Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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Posted on 7/2/03

The midnight sun.

I traveled to Bodø on the night train from Hell. Well, technically, it was the night train from Trondheim, but Hell, Norway was our first stop and ever since I passed through Hell, I’ve been uncontrollably telling everyone that I’ve been to Hell and back. I splurged for a bed in a three bunk cabin, which I shared with two Germans with unlimited rail passes, that appeared to be using the Norwegian night trains as a hotel.

The cabin was cramped, but had every convenience including sink, mirror, cups, drinking water, wash cloth, fully made bed and even keys to the cabin if you want to secure your stuff while you venture down to the food car. Despite the close quarters this was a huge improvement over the night bus experience between Bergen and Trondheim. The countryside was as jaw-dropping as ever, but the turns and decelerations weren’t nearly as violent and I could lay flat out and doze to my heart’s content.

No kidding, they were sun bathing.  What a downer.

I had been specifically thinking about my trip to Bodø, located at a latitude of 67° 17’ north, well inside the Arctic Circle, when I packed my bags in the States. I had plans to rendezvous there with a gang of friends who were doing a unicycle tour in the Arctic Circle. A little research on the web revealed that the average daily high in Bodø in June was about 50 degrees. In light of this information, I packed extra pants, warm socks and a jacket, which I planned to unload after my stop in Bodø, as I moved south toward warmer locales. So you can imagine my annoyance when I got off the train at 9:30 in the morning in Bodø and it was sunny and 75 degrees. I whirled around to check the station signs to make sure that I was in the right city. I was. This was particularly anti-climactic as I was all geared up for the bragging rights of having been to the Arctic Circle for the remainder of the summer while lounging and sweating on beaches in Spain, Greece, and Italy. Now I would be forced to admit that, while yes, I was in the Arctic Circle, people were sun bathing while I was there.

Demoralized, I made my way to the hostel where I would eventually have a happy reunion with the unicyclists. (see the article I wrote about them here.)

For the most part, Bodø is not a thrilling locale. It’s small, quiet and a little dull, actually. The harbor has no fish market, the city center has no sprawling square with scavenging birds, street performers or young ladies running up and asking me for hugs. It was just a town.

I had about six hours to kill before I could move into my room, so I pieced together my usual day bag with camera, tunes and a book and ventured off in search of something to pass the time. I stumbled upon the information center and loaded up with brochures on the local attractions, almost none of which were actually in the city, with the notable exception of the Norwegian Aviation Museum. Bodø is the main base for Norway’s air force. You are reminded of this fact several times a day as jet fighters roar into the air from the nearby airbase to for training and scouting runs of Norwegian air space. Unlike the rest of this bland city, the Norwegian Aviation Museum stands out as it is shaped like a huge propeller laying on it’s side. (pictured)


I briefly debated the wisdom of walking to the museum, which was on the other end of town. I had spent the entire previous day on my feet in Trondheim as I was kicked out of the hostel at 10:00 AM and my train didn’t depart until 10:30 PM. After working for eight and a half years at the Fed, I am now a recovering desk barnacle. I am not accustomed to being on my feet for extended periods of time, much less walking miles a day. Even with support of my soft, pricey walking sandals, I was stiff and sore. But then I remembered that everything on Norwegian maps is much closer than it seems. Two blocks on a Norwegian city map really is two blocks. Using that information, I counted 15 blocks between the information office and the Aviation Museum. That was the last time I was optimistic that day.

I was right in calculating that I was about 15 blocks away, but I had not taken into account that only about 1/3 of the streets in Bodø are actually marked, making navigating by a map and street names extremely difficult. I had experienced this in other Norwegian cities, but usually only on huge main streets, where I suppose that everyone is just supposed to know where they are. This was not the case in Bodø. Streets were just randomly unnamed. This goes against the usually thorough, detail oriented Norwegians and I began to wonder if perhaps that they had outsourced the job of putting up street signs to a less stereotypically meticulous group. Orienting yourself in Bodø requires you to walk about six blocks before you find two street names to use for locating your position on the map. This method put me off course repeatedly and I ended up zigzagging my way to the museum, making the journey three times longer than necessary, with my feet threatening to give out the entire way. By the time I got to the museum, there was no way in Hell, Norway that I was going to take the one and a half hour tour. I rested my poor feet for a long time, took a bunch of panoramic pictures of the outside of the building and then shuffled back to the hostel.

My reunion with the unicyclists was heartwarming. I had only been on the road for a little over two weeks, but the novelty of seeing friends from home was massive. We talked, ate and drank for the 40 odd hours we spent together, as I quizzed them mercilessly about details of their trip for an article that I was writing in hopes of having it printed at home in the Travel section of the paper. It was my first attempt at getting my travel writing printed and hopefully get paid a little for my efforts, so I reviewed, edited and re-edited the piece in agonizing detail, even by my standards.

Elijah checks into the hostel Scot, looking none the worse for wear after the longest day on the uni. A candid photo of the riders giddy and tired after dinner.


After two short days, I left Bodø to return to Inger’s place in Stavanger to unload my heavy clothing my Theroux book and to have a few days of hostel-free, rent-free, travel-free time to write, edit and do laundry.


Go to Oslo

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©Leif Pettersen 2012