We have lived many places in the world but none that compare to Alta, Norway. Mr. Viking was an exchange student in the states (that’s how we met).
Until we were 18, we both lived in our respective hometowns for all of our lives (okay well most of mine, we moved there when I was a little over 2). I have lived in:
- North Carolina
Mr. Viking hasn’t lived quite as many places
- North Carolina
Of all the places we have lived together, there have only been two I have considered home, Mississippi, and Norway. More specifically the town I grew up in (Vicksburg) and the town Mr. Viking grew up in (Alta).The longer we live here in Norway, the more it becomes home.
Of course part of this is blood family (the grandparents, uncles that live here or near us). It is also because of the extended family we have created through our various activities.
About Alta Norway
Alta is a relatively small city with close to 21000 people. It is also a newer city as it officially became a city on January 1, 2000. It also received the nickname as “The City of The Northern Lights” then as well.
Alta received the designation as “The City of The Northern Lights” because the world’s first Northern Lights Observatory was built nearby on Haldde in the 1800s.
Alta is located at 70′ North around 300 miles above the Arctic Circle. It is a place where summer days (also known as green winter) are long and winter days are dark. Between November and the end of January, we don’t get to see the sun at all and get the littlest bit of light. During the summer we play host to the Midnight Sun, so the sun never sets.
There is not as much to see as the big cities, but there is still enough to do to keep us busy.
Alta Museum & The Rock Carvings
First, we have the Alta Museum and the Rock Carvings. The Rock Carvings discovered in the 1970’s. Since those first rock carvings were uncovered more than 6000 figures have been discovered in 5 places: Hjemmeluft, Storsteinen, Kåfjord, Amtmannsnes, and Transfarelv. All of these sites were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. The Rock Carvings located in Alta, Norway are the only prehistoric world heritage site in Norway. The rock carvings were created between 2000 and 7000 years ago and can be grouped into phases.
The Alta Museum was opened in 1991 to help visitors to see these incredible pieces of history. Now the Museum houses several permanent exhibitions about the culture and life in the surrounding areas as well as a few temporary exhibits that are often changed.
Northern Lights Cathedral
We also have the Northern Lights Cathedral and the New Borealis Museum. The Northern Lights Cathedral was built to replace the Old Alta Church. Modern plans for this particular church began in the lates 90’s. The first foundation stone was laid to coincide with Alta becoming an official city on January 1, 2000. It then took another 11 years before construction officially began. The majority of the construction took roughly 600 days to complete. The Cathedral was formally opened on February 10, 2013. It was a huge celebration, and Norway’s Crown Princess Mette Marit was among the festivities.
The Interior of the Church was designed by artist Peter Brandes from Denmark. It is a unique and gorgeous interior. The exterior church boosts 40,000 individual sheets of titanium. The spiral shape of the Northern Lights Cathedral is shaped to resemble the Northern Lights, and the Titanium helps to reflect the light.
In the basement of the Northern Lights Cathedral is the New Borealis Museum. Borealis is a new interactive museum about the history, science, and mythology about the Northern Lights. It is filled with a lot of information and some fun, interactive activities, such as waving to the Northern Lights as well as Joik Sing Machine where you can sing to the Northern Lights.
In the Winter we have a lot to do if you enjoy being outside. Here in Norway, they love the saying there is “no bad weather, just bad clothing.” Some of the winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling.
In March Alta plays host to the annual Finnmarksløpet, the second longest dog sledding race in the world. It is also the longest in Europe. It is also the Northernmost dog sledding race. The Finnmarksløpet was started in 1981. It is 1000 KM from Alta to Kirkenes (near the Russian border) then back again. Roughly 150 people compete every year.
Of course, during the winter you can also visit the Sorrisniva’s Ice Hotel. It is Norway’s largest and Northernmost ice hotel. It was initially built in January of 2004. Now each year in November they start building a themed Ice Hotel. It roughly takes about six weeks for them to build. The theme of the ice hotel changes every year. Some examples of past themes include the Vikings, Ice Age, and Mythology of Norway. Everything inside the hotel is made of ice even the ice bars and the shot glasses they serve your drink in.
Finally, what most people come to visit for in the winter are the Northern Lights. Every year starting as early as October Alta as well as the rest of Northern Norway plays host to the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights are a beautiful and magical show in the sky. Of course, the best time to view the Northern Lights are when it’s cold and dark. I am not going to get into the science behind the Northern Lights but if that interest you check out this site.
In the summer we often go Wild Berry Picking. We go into the abundance of forests around us and pick blueberries, crowberries, and lingonberries. In addition to the fresh berries we pick in the late summer we can also pick mushrooms and forage for other wild edibles.
In the Winter we play host to the dark times, but during the summer we play host to the Midnight Sun. From around the middle of June until the beginning of August we have “24 hours” of daylight. As the Sun never sets it can play tricks with your sleeping habits. However, it does give you extra hours during the day to pick berries, go hiking or just enjoy the outdoors.
Finally, in Alta, we have some of the best Salmon Fishing in the world. The salmon Fishing is so good that the people who live here in the counties of Alta, Kautokeino, and Loppa have to enter a lottery to see who can fish. If you get a place, you will get an 18-hour license that allows you fish in a particular part of the river. The average size of the salmon caught in the Alta River is roughly 10 kilos.
Each year the King of Norway, Harald, comes up to fish in the river. He fishes in the best spot of the river and gets a 48-hour pass.
The most incredible thing about Alta is the environment and land that is around us. The natural environment is abundant and stunning. The forests, while they may be young, are surrounding us, wildlife is abundant (rabbits, foxes, moose and during the summer reindeer). Norwegians as a whole keep their outdoor areas clean and free of trash making it a perfect place to walk and relax in nature.
Why Alta is Feeling Like Home
The most important reason is of course family. We do still have family in the states and of course, miss them. I love that Alta is small and extremely safe. Storbror plays outside with his friends every weekend, walks to and from school by himself and has more freedom. Overall we seem to be more laid back (especially me), less stressed, and happier. These incredibly small things make a huge difference in our lives our family’s wellness.
I love living in Norway and Alta and can see us putting our roots down here. It is impossible to get tired of the beautiful landscape, the mountains or the fact that we can berry pick 5 minutes away from the house. Once upon a time, I could only dream of seeing the Northern Lights once in a while, and now I can see them whenever I look out at the Nights Sky.
If you ever travel to Norway, I strongly suggest a visit up to Alta you won’t be disappointed.
Do you live in a small city or a large one? Which do you prefer?