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A trek northwards has been and continues to be a journey in natural surroundings that are both exotic and divergent. The north is synonymous with darkness, but the light is what colors northern nature.

The northern lights, aurora borealis, are what light up the heavens when it is dark. Most visitors tell of journeys taken in the summer and, as a result, these people have not seen the northern lights. But all the stronger is the impression when one has seen the northern lights blazing across the sky in mid-winter.

The midnight sun is the light one observes when the time of day tells us that it should have been dark - on a summer night. "The land of the midnight sun" is a cliché related to the northern regions, of course, but the expression refers to a phenomenon that never fails to impress travelers.

Dominating the northern sky is the constellation Ursa Major, often called the Big Dipper - or the Plough. The seven stars of this constellation were believed to represent seven oxen, or septentrion, in ancient times. This is why the northern part of the world was called the septentrionale region.

The maelstrom - capable of swallowing boats and men, the most dangerous sea currents were believed to be found in the north, and the Moskenes Maelstrom found here was widely known by both sailors and those familiar with world literature.

Travelers have always been fascinated by the beautiful plant life of the inhospitable northern climate. Scientists, on the other hand, attempted to collect all known plant and animal species during the 17th- 18th centuries. Among these was Carolus Linnaeus, the renown botanist, who traveled to Lappland, in 1732, to collect plant samples. One-hundred years later, Lars Levi Laestadius was the botanist on the Recherche expedition.

   © University Library of Tromsø - 1999.
The Northern Lights Route is part of The Council of Europe Cultural Routes. The Cultural Routes are an invitation to Europeans to wander the paths and explore the places where the unity and diversity of our European identity were forged.