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Vikings, Reindeer and much more than just the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)

Norway - where do I even begin? If you’ve heard of people talking about visiting places that have left them speechless, yet have never experienced it for yourself, then get on a plane to Norway, NOW! :)

A place where not many young travellers venture to, yet once you go, you remain grateful that it is a place yet untouched by a high influx of tourists, and that you can experience the true beauty that Norway has to offer without having to push through crowds or to wait in line for hours.

I could be biased though because I did go during winter, so it wasn’t overcrowded, but summer time could (and most likely) be a much busier time. But each to their own.

Oslo

Capital of Norway: Interesting town, however I was super jet-lagged as it was our first proper stop after flying from Sydney, Australia, to Singapore, and then onto London. So I probably didn’t appreciate and experience Oslo as much as I would have liked, and was more focused on trying to not fall asleep in the middle of the day.

Viking boat museum

If you’re lucky enough to visit during the start of the Christmas period, you’ll be surrounded by all things festive and the smell of mulled wine, the exact necessities required to get you into the Christmas Spirit! We only spent a couple days here so did not get to experience many of the wonderful things that I’m sure Oslo has to offer. Plus it always seems to be the case that you find out what else you should have done when you’ve already returned home! Just another reason to go back.

If you have a curiosity for vikings, I highly suggest visiting the Viking Ship Museum. If you’re not phased by it, I still suggest visiting the Viking Ship Museum. Seeing The Viking Ships in all its glory is worth the visit, just on its own. Here you can see how the Vikings lived, how they travelled, even their arts and crafts. Who doesn’t love archaeological pieces? No one! Just browsing through the artefacts takes you back to a time where people raided other cities and countries, and literally went “beserk”.

Tromso

44km North of the Arctic Circle. Yes, North. Almost at the top of the world. Literally. Only a short flight from Oslo. Yet you’re so far away from the rest of the world.

Tromso (pronounced “Trom-zer) - where the sun goes down at 1.00 in the afternoon during the winter months, and the city is blanketed in snow and lights. Even the view of the mountains from outside our hotel, was like something you would see on a postcard. Almost unrealistic, and trying to accept that something so beautiful actually exists.

Reindeer

Here you will find reindeer (which I found to be quite timid animals) where you can have the opportunity to feed them, ride in a sleigh with them, or …. eat them… (not to my knowledge until it was too late!!) Even worse, the reindeer stew tasted so good.

When you’re sitting in a Sami tent (Sami people being the Indigenous people of Norway), in the middle of winter, with a hot fire going, listening to their stories about their culture and daily lives, you get cold and hungry. So when they are offering you a reindeer stew that smells so good, it’s hard to say no. Besides, when in Rome.. right?

But as sad or as guilty that you may feel for eating (and enjoying) the reindeer stew, you’ll be glad to know that they utilise all parts of the reindeer in their daily lives. Not only do they wait until the reindeer are quite old before they..you know..send them off to Reindeer Heaven, but they use all their furs and skin to make items that are required for daily use. So in a way, the reindeer continue to live on, and still be useful and be an important necessity. I guess you could say, there’s a small piece of reindeer in all of us? Pun Intended.

You’ll also get to experience the Sami Culture by having a go at herding reindeer. Well, not actual reindeer, but you get to try your hand at lasooing a pair of antlers on a fence. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. The Sami people make it look like second-nature, which for them, it is. But for people like you and me, it can take a few times before you actually succeed in getting the lasoo even remotely close to the antlers. But it is still a fun thing to do and to watch other people trying, which can always result in a few laughs.

Dog sledding

Tromso also gives you the opportunity to experience dog sledding. If this is something that you’ve never done, I suggest you organise a tour immediately! Not only do you get to mush your own sled with a team of dogs, but you also get to cuddle a lot of huskies! If dogs are not your thing, then I probably would not recommend this, but if you could put your differences aside, then it’s totally worth it!

Going dog sledding really takes you out of your comfort zone, and propels you into a world blanketed by snow. The views are literally jaw-dropping. It’s also quite a physical activity, if you are the one pushing the sled. You and the dogs are one team. You need to work together to get the sled going. Lucky for me, I got to sit down and enjoy the scenery, while my lovely husband pushed the sled.

And then if you happen to be there at the right time, and when the stars and planets are aligned, you may be able to witness one of Nature’s most beautiful phenomenons - Aurora Borealis - others may know it as the Northern Lights. Be prepared to face the cold, and to be out until after 1am, and perhaps crossing the border into Finland, to literally “chase the Northern Lights”. Wherever they are, you, amongst other people clad in their winter gear, will follow.

If winter time is not your preferred time to travel, then visit during the summer months, where you’ll get to experience the Midnight Sun, and the looming but wonderful scenery of the Fjords. Unfortunately I have yet to experience this but you can rest assured that it’s on my neverending list of places to visit!

- by Jasmine Ayre

© All images property of Train bound for nowhere. Credit Jasmine Ayre.

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