Thursday, May 17, 2007


12.44am on road to Sydspissen

Finding a hotel room in Tromsø was unexpectedly different. Assured of a larger-range of accommodation (and some price-competition) I found that there was very little to distinguish costs in town, and an almost lip-curling antipathy to having a dog, which I have only encountered in Poland and parts of Ireland. The only places which would accept a dog were at the higher end of the price spectrum.

Nearly exhausted with lack of sleep and food, I was finally pointed to the affordable Sydspissen about 5 minutes out of town, on the southern edge of the city island (most Norwegian coastal communities are on islands), where I sank into a 9 hour sleep.

I was later told that Tromsø's hotels are more geared for conventions than tourists, and this all needs to change with the city's aspirations for a Winter Olympics within a decade.

The local arctic zoo is closed until June (when it's warm enough for the animals?) so I improvised my own.

Downtown is small enough to cover in under an hour, with Tromsø rating approximately 0.9 on the Wagga Wagga population scale. However being approximately 1000 on the Wagga Wagga scale of arctic exploration, I visited Polaria, an arctic wildlife centre, where I watched some panoramic films of the Svalbard archipelago and Antarctica, and the feeding/training of their four bearded seals.

The four seals (one male:9, three females:4) range from 3 to 4 on the Bondi weight scale, cheating by substituting fats for hair, but sharing a devoted attention to those dispensing food.

I said sit!

I'm a lady, with lady's whiskers; Preparing to leap
The seashore around Sydspissen was a great place to let Bondi loose for a sniff around for the afternoon.

I went to the local information centre to identify some new places to visit in Tromsø during this sorta-summer season period (if summer rates are higher, then it's summer; otherwise everything is closed). While waiting at the counter (and also trying to help some Italians bound for places I'd just left), some staffer wandered in and ordered Bondi out (first in Norwegian, then in English) without a please, or thank-you or evidence of any hospitality bone in his body, and then walked out. The lady at the counter was quite helpful, but after the last week, I'm giving very low marks to northern Norway's tourism public face.

This evening I sat indoors, clutching my poor tummy, watching Igloo Betty on TV. However, at midnight I attended a short but uniformly excellent chamber recital given at the Ishavskatedral (ice sea cathedral), which is timed to allow southbound Hurtigruten passengers access during their brief stopover. The cathedral sits on the mainland approach to the narrow bridge connecting the city centre, and it's easy to track the ferry progress from the steps. Its big attraction is the 140sq.metre stained glass window, which is especially well-lit by the midnight sun. That would have been great last night when I was in hotel hell, but rainclouds have been about since midday.

The musicians, Caroline Christiansen (soprano), Øyvind Bakkeby Moe (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Robert M. Frantzen (organ/piano) performed ten pieces drawn from the Nordic traditional and classical repertoire. I was especially taken by Moe's own compositions Sol i natta and Va dag er slutt. I hope we hear more from him.

Earlier in the day I was very happy to see new album releases from two of my favourite Norwegian recording artists:

  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: Being There (ECM) - jazz piano trio
  • Ketil Bjørnstad: Rainbow Sessions - jazz/classical piano

and I'm trying out some new local artists:

  • Susannah and the Magical Orchestra: Melody Fountain (which has a Joy Division-meets- Nouvelle Vague cover of AC/DC's "It's a long way to the top"
  • Au Revoir Simone: The Bird of Music

If I were still in Tromsø on May 20th, I could have gone to a talk by President Bill Clinton and Hans Blix. On the 23rd, Clinton is paired with Kofi Annan in Oslo, with the program showing that Bill is having trouble escaping his reputation ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:55 pm


    First of all, I'd like to say how amusing it is to read your blog. You are doing what very many people only can dream of! It is interesting to follow your journey :)
    What other destinations in Norway are you planning to visit?