North Adventure in Alta

YNWA in Arctic Norway, Sami Style

Football is a big deal almost everywhere in the world (that’s the “no hands, kick the round ball” sport, Americans), and Liverpool needs no introduction to anyone other than someone who doesn’t follow the sport.  Similarly, unless you are on the outside, you are probably familiar with YNWA – “You Never Walk Alone” – the song beloved by so many fans.

Norwegians also love football, of course – it’s played by people of all ages beginning when children become slightly larger than the ball, and ending only when people need an electric scooter to get up and down the field. Sometimes, they even play it drunk or wrapped inside balloons.

But what you might NOT know, is that along with being big fans of the national team and various local football clubs, there is a large population of Norwegians who are super engaged with Premier League football down south. Every Premier League team has its share of supporters here in Norway, and it’s common that groups from various towns will take road trips down to England to watch their favorite teams play.YNWA-1

That holds true even up here in Alta, the biggest town in Norway’s vast, arctic county of Finnmark.  Alta is home to a mere 20,000 residents and that’s more than a quarter of the entire county’s population. There are more reindeer here than people, but even in this remote part of the world, Liverpool has a big following… at least, relative to the total population.

So it’s no surprise that YNWA is a familiar song here for many people. Sometimes, though, the way it is sung can be a surprise, and in this case it’s a delightful one. A whole crew of people in Alta and around in FinnYNWA-2mark have come together to make this incredible music video. The words have been translated into the Sami language, and sung by the Sami artist Marit Hætta Øverli. The video is shot both in Liverpool and around the “neighborhood” here, and yes, that REALLY IS what it looks like up here.

You Never Walk Alone. Not even in the arctic wilderness.  Enjoy the video, and let us know if we can help you plan a trip up here someday!

Discovering Norway’s Arctic Secrets

Everybody that comes to the Norwegian arctic makes their own memories, their own story.  Sometimes, the stories of discovering the arctic are long and complex, like, “I moved here several years ago” or “I came to study at the university and never left”.

Other times, the stories begin, “I was there for a weekend,” “I spent my honeymoon there”, or “I finally got a chance to see the northern lights.” And while those stories are shorter, they can be just as powerful as the ones that involve a major change in location.

You never know when you’ll stumble over a moment that makes you realize you are somewhere special. For some people, it’s the view from a mountaintop or over the vast and empty wilderness plain, or an unexpected swoop of the northern lights overhead in the sky. Or maybe something smaller, like suddenly realizing as you gaze into a wood fire along a forest bicycle trail, that you can’t remember the last time you felt so peaceful, so connected to the land around you.

Jon Brown, a composer from the USA, took a tour up to this area last winter to listen to new sounds and get new ideas and perspectives. The video of his time discovering Tromsø, Alta and points in between shows that he did more than just collect sounds.

Take a look at the video and watch his experiences!  For us, it’s about seeing familiar faces and places. For you… maybe you’ll want to come do some discovering of your own.

Winter is… on the way

You know, for most of my adult life I’ve been able to say “Winter is coming” without shame, but suddenly it has become a terrible cliche. Thanks for nothing, George R. R. Martin.

Anyway, winter is coming. I know, it’s only early September now, but the light is changing already. Even though the midnight sun left us just a month or so ago, it is fully dark at night, now, and the daytime light is golden in the evening. In the daytime, it’s still bright but somehow thinner in strength. holmen-hostThe air holds a crisp and edgy warning of harsher weather to come. The rain of autumn feels different from the rain of summer, too. It’s colder, or at least adds to the feeling that the temperatures are falling, no matter what the thermometer might say. And when the rain is finished coming down, it still lingers on the ground and in the air, almost as if it wished it could turn to snow and ice and be a part of the world all the way until Springtime.

And there are many other signs of winter’s arrival that hold the promise of fun in the coming season. All around the area, there are dozens of eager husky dogs straining at their harnesses, finding the muscle tone that they left behind in the summer, delighted to run again, ready for weather that is finally right for their thickening fur.

Snowmobile owners, almost as eager as the husky dogs, are dreaming of a meter’s powder over the vidda, and considering whether an early tune-up of the motor might be a good idea, just in case.

Throughout Alta, we are reminding ourselves where we put the studded bicycle tires and wondering how soon we will have to swap them in. The fatbikes (those that weren’t in use all summer) are looked upon more fondly as they await the first dusting of forest trails and ski tracks.

And for those of you who are considering a winter tour… we have more activities than ever for the 2016-17 season. Take a look at our winter brochure and see what catches your interest! And of course, if you would like some help building a great winter holiday, get in touch!

 

Kom Mai

«Kom, mai, du skjønne milde» heter det i en kjent barnesang. For oss her i Alta så stemmer vel dette på flere måter i år.

Vi har hatt et fantastisk flott vårvær og shortsen og t-skjorten er for lengst funnet frem.  Vi ler av de der sør som fikk snø og hadde sommerdekk på bilen sin.  Her kjører vi i lengste laget med vinterdekk, i tilfelle det kommer snø. Til slutt sa Herr Politi at nå måtte vi skifte eller så fikk vi bot, så da tok vi alle Herr Politi på ordet og la om til sommerdekk.  Men det kan jo enda hende at snøen kommer ….  det har jo hendt at den har kommet sendt før og.  Noen av oss er jo evig pessimister, men vi som er evig optimister har glemt hvor vi bor og nyter de flotte mai dagene og er litt mer sur når det er kaldt og grått.

Men mai er mye mer enn flott vår vær, det er den måneden i året hvor jeg virkelig kjenner på nasjonalismen i meg.  Jeg kjenner hvor stolt jeg er over stedet og landet jeg bor i, og hvor takknemlig jeg er for at jeg fikk vokse opp her oppe i nord med alle de trygge, flotte menneskene rundt meg.  For at jeg fikk en bunad jeg bærer med stolthet.  Mai er måneden hvor vi banner og kjefter mens vi stryker på den f… Bunad-skjorten.  Vi legger ut på «Facebook» når vi endelig har fått den ferdig, så tar den på og føler oss så flott i vår nasjonal drakt.  Dette er minner som sitter i for livet.  I tillegg har vi 100 vis av unge konfirmanter som tar på seg sin bunad for alle første gang.  For en følelse, for en lykke.  Read more

Everyday Arctic Life in Alta

Less than a hundred years ago, movie theater newsreels provided one of the only practical ways people could peer into the everyday life (real or imagined) of other countries. Fifty years ago, television was common but we still needed National Geographic or a news agency to go out with a big crew and do filming.

Now we have GoPro, camera drones, and digital photography and video on everything from phones to glasses. An ordinary PC finally has enough horsepower to do video editing. Everybody can make video and pictures, and almost everybody does, these days.

A beautiful Alta River in winter... everyday happiness

Photo Elisabeth Myrland and Thea Kjelstad

But the funny thing about that, is that normally you get honesty and personal perspective in an improvised and low-quality home movie. Or you get a carefully planned and beautiful movie from somebody who is a professional and not deeply connected to the subject they are filming. That’s why I was so delighted last night when I received this link to a YouTube video.

Two young women here in Alta, Thea Kjelstad and Elisabeth Myrland, made a video as part of a school project. They wanted to show what a nice place Alta was to live in. Using good quality equipment instead of a selfie stick, they looked at the town, the fjord, the mountains… their world… through their own eyes instead of those of a traveler or marketing agency.

Everyday people at Finnmarksløpet

Photo Thea Kjelstad and Elisabeth Myrland

The result is a video that is delightful to watch.  As the scenes roll past, suddenly you feel warm inside. The natural beauty pulls you in; the people they photographed feel like old friends; and by the end you feel like you’ve been invited into somebody’s house. “Hverdagslykke” – everyday happiness – in a video.

Please take a few minutes, slow down and watch the video. And if you like it, please share it with friends, and give these two young filmmakers a boost. I was really glad that I took the time.

The Ancient Ruins of Sorrisniva

The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is a big attraction here in Alta every year.  Thousands of people come from around the world to see it and walk through its magical halls. Many of them stay the night in the cold-yet-cozy rooms for a unique arctic adventure; a WAY more intense experience than putting on a jacket to visit some ice bar in a downtown metropolis.  There are even a few courageous souls who get married in the ice chapel!Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in winter glory

The hotel is constructed each winter from fresh snow and ice (you can read more about the igloo hotel in one of our earlier blog posts). Each Spring, once the winter travelers have come and gone, it slowly fades away again, back to the raw nature that gave birth to it a few months before.

And while there are thousands who see the hotel in all its winter glory, there are only a very few – some employees at Sorrisniva and a handful of locals – who are around to watch the hotel melt down to nothing.

I was out at Sorrisniva on Tuesday night as part of a tourism conference (SNOW16 – two days with 185 of one’s closest business colleagues… intense and fun).  In the middle of dinner, I slipped outside on my own and took some pictures of the Igloo Hotel in the fading daylight. I’m no professional photographer, and I was just using my smartphone, but even so the pictures are fascinating.  There is such a resemblance to stone ruins you find around the world, even though they are very modern and even quicker to disappear. Enjoy!

The Sorrisniva chapel

Sorrisniva entrance and main hall

Sorrisniva back common room

Bedroom doors at Sorrisniva

The bedroom hallways at Sorrisniva

 

Sunset in Alta

I came across another magic moment in Alta while poking around on YouTube today. Photographer Yigit Yuksel took this delightful video of a sunset in Alta, down at the water’s edge. By the looks of it, it was taken not too long ago – no snow or ice, and a little less light than we have now.  There are no camera tricks – no stop-frame, no animation – just sunset.

If you live in the area… when was the last time you just sat on a beautiful evening and looked out over the water or towards the mountains for a few peaceful minutes? (And if the answer was “oh, last week I guess” then you get a gold star!).  If it has been a while, or you don’t live in this part of the world, get a cup of something hot, set the video to full screen and just sit for a few minutes. The magic is all around, here, in the eager voice of a husky dog, a snowy forest trail beckoning you and your fatbike, and in the stillness of a springtime sunset. Enjoy!

Midnight Sun Hunting: Three Ideas

Alta, Norway – the biggest little town in Finnmark (Norway’s northernmost and largest county) is a popular place for travelers both summer and winter. In the winter, people come to have fun in the snow and hunt for the northern lights. In the summer, the midnight sun is the fascinating phenomenon overhead.

Midnight sun in Alta, Norway

Photo: altafoto.no

The quest to see the midnight sun is much simpler than hunting for the northern lights. The aurora borealis may or may not be in the sky on any given day. When it does show up, it can be strong or weak with no way to really know until you stand outside and wait (see our recent post about that).

In contrast, the sun at midnight is there every night. If it is cloudy, then it is simply daytime. Not cloudy? There it is! And we know exactly what days of the year the sun will be over the horizon here all night.

While you CAN simply walk out of your hotel at midnight or look out the window to see the sun, why not make the experience a little more magical? If you’ve never spent time in a land without darkness, here are three suggestions to make it more special! Read more

Blog Friends: A Dangerous Business

There’s a whole new industry out there: travel blogging. People travel from place to place, writing on their blog about their experiences, sharing photos and tweets and stories on social media, and giving travelers-to-be and traveler-wannabe’s alike a glimpse into the wonderful world around us.

Now and then, some of them even come through Alta. Whether they arrive as part of a prearranged tour or by their own planning, we often meet them either through North Adventure by request, or when they drop into the tourist office next to us, here. Sometimes, they simply go on tours and then depart town; but now and then we get some time together, to explore a little or just chat.

In February, Amanda Williams of the blog “A Dangerous Business” came to Alta along with Marie-Eve Vallieres of “To Europe & Beyond” as part of a Northern Norway tour. Though the weather was not always so great – this is the arctic, after all – they were good sports and had fun. They also said some very nice things about Alta and Tromsø; and even though that’s not a surprise to us, we were pleased that they were glad they came. Read more

4-star Experiences in Alta

Every now and then, we’re asked to build an itinerary for clients coming into northern Norway, and the travel agent or tour operator tells us, “These are very high end clients and they require 4-star accommodation”, or 4-star meals, or some other kind of 4-star thing.

That’s perfectly ok, because excellence in service and products is important to have. But here in the far north, we’re a little short on Armani suits and white gloves. You’ll find lots of Bergans coats and Ulvang wool socks, and snowmobile suits for sale pretty much everywhere, and lots of people debating whether Ski-Doo or Arctic Cat makes better snowmobiles (leave your own preferences in the comments, I’m not getting in the middle of those discussions).

And you’ll also find some delightful surprises, like a chance to eat a decidedly elegant dinner out in the middle of nowhere at a husky farm, where one of the owners happens to also have his professional kitchen. But we’ll leave the big palaces and tony hotels to the folks down south, thanks.

BUT… Read more