in my joy. After doing this job for a couple of years, day in, day out, he still enjoys every glimpse he catches of the gorgeous animals. Don’t ask me why, but his enthusiasm made the whole spectacle even more special. Jon was the best guide we could have wished for! His stories and knowledge were amazing..

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But the day wasn’t over after an amazing first half at sea. Because why on earth would you go to sleep in Norway when you can also be awake?
Because we were SO in love with this country, this trip and the Aurora, we decided to skip our last night of sleep completely. Maximum efficiency. We just HAD to see the Northern Lights again.

But the whole province was clouded and left us with only one thing to do: drive until the skies cleared up. So we joined Roy Sætre on a trip to FINLAND to make sure we could catch one last glimpse of the amazing Aurora. Roy turned out to be the best photographer we met during this entire holiday and an amazing person as well. He was a bit chaotic, but so real and heartwarming. He had amazing stories to tell and knew everything about the lights, so we were delighted that we decided to go chase the lights with him.

After driving for a couple of hours(!) we arrived at the Finnish tundra where the temperature dropped to  -18°C and the trees were all white, frozen and sparkling in the moonlight. While we set up our tripods and waited for the lights, Roy built a camp fire and made us hot chocolate, moose burgers, reindeer sausages and fresh salmon. While we were enjoying our late night snacks with great company on improvised reindeer-skin-chairs a pulsating lightshow broke loose. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to see the lights again and the whole event made us fall even more in love with Scandinavia and here wonders of nature. We couldn’t have wished for a better end of our amazing holiday.

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Day 7 – See you soon, Norway

Early morning we got back to our hotel where we had to pack our bags very quickly. We still smelled like camp fire when we hopped on the plane that morning. Quite the anti-climax, but we carried smiles on our faces that only a plastic surgeon could take away from us. And memories in our hearts that NO ONE will ever take away from us.

Even though we got homesick within three days, we try to look at it from the bright side. We can start planning our next trip to North-Norway now!

See you soon, Norway..
See you soon. <3

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(Group picture of the Northern Lights chasers by Roy Sætre)

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