Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tromso, Norway--city of contrasts

Can you imagine a city located 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle being called “Mediterranean of Scandinavia”? Or “Paris of the Arctic”?
Tromso, Norway is surprisingly beautiful and vibrant--with a
somewhat temperate climate.
Tromso, Norway has been tagged with those monikers in addition to the understandable title of “Gateway to the Arctic.”

When you visit Tromso you’ll discover why all of those names fit the city. It has a vibrant cultural scene with an international population thanks to universities and research facilities. Tromso is a cultural center for the region and hosts numerous film and music festivals each year. It’s also one of the best places to see Aurora Borealis, attracting people who come to witness a Northern Lights spectacle between mid-August and late April.
The Tromso Bridge is a notable landmark connecting the continental
and island sections of the city.
Despite being located in a rugged polar landscape, Gulf currents keep the climate more moderate than you’d expect. Water temperatures rarely reach 60 degrees F, but people still go to the beaches. Brrr.

Partly located on the small island of Tromsoya, the city is actually larger than the country of Luxemburg. There is also a continental part of Tromso that is only two hours from Finland, a country with a considerably colder climate.
Architecture of Tromso

Tromso is known for its large concentration of historic wooden houses, including Tromso Cathedral, built in 1861, Norway’s only wooden cathedral and the most northerly Protestant church in the world. The oldest house in Tromso dates to 1789. After 1904 wood houses were banned, probably in reaction to a large fire the same year in Alesund that destroyed more than 800 wooden buildings.
The Arctic Cathedral is a glorious
contemporary structure showcasing
an architecturally interesting design.
These wood buildings contrast with the stunning ultra-modern Arctic Cathedral, built in 1965. This famous landmark features 11 graceful descending triangles of glass, steel, and concrete with a design inspired by mountains, fish racks, icebergs, and tents of the Sami people (indigenous tribes). A beautiful stained glass window depicting the second coming of Christ was added in 1972. It’s a fitting religious symbol with a purpose because the original window let in so much light people had to wear sunglasses inside! 

More to see
We rode the cable car to a
mountain ledge for stunning
views of the city and landscape.
The Fjelheise Cable Car offers an exhilarating four-minute ride to the top of Mt. Storsteinen (means "big rock") to a mountain ledge. When you disembark, you’ll see dramatic 360-degree views of Tromso, Tomseya Island, and the surrounding mountains, which reach 6,000 feet altitude and are covered with snow even in summer. That may be why the city is regarded as the birthplace of modern skiing.

Other interesting facts: Tromso is home to the world’s northernmost mosque and the seat of the world’s northernmost Catholic bishop. Norway’s oldest cinema, Verdensteatret, is still in use in Tromso and hosts an international film festival each fall. The Polar Museum, located in a restored 1837 customs house, pays tribute to Tromso’s historical role as a launching point for numerous Arctic expeditions. It was the only city in northern Norway that totally avoided war damage during World War II.
Flowers galore

Even in the Arctic, flowers bloom in a lovely botanic setting.
One of the biggest surprises was the Arctic Botanic Garden, within walking distance of the ship’s dock. There Larry and I found hundreds of varieties of Arctic plants, many of them in full bloom. Flowers like tulips, irises, poppies, and a rare variety of ranunculus found only in Skagland beautifully displayed all colors of the rainbow. Native rock was used for foot paths and to create different levels with plenty of places to stop and enjoy this lovely touch of summer.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



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