The Varanger Peninsula

Never have I been so far northeast before, travelling from Kirkenes to Vardø, where Annika and I would enter the Hurtigruten vessel Trollfjord. After the visit of the Sjøsamisk Museum we were glad to be in the warm car again as it was quite stormy outside with temperatures round -12 °C.

We left the E6 in Varangerbotn and continued eastwards on the E75. While there were many trees along the E6, the landscape became more and more arctic now. Between Varangerbotn and Vadsø there were still small and scattered birch trees and thickets, but there’s hardly any visible vegetation left between Vadsø and Vardø in wintertime. On the left side of the street lay snow covered mountains, hills and tundra plains, on the right side the rough Barents Sea. Hardly believable that people live here, but they do, mostly on places quite exposed to the sea and of course near to the E75, the only street.

We had to catch the Trollfjord the same day, a pity, since there was so much to look, to explore, to photograph. Next time I would plan an additional overnight stay to have more time.

Far away at the horizon of the Barents Sea we could see something rectangular. A container ship or our Trollfjord? Coming further and the ship coming nearer we could see that it indeed was the Trollfjord that left Kirkenes some hours after us.

We didn’t have much time to visit Vardø, just a very brief run through the witchcraft trials memorial, then we had to enter the big ship by car. I was the only car boarding; most passengers are cruisers, either taking the whole tour Bergen—KirkenesBergen, or the much shorter Tromsø—Kirkenes—Tromsø.

We got our room (small, but sufficient), I bought internet for two days (quite poor, since it blocks a lot of urls and ports, among others my mail traffic) and then we left Vardø by Hurtigruten.

Since then Annika and I have been on the Trollfjord. In three hours we’ll be in Tromsø, tomorrow afternoon we’ll leave the ship in Stokmarknes and will stay on the Vesterålen for some days.

Sjøsamisk Museum

Today Annika and I left Kirkenes and headed north to the Varanger Peninsula and the towns Vadsø and Vardø. Well, heading north it would be without the fjords. We took the E6 and followed it in almost all directions to drive round Neidenfjorden, Munkefjorden, Bugøyfjorden and the large Varangerfjorden.

Ørjan had advised us to visit the Sjøsamisk Museum – the museum of the sea sami. It is located in Byluft 30 km before Varangerbotn when you come from Kirkenes. We rang at the door bell of the private looking house and Helmer Losoa, the creator and owner opened the museum for us. We entered the large wooden building and looked stunned. We didn’t expect such a huge collection related to the history of the sea sami and the region. Almost uncountable items hung on the walls, the ceiling, stood on large tables or in cupboards. From old sami costumes to wooden fishing boats, buoys made of glass and ancient radios – I guess there’s hardly a thing you cannot find in this collection. And Helmer, who has both built the museum and has been collecting all these items for 27 years, know them all and can tell stories about them.

So that’s my tipp for today: If you ever should be near Kirkenes or Vadsø – visit this collection. If you come in wintertime, keep in mind that the rooms are not heated. Inside temperature = outside temperature minus the stormy wind.

 

4×4 winter impressions of Kirkenes

Kirkenes – the harbour

While Annika and our friends in Kirkenes enjoyed their breakfast in the Hotel Thon I took a short promenade along the Johan Knudtzens gata to take some pictures. Already the view from the hotel terrace over the fjord is quite impressive and shows the beauties of the arctic nature while the harbour shows the more practical sides of living here: fishing, both commercially and just for fun.

A hike onto the top of the Lyngberget

After the breakfast we took the car to Jakobsnes and a bit further to take a promenade up the mountain Lyngberget, which lies on the other side of the Bøkfjorden. Here you can have a wide view over the whole town of Kirkenes – at least as long it doesn’t snow, as it did on our way back. I just love these wintry landscapes where you have views over fjell and fjord, but the wind was quite chilly and soon we looked like the participants of an arctic expedition.

The Huskies of the Kirkenes Snowhotel

Today we played tourists and visited the Kirkenes Snowhotel, which is just some hundred metres away. The Snowhotel has 180 Huskies including the seniors plus 30 puppies. The huskies are like we humans – some are working, some are resting, some are curious and some are shy. But they are all very kind and friendly.

Inside the Kirkenes Snowhotel

I slept in tents, in igloos and outside in wintertime. I even slept in the Kirkenes Snowhotel two years ago. This time Annika and I enjoy sleeping in the inside of our friends house (Thank you for your great hospitality, Christine and Ørjan) but gave the Snowhotel a visit. And it was worth it – especially the lounge with it carved ice blocks is very impressive.

Tomorrow we’ll leave this fine place, take the car to Vardø in the North (yes, that’s still possible!) and take the Hurtigruten from there to our next destination.

Definitely a seal

Four weeks ago I saw a something on the ice at Bjuröklubb. I still don’t know, if it was a seal, a stone or a UFO.

Yesterday Annika and I saw a seal at the bay Lilla Karpbukt but I had the wrong lens on my camera and couldn’t take a picture.

Today I saw another seal right in Kirkenes at the port. It was quite far away, too, but at least I could take a souvenir photo with my telelens.

  • Taking a seal picture: check
  • Taking a seal picture near home: maybe
  • Taking a seal picture in Skelleftehamn from my kayak: not yet

Crossing and not crossing borders

Hardly believable that Annika and I started our holiday trip just three days ago when we looked at the arctic landscape today.

On Tuesday we started in Skelleftehamn, Sweden and crossed the first border to Köngäs, Finland. 481 km.

On Friday we continued in Köngäs, Finland and crossed the second border to Kirkenes, Norge, where we’re visiting Christine and Ørjan. Another 387 km.

Yesterday on Saturday we took it easy and relaxed after the two day road trip.

Last night I got sick. (That’s another story but the reason, why we cancelled our ski tour today.) Instead of that we took a short road trip to the Russian border, a border that we cannot cross without a valid visa.

The only border checkpoint between Norway and Russia is at the E105, the road to Murmansk. This checkpoint is only 10 km away from Kirkenes. I’ve been there two years ago.

In Elvenes there’s another small road to Skafferhullet. This place lies at the Russian border, too. There’s no checkpoint, the small road just ends and a fence with some signs marks the border to Russia and warns of crossing it. Here I really had the impression, that the world – as known to me – had come to its end and another kind of secret part of our planet begins right after that wire mesh fence.

Only wild animals can cross borders without any harm. They don’t share my memories of the inner German border, they don’t know anything about the cold war, they don’t have to care borders at all. Lucky them!

Perhaps I’ll witness the day, when the border to Russia is as open as many inner European borders today. Who knows …?

Just before the border checkpoint on the E105 there’s the road 886 to Grense Jakobselv – another place located at the Russian border. Most of the road is closed in winter time, but the first part is open. And this way is quite beautiful. We followed it until the barrier, where only snowmobiles are able to continue. There we took the minor road to Lanabukt located at the Jarfjorden.

Some photos:

What a great day with fantastic winter weather and temperatures round -17 °C. On the way back we stopped at the petrol station to buy me salted sticks and a Coke because unlike in Sweden super markets are closed in Norway on Sundays.

Slippery When Wet

We got roller coaster weather again. Yesterday morning we had -15 °C and in the evening about +3 °C.

Today Annika, two friends and I made an excursion to Kågnäsudden onto the ice. It was even warmer than yesterday (+7°C) and quite windy. The surface of the thick ice was very wet with many puddles of clear ice water and the structure looked like the rippled sand of the tidal flats in Northern Germany. The wind gusts blew tiny ripples over the large meltwater pools and it looked like the ice shield would reach as far as Finland.

But no – it didn’t. The wind and the waves had started to break the ice. We crossed the ice and went to the near island Kågnäshällan. We all were equipped with either spikes or snowshoes to be able to go on the slippery, wet ice.

Right behind the seaside shore of Kågnäshällan we could see the waves lifting and lowering the ice and finally breaking it apart. The rocks round the light tower were bare of ice – too warm was this season’s winter weather.

Along the rocky shore lay large blocks of ice. They glittered in the sun because they were wet and free of snow.

These ice floes were found everywhere. Along the coast but even between the small alder trees further on land. I guess that one of the high water levels this winter had flushed these ice floes ashore where they razored the bark from the thin tree trunks.

And the winter on land? Less and less snow – much too warm – I’m longing for colder weather and snow. Probably it will come in the beginning of May …

Light snow fall in the sun

This morning the temperatures were round -12 °C, it was cloudy and snow fell. The snow looked like crystalline down feathers and was so light and fluffy that you could easily blow it away. Around noon the sun came out, but it didn’t snow snowing. This is probably one of my favourite winter weather sensations and I love the look of the sunlit glittering and glistening snow flakes slowly sinking down, covering the ground with a gentle layer of white, fresh snow.