Friday, August 12, 2022

Summer Vacation Part 1 - Norway

I just got back from a one month vacation. The timing was good as a Covid wave went through Qatar over the last few weeks (I'm guessing the BA.5 variant) and it is starting to subside now. Cases are still high at over 600 a day but far less than a couple of weeks ago.

First was a one week vacation in Norway with friends, primarily in the northern city of Tromso. I don't recall how we wound up deciding to go there but it was a unique trip for me. Tromso is north of the Arctic Circle, so far north that in the middle of summer the Sun does not set. I have never been that far north so it was great to wade in the Arctic Ocean for the first time (briefly, the water was really cold of course) and to witness 24-hour daylight. The continuous daylight really does mess with your sleep schedule but I did bring a sleep mask and that helped a lot. Some of my friends didn't and their sleep got really screwed up. It's weird seeing daylight peaking through the curtains but it's 3am! Your mind starts thinking it's morning and time to get up. I spoke with a store owner, who turned out to be Kurdish, and asked him which was more difficult to deal with, the 24-hour daylight in the summer or the 24-hour darkness in the winter. He said the summer, again because the light can mess with your sleep. It's important to get a sleep schedule and stick to it, and have good black-out curtains.

The weather was mixed, sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy and rainy. I took this great picture of a rainbow, at 1am!

Tromso was a nice city and we toured around the area in cars, did a boat excursion, and took the gondola up the mountain for the views. The city is around 75,000 people and it surprised me that there would be a city that large that far north. In Canada there are no cities even remotely that big in the north.

I will also confess to trying a meat not generally found in the West -- whale. Norway is one of the few countries that still allows commercial whaling so we found a restaurant in Tromso that served whale steaks. The meat was a deep red, a much darker red than beef, but the taste was similar, though with a "fishiness" to it, which made it a bit odd. The waitress explained that the fishiness was from the whale oil. I enjoyed the dinner. Did I feel guilty about eating whale? Maybe a little, but as it could have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience I figured I'd give it a try.

Afterward we spent a couple of days in Oslo before moving on. I enjoyed Oslo, seemed like a laid-back city. Temperatures were really nice, in the high-20s, but I think that was because Europe was undergoing that heat wave so temperatures in Oslo were maybe a little higher than normal (one sunny day in Tromso it hit 26, which was also impressive). The nice weather meant everyone was out and about. We did go see a museum dedicated to polar exploration and wandered around the shore. 

 Next stop -- Canada.