In the end of August, when the Aurora Borealis has started it’s dance in the heavens, one of the best festivals inside the arctic circle happens in Tromsø, RakettNatt, August 25.-26th 2017. Tromsø boasts an energetic art and music scene, a wealth of locally soarced fine food and drink and a surrounding landscape that is not only spectacular and follishly dangerous but also so beatiful that is actually “sexually provocative”.
‘Heia!’ That’s how they greet you in Tromsø. Just saying the word is like topping up a full tank of gas with nitro-glycerine. This simple greeting is so warm and concise that it seems to burst forth and light up the day, however dark it may be. Given Tromsø’s extreme Northern location – 69° 40’ 58” N 18° 56’ 34” E – lighting up the day is a pretty handy trick half the year, so tip your hat and greet fellow inhabitants of this fine city, the so-called ‘Paris Of The North’, with the respect and friendliness they deserve. ‘Heia!’
No longer isolated – thanks to budget travel, luxury cruises and humanity’s willingness, nay, desire, to venture beyond Fuerteventura – Tromsø is these days firmly established on the map, with a rich history in its wake. It’s a city full of often transient inhabitants, drawn by, amongst other things, its research industry, its university and its legendary reputation as a party town, as well as its midnight sun and Northern Lights.
VITAL FAMILY FRIENDLY VERNACULAR
Kor det går. ‘Whassup?’
Ka du trur? ‘Say what?’
Nu overtalte du mæ. ‘You’ve convinced me.’
Gi mæ en kebab. Supersvak! ‘Give me a kebab. Make it super‐weak!’
Vi e fri. ‘We’re sold out.’
Æ e i a æ å. ‘I’m also in class A.’*
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TROMSØ IN THREE SUCCINCT PARAGRAPHS
Situated roughly halfway between Oslo and the North Pole – both are, loosely speaking, 2,000km away from Tromsø – the land that now makes up the city has been inhabited since the Ice Age 11,000 years ago, and evidence has been found of buildings some ten millennia old. Its geographical location has meant it’s long been a crossroads for cultures, particularly for the Norse and Sámi people, but also for others including Russians and Finns (especially the Kvæn people).
It was in 1794 that one of the key moments in Tromsø history took place, when King Christian VII issued the city with its charter. Though only 80 people lived there at the time – which meant the party may have been a little subdued – this allowed the city to establish itself swiftly as a key trading centre, thereby exploiting its developing local opportunities. By the mid 19th Century, Tromsø had its own shipyard, and was not only a significant fishing centre, especially in the crucial field of bacalao, but also the home of Arctic hunting. That it took until 1877 for the Mack Brewery to open is, when you think about it, pretty restrained. All that huntin’ and fishin’ and trekkin’ and eatin’ salted dried fish is thirsty work.
Around this time, the city also established itself as a launch point for Arctic expeditions, with the likes of Roald Amundsen – the first man to conquer the South Pole, as well as the Northwest Passage – and Fridtjof Nansen using the city as an important launching pad for their adventures. It even provided the base for the country’s government following the German invasion of Norway in 1940, and, as the war ended, a home for thousands fleeing the wreckage left behind by the Nazi troops in the lands north of the city, as well as those beating a hasty retreat from the impending arrival of the Red Army, though in the end they never materialised. Thank Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill!
THE ‘PARIS OF THE NORTH’ (OR THE ‘TROMSØ OF THE SOUTH’?)
Somehow, somewhere along the line, those amicable Parisians persuaded the world that they represent the high-water mark of elegance and sophistication. Consequently, by the 19th Century, visitors to Tromsø were arriving up North and gasping with admiration at the unexpected sight of the city’s citizens eating with cutlery and communicating with words rather than grunts. Sometimes, remarkably, they even spoke French. In addition, locals were dressed in contemporary fashions, brought in by traders. Thus, the city became known as ‘The Paris Of The North’. Its inhabitants adopted this idea to the degree that piers are called jetées and quays trottoirs, and no one’s in a rush here, just like the French. It could have been much worse, of course: the Ipswich of The North doesn’t have quite the same ring.
Excerpt from the book «Tromsø – A Poor Man’s Connoisseur’s Guide to The Best and Würst of The ‘Coolest’ City in The North, Except Parhaps Reykjavik With Greatful Thanks To The Gulf Stream»