Rainy Tromsø impressions

Two weeks ago: I’m in Tromsø, it’s quite early in the morning and I cannot sleep any longer. Time to ignore the grey rainy weather, take the camera with the 35mm lens and go out for an hour to make some photos of Tromsø when the weather isn’t so nice, but neither bad.

Travelling to Tromsø

Sometimes I’m just too lazy to blog and so was I the last weeks. Today however I finally want to write about a great trip to Tromsø, that Annika and I started on 7 July, almost three weeks ago.

Tromsø is in located in the North. Very far north. It lies 344 km north of the polar circle and is the northernmost town of the world with more than 50,000 inhabitants. It has the northernmost university, both the northernmost cathedral and mosque, the northernmost brewery and probably some more northernmost things of the world.

The shortest route by car from Skelleftehamn to Tromsø leads over Luleå, Pajala, Kilpisjärvi (Finland) and Nordkjosbotn (Norway) and that’s the route Annika and I took.  We had a lot of time and planned to stay overnight twice, but didn’t plan where.

The first part of the route, the E4 leading north, is kind of boring. At least you’re allowed to drive 110 km/h – the maximum allowed speed of the whole journey. In Töre we left the E4, took a break and ate in the Restaurang Roady – the first KRAV-certified sidewalk restaurant.

After lunch we continued northwards. After 50 km we reached Holgers Traktor Museum in Svartbyn, which is always worth a visit. Since it was late – we started our trip in the afternoon – we just made a short stop to take a picture and then continued our trip.

Where to stay? Perhaps we could stay with Katharina whom I met last winter. She lives in Miekojärvi between Överkalix and Övertorneå. We tried to ring her, but she didn’t answer the call. Anyway it’s just a detour of 30 kilometres so we just gave it a try. Katharina has round 20 huskies and someone has to feed them. When we arrived at her house, a man left the shed, looked at us and we were quite surprised to meet Sascha whom we met before in Solberget several times. What a lucky coincidence! So we found not only our first overnight stay but great company, too! Thank you, Katharina (abroad) and Sascha for your hospitality!

The next day we continued our tour after a nice and rich breakfast. We crossed the arctic circle and watched the reindeers.

First stop: Pajala, where a big market took place. Here you could buy a lot of things between tradition and modern age.

After two hours we left the hurly-burly and entered the car again. We crossed the Swedish–Finnish border and followed the E8 which was more construction site than main road. We passed Karesuvanto, where I was sure to meet a food store. All stores however are on the Swedish side, in Karesuando. Not a problem, if you have bread with you and then are given butter, cheese and salami as a present on the super-nice camping ground Lätäsenon Majat near Enontekiö, where we stayed overnight.

Next day we passed Kilpisjärvi near the border triangle, where Sweden, Finland, and Norway meet and soon we were in Norway. Norway is my favourite country in summer because the landscape is so varying and beautiful that even I make photos from within the car:

In Skibotn we saw the first fjord – the Lnygen – and made a break. Annika used it for jogging and I for looking around and taking pictures. I love to stand at the shore, the feet in the water, the view either on the shells or on the fjord and the still snow covered mountains. But the seagulls didn’t like me standing there and they flew some feint attacks, luckily in vain. They don’t dare to come really close.

In Nordkjosbotn we ate hamburgers for lunch. It’s not easy to get anything other than burgers and pizza in Northern Norway outside the cities, but sometimes I like fast food, especially when travelling. From Nordkjosbotn it’s only another hour to Tromsø, where we arrived in the afternoon.

Here we would stay for four whole days with … but that’s another story for another blog article. Stay tuned!

 

Vampires of the North

It’s no secret, that blood-sucking vampires exist in Scandinavia. It’s another species then the half-human vampires known from countless fantasy novels and therefore there are some differences:

The bad part: They don’t dread the sunlight, they are countless and they can fly!

The good part: You won’t turn into a vampire yourself when they bite you, they are much smaller and they are easier to kill.

But sometimes you come too late to prevent the vampires attack …

This mosquito died in Miekojärvi between Överkalix and Övertorneå, where Annika and I stayed overnight on our tour to Tromsø.

 

 

Summer in a nutshell

This Saturday Annika and I met our friend Elisabet, who never says no when it comes to being outdoors. Even if we used a car to reach all those nice places round Umeå we indeed were outdoors most of the time.

1. Mountain hike

Elisabet had asked us what we wanted to do this day beside of bathing. Hiking, sleeping, barbecuing? The sea, forest, mountain …?

I mentioned that it wouldn’t be too easy to find mountains round Umeå, but Elisabet knows many nice places and so she suggested to go up the mountain Tavelsjöberget. Since the top is just 284 metres above sea level, it’s not the longest hike up. There’s a 5 km trail leading through wetlands (according to the sign rubber boots are recommended) but the shortest way up is just 700 meters long. That’s the way we took.

After the short but steep and rocky way up we reached the top. Here we took a break and enjoyed the view over the lake Tavelsjön and the landscape around.

Elisabet told us about some caves nearby and we already saw the waymarks leading down. There at the western side the mountain is very steep and rocky. We found all of the four caves but entered only one, since the others were only reachable by crawling.

We took a shortcut along a narrow path until we came to the very same trail that we took uphills. Soon we were back at the car and quite eager to enjoy some ice cream and take a bath.

2. Sandy beach and ice cream

… and so we did! First we bought ice cream and something to drink at the kiosk and then we took a refreshing bath. Water temperature: 19 °C, air temperature: round 22 °C. Just perfect, if you ask me.

After a bath (Elisabet took two) and an ice cream (Annika and I took two) we started to plan the rest of the day. Barbecue: yes! By the water: definitely! But where? And where to get food? Luckily there was a food store in Hissjö quite nearby. There we purchased food, something to drink and Elisabet asked for some plastic knifes and a fork, which we got.

Then we headed to Bäcksjön, a beautiful lake in the forest.

3. Forest lake and barbecue

There’s a grilling place at the southern tip of the Lake. Seven other cars parked on the same parking place so we knew we wouldn’t be alone.

Elisabet is quite independent when it comes to barbecuing. While I always have a tripod and rubber boots in the car for photographing, Elisabet uses to have a grill and charcoal with her. Soon our sausages, bread, halloumi cheese, asparagus and tomatoes lay on her grill getting barbecued and beside of some asparagus we ate it all. And it tasted so good!

After our meal Elisabet and I took another bath. We weren’t successful when it came to swimming because the lake is quite shallow and you have to go a long while until you can start to swim.

We were so lucky: Good food, great company, a beautiful lake, warm summer weather with a slight breeze and – not to be underestimated: hardly any mosquitoes!

Summer in Northern Sweden! It’s hardly imaginable that people skated on the ice of the Tavelsjö only two months ago.

Summer experience – a bicycle tour in 7+1 chapters

The advantage of a short workday

How much should I work for a German customer today? It’s Corpus Christi, a holiday in Germany but not in Sweden. Well, what about a half day? I finished work at 11:30 and shortly after I started a bicycle tour. The first one this year. Today’s destination: Budsba, a Thai restaurant at Skellefteå Solbacken.

Soon I was in the forest where I expected to be alone. But after some hundred metres there was a huge herd of children, who were too busy with themselves to let me though. Anyway I managed to squeeze though and soon I left the group behind – no children were harmed.

I took the forest path along the lake with the most boring name. It’s called Sjön – “The Lake”.

Some weeks ago parts of the way were quite wet, but now it’s much drier. After some bends I saw a car. Then two people with a table. Camping? Picknick? I came nearer and saw the table packed with plastic cups filled with water and juice. The people invited me to drink and I accepted thankfully. They were teachers and told me that it’s skolavslutning tomorrow – the last school day before nine weeks of summer holidays. Today the pupils of the Örjansskolan had a hiking day.

Thanks for the drink, teachers.

The ways are for the cottages

I continued the small way, which got sandy – not so nice for cycling – but soon I came to a larger way. I turned right and left again and cycled along a gravel road to Södra Skatan, one of the many cottage colonies by the sea.

Some of the cottages are huge and sometimes they surpass their owner’s regular houses. Most roads near the shore are only made for one reason: reaching those cottages. That’s why most ways come from the inland, lead to some summer cottages and end at the last house. They are hardly connected to each other beside of some narrow paths through the forest, if at all. The way after this last cottage was quite broad but stony and muddy so I had to walk the bike for some metres.

In remembrance of winter

Since there are many cottages along Västerbottens Baltic Sea most of these connection paths are short and soon I was on another road, this time an asphalt street. Beside the street there were many log piles. Almost all Swedish forests are planted for getting timber and piles of logs are a common view in Sweden.

Do you see the white thingy on the left side of the log pile? I stopped the bicycle and looked. I looked again and my first consumption was right: It’s old snow which had transformed to ice. I never saw such nearby so late in the year!

Intermezzo: Best food at the ugliest place

I continued the street until I left it to take the gravel road to Solbacken. It ran through forests and sometimes it was quite stony and hard to bike. Clouds approached, but it was still warm with temperatures between 20 °C and 25 °C. Anyway I passed by another winter souvenir: A snowmobile trail. Some more kilometres and I met civilisation again. On the other side of the European Route E4 I arrived at today’s destination: Budsba.

What do you choose – beauty or truth?

I took it easy after the lunch, because I ate too much. That’s the problem with huge lunch buffets of tasty food. And spicy – phew, one of the chilly peppers was quite hot. After lunch I crossed the E4 again looking for the short cut to Fällbacken. I found it and after a short rocky passage the gravel path was quite beautiful and not as steep as expected. Here’s a photo of the way:

It wasn’t so steep, because it was the wrong way! It ended after a hundred metres. I returned and found the right way. This way was quite stony. Then it was quite stony and quite steep. Then it was quite stony, quite steep and quite wet.Here’s a photo of the right way:

First I tried to ride my bicycle but soon my hands started to hurt due to the permanent breaking. Therefore I descended and walked my bicycle until I reached the road that would lead me to Boviksbadet, a sandy beach. There I would clean my muddy feet.

Beach time

An asphalt road again – it was nice and relaxing to just pedal along without looking for stones or glueing my fingers to the handbrakes. I arrived at the beach of Boviksbadet,  the bathing beach of Boviken.

I took a rest but I didn’t bath. It was warm and I would have loved to swim. The sea at Buviksbadet however is extremely shallow. You could walk for ages and still would remain in only knee deep water. I waded in a bit, so at least my feet were clean again.

Come on, it’s just a quick shortcut

After the rest I continued the road and turned left into the Bergviksvägen. This way leads along the Storberget (100 m) and ascends to 90 metres within a kilometre. First I tried to climb the ascend on my bike, using the lowest available gear, but soon I had to rest while my heart beat like a colibri heart. While resting it started to buzz. Some hundred mosquitoes tried to suck my blood. They had a buffet by their own: Hands, neck, eyes, ankles, arms, legs …

Since I ate too much at the Thai restaurant I didn’t want the litte fellows to make the same mistake and so I decided to move on and walk my bike uphills. Walking is less exhausting and so I was on the “top” quite soon. After cycling one kilometre downhills I had to make up my mind.

  • Should I follow all small paths along the coast, which would give me more bathing opportunities but would make the tour longer? Well, no – the sun was almost gone and I was a bit tired, too.
  • Should I continue the way, meat the asphalt road I took on the way there and return the same way? Well, no – I don’t like taking the same way twice the same day.

But there seemed to be another possibility: I could follow the road for three other kilometres and take the small shortcut southwards, where I would meet a road to Ursviken, which is quite near Skelleftehamn.

And so I did. You should know however that it can be quite uncomfortable following me on shortcuts  …

The gravel road descended and was quite broad, but since it was so much gravel on it and potholes in it I didn’t dare to let the bike go and braked from time to time. I approached the shortcut, which didn’t look very promising, but I gave it a try.

I cycled fifty metres away from the main road and looked down to that something that was marked on my map with a black dotted line:

I could return to the main road and just return home the same way, but I still didn’t like the idea. The shortcut would be just some hundred metres and only the first twenty of them seemed to be muddy.

I took my first steps and – splash! – I sank into the mud up to my knees. I freed one foot but unfortunately not the sandal that was still submerged deeply into the mud. It took some time until I could locate it and managed to dig it out. I clamped the sandals on the pannier rack and continued the way barefooted. It was short indeed, hardly 30 metres but my bike was muddy up to the axes and I – well, have a look:

So much to shortcuts …

The “way” became better with some other but less deep mud holes, then it became a grassy path that probably didn’t have been used for a long time (I guess, I know why!)

Now I longed for a bath. My bicycle as well. Anywhere …

Cooling down

… and I was lucky.

The path broadened and soon was covered with gravel again. Marvellous! I knew, that there would be some ponds along the way and I directly stopped at the first one. First I dunked my clothes, then my bike, then myself. After the bath I almost looked civilisation-compatible again. Well, almost!

I continued cycling. The gravel path became a gravel road, became an asphalt street and soon I was on the Skelleftehamnsleden, the road leading to Skelleftehamn, where I arrived round about five hours after my departure.

The daily stage: 42 km biking · ± 800 m walking the bike · ± 100 m bog walking. Not much in distance but in experience.

It’s summer

When you look out of your window and see long green grass in the urgent need of being cut, where 4 weeks ago a snow shower covered the whole garden with white

When you go along the river Skellefteälven and finally other flowers started to bloom than only tussilago

When nights are no dark nights any longer and it will take many weeks until you can see the first stars again …

When you paddle on the river Skellefteälven, barefoot, just with t-shirt and shorts, not with a drysuit as three weeks ago and you even enjoy becoming wet by some breaking waves, because it’s so refreshing …

… then it’s summer in Northern Sweden.

And summer is more than welcome after the long winter. By the way, summer solstice is just 10 days away.

Sundew

Finally all the snow and ice is gone, even in the shadows of the forests and on the cold bogs. Only in the Mountains of the North the winter is still visible (123 cm in Katterjåkk yesterday) and sensible (-9.2 °C in Tarfala some days ago.)

Here however the days are warm and mostly sunny. Today I visited a bog after work and as I expected, many, many thousands of sundews grew on the wet patches and the dark mud. I always was fascinated of these carnivorous plants. In Germany they are seldom and under conservation whereas in Sweden they seem to grow everywhere, where the ground is wet and boggy. And that’s a lot of places.

Back from the tropics

The little hotel room was damp and hot. It was located directly under the sunlit roof and hadn’t cooled down next morning although I kept the window open the whole night. I could hear the parrots screech and saw them flying around looking for peanuts.

I’m not used to tropical warmth and was very thirsty. The water from the cold water tap was almost hot and it took a long while until it cooled down a bit. Well, perhaps you shouldn’t be too demanding and picky if you travel that far south …

… to Amsterdam.

Wait a moment – Amsterdam? Tropical heat? Parrots?

Yes! No! Yes!

I travelled to Amsterdam with the Skellefteå Chamber Choir for some days. It had been quite cold in Skellefteå on the day of departure and we had experienced some hailstorms. When we landed in Amsterdam some hours later  it was more than 20 °C and probably almost 30 °C in my hotel room. That’s of course far away from being tropical but still so warm, that it tired me.

The first parrots flying outside surprised me. That’s nothing I connect with the Netherlands. Later I learned that there are many Rose-ringed parakeets in the park Vondelpark nearby and according to amsterdamiam.com there live more than 3000 of them in Amsterdam and more than 10000 in the whole of the Netherlands. Those tropical birds and the hotness (at least compared to Northern Sweden …) gave me quite southern impressions.

However every time when I left the hotel I soon realised, that I’m in Amsterdam, not in the tropics.

When I lived in Essen, Germany, Amsterdam was quite nearby. I’ve been there quite a lot and could even imagine living in Amsterdam.

I left Essen 13 years ago and nowadays towns like Amsterdam have become too big and stressful for me. Too many houses, too little place, two many people, too little calmness, way too many cyclists and also too many tourists (including me!). Living in Skelleftehamn has changed me and nowadays I probably would have difficulties to live in towns as big as Amsterdam.

I guess I’ve become bound to the north over the years. I’m completely content with that. There’s a reason that I called this blog “Way up north”.

Eleven o’clock in the evening. It’s 6 °C outside and it has been raining for hours. I can see the rain, because it’s not dark at all and it won’t become dark before late August. I should go the bed and sleep since I have to work tomorrow but I just want to have another look through the window. I love to live in the north.

From winter to summer in seven days.

I hardly can remember the intense snow fall a week ago, when I look at a day as today.

Today in a nutshell: sun, shorts, temperatures between 15° and 22° C, sandals, blue sky, t-shirt only, ice cream.

It looked like early spring with only some of the birches starting to come into leaf but it felt more like high summer with today’s temperatures.

Annika and I have been in the “Arboretum Norr” today, just five days later as last year. Last year we could see many different species of flowers, this year only some, mostly Tussilago and Alpine Penny-cress, the two flowers that use to bloom first in the season. No wonder, April and May has been colder than last year. But today warmth attracted many butterflies, such as this European peacock.

And Tussilago is a beautiful flower anyway.