The Arctic

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Exploration has enticed every human… to see what is on the other side of that majestic peak or what lies beyond the horizon where the sun sets. Being footloose is exciting and undertaking soul stirring journeys is what everyone dreams of. And north is pristine. Enigmatic, when you look up at a star lit sky, with the Milky Way cutting right across the middle. Mesmerizing, when you see green lights dancing above you, hypnotized by their subtle movements.

In my general mood of ennui, I went on a journey that turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I met awesome people and made friends who have become an integral part of my very existence… even if I don’t see them ever again. I learned about different cultures and told about mine own. Traded words, inspired some and got inspired by some and after all that, I’m left with memories that none can wash away.

The place

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Lying above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is known as the gateway to Arctic. It has been inhabited since the ending of the last ice age and in the 17th century was known as the “Paris of the North” (because people from south found them more sophisticated than they anticipated.). Currently, the town is inhabited by around 80,000 people and is known for its’ stunning scenery (the Norwegian Fjords), exotic delicacies (Reindeer burger. Not chicken… Reindeer.) and of course, the Northern Lights.

The town is not large and you can get to anywhere from anywhere on foot. The Tromsdalen valley hosts the magnificent Ishavskatedralen or the Arctic Cathedral on one end of the Tromsø Bridge. The bridge is one of its kind and is one the most important landmarks of Tromsø and connects the island of Tromsø to mainland Norway. The cathedral (well not exactly a cathedral) was constructed in 1965 by a Norwegian architect, Jan Inge Hovig.

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The Ishavskatedralen. The Tromsdalen on the left. Fjellheisen on the right.

Atop the bridge, due to it’s peculiar central arch which adds to the height, one gets to see a spectacular view of the Tromsøysundet strait. You can see a panoramic view of the whole city and it looks stunning.

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The Tromsøysundet strait. It’s 2 in the afternoon.

Walking for a while, away from the cathedral, you can take the rope-way up to the Fjellheisen. I was told that I could get some picturesque views of the city from top of that mountain. But it was snowing heavily up there. The view was picturesque up there, let alone the view of the city. It was white all around and it looked something right out of a fairy tale. And it was cold. Very. Very. Cold.

Atop the Fejllheisen.

Atop the Fejllheisen. A slight motion blur cuz I was shivering.

The experience

I embarked on a backpacking journey which means that I lived in a hostel. It is the second oldest wooden house in Tromsø. It was an obvious choice given the cheap prices it offered and a chance to mingle with people from all over the world. It is cozy and there is already a dearth of warmth in the Arctic. Its’ a chill place where you can go and meet new people and make new bonds with someone who you never knew existed. I met some amazing people from different countries and had a great time with them.

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You may discuss about how the electoral system in the United States work or maybe learn that “yavla fitta” means “Fucking Cunt” in Norwegian. You may meet a chef from Spain who is a great photographer and a Hebrew girl crazy about nuerosciences who makes excellent onion and carrot soup. You may even find that the theories which you have used to guide yourself through life inspires others to inculcate your practices in their lives. And in the end you’re all together in that small living room cracking jokes and laughing out loud like you’ve all known each other for ages. The world is not as fucked up as news channels portray it to be.

You may realize that you believe in destiny after all. You may realize that letting go is a part of life. You may realize that you can fall for a person within seconds of seeing them and you will surely realize that most expected things come to happen at the least expected times. You’ll realize that if you just listen to your heart and use your mind, you can do anything in life.

The Lights

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tripod shook a bit due to a sudden gust of wind but you can see the Big Dipper.

Big and educated minds say that Aurora Borealis is formed when, due to heavy solar activity, particles from the sun excite the oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere. The excited atoms loose energy while coming back to their stable states and emit this energy in form of lights. This is all false, I tell you.

In reality, the lights are actually maidens dancing across the heavens. Really… how else can you explain the mesmerizing patterns the lights make when they move? When they are spread all across the night sky with stars shining at the back, you can imagine any theory that fits your sense of wonder.

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The start of the show.

To see the northern lights, one must find a spot isolated by city lights and a clear night. The tour guide took us to a remote area almost touching the border Finland. It was a clear night and I could see zillions of stars in the night sky. We had to wait for quite some time in bone chilling cold of negative temperatures before the maidens could dance for us. And oh, did they dance!

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Once they start to dance, you can only sit underneath them and gaze at them. They are hypnotizing… you just stop thinking and you are just there in that moment. They swirl and whirl and create patterns and seem to have a life of their own. The whole sky was covered with the lights… shooting from behind a hill… two different strands of lights merging into one… breaking apart and fragmenting and then recombining. Once you see them, you cannot “unsee” them.

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here, I saw two separate “strands” of lights combining. I almost cried.

The purple-ish tint is a rarity and I got to see that and capture it. It was bewildering to behold such a sight. I think not that I will ever lay my eyes on anything more beautiful than this. When the lights flash across the sky, it stirs up emotions you never knew existed inside you. You cannot relate it to anything that you’ve experienced before and hence it is unmolested by any feeling that you have inside of you. You cannot explain something like that… it is an unadulterated emotion. A feeling that you can experience only on your own.

Sitting under the lights with a group of people around a bonfire just gazing up at the light show above was the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life. We roasted marshmallows in freezing cold and shared stories and experiences while the lights danced above us. It was a moving, touching feeling and I was a different person when we left that spot after a few hours.

Au revoir

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It was an amazing experience I had last weekend. It was a childhood dream of seeing the Aurora and I saw them. I felt them. I can still see them dancing in front of me whenever I close my eyes. But as all good things must come to an end, so this trip had to end too. It is not my last time here. I’m going to be here again and probably will get to meet more awesome people from around the world and feel more deeply about the world. This trip has left me with a deep experience and gave me some great insight of life. I have learned that the core of a person’s character comes with what they have experienced and I have made a resolution to travel more… far and wide. To end with:

“Still round the corner there may wait,
A new road or a secret gate.
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I,
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.” ~ J. R. R. Tolkien.

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