By Corey Sandler
Tromsø is the largest city in Northern Norway, 350 kilometers or 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
It is the second largest city within the Arctic Circle, behind only Murmansk, Russia. (Some of you may be preparing to look up the population of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Let me save you the trouble: Reykjavik is a sizeable city about twice the size of Tromsø, but only a small slice at the northern end of the entire island nation of Iceland is within the Arctic Circle.)
Back to Tromsø. Please don’t expect Paris.
Even though at one time this city of 50,000 or so did claim the nickname “The Paris of the North.” It earned that title because successful merchants in the late 19th and early 20th century developed a relatively significant trade with France and brought back a few of the niceties of Paris.
Today I went with guests to see the striking Arctic Cathedral and then to ascend the cable car to the mountain above for a view of the island city. Finally, we visited the Polar Museum, filled with artifacts, photos, and charts of the early explorers and hunters of the far north.
Just as I had promised the guests, we had all four seasons in the course of one day. Starting with rain, moving to a brief glimpse of sun, then snow squall, and back to gray skies.
It is still a very remote place, quite cold and dark in the winter and chilly and not dark at all in the Midnight Sun of summer. Summer solstice came a week ago, on June 21 so locals and visitors will not see the sun fully drop below the horizon for another month.
By the end of the 19th century, Tromsø was a major base for Arctic expeditions. Explorers like Roald Amundsen, Umberto Nobile and Fridtjof Nansen picked up supplies and often recruited their crew in the city.
As the Germans advanced northward in 1940 early in World War II, Tromsø briefly served as the seat of Norwegian government. Tromsø escaped the war without major damage, although this part of Northern Norway was one of the most closely watched places in the world.
It was just outside of Tromsø the great German battleship Tirpitz was finally bottled up and destroyed by the Allies after serving as the northern obsession of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill because of the threat it posed to Allied convoys and military vessels in the area.
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