Visiting the “Vindelälvsdraget”

Yesterday Annika and I went to Vännäsby , 25 km away from Umeå, to view the 30th Vindelälvsdraget which is the world biggest draught dog relay according to the organisers. It started in Ammarnäs in the Swedish mountains on Thursday and ended just in Vännasby on Sunday. That’s a distance of 381 km in three and a half days.

Some of the competitors used a sledge pulled by four to six dogs, but most of them skated on skis and had one or two dogs dragging (more or less). They came along on the frozen river Vindelälven, turned into the river Umeåälven, which they had to leave right after the bridge. Some of the teams managed it perfectly while others had to shout höger! (right) to the dogs several times until they obeyed. The river bank is quite steep and was a real challenge for the discipline of the dogs. One of them just rolled in the snow while the skier tried not to slip and fall, while some others were shortly distracted by the smell of the grilled sausage by the trail. However all teams managed to come up where there were only some 100 metres left to the finishing line.

The speaker at the finishing line was great. His talk was so “adagio”, laid back and completely free of any stress. I really enjoyed his almost zen-like moderation which was the total opposite of the normal sport presenters stressful reporting attitude. My kudos!

Some photos:

Links: Website / Information pdf (both in Swedish)

 

Travelling to Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2017-07: 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!

 

Varning! Isvak!

The river Skellefteälven between Skellefteå and the coast of the Baltic Sea. That particular place is called Stackgrönnan. On warm summer weekends the café is quite crowded. In winter it’s closed.

This sunday however the small snow covered way is crowded, even though it’s mid-January. Many cars are parking, many people are standing around, warmly dressed for winter. Some of them have bags or rucksacks with them.

The Skellefteälven is completely frozen and covered with snow. Snowmobile tracks lead to the opposite riverside. On the river ice there are signs round a cordon.

They say “Varning! Isvak!” – “Warning! ice hole!”. And there is an ice hole indeed, four square meters big. Some people stand around with spearlike tools and remove the last thick ice blocks from the hole.

So that ice hole seems to have a purpose and it has: It’s an ice hole maintained by the association Mörkrets och Kylans Glada Vänner, or in english Happy Friends of Cold and Darkness.

I’ve been member of this association almost from the beginning and had the pleasure, honour (, and work) of being part of the organisation team for the very first Swedish Winter Swim Championship in Skellefteå in 2012. It was the coldest day of the winter with temperatures below -30 °C, but that’s another story …

Back to the plot: All people have come to take a winter bath or at least to cheer to those who do. Annika and I have winter-bathed before but not yet this winter. We aren’t the only one’s who want to take a bath, there are at least 30 others and the changing rooms are stuffed with people, some wearing winter parkas and warm boots, others just their swimwear and a cap. The same outside: Woollen mittens and down jackets on the one side, wet semi-nude bathers with towels on the other side.

And what is in the ice hole? One winter bather after the other. First looking tensed or even shocked, since the water temperature is round 0 °C (and yes, that’s cold!), then relaxed and happy because the body releases endorphins. But have a look by yourself:

After the last bather – most people and cars already have gone – wintry silence starts to set in again. The snow covered tables and benches are still untouched and the fairy lights round the big flag pole are on. Temperature is -11 °C. If you ask me, a perfect winter day.

Appendix one

On 17 February 2018, the Open Scandinavian Championship which is a part of the World Cup will be held in Skellefteå for the seventh time. And you can apply!

Appendix two

Evidence photos of me in the ice hole? Thanks to Annika, who took photos with her mobile they exist. Var så god:

 

Impressions of the Jokkmokk Winter Market

Day 1 and 2 of the winter journey 2018

The first time I’ve been on the Jokkmokksmarknad – the Jokkmokk Winter Market – was 2005. As many other tourists I strolled over the market looking at the many products, everything between fox furs, Sami handicraft and plastic tools for the everyday life.

Since then I’ve been on the market several times, last time in 2015. And I still enjoy the market. Some random impressions:

But my focus has started to change. More and more I want to talk to all the people on the market. With the old guy from Finland trading with fur products, with the American artist building objects from weaving looms, with the Sami women selling grammar books about “lulesamiska”, with the people selling double-walled sauna tents. So many interesting people, all with their own story.

Another way of storytelling I witnessed at 4 o’clock. Sofia Jannok, a famous Sami singer and songwriter presented her current program, which is very political from a Sami perspective. As a musician however I had a strong focus on the music, which I enjoyed very much even though it wasn’t the music I use to listen to. I asked Sofia after the concert if I may publish a photo and I may:

I could tell more but the laptop battery is almost empty and dinner is served in 15 minutes. Two strong arguments for closing the article. We’ll hear soon …

 

Midsummer impressions 2018

The last night the weather was fantastic, as you can see on the photos. Today the Swedish weather service unfortunately was completely right with its forecast: It rained, rained and it rained at temperatures around 10 °C. Not very comfortable.

Rain however is never an obstacle when it comes to celebrating midsommar – one of Sweden’s most important feast days. Use any clothes you like, but don’t stay home! As you can see a lot of people were celebrating midsummer in Bonnstan, the old Church Town of Skellefteå. And of course the song of the little frogs was sung and danced, this time not only with frogs and pigs (the normal one’s) but with elephants and lions as well.

Some impressions:

Some hours later: Annika and I enjoy our midsummer meal. The rain patters on the plastic roof of the winter garten. The place is dry but has no heating so that the temperature is only 13 °C. Annika has put on a light down jacket, I myself a warm fleece. But it’s so cozy to sit there, enjoying potatoes, salmon, eggs with roe, pickled herring and strawberry cake. Yummy!