Norway: World’s Most Northern Brewery

It’s our last day here in Tromsø so we try to cram in a couple more touristy activities. We have yet to eat a pølse (aka a Norwegian hot dog) so we make that a priority for lunch. It’s cold and rainy but we walk down to the semi-famous 100 year old pølse stand… just to find that it isn’t even open!! There’s a sign explaining that they’re only open on nice sunny days. Rude.

Mack Brewery

It’s our last day here in Tromsø so we try to cram in a couple more touristy activities. We have yet to eat a pølse (aka a Norwegian hot dog) so we make that a priority for lunch. It’s cold and rainy but we walk down to the semi-famous 100 year old pølse stand… just to find that it isn’t even open!! There’s a sign explaining that they’re only open on nice sunny days. Rude. 

Instead we end up at a convenience store, similar to a 7/11, where they sell pølse and apparently this is the typical Norwegian kind. I asked a local where to get one and they sent me here. I’m a little skeptical of the authenticity, and I’m absolutely certain it would have tasted better from the proper hot dog stand, but it tastes alright. Mission accomplished.  I sort of equate it to a 7/11 in Japan where it’s super common to grab an onigiri or another snack for lunch. In Canada I don’t know too many people who would eat lunch at a convenience store. But hey if that’s the thing here then I’m cool with it. 

Next we head over to Mack Brewery– the northern most brewery in the world!! Tromsø has the northern most everything, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Mack is a family owned brewery that first opened in the late 1800s. Their beer is famous across the country, and they brew everything from classic Pilsners to seasonal Christmas beers and ciders. The tour takes us about an hour including a 20 minute history video to start with. We get 2 tastings included with our ticket price, but Dad has to drive us to the airport and Mom isn’t a fan of beer so Sev and I take their extras. Sev’s weak af and eventually gives up so I drink it all. Definitely a little drunk now. Best tour ever!

Sev mowing on a reindeer pepperette

Our original plan was to visit Polaria, an arctic aquarium (the worlds northern most aquarium?), but we don’t really have the time so instead we just head to the airport. After a quick flight to Oslo we check-in to a nearby airport hotel for the night.

Our room reminds me of the cool kids furniture displays at IKEA. It’s one room for the 4 of us and mine and Sev’s beds literally fold out of the wall, bunk bed style. I always thought those rooms were so rad as a kid, so I’m living my childhood dream right now. 

I’m boring and sleepy so I crawl into bed at 10:30 while the rest of my fam goes down to the bar. I have a vague memory of them coming back to the room and streaming Game of Thrones on Dad’s laptop, but just barely. It’s a wonderful sleep. We’re leaving for Reykjavik at 6am so I feel good about my decision. I think I’m still on season 3 of GoT anyway. 

Norway: Gardens and Fjørds

I wake up in pain, obviously. These are the repercussions of not being prepared and I accept full responsibility. Live and learn, I say. Dad gets up to buy some groceries around 10:30 and finds the store is closed.

Gardens and Fjørds

I wake up in pain, obviously. These are the repercussions of not being prepared and I accept full responsibility. Live and learn, I say. Dad gets up to buy some groceries around 10:30 and finds the store is closed. He walks further into town and realizes absolutely everything is closed, with the exception of a 7/11. They don’t have eggs, butter, or any fruit, so he comes home with just 1L of milk. I struggle to wrap my head around the concept of any city that totally shuts down on Sundays. I’ve experienced this a few times before, and in Ireland it made total sense to me because they have such a religious culture, but I wouldn’t have expected it here. Living in Toronto, this is just never an issue for me. It can be Christmas morning at 8am and I’d be able to find whatever I need within the range of a few subway stops. I take this for granted but I shall make note to appreciate it more in the future. 

With limited activity options, we decide to go on a little road trip outside of the city. Mom’s super into flowers, so our first stop is the Arctic Alpine Botanical Garden. It’s the most Northern botanical garden in the world! “Ooooh they have blue poppies! That’s exciting!!” says Ma as we pull into the parking lot. 
The gardens are located on the same grounds as Tromsø University, where one of my friends actually lived for a semester. It’s funny, when we had decided to come to Norway I contacted her to see if she’d heard of Tromsø, assuming it was a relatively unknown part of the country due to it’s latitude, and she was like well, yeah. I lived there. She told me that I had to visit the University while I was here, and she was totally right. It’s a beautiful campus. Great view of the mountains, an interesting mix of old and new buildings, and this sign that says fart. What’s not to like? 

Similar to the “dong” currency in Vietnam, I must be allowed one joke. It’s out of my system. Let us continue. 

Severin gets dive bombed by an irate seagull. This is real life. As soon as we arrive at the entrance to the gardens Sev and Dad head towards a little picnic area at the top of a landscaped hill. A seagull, sitting at the top of a lamp post, just DROPS, starts screaming and flapping its wings about 2 inches from Sev’s head. It’s a little terrifying, mostly funny, but we just can’t understand why. The gull goes back to its lookout post when Sev and Dad retreat. Mom doesn’t give a damn and braves the path after the vicious attack anyway, because God knows she wouldn’t let a bird get in the way of her and her blue poppies. A few steps from the top she sees two speckled baby chicks and everything makes sense. It’s a mama gull!!

this bitch…
spot the baby seagull chick

Mom almost gets murdered by the bird too, but it just threatens her. She scolds it, gets a photo of her flowers, and we move on. I don’t trust angry animals. After being attacked by two monkeys on separate occasions, and a peacock at the zoo as a young child, I don’t fux with that anymore. They’re unpredictable and terrifying. 

stoked on the poppies
protecting herself from birds

We continue down a long path through a forested area to the actual gardens. They’re pretty expansive, have a zillion types of flowers, and a nice view of the mountains across the water, which I’m starting to think are visible from every location on the island. 

After a stop for lunch by the harbour, we go on a little roadie through the mountains and fjørds. This is ridiculously beautiful. Stunning, really. I feel extremely lucky to have a Dad who can just roll up to a foreign country, rent a car, be given a stick shift by surprise, and drive seamlessly through the streets regardless. 

The roads along the fjørds are small and winding to a point where it looks pretty sketchy when another car is coming from the opposite direction, but this only happens a handful of times. It feels like we’re the only ones out here. The landscape is impossible to express through any words. Snow sprinkles black jagged mountains that are enveloped by layers of fog at their peaks. Small glacial waterfalls cascade down the mountain sides, creating splashes of bright crystal blue against the dark ocean water as the waves roll onto the rocky shores of the fjørds. 

It looks surreal. 

Some wild reindeer on our route!

Finally, we drive back to Tromsø for a late dinner. Again with the midnight sun thing- it makes it so easy to eat at 10pm. 

We find a great pub with a lot of personality. There can’t be more than 15 seats in the whole place, tons of cute quirky antique items on the walls, and an old vintage truck is being used as a table. It’s adorable. Sev is extra obsessed with it. He tries to get a panorama which kinda fails but he gets a hilarious selfie of the fam in the process. We order 4 burgers, 3 local beers, and 1 cider. The bartender fixes our drinks then disappears for a minute. Turns out he’s running the whole joint all alone! Cooking and serving. I think that’s epic. 

Sev’s Panorama

Midnight Sun

I never know how to prepare for a run. This is my first race, but I mean, even going for a practice run at home I’m like what do I eat for breakfast? Did I get enough sleep? I find some days I’m just in the zone and ready to go, and some days I just get tired quickly and that’s it. The latter is not really an option today, and considering that I haven’t actually gone for a real run in the last week, I feel even more unsure of how I’ll do today. I’ve got a solid 12 hours of waiting between when I wake up and my actual race start time, so I’ll try to distract myself. 
To keep ourselves entertained, and as not to miss out on any culture while we’re here, the fam heads out to the Tromsø University Museum. Here, there’s a ton of cool information on the Sami people and their culture. Quite honestly I’d never heard of this indigenous group before, but I learned so much!! They live in 4 different countries, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, in the most northernly regions, which are collectively known as Sapmi. The Sami rely heavily on reindeer, and live a nomadic lifestyle with their herd. Listening to the stories told by a Sami woman we met, their history is not dissimilar to that of Indigenous Canadians, eroding their lands, treating them as second class citizens, and being without a voice in parliament until 1989. Their culture remains rich in arts and story telling. They have beautiful textile arts including intricately woven ribbons, embroidery, an array of decorated carved implements made from reindeer antlers, as well as a billion other reindeer products. They make use of the whole animal. 

Near the end of our visit, we are able to go inside a traditional shelter built on the grounds of the museum, where we met a young Sami woman who is studying Political Science at the university. Her plan is to finish school and secure a job working for the Sami parliament back home, which I think is super cool. Over a fire-roasted coffee she was able to answer our questions about the Sami history and culture. We sit cozily around a fire on reindeer skin mats over a bed of twigs and brush. We are also offered reindeer tongue which you know I had to try. It looks similar to a salami; tough, dense, and sliced into small thin pieces. It’s not my favourite snack…but I smile and pretend I love it anyway. 

Overall, pretty sweet museum experience, and this is coming from someone who’s not really a museum person. 

We go back into town for a late lunch and grab some pizza. We needs carbs for running! My run starts at 7pm which is kind of an awkward time, so eating at 3pm is probably the best choice for me under the circumstances. They warn us that the wait for food is 45 minutes and we’re cool with that, but after we sit down and I’m looking around I can’t really wrap my head around why. There are empty tables around us and yet they still look stressed and the food is backed up. I waitress back home, so I feel like I’m usually a pretty good and patient patron, but I don’t understand how a restaurant becomes under staffed on what must be one of the busiest days of their year. We’re in no hurry, so it’s fine. Food is decent. People watching from window seat is bueno. 

Time is now creeping up quickly. We head back to the apartment where I change into my gear, have a 25 minute nap, and boom! Next thing I know I’m back downtown and in line to start this 10k run. What have I gotten myself into? 

The first kilometre goes by so fast that I wonder if my app is broken. It’s not though, so this is a very very good sign. The road is relatively flat, and we run along the coast of the island which is beautiful. It’s cold and overcast, sitting at 9 degrees, light rain, and fog so thick I can’t see the mountains just across on the mainland. In lots of ways this is perfect because I don’t get too hot. 
The craziest people I see are a lady who’s literally face timing someone during her run, and a guy with Toms, track pants, and a hoodie on. To each their own I suppose. I’m just happy that I’m able to run ahead of them…it’s distracting. Mom tells me some dude who reaches the finish line before me started projectile vomiting everywhere. So I’m happy to have run behind him, though. Enough distance between us that they’ve washed away the mess with buckets of water before my arrival. 

Again, my life kind of flashes forward and the next thing I know I’m approaching the finish line. I complete the run in 1:11:44, far ahead of my goal time of 1:15:00 so that’s pretty rad. 

Sev and Dad start their half marathon (21k) at 10:30pm. The whole point of this midnight sun business is that it doesn’t matter what time you start, because it’ll be light out no matter what. Mom and I chill inside and eat leftover pizza while the boys run, and head back down to the main road a little after midnight to watch them finish the race. They complete it and no one dies!! Go team!! We’ve done it!! Now we can comfortably party it up Norwegian style. I haven’t had any alcohol yet on this trip in (a weak attempt at) preparation for this run. Now I’ve got nothing holding me back, muahaha!
Obviously we talked a big game about hitting the town after the race and indulging in some local craft beers. Who were we kidding? We’re exhausted. I can hardly feel my legs. The drinks can wait until tomorrow, which, coincidentally, is also Father’s Day. Happy Fathers Day, Dad!

Pre-Race Day 

I can only sleep for about 4 hours at a time now. Brilliant. Lucky for them, this does not apply to the rest of my family. They all sleep for a solid 8+ hours. Jealous. After a slow start to the day we head over to city hall to sort of sign in and pick up all our necessary running gear. The city of Tromsø is bumpin’! Apparently there’s a dog show on this weekend, in addition to the race, AND a cruise ship parked a few kilometres out so the passengers can visit for the weekend. 

We have a late sushi lunch at 2pm. While Sushi isn’t a very traditional Norwegian dish, the restaurant is literally overlooking a harbour so I expect they’ll have some pretty good quality fisk, and they do. We all share a big assorted sushi boat which looks rad but we dig in so fast I forget to take a picture. The guy sitting at the table next to us asks if he can, though. He and his friends all got the same standard salmon dish; they must be just drowning in food envy right meow. 

We walk around the town a little more and get a soft serve ice cream. This is a “thing” in Scandinavia, and for good reason. It’s probably my favourite kind of ice cream! I shouldn’t be eating this pre-race day but…when in Rome. 

Sev buys a classic Norwegian sweater from a little farmers market in the main square. Tromsø has some really awesome pedestrian-only streets. We need more of these back home. There city also has about 8 billion hair dressing salons. We’re not sure why. We’ve started counting and there’s at least 8 within a very small area of downtown. Just a fun fact for you. 

Later, we go back to pick up our car and take a little drive across the bridge over to the mainland. A blue strip has been painted along the road to guide the marathon runners tomorrow and holy geeze they have a long way to go! It feels long in a car, I would absolutely die if I had to run it. My 10k looks rellllllatively harmless on a map. I’ll find out one way or another tomorrow. I keep putting it out of my mind because stressing about it won’t change anything about my preparation… or lack there of.

Norway: Tromsø 

This midnight sun business is messing with me. I haven’t really slept in at least 24 hours, but I’m not feeling overly tired because I’m like, the sun is up! Gotta keep moving! But this can’t last. Soon I must nap. People always call me out for having a 24hr clock on my phone, but I’ve never needed it more than now. Is it 10pm? 10am? Who could know? 


This midnight sun business is messing with me. I haven’t really slept in at least 24 hours, but I’m not feeling overly tired because I’m like, the sun is up! Gotta keep moving! But this can’t last. Soon I must nap. People always call me out for having a 24hr clock on my phone, but I’ve never needed it more than now. Is it 10pm? 10am? Who could know? We’ve made it to Oslo, Norway, but have to rush through the airport to make our connecting flight to Tromsø. Our flight out of Reykjavik was a little delayed and the layover window was only a couple hours to begin with. Luckily, Oslo is lax as hell, and no one is even around at customs. Literally. We don’t even get a Norway stamp in our passports. I don’t really understand how this is possible, but for efficiency purposes, I’m okay with it. Just a smidge disappointed about the lack of stamp. I suppose it’s an EU thing. 

We end up making it to the other side with enough time to get a Starbucks and chill. 

I see some dude absolutely cruising down the hallway….turns out he’s on a scooter. Nay. Not just a scooter. A luggage bag that has a built in scooter feature. I can’t really explain it in words, so I’ve drawn a little sketch so you can fully appreciate the absurdity of this invention. I can’t make this stuff up (I also can’t draw). 

yes, i drew on a puke bag

Let’s talk about Tromsø. It’s one of, if not THE most northern cities in the world. Located in the Arctic Circle, but affected by the Gulf Stream, it maintains a relatively mild temperature year round despite its proximity to the North Pole. For our race this weekend, it is expected to be 9 degrees and raining. 

Let’s talk about the race. I’m not ready. Up to this moment in my life, I have run a maximum of 7km. In a mere 2 days I will be running 10. Sev and Dad are running a half marathon (21km), which I can’t even wrap my head around. I’m definitely a little nervous. How embarrassing would my life be if I went all the way to Norway to run a race and ended up walking half of it? That can’t happen. I’m hoping some level of adrenaline will kick in and I’ll just power through. Will keep you posted. 

Arriving in Tromsø is cool. It’s more developed than I had expected it to be. They’ve got an epic underground tunnel system for drivers. Like, underground round-a-bouts…that’s some next level shit. I guess when you’re this far North the winter driving is a nightmare. I can’t even imagine. 

We get to our Air BnB which is located right downtown. It looks pretty mediocre on the outside but inside it’s totally fabulous with high ceilings, big windows, spacious rooms and even a sauna in the bathroom. The bathroom also has some weird and pretty questionable decor… including a jacuzzi surrounded by mirrors, a wine fridge, and a champagne bucket. There are two chairs set up facing said jacuzzi, and a TV screen on the wall behind them. The ceiling is also mirrored, and has tiny star-like lights hanging from it. Honestly I don’t get it at all, but I get the feeling it’s better this way. 

Activity #1 upon arrival: sleep. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and don’t even move let alone wake up for the next 4 hours. Getting up feels so challenging but I need to eat. The fam walks down to the main street in search of a restaurant. I did a quick google before leaving the house, where I noticed many people recommending Egon Restaurant. It’s only a 5 minute walk away and has a very American but very affordable menu. We have a good and relatively inexpensive meal. Norway is like Iceland and outrageously expensive. I don’t understand how anyone backpacks through these parts of Europe without winning the lottery before they go. 

After dinner we take a little walk through the town and down to the harbour. It’s about 10 degrees and windy so I’m a little chilly but it’s still a nice stroll. Back at our accom., we talk about going for a drive and staying up late to adjust to the time but I end up falling in and out of sleep on the couch a few times. I swear. The lack of darkness is more confusing for my body than anticipated!!!