Tuesday, February 26, 2008

back from the northern end of the world.

so i'm finally back from norway! i saw snow for the first time in my life, saw the legendary lunar eclipse, saw reindeers, almost everything but the northern lights. =/ the sky was very cloudy which made it extremely difficult to catch the lights, and apparently the weather in norway has been abnormal this year. the norwegians i spoke to said that it would usually be really cold at this time of the year, around -10 deg celsius but when we were there the temperature was only about -2 deg c. , and my last day in oslo it was a whopping 10 deg c.! signs of global warming perhaps?

so not being able to catch the lights, which was why i went to norway in the first place, made it a weird trip in all. of course i was terribly disappointed, but i figured the next time i'll catch it again but with mike around. more "lomantik" you know. =)

map of norway

i spent 4 days in tromso, one of the most northern places on earth, and it was snowing the day we arrived. this being the first time i see snow, i was definitely excited. everywhere was covered in white and with flakes falling from the sky, it was a very pretty sight. what i didn't knew before was that snow which became compact after many people have walked over it equals slippery ice. on the first day i fell down FOUR times, but the overall fall-over-as-much-as-you-can winner has got to be jianfeng, because i got smarter and exchanged my shoes for some soccer boots. heh!

i don't want to sound like a nag, so here's pretty much what's worth mentioning:

1) is freaking expensive
norway's currency is the norwegian kroner. S$1 is approximately 4 kroners, and a bottle of mineral water is at least 24 kroners. you do the math.
2) has a lot of space
do you know that norway is about 500 times larger than singapore, but only has a population of 4.7 million, which is almost the same as singapore's? should you need a holiday away from the crowd, you know where to go!

1) is beautiful.
the mountains, the arctic ocean and snow form part of the breathtaking scenery tromso has to offer. the unique arrangement of houses sloping downwards and facing the ocean makes the area look straight out of a christmas card, even more so at night when the buildings are lit.
2) has lousy and expensive tourist attractions.
i haven't been to all the attractions, but what was stated as the highlights in the visitor's centre turned out to be less than delightful. a reindeer sledding activity costs about 1500 kroners (S$375!!!!!!!!!) which turned out to be nothing more than a grumpy reindeer pulling you around a small circle twice, a talk on some norwegian traditions and free flow of reindeer soup. the rest who went to the town's museum (~S$20) came back cursing and swearing too. so remember, the best thing to do in tromso is to just relax, take in the view and do nothing.

1) is odd.
i expected more of the capital of norway, being a city with one of the highest standard of living in the world. what i saw was poorly maintained buildings in the city centre, with an usually high number of turkish kebabs stores and filled with people of which i can only guess are of turkish and african-american nationalities. no doubt there still are some decent historic forts and buildings here and there, but i personally feel that the city lacks an identity and i pretty much prefer tromso to oslo.

that sums up a very weird trip to norway but nonetheless an enriching experience. will post some photos soon!

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