Scandinavia

Tag

Groove in the Food

Back when I was last in Copenhagen, I had only vague—and most likely erroneous—ideas about Scandinavia. Those included Michael Learns to Rock, herring, The Little Mermaid and minimalist but expensive furniture. None of them included the cuisine at all. This is not to say I didn’t do the usual wandering around old town, venturing further into Vesterbro, Nørrebro and even around Ørestad to do the usual touristy things, with the usual transportation mishaps (mostly to do with malfunctioning ticket machines and several ways of paying for a fare) along the way. But how things have changed, at least on the culinary front. Danish cuisine has since then, developed a reputation...

Around the ring road

Barely five months after last year’s adventures in the north, I find myself packing my bags again and heading towards Copenhagen and then onto Iceland to conquer the deep-seated fear of driving on the other side of the road. Apart from wanting to savour the elemental beauty of Iceland, of course, this time armed with a smattering of Icelandic vocabulary and grammar and an unsatiated hunger for seafood (and Icelandic Fish and Chips). With the memories of Svalbard and the arctic still in technicolor, it’s hard not to be gripped with the sheer excitement of returning to snow and ice and well, extreme living – except that I’m looking at...

A thousand candles bright

In another life, I’d vote for wanting to be Swedish and all the perks that come with it – shopping at Granit (and sometimes Ikea), Gina Tricot and H+M, camping in a summer house in the countryside in an eco-friendly car, taking fika(s) daily and eating all the seafood, meatballs and the cloudberries that my stomach can possibly take. After all, the first thing I asked about as I checked into the hotel was the name of the Christmas album that they were playing. Obviously that’s not going to happen, but a girl can always hope. I wasn’t too hard up on seeing the big tourist sites this time around;...

Workmen x Snow x Airport

I ended up getting sent to the Tromsø airport by a workman. My short journey to the bus stop was timed so all I had to do was to wait for bus no. 42 to come. A slew of heavy vehicles salting the road and clearing the snow however, meant that a diversion was put up just at the junction I was waiting just about a minute later. To my horror, the bus I was supposed to be taking went merrily on its way in another direction as the workmen waved the vehicles to the left instead of straight. Panicking, I considered walking back to the hotel – any hotel!...

Snowmobiling – Redux

The weather chaos of yesterday meant that many tour operators had to cancel their trips into the Lyngen Alps. At their meeting point at the Rica Ishavs Hotel at 8.45 a.m., the driver was still trying to convince people that the dogsled tour was cancelled because of the bad snow. But the skies finally cleared and the first light hit the corona of peaks in the Troms region as the Lyngsfjord Adventure bus hit the road – with me on it. Camp Tamok is approximately 90 minutes away from Tromsø and the heart of the Lyngsfjord Adventure tour. I met Mike, my snowmobile guide who trained as a helicopter technician in...

Storm in a snow cup

I find myself missing Svalbard already, a day after leaving it. In contrast to Svalbard’s winter silence, Tromsø is vibrant, noisy and teeming with life – even at the odd hours of the night as students and yuppies roam the streets after partying and hard drinking. Still, this place lies almost 400km north of the Arctic Circle (70 degrees North), but the climate is more humid, mitigated by Gulf stream that trickles to a halt here. The Polar Night here is a pale imitation of the one on Longyearbyen: a greyish-blue tinge of light blankets the city at around 10am till about 2 or 3pm, giving it a surrealistic, winter-wonderland...

Snowmobiling in Svalbard

A dummy in a snowmobile suit (complete with a Soviet-era-style helmet) sits in a lonesome chair in the corner, like a WWII relic that Svalbard had forgotten. In reality, it was exactly how we were supposed to dress, with no skin exposed to the elements. I for one, was dancing with joy to learn that the snowmobile had heating in the handlebars for the hands. With Christian (out German guide of Svalbard Scooterutleie) and two other Dutch tourists, we took off into Adventdalen once again, going further than the dogsleds could and up into the Pingo, an Inuvialuktun word that refers to a hill with a core of ice. Pingos,...

Sled run on a ‘fine’ day

“Dogs have an instinct to follow,” the guide (originally from the Czech Republic) at Svalbard Vilmarkssenter said emphatically as he wheezed out commands in Norwegian which all the huskies obey. “They’re noisy now, but they’ll calm down and get up to a good speed when they set off.” As continually amazed as I am that many people here don’t actually speak Norwegian as their native tongue, all thoughts of population diversity flew out of my mind the moment we took off across the frozen river towards Adventdalen with the dogs that strained to simply run. There were reindeer grazing along the banks of the frozen river and as the dogs...

78 Degrees North

A few months ago, I decided on a whim that I had to visit the Arctic during winter and thought Svalbard came the closest to it without getting close to the North Pole. Little did I realise that I was going to travel during a Polar Night weekend where hoards of merry-making Norwegians piled onto the plane from Oslo/Tromsø and onto the island, making the small airport like a bus stop gathering of neighbours. Everyone seemed to know everyone and bus after bus stopped at the front door of the Radisson Polar Blu hotel until there was a queue that stretched outside for check-in in minus 16-degree weather. The result...

Aimless wandering

It has been strangely hard to get over jetlag. It’s barely 8pm before I can hardly keep my eyes open and I have a feeling this is going to be messed up even further the moment I get into the Polar night in Svalbard. On the positive side, that means I’m up with lots of time to spare – I can eat breakfast, go out and still be in time to enjoy the slow sunrise at Holmenkollen (what looks to be a very affluent residential area as well as a ski recreation area) on Line 1 of the T-bane. There were already those who were training for competitions at that...