Longyearbyen is the first introduction to the Svalbard archipelago. It is a small settlement/village of around 2000 people comprised of , surprisingly, folks from all over the world. This is because Svalbard is international territory governed by Norway. But there is a Scandinavian feel to the place.
I spent 2 days here but looking back, I should have come earlier. There is a lot to do, if you enjoy hiking and camping. I have been recommended to come in the dreaded dark season for some winter activites and to experience no light.
My most interesting experiences revolved around conversations with a couple of locals. I suffer from social anxiety and though I have improved, I still get anxious when talking to strangers. I have promised myself to work harder on managing the anxiety without the crutch of alcohol and I managed to do that quite a bit in Longyearbyen.
There are schools, a golf club, a night club, lots of huskies, rifles for a polar bear encounter and so much more. Women dont give birth here but need to fly to Tronsu on the mainland as the main hospitals are on the mainland. There is a university where people study about ecology, wildlife etc. People here are very friendly and very engaging (which helped me). I loved listening to the Russian side of life (there is a Russian settlement too but I didnt visit – it is more of a ghost town now). I enjoyed learning more from the Norwegians about their lives here. The single common advise from the locals: Come back in the dark season and experience the night sky, the activities and the mental challenge of living in the dark. I am sold. I will be back.