Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reindeer races in Tromsø

Pam and I had such a nice time last year when we visited Tromsø we decided to come again with the whole family... this time for the national reindeer racing competition! No one I've spoken to has ever gone to the competition, which I think is a little strange. Who wouldn't want to go?! OK, yes it's in February. In the arctic circle. But c'mon, reindeer pulling skiers through the streets of Tromsø? Must see.

The reindeer race is on Sunday, the last day of Tromsø's Sami week. The Sami are Norways indigenous population, kind of like eskimos. They are Norwegians, but also their own nation with their own flag and language. They have colorful costumes and an awesome flag. How cool is this?

Sami flag. Best flag ever.
We flew in late on Friday and got unpacked in our hotel then took a walk to find some dinner. On Saturday we did some shopping and exploring.

Here's a view of the fjord from up the hill by the høgskole. Across the fjord is the Ishavn cathedral, a very distinctive church. I decided I must visit at some point this weekend.

There's a good candy shop on the main pedestrian street that we went to several times:

Tromsø is known as the Paris of the North because of it's long history of fashion. They've got a lot of great shoe stores, and Pam did a lot of great shoe shopping. I like these boots, they're covered with Sami runes.

In the center of town things were happening. First we spotted this reindeer. Yes!

The national lassoing championship happened today. Competitors throw long ropes from 5 different distances and try to catch antlers on posts. The announcer said that this year they had a record number of participants in the contest: 22.

Between rounds, they let the public try lasso throwing. It took me 5 tries, but I hit the target. It was harder than it looked!

Stands were set up with touristy kind of junk, furs and Sami purses and cheese cutters with reindeer horn handles and that kind of stuff. We got warm fish cakes from a fish cart, which was also selling skrei tongues (skrei is a deep water fish) and blodfersk mølje. We weren't sure what that was, but decided it must mean "bloodthirsty moles", because that was funniest.

Outside the polar museum, the kids played with harpoon guns and Maggie found a walrus statue to "chill out" with.

 That evening we took the bus to a bowling alley. We cracked ourselves up all evening. (I bowled a 175. I couldn't impress anyone at work with this number because no one I work with has bowled before.)

Here's at the bus stop going back to the hotel. This is my trofi wife!

Sunday morning we had several hours before the reindeer races, so we took a taxi to the science center. It's a nice science center. Pam and I were there last year but I was giving a talk and didn't have time to play, so it was nice to get the opportunity.

Then we took a bus back downtown in time for the races! The street had been closed off. Guards manned the entrance to the street demanding tickets. Adults 100 kr, kids 50 kr. It was okay.

We found a place to stand at the fence right on the finish line. Turned out to be the best spot. Zoom! Two or three reindeer pulling skiers shot by at 60 km/h! It was 30 seconds of excitement, followed by 10 minutes of waiting for the next group to get set up. We couldn't see what was happening all the way down at the starting line 200 meters away, but I imagine it's hard getting deer to cooperate. We were right next to the announcer, and this guy just talked and talked and talked about all kinds of anything. It was amusing.

This reindeer below came by without a rider.

Throughout the race, Willie Nelson lyrics from "On the Road Again" kept going through my head. I texted them to Pam:

It didn't matter that it was cold, that the small bits of action were few and far between, or that we had to pay to stand on the street. We were on the edge of world at the annual reindeer races that few others have the chance to see. What a great feeling!

 At the end of the contest, the winner was a 13-year old, now the world champion reinskappkjører.

Finally, time to visit the cathedral. It was a bit of walk, but Maggie still wanted to come with me. She and I walked across the long long bridge to the other side of the fjord and then visited this beautiful piece of architecture. It was 40 kr. to come in.

Here's a few pictures from the bridge:

And a few pictures of the cathedral itself:

We flew back Monday morning. It was a silly and delightful 3-day weekend. I think we were all glad to have gone!

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