Loma Vietonen – a special place

Day 27-28 (and day -4372 to -4357): To the origin of my love for being way up north.

Yesterday morning I was in Pajala, which is quite near to Finland and since I had some days left before I would spend a week on Solberget, it felt quite logical to cross the border to Finland. And I already had a destination in mind, just 150 km away.

But before I continue let’s enter a time machine and go 13 years and 17 days back in time.

That’s when I flew from Düsseldorf, Germany to Rovaniemi, Finland where I got a lift to a place called Loma Vietonen. It was the first time that I was way up north (The north peak of Denmark was the northernmost place before) and it was the first time that I experienced a real winter. The first meter-deep powder snow, the first temperatures round -35 °C, the first skiing on snowmobile tracks, the first time standing on the big lake Iso Vietonen and watching my first northern lights. I saw my first reindeers, ate my first cloudberries and took my first tours with snow shoes. I tried ice fishing the first time and made a dogsled tour the first time. And I was so touched by these experiences, that I probably would have moved to Finland if not the Finnish language would have been so hard to learn. That’s when my way-up-north story really began.

Back to yesterday: I was cheerful and in high spirits when I entered Finland, turned right and headed to Iso Vietonen. I just wanted to see this place again. When I parked the car it was a bit like coming to an old aunts house – so long ago but still familiar. I entered the main building and asked for a room. And I was lucky, they had exactly one room left for me including breakfast. Great!

I sniffed around, went down to the lake, took a picture of the house I was accommodated at 13 years ago and finally took my skis and just went on a snowmobile track. It was fun just gliding smoothly without thinking. What a difference to my 100 meters some days before! A Finnish folk song came into my mind.

And in the evening I even met Aira and Mikko, who ran Loma Vietonen when I was here the first time. The same Aira who sang that Finnish folk song and I played the piano.

Today weather was warm with temperatures round zero but it was sunny and quite calm. I did a ski tour, both following the trails, loosing them accidentally or on purpose, climbed the hill Sompanen, went down again and had fun.

But it’s funny because so many things became normal since I moved to Skelleftehamn in Sweden almost five years ago. Yes, we have snow, too, and snowmobiles and Northern Lights. The next ice fishers use to sit less than 200 meters away from my house, I use my skis in the forests we have. I eat cloudberries and even try to collect them. Last winter we got 83 cm of snow in 24 hours. Some things I still love, others became part of my everyday life.

But it’s great to be able to visit this special place, where it all started. Probably the origin of my life in Northern Sweden A good reason to feel a bit nostalgic today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Arctic SnowHotel

I’ve seen the famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, the SnowCastle in Kemi, Finland, but I didn’t know the Arctic SnowHotel near Rovaniemi, Finland. Today morning I saw tourists at Loma Vietonen showing photos and since it wasn’t so far away I made a detour today and visited the Arctic SnowHotel. It’s much smaller than the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi and perhaps less impressive, but I liked it anyway. The ice bar is a beautiful room and much cosier than the bigger pendant in Jukkasjärvi. Behind the main building you can find something really unique: An ice sauna. Beside of the stove and wooden benches this steam sauna is completely build of ice. Each usage will melt away 3mm of ice, therefore each sauna can be used only 50 – 70 times until the walls get holes or just too thin. But there’re spare saunas waiting to be used.

Some images:

The tame reindeer by the way was extremely curious. It came directly, sniffed with its soft nose at my hand in hope for some goodies. It poses there some hours a day for tourists and lives the rest of the day with other reindeers nearby. I came in time, it will loose its antlers within the next two weeks.

On my way to Northern Norway

Day 46

Today I said farewell to Annika, who flew back to Germany today. It felt a bit strange to sit in my car alone again after leaving her at the Kiruna Airport. The weather was as dull as many days this winter: Again it was quite windy, a grey layer of clouds covered the whole sky and with ± 0 degrees it was warm again. What a lousy winter we have this year!

After leaving Kiruna Airport I headed to Karesuando, where I planned to spend the night. I tried to get a room in the hostel, but I was told, that it’s closed and there was not a single accommodation on the Swedish side (Karesuando). I was also told that there’s a hotel on the Finish side (Kaaresuvanto). 10 minutes later I asked for a room in this hotel, but since the only available room should costed 250 Euros (!) for a single night, I preferred to continue my journey. Visiting Karesuando seems to be a bad idea in winter time. I followed the river Muonioälven, turned left in Palojoensuu and left again in Enontekiö. In Palojärvi, just 10 km before the Finnish-Norwegian border I saw a sign showing a shop, a restaurant and rooms for rent. First I was not too hopeful, because many rooms, camping places and cabins are closed over the winter, but I was lucky. I did not only get a real fine hamburger, but a whole cabin for 36 Euros, just a seventh of the hotel room.

And the cabin is nice, cozy and warm, only WiFi is lacking. I’m sitting at my computer, writing this blog article while many storm gusts howl round my little wooden house.

Tomorrow I want to continue to Norway: First Kautokeino, then Alta. The first fjord since some a whole month.

Greetings from Kittilä airport

I woke up quite early today and this was my view:

Yesterday I drove to Kittilä in Finnisch Lapland, because I’ll stay in a cabin in Äkäslompolo for a week with Annika and a friend of hers. Since they planned to take the first morning flight from Helsinki today they will arrive at 7:30. I decided to drive the day before and sleep at the airport. The airport has some short but comfortable-looking couches. However the last flight went at 23:50 and I was already tired at eight o’clock. Therefore I decided to sleep in the car. I was awake in the night twice and quite early in the morning again hearing the snow ploughs shovelling away the two centimetres of snow that fell in the night. I tried to continue to sleep, but the beep-sounds of the backing ploughs kept me awake.

40 minutes left before the plane is going to land. The trip to Äkäslompolo ist not far, just 50 kilometres. I’m longing for the cabin – and some additional day time nap.

The photo above shows the luv side of the car and that’s the lee side:

Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part one

Since Saturday I’ve been in Äkäslompolo with Annika and Medi, a friend of hers. Äkäslompolo is famous for cross-country skiing and has a total of  330 km of cross-country ski tracks. And that’s what we are here for: Cross-country skiing. My first almost real sport holiday for a zillion years.

On Saturday we used the skis only for a shopping trip to the other side of the lake. I gave my old cross-country skis a quite suspicious look, they are so much thinner than my tour skis (not to mention the broad wooden Tegsnäs skis). Will I be able to ski on these sticks or will I fell right onto my nose after five steps? But the shopping trip (no ascents or descents at all) went well. And in the evening even the grey sky cleared up, patches of fog appeared over the snowy terrain and temperature dropped to -10 °C. We took an evening walk and watched the starry night in hope for Northern Lights, but unfortunately they didn’t come out.

Sunday. Our first ski tour to the cabin Kotamaja. It gave me a quite sportive feeling when I mounted the skis right before our lodge, crossed the road and entered the ski trail. The sportive feeling disappeared quite soon, because almost all other skiers were extremely skilled, extremely athletic and extremely fast, even the much older ones. I had the feeling of accidentally having got into an olympic training race, but it was fun anyway. Earlier than expected we reached Kotamaja and took a break. And we were not alone …

We continued and headed for Hangaskuru where we planned to take our lunch. And we were well equipped: We didn’t only have sandwiches, but sausages and extendable barbecue forks as well. Yummy!

When we headed home more and more skiers were on the ski tracks, it was really crowded and it got worse and worse. “That’s no fun anymore”, I thought but rather like driving on a German autobahn. Hopefully it would be less crowded under the week.

Monday. We took the airport bus that left us at Ylläs-Lainion. The track was in inferior condition, since it had started snowed a bit, but we were almost alone and that’s more the way I like being outdoors. With relaxed but steady movements we slid through the wintry Finnish landscape. However we did not hesitate to take short or longer breaks in the cozy little huts. After round about 20 km we were home again.

Tuesday. It hadn’t stop snowing the whole night and it should continue snowing the whole day. That was the view through our window this morning:

We decided not to make a longer tour, because cross-country skiing on tracks is less fun when the tracks are covered with snow.

I took a walk to the supermarket – partly with Annika, partly alone and tried to continue a snowshoe trail, but the trail was only prepared partly and the snow mobile track, that I followed instead a while, headed to the wrong direction. So I had to return the same way. Äkäslompolo is made for cross-country skiers.

In the afternoon I took a short circular ski tour. Since yesterday fell 10-12 cm new snow accumulating to at least 100 cm snow on the ground.

On the short tour I’ve been in Karilan Navettagalleria,  a nice café, that Medi discovered in the morning, but I took only two pictures and continued my tour. We already have planned another tour for tomorrow and included the café in our plans.

Now I’m sitting in a cozy couch in a typical Finnish bar. And what’s typical Finnish? Right – Karaoke! The Finns love it and I love listing to all these melancholy melodies. Next time I have to learn some melodies and join the singers, too. They probably will laugh their heads off when I try to sing in Finnish.

 

Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part two

Last Friday I travelled to Kittilä in Finland, to make a one week holiday with Annika and and Medi, a friend of hers. I wrote already about the first days in “Cross-country skiing in Äkäslompolo – part one”.

Wednesday. We took the ski bus to Äkäsmylly and we were not the only ones. Some busses arrived at the parking place and spit out round hundred cross-country skiers, most of them dressed in skin-tight racing suits. And if the children were too small to stand on their own skis, they were pulled behind in a pulka sledge. That looked really snugly.

We didn’t like to start within a crowd and so we waited, until the most skiers had started. But we didn’t go very far. The Äkäsmylly Café is just round the corner and it’s really extremely cozy. An old man played traditional Finnish songs on his accordion and yes – they all were in moll. We peeked into the text books to sing along, but even if we knew the melody the Finnish language with its long and unfamiliar words gave us a hard time. But it was fun anyway!

Finally we broke away from the warm Café and started the tour. As the days before it snowed most of the day. I made less and less photos each day but today I had to make a break and leave the ski trail for this lonely tree in the snow fall. It took some time, because the snow didn’t bear the thin cross-country skis and I was up to my knees in snow.

I didn’t have to leave the comfortable ski trail for the next photo, a bridge over a completely snowed in brook.

We made our last stop in the Karilan Navettagalleria, the beautiful café and gallery that I already visited the day before.

Thursday. With 25 km our longest tour from Totovaara via Tammitupa, Karhunkota Hanguskurun and again Karilan Navettagalleria back to Äkäslompolo, and by the way my birthday tour.

I think, this is the first day where we neither used the private sauna in our lodge nor lit the fireplace after the ski tour. Instead we went to a bar nearby and listened again to the karaoke. It was just wonderful, listening to the singers – some men had really nice voices. People browsed the set lists to see what they could sing next and at least one pair was dancing to the karaoke songs all the time. Unfortunately some of the people got extremely drunk quite quickly. One of them was so intrusive and pushy that we left the bar soon. I guess that’s also part of the Finnish culture, just as karaoke.

Friday. A short but more demanding tour in the south-west with some nasty descents. I was glad that the trails were in good shape and hardly icy, although it was so warm. I didn’t make a single photo, because I started to get bored of the cloudy sky and the forest, that looked more or less alike everywhere. I enjoyed the week, but since I’m more in nature for the landscape than for the sports, a week was long enough for me and I started to long home a bit. And again I had back luck with the weather; the two weeks before were cold and sunny.

Saturday. Phew, that was early! We stood up at 4:45 local time (that’s 3:45 Central European Summer Time) and 5:35 I said good-bye to Annika and Medi that took the early bus to the airport. Then I drove home. After 425 km and six hours (some ways were in quite bad shape) I was home in Skelleftehamn again.

Addendum:

I hardly saw any animals when I was on the ski trails. That changed on my way back to Skelleftehamn: I saw a fox, a mountain hare, two reindeers, two squirrels and some black grouses, all from my car. I guess, animals are seen best when driving ;-)

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!