I got up at twenty to one in the morning, drove to Gatwick without incident, checked in without incident, had some breakfast and got on the plane. Having been driving for most of the night, I tried to sleep most of the way but an hour and half into a three and a half hour flight, there were suddenly snow-covered Mountains outside. When they disappeared into the clouds, I went back to sleep again, only to be woken by the pilot announcing that we were now making our descent into Tromsø and to get the plane tidied up please and while we were at it, there was a view outside to admire. So I admired it.
I didn’t bother immediately leaping on the Flybuss. There was another view to admire but getting at it involved crossing a main road and that was a bit difficult. I did my best, then went back to the bus. The Flybuss, idiot! Should have walked down to the bus stop “under” the terminal and got the local bus.
In the middle of Tromsø, I found my hostel easily enough. There’s fresh snow in Tromsø, fresh enough to be problematic. There are snowploughs all over the place, people digging out their paths, people with poles knocking snow off the roof (and crows helping with this job. Do not stand under the edge of any building or you’ll get your own little snowstorm. I went into the library to borrow their wifi just to check in on Facebook, discovered my battery was pretty much dead already, did a bit of food shopping (they have the tasty crisp mixture I eat in Iceland!) and then caught the bus to the cable car. I bought a day ticket, took the 26 over the big scary bridge and through the suburbs until I thought I’d missed the stop and then suddenly the bus announced “Fjellheiset – cable car”
It’s all been renovated since I was last here, trying to spot the Midnight Sun in May 2011. It’s a 28 person cable car that goes every half an hour, unless they’ve got too many tourists to Ferry around, in which case they just go up and down until they’ve got rid of a load.
The mountain is called Storsteinen, which is Norwegian for Big Stone. It was chilly at the top but not as freezing as it was at nearly midnight in May. I found the viewing platform – you have to haul open a patio door to get out there and I think they’re using it to generate power to run the cable car. It’s so heavy and so hard to get any grip with your feet to pull it. It’s worth it for the view. It’s a good view, over the entire island and all the mountains behind it. The Pingvinhotellet is very visible at the far end of the island (there’s a special Flybuss that goes to that end, if you’re unfortunate enough to end up staying there…). I didn’t plan to stay up there for an hour and half, freezing to death but that’s what happened. I saw the view from many angles, sat inside in the semi-warm to eat the nice Icelandic crisps, went back out and then decided I’d seen Tromsø in every way a city can be seen and it was time to go down before they had to chip me out of the snow.
At the bottom, seeing the crowd of Polish tourists (in matching blue coats and shockingly orange woolly hats) heading for the bus stop, I went to the one before the Fjellheiset one, where I was more likely to get a seat. And it worked. The Norwegian bus driver didn’t recognise a Norwegian 24 hour bus ticket – he talked at me in Norwegian long past the point where it was obvious I had no idea what he was saying, told me “You have to buy a ticket every time. Don’t you know?” and I finally had to point out, in some irritation “it’s a day ticket!” before I was allowed to sit in one of the empty seats and continue my journey. I was right, there was a huge crowd 200m up the road at the Fjellheiset stop and me sitting happily in my own seat. We went round the other end of the suburbs and I got off at the Arctic Cathedral, which is in fact not a cathedral at all. I went inside but these days you have to go pay to go beyond the lobby so I thought I wouldn’t bother. Instead, I got back on a bus – the driver hardly even glanced at my day ticket this time – and came back to Central Tromsø to write a blog about half a day, check in to the hostel, charge my phone and camera and sleep for an hour or two before I go out looking for the Northern Lights until the middle of the night.