England has just started to turn a little warm and I decide to spend the Easter break about 350 kms above the Arctic circle in the pretty city of Tromso. We have just landed, I can see snow all around and it is still snowing. Considering that this is the Arctic region that should come as no surprise. Unbelievably, though the temperature is in the negative, the cold does not feel as excruciating as it does in the UK. (No wonder the Scandinavian countries are high on the happiness index. Their cold does not make you want to tear your hair out). Unlike England, there is no biting wind. We could easily take a walk in the snow without the slightest bit of discomfort. It is difficult (and not entirely fair) to pass judgement on the weather based on a day’s experience though, so I will stop these unfair weather comparisons for now.
A cave like tunnel, which included roundabouts within the tunnel, brought us from the airport to the hotel. The landscape is like a fairy tale. Lots of snow dotted with bright twinkling lights. We took a very slippery walk outside our hotel and could see numerous restaurants with just 2-3 people in each.
A New Delhi special pizza in Tromso! Urgh, what a mish-mash of ingredients – chicken, bacon, curry and sweet chili sauce. There was no way, I was going to try that. As you can see from the prices, Tromso is not cheap. Around 12 British Pounds for a small pizza.
Tromso has its own set of laws regarding alcohol. Supermarkets are allowed to sell beer within certain times only. Only Government owned shops can sell the harder variety of alcohol. (These rules do not apply to restaurants & bars). The bars do not serve beyond a certain limit in one peg. You can of course, have more than a peg but cannot have more than the limit in a single peg.
Shops are not selling alcohol at all because of Easter. I’m not very sure about the reason for this, as different people gave me different replies. I find it difficult to believe that it is because of religion, as most of Norway is atheist.
One thing is for sure – the Government here does not want anyone here to drink themselves senseless. Even bars are legally obliged to stop serving alcohol if they feel the person has drunk too much. What a difference from England where alcohol is freely available in the supermarkets.
The next day, we visited a farm of 300 huskies for a phenomenal dog sledding experience. The huskies were being brilliantly looked after. The dog handlers knew each dog by name and personality trait. Got so much information on them in a single afternoon. The most intelligent dogs lead the dog sledding team. This is because they should be able to listen to & obey the commands & direct the team of dogs. The strongest dogs are at the rear. Normally they try & keep the same team of dogs. We were told that the male dogs do not like to change their team once they bond. The dogs like to sleep in the snow though they can sleep indoors if needed.
Being at the mercy of a pack of eager and madly barking dogs can be a little intimidating. However the anxiety lasted for all of two minutes and we started to enjoy the experience of sledging through the snow. We were even allowed to play with the dogs afterwards, which for a dog lover, is a dream come true. The dogs are used to being handled by visitors and love being stroked and cuddled.
All that sledding and dog handling can make you ravenous. We were given some Reindeer stew in a log cabin with a log fire burning inside. There was talk about not wanting to eat Rudolf, which was quickly overruled. It was absolutely delicious. Tastes a lot like goat’s meat. Eating reindeer stew in Tromso – what a surreal experience!