We have lived in serveral places in Norway and have visited many villages, towns and cities. There is only one place we call home – Alta. This is, of course, because of family. Farmor and Farfar, Onkel, Tante and many cousins live in Alta. Christmas and Easter, Summer holidays and birthdays are spent in Alta so we have grown mighty fond of the place. Home certainly is where our heart is. And so with much anticipation, we are moving to live in the place we love best of all – the Alta farm.
Currently we are busy tying off loose ends. Changing addresses, forwarding post, giving back library books and seeing all the places we have always meant to see but haven’t. Tying off also entails telling everyone that we are leaving. We have made a lot of friends in Tromsø and have been involved wih many community groups. I had been dreading telling my friends. I have left many places but this time I was nervous about the ‘oh, reallies’ and ‘not forever, right?’ moments. But there were smiles and jokes and positives: ‘you’re only a 30min flight away’. The big question was always ‘why Alta?’ with a little sarcastic tone. The quick answer was always ‘to be closer to family’. This seemed to satisfy most, however, some pressed for more not totally convinced of why we wanted to live in such a place like Alta.
Alta has about 18,000 people and only became a city in 2000. It is in the most northern county of Norway, called Finnmark and is at the base of a fjord. It is only a three hour drive fom North Cape, the edge of Europe. From there, there is nothing but ocean to the North Pole. Alta is largely a fishing and farming town and was very big on slate mining. It has some of the best salmon fishing in the world, rock carvings from the stone age and enjoys the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights. The place is certainly a small country town. Activities include snow sports, adventure activities and swimming. There is only one shopping mall, one high school and one movie cinema. There are no fast food chains, no hospital and no Indian, Thai, Italian, etc, restaurants. However, there is a so called ‘international’ airport. So why Alta? – family, of course!
Alta has amazing potential. More than any other city in the North, Alta has a drive to make itself better. It is implimening strategies to grow the population but also programs for the health and well being of its residents. Finnmark county is focused on developing the Arts industry (something that I am particularly keen on) and Alta has a nurturing agricultural community.
Alta basically has one of everything you need – sometimes two. Of course, there are ‘no’ things like fast food chains but who really needs those? However, Alta is still modernised. Because of the internet Alta has access to the world.
A lot of people still live off the land in Alta, or part thereof. Being a farming town (even the mayor is a farmer) people help each other out and a lot of businesses use bartering – my cow for your two goats. Because Alta has many tourist attractions – ice hotel, the biggest canyon in Europe, rock carvings, dog sledding, Sami – tourism is a big supporter of the community and ‘agro’-tourism is a new focus.
Surprisingly, Alta has a very young population, one of the youngest in Norway. This puts a greater demand on the authorities for ‘progress’. Alta has just completed a major shopping centre in te middle of town and this Summer the Aurora swimming park will be complete.
One of the best things about Alta is lifestyle. More than any other Norwegian city I’ve lived in, Alta has ‘leisure’ down pat. Adventure activities – salmon fishing, snow mobiling, kayaking – are common after-work activities.
For our family, Alta means achieving our dreams. We have always dreamt of living on a farm, especially for our children. Growing up on a farm is now a valuable and unique childhood. We are very keen on sustainable farming and are excited to experiment with pastured fed animals, crop rotation, Arctic greenhousing and agro-tourism. We have always dreamt of an adventure lifestyle, having the time to enjoy nature and live a healthy, active life. Indeed, we are excited about moving Slow. Because Alta is delightfully sparse on urban living we certainly won’t get distracted from achieving our dreams. In fact, in Alta we will have everything we need for a modern life and if it is not right in front of us we will just do what the Norwegians do – if we want to see a musical we’ll fly to London and go to West End, if we want to eat in a French restaurant we’ll fly to France, if we want the latest video game we’ll import it and if we want to see a Kiss concert we’ll fly to Oslo – easy! But really, if there isn’t anything to see and do we’ll always have Alta.