Today I set my alarm for 7am, with the intention of finishing packing the little bits and having breakfast before being on the bus at 8.15. I packed. I read my book for a while. At 7.30 on the dot I went downstairs only to find the breakfast room locked. I looked at the signs and discovered that on Sunday, breakfast doesn’t start until 8am. I can’t eat, get my stuff and be outside on the bus in the space of fifteen minutes. No breakfast for me today 😦
I got the bus up to the airport. Checked in at the automatic machine. Well, I actually checked in yesterday so all I really achieved was printing out a label for my bag. I took it to the bag drop and the lady there asked if I would like to fly on my fingerprint instead of a boarding card. Obviously! I put my finger on the scanner and then went off through security, since there didn’t seem to be anything else to do on that side of the aiport. Two flights without being searched at security! I am doing well!
I sat for over an hour in the airport. I could have had breakfast and got a later bus. I also discovered that Norway has stolen all my money and I had to use one of the money machines. The first one offered me sterling, Euros or Swedish kroner, which was a surprise. The next machine offered Euros, dollars or Danish whatever-they-spends. The third machine was the only one that had the currency of the country it was actually in!
At the gate, I scanned my fingerprint again. It recognised it! It said “Welcome. Please enter turnstile” and then it printed out a receipt with my name and seat number on it. I don’t think there was anyone else on that plane who was still staring at their finger by the time they were sitting down.
Off we went, out into the fjord. I could see Munkholme and Trondheim just up the fjord as we ascended, then everything vanished in the cloud. Less than an hour later, we were descending again. Turns out my plane thought it was a bus. It stopped off at Bødø where three-quarters of the passengers got off and maybe three new ones got on. It was the most spectacular landing I’ve ever seen. Chunks of rock sticking up out of the fjord, rocky islands everywhere, blue-green water, snow-covered mountains everywhere… I don’t care what Bødø is like, I’d fly there again just to see the view as we come in to land.
Then we were off again, over more mountains. Mountains with a proper knife-sharp ridge on the top and snow all over one face, lakes, rivers, cliffs, narrow winds winding along the edge of the land. And as we got further north, I could see mountains everywhere, all poking up out an ocean that went on forever and it looked like I’d flown right to the edge of the world. It was amazing.
I got out of the airport without seeing anyone official. Not a soul has seen my passport today. I got the bus, got my ticket and we drove off. Within five minutes we were in a tunnel. Not just a tunnel – a tunnel with junctions! I have never seen a roundabout underground and this one had two! I got off when the driver shouted “Thon Hotels!”. Found myself lost. I wandered around, asked people where the hotel was and eventually was pointed in the right direction. My room is much bigger here. I have a double room with a proper ceiling and a massive bathroom and two lots of towels and BBC Worldwide on the TV and you have to put the door card in a slot inside the room to use any of the lights (that one got me at first. Great room, pity it’s so dark).
Then I went out. I’d already realised it was too warm here to need my coat and I put my big shirt in my bag. I very quickly discovered that I’d got off the bus in precisely the right place but it just happens to be just around the corner where I couldn’t see the hotel. All of fifty yards away and I’d really taken the long route to get to it. I also very quickly discovered how hot it was. I went back to the hotel, abandoned all my warm layers except a t-shirt and put on the sandals that I thought I’d been far too optimistic bringing.
Tromsø is lovely. It’s surrounded by great white mountains and arctic blue sky. I wandered, I took photos and then the Arctic Cathedral on the other side of the fjord caught my eye. It’s one of Tromsø’s very few tourist attractions and I intended to visit it. It was only about 2.30 in the afternoon so I went for it. It’s on the other side of Tromsø’s harbour bridge. It’s massive. The map seems to think it’s over a kilometre long and it takes twenty minutes to walk. It’s very very high and it’s quite wobbly and it’s quite breezy up there. Looking at it, I couldn’t understand why it needs to be so high but I have now seen photos and I get it. They didn’t bother with lifting bridges or swinging bridges or anything like that here. They just made their bridge high enough that even the biggest cruise ship can just go underneath it. Apparently, at its highest, it’s 38m (125 feet). The side panels have gaps about four inches high so when you creep close to the sides to take photos through the wire, you can see right down to the water below. A Hurtigrute boat was coming in and that made for some lovely photos against the snowy mountains.
So I saw the Arctic Cathedral. It’s made of eleven triangles, each slightly bigger than the last, just overlapping. Inside, the gaps are filled with clear glass so it’s very light and airy and the east end is a big triangular stained glass window. It’s not actually cathedral, it’s just a local church but it’s still quite spectacular. It was quiet when I arrived but five minutes later, so did a coach party and then it was packed.
The clouds were coming over, so I decided to get back over the bridge before it started raining or got really windy. Back in the city centre, I took my time coming back. I came past the Hurtigrute boat – the Nordnorge. The very same one I saw in Trondheim on Friday morning. Which means that the one I saw yesterday morning as I was about to leave Munkholmen – the Polarlys – should be arriving tomorrow afternoon. On the way back, there was a fire engine busily at work on the junction just around where the bus dropped me off. But the cafe joining the back of the building was still open and packed out and people were still stopping at the traffic lights next to it, despite the water pouring down. And there didn’t seem to be any smoke or any fire damage. In fact, the more I stared, the more it struck me that the water jet looked very straight and narrow, like a pressure washer and that there was a lot of moss on the pavement. I’ll be going back later on or maybe tomorrow to be sure but it did look a lot like the fire brigade and their cranes and hoses were being used to give the roof a good scrub.
I stopped at the Spar – still surprised so many food shops are open on Sunday. I got some mini hamburger rolls – the seeds are messy – some Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese slices – tastes sort of like cheese but there’s something sort of… foreign about them – some chocolate milk and some cheese noodles which seem to be thin nobbly Wotsits. I picked up a map and a bus timetable in the TIC and took them to reception here. I told the nice man that I wanted to go up the cable car to see the Midnight Sun. He checked what time it closes – 1am. No problem. (I already knew that). What about the buses? I’d already figured out which bus I needed to get but the timetable was no use as I had no idea which stop is which. The nice man marked on a town map where I get the bus from and then on the timetable what time the buses leave. Then he turned the timetable over to find out what time the buses come back and found that the last one is quarter past midnight. Which is no good. I can either ask if there is a later bus or I can walk back. It’s about 45 minutes and it won’t be dark. I’ve already done half an hour of that walk today. The cablecar station is only 15 minutes walk from the Arctic Cathedral. And I’ve walked over the scary bridge. And it won’t be dark. But it’ll still be the middle of the night. What to do, what to do?