Mayang and Will's Travels - Denmark, Sweden and Norway - September to October 2005

We always tend to travel Southwards - to warmer places than England.  So we thought we'd try the opposite and go North to Scandinavia.  We had two aims - firstly to visit Will's friends in Copenhagen (who he previously met travelling in India back in 1998), and secondly to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), which you can never see from England, almost never see from Scotland but are visible frequently in Northern Norway.

map of our travels to norway, sweden and denmark
This is the route we took.   Flights are dotted lines and overland is solid lines.  As you can see, we went to Tromsø in northern Norway, which is well inside the Arctic Circle.  We also stopped in Copenhagen (capital of Denmark) and Oslo (capital of Norway).  We were only briefly in Sweden, just travelling through.
We arrived in Sweden, in a town called Malmö.  We were loaded up with rucksacks, and just took a quick picture in the town centre before taking the train to Denmark.

Once in Denmark we spent time with Karin (pictured), her husband Ramesh and her son Vishnu.  Copenhagen is a city of cyclists, and therefore, almost no traffic jams.    Sensible people!  Here's a cycle park outside a train station.

There are even public bicycles (Will is riding one) that you just use for free when you want, then leave them on the street for somebody else.  Nobody steals them because they're so bright and maybe because everybody already has their own bike!  Yes, that's right, Mayang is sitting in the child-seat of Karin's bicycle!

A quick trip round the tourist sites - here we see Mayang pretending to be a guard at the Queen's Palace.

We also spent a lot of time with Stinne (right) and her sister Fi (left).  They made us very welcome and made us smile and laugh lots every day!  But unfortunately it was soon time to leave Copenhagen, this is actually the goodbye-photo.

Next we were in Oslo, Norway.  Norway is home of the Vikings, who colonised a lot of Europe between around 750AD and 1100AD.   It's very likely they also went to America way before Christopher Columbus.  We went to the Viking ship museum - this Viking ship was actually buried along with it's owner, and only found in the 20th Century.

Walking around Oslo in Autumn, all the trees have beautiful yellow, orange and red leaves, falling off ready for Winter.  Here's a particularly bright one!

It's an ugly building, but it's an important one.  This is Oslo City Hall, and it's where the Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded each year.  So, if you ever win, you'll see this building in real life!
Next it was time to fly to Tromsø, right up at the top of Norway.  It's where many of the expeditions to the North Pole begin.  It's a beautiful place, mainly on an island in the fjords (seawater rivers which stretch hundreds of miles inland, often with high cliffs).  In September / October the weather is between 5°C and 10°C all day and night.  So you need a good sweater/jumper, and often a warm coat too.  As soon as we arrived, we saw we could take a cable-car to get a good view.
And the view is good!  In the background you can see Tromsø - the main island.  One day we cycled around - that bridge is steeper than it looks, it has to be very high in the middle so that cruise ships can fit underneath (you can see one moored in the bay).

What a great view!  Past the Southern part of the island are some mountains - there are lots of mountains all around actually.  Snow had fallen a few weeks ago (in September) so there was snow remaining on all the mountain tops.  A few minutes after this picture was taken, a cloud suddenly appeared from nowhere and surrounded us, so we quickly went back to the cable car to avoid getting lost on the mountaintop.

We went for a walk one day in the surrounding forests.  This was our lunchbreak.  As you can see, we are alone in the wilderness.  We only saw about 6 people all day, most of them riding the rough tracks on mountain bikes.

On the middle of the main island is a peaceful park.  It's nice to go in the day, and because there's no buildings or streets, it's also a good place to watch the aurora at night.

This is a view from our hotel, with a lovely rainbow as the sun replaced some rain.  We were staying in a friendly hotel (Ami Hotel) right in the city centre.  Costs are very high in Norway (£20 for a restaurant meal, £4-7 for a kebab or burger, £2-3 for a coffee) so we didn't eat out much - but the benefit was we got to know the friendly Norwegian people who worked in the hotel instead.

Aurora can happen at any time of the day or night.  But the only time you can see them is when it's dark, and there's no clouds.  So I set my alarm for every hour of every night, just in case.  One day I caught this lovely dawn - the picture is a long exposure, actually it's only just getting light at this time.

Finally one night the clouds cleared and the aurora began around 10pm.  We could see it brightly, even from inside our hotel room.  They shimmered, getting brighter and darker and changing shape.  Actually they are not quite this green, more of a greeny-white.  I think it's just a photography effect.

Within a few minutes the aurora had got really bright and had changed shape, filling much of the sky.  We decided to take a walk to the lake to see what it looked like away from any man-made light pollution.

By the time we got to the lake the aurora had dimmed a little, and was more gentle, subtle and diffuse.   We spent an hour our so by the lake watching the sky, then the aurora dimmed and we got cold and returned to the hotel.  It's lucky we had such a good show, because every night afterwards was cloudy.  Sometimes you could see the aurora through the gaps in the clouds, but this night was by far the best night.

We did some more exploring in the day.  We saw these giant ski-jumps in the distance and decided to take a closer look.  Scandinavians love all types of skiing, there were also cross-country ski-tracks everywhere.  They are all floodlit, for the long dark winter months (in November to January, the sun never comes up in Tromsø, it just gets slightly light from around 10am to 2pm then goes completely dark again, apparently).

We could climb up the middle one of the ski-jumps, and get a great view.  This is the 'training' jump, way smaller than the tallest!  Imagine sliding down that slope (when there's thick snow on the ground, of course) and flying through the air to the bottom (landing somewhere by that black dot).  Crazy! 

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Tromso, and it's pretty frontier architecture, friendly people and lovely views.  We'll be back, maybe in midwinter for better aurora-watching (if we can withstand the midwinter temperatures of -10°C!)

All pictures and other media are Copyright ©2005 Mayang Adnin and William Smith.