Early winter Holmön III

This article is part of the series “2018-12: Holmön”.

It’s Monday, a quarter to seven in the morning. I turned out of bed half an hour ago. Not because I have to go to work, but because I’m a morning person. It’s Annika’s and my fourth day on the island Holmön. Tomorrow we will take the evening ferry back to the mainland.

We were lucky, when we walked back from our Saturday evening Christmas dinner two days ago. It snowed all the time. It looked very beautiful and it was quite bright outside because of the fresh snow cover. When we lay in our comfortable double bed at Berguddens fyr we could still see the snow flakes whirl through the window pane.

When we woke up yesterday the snow had turned into rain. We planned a car trip to the southern tip of the island Ängesön which is separated from Holmön by the sound Gäddbäckssundet. The gravel road from Bergudden to the main road apparently had already be cleared of snow and it was easy to drive. I turned right and headed south. We drove first past pastures and farms and than along Gäddbäckssundet, until we came to the turnout to Ängesön. This road was snow covered and probably isn’t used in winter time. The snow wasn’t deep and I decided to give it a try. We crossed the small sound on the only bridge and followed the snowy road.

It was harder to drive than expected, because the snow was so wet that it filled all the space round the tyres. My studded winter tyres are excellent for ice but less good for such mud-like conditions.

The landscape around looked bleak and cheerless, especially the lakes and ponds that were covered with brownish wet ice. It looked a bit like a film where an evil wizard had casted a spell on the landscape to take away all its beauty.

I had to drive very slowly and it would take us at at least 30 minutes to the south tip of the island, although it’s only 9 km. After 1 km I decided to turn.

We drove to the village of Holmön and made a stop at the church. The graveyard was still covered with snow and so it looked much more friendly than the landscape on Ängesön. As most protestant churches this church was locked and we couldn’t take a look inside.

We drove to the shop, bought food and ice-cream and headed back to our accommodation.

And would do you do, when you go on beach vacation? Of course you take a bath in the sea. And so did we even though it was a short one.

Back to Monday. I still sit in the kitchen and it’s still dark outside. The fridge has turned out and I can hear the surf splashing ashore. The lighthouse Berguddens fyr sends out its three-coloured beams of light but most of the snow had melted away and when I look through the window I can only see my mirrored face and the reflected laptop. It will take another hour, until it starts to get light.

Opening the bicycle saison in Skellefteå

Today it was the first day where I used the bicycle from home to Skellefteå. That’s about 19 km per direction and I want to use the bicycle at least twice a week on my way to the job. Let’s see if I can do it. At least a first beginning is made.

Skelleftehamn – Skellefteå:

Skellefteå – Skelleftehamn:

Tour rules: Use a complete different way back to Skelleftehamn.

Photo rules: Take only photos from the bike, cycling or standing. Do not crop any photo. Use only basic corrections.

Lazy sightseeing in Visby

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

After four days of cycling and driving Annika and I use the Friday to take it easy and stroll through the old town of Visby, including sightseeing and visiting restaurants. It is our last day on Gotland, tomorrow we’ll fly back.

We have fallen in love with Gotland a bit, both with the varying landscape and with the beautiful old town. We were incredible lucky with the weather: Sun from morning to night and day temperatures between 20 and 24 °C.

I won’t tell much more about Visby, I just show some photos, all made on Friday:

Sunday afternoon, 13 May: I’m back in Skelleftehamn. No snow is left in my garden and the Baltic Sea before Skelleftehamn is completely free of ice. And finally the birch trees have got fresh green leaves. That’s more spring than one year ago!

The island Fårö

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

It’s Thursday, our 4th full day on Gotland. Today we want to hire a car, meet Ingrid again and explore Fårö, an island northeast from Gotland.

We return our e-bikes, that we used the last two days and walk to Mickes biluthyrning, where we rent a VW Passat from 1995. Annika drives. We fill up the car and drive to Lärbro, where we meet Ingrid. She has been living on Gotland for a year and will guide us around.

In Fårösund we drive on the free ferry; the ferry crossing takes only 8 minutes. Then we are on Fårö.

First stop: Fårö kyrka. Beside this church used to be a tourist information, but it doesn’t exist anymore. It’s not a big problem, since Ingrid knows all these places she wants to show us.

The next stop however is a request of Annika and me: a real bakery! With a few exceptions, there are no bakeries in Northern Sweden and we enjoy visiting this one. We buy bread and cake and take a break to eat the latter.

We drive through the landscapes of Fårö, which are as varied as Gotland’s landscapes. Sometimes you think, you are in Spain or Greece, sometimes you believe being in Northern Germany and (only) sometimes in Sweden. Now I understand the Swedish people better, who say that Gotland is not Sweden.

Next stop Fårö Fyr, the lighthouse of Fårö, located at the easternmost point of Fårö. There’s a beautiful rock coast, but we do not stay very long, there’s a lot to see.

Next stop Skärsändan, a beautiful sandy beach that is several kilometres long. Annika and I take a bath (the water is quite shallow) and then Ingrid, Annika and I walk barefooted along the beach.

After a longer promenade we continue our Fårö exploration trip. On the way to Langhammars Raukar we make a stopover. Here we find many things typical for Gotland and Fårö: grey sheep, windmills, thatched houses, braided fences and dry stone walls.

Next stop is Langhammars Raukar, one of the famous spots with rauks – steep limestone formations formed by the waves of the sea. On of them reminds me on the stone statues of the Easter Island.

We continue to another fascinating spot, three kilometres away: Helgumannen, an old abandoned fishing village. This group of tiny wooden houses located on a rocky beach that seems to be endless looks really remote and I ask myself what kind of live the inhabitants had.

The last stop on Fårö for today: Gamle Hamn, another spot well-known for raukar. The last photo shows the “coffee pot”. Personally it reminds me more of Buckbeak, the hippogriff in Harry Potter.

I has become late, we are hungry and a bit tired. Ingrid drives the way back to the ferry and soon we are on Gotland again. Here we take the first restaurant and get something to eat, before we drive back to Lärbro and say goodbye to Ingrid.

Tusen takk, Ingrid for a wonderful day!

When Annika and I arrive in Visby it’s so late that the sun sets and the ice cream shop is already closed.

Båtsfjord – Ørnes by Hurtigruten

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Days 41 to 44 of my winter journey 2018

13 March at 19:45 the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge docked in Båtsfjord. Annika went on board with all our luggage that we would need the next days, while I drove the car into the elevator. The next 59 hours we would travel many miles but stay in the same cabin. Cabin number 305. Kind of luxury. We would even get breakfast because of a campaign. On 16 March round 7:00 we would leave the ship in Ørnes and drive home.

I will not write much about this part of the winter journey but showing photos from the Hurtigruten trip with some comments.

13 March 20:30 – finally on the Hurtigruten. Shop, reception, restaurant and people cruising.

13 March 22:00 Berlevåg – the westernmost of the four Hurtigruten stops Vadsø, Vardø, Båtsfjord and Berlevåg. Some days ago we stood on the breakwater to see the ships coming in, now I stand outside on the bow of the ship to see the very same breakwater passing as we approached the peer.

14 March 05:25 – very early and quite cold in the wind. I’m the only one outside beside of people working.

14 March 05:40 – approaching Honningsvåg on the island Magerøya. Main attraction of that island: the North Cape.

14 March 06:35 – I stay outside and look at the constantly changing weather.

14 March 08:25 – two ships pass. First a smaller boat, twenty minutes later the Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald. It’s snowing.

14 March 11:15 – we approach Hammerfest. Normally the ship will lie there for two hours, but today the ship is late.

14 March 15:45 – I’m outside for some hours and enjoy the view at the landscape. Everything is constantly changing: The mountains, the perspective, the light.

14 March 20:15 – strong polar lights cover the sky. Many people are outside and so are we. I already showed some photos in the article Aurora on the Hurtigruten.

14 March 23:45 – we approach Tromsø. Annika and I are already in our cabin and ready for sleep, but I can see the Tromsø Cathedral through our porthole. (We booked a cabin with limited view to save money and our porthole is more like a tube.)

15 March 07:30 – it’s not cold but very windy on the bow of the ship. My advise for such a winter journey: take the warmest jacket you have.

15 March 07:35 – we approach Harstad.

15 March 10:20 – we reach Risøyrenna – the Risøy Channel, build between 1911 and 1922 to enable bigger ships pass between the islands Andøya and Hinnøya. Only seven meters deep.

15 March 17:00 – we approach the quite famous Trollfjord. In winter however the Hurtigruten ships do not enter it.

15 March 18:30 – we arrive in Svolvær, largest town on the Lofoten. It’s a longer stop and Annika and I leave the boat for looking around.

16 March 06:00 – the alarm clock rings. At 7 o’clock we will arrive in Ørnes, leave the ferry and drive to Skelleftehamn. 583 km by car then I’ll be home again after more than six weeks of travelling.

Ekkerøy and Nesseby

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Day 34 and 35 of my winter journey 2018

After some days in Ytre Kiberg Annika and I travelled to the next place: Ekkerøy. This village, 50 km southwest from Kiberg lies on the peninsula Ekkerøya that is connected to land by a natural dam with sandy beaches on each side. We already had taken a short walk at one of the beaches last week, where we had met H., one of the locals.

We arrived in Ekkerøy three days ago. The day before yesterday I took a morning promenade with my camera. I made some photos, but the light was a bit dull.

After breakfast Annika and I started a tour round the island, partly with snowshoes, partly on foot. There’s a cliff at the southern shore that looks quite impressive. At the eastern tip there’s an old wooden sea mark. The northern shore is quite flat and was more snowy. Outgoing tide already had started so we walked the last meters on the beach until we came to our wonderful house, that we’ve rented for four days.

As you might have noticed almost all photos shown in this blog have a landscape format. I have a project however that might involve having portrait format photos as well. Therefore I walked to the beach yesterday morning to find a motif fitting portrait format, not too easy in a landscape that’s extensive and mainly quite flat. It was almost high tide and it was quite cold – -12 °C and very windy. The water at the beach was almost of a slushy consistency and each wave flushed new liquid slush to the beach where it froze to a wavy line of ice. That motif went quite well in portrait format, I just have to practise my view.

(I have to think over the design of my blog, these portrait format images are way too large.)

It cleared up more and more and the sun shone from a blue sky. We took the car to Nesseby, 50 km away, where I planned to make some photos of the Nesseby Church. The more we came to the more sheltered parts of the fjord, the colder it got and the open water of the Barents Sea smoked. This phenomenon is called sea smoke and happens, when cold air lies over the open sea.

From the harbour Nesseby Church could be seen through the foggy sea smoke. It is located quite exposed at the thinnest part of a peninsula and can be spotted from long, when weather is good. After looking from the harbour we continued to the church and had a closer look.

We took a short detour to Varangerbotn. There it was even colder with -19 °C but fair weather and hardly any wind.

It’s fascinating to have a look at the fjord of the same name. At the end it’s completely frozen with many icy humps, but on the way back (and north again) it opened and sea smoke appeared again.

In Vadsø I took a promenade on the island Vadsøya to have a look at the airship mast. Since I’ve been a child I’m a huge fan of balloons and airships and it was interesting to see this mast, built in 1926 and only used twice: by Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen for their expedition over the North Pole with the airship Norge in the same year and on Nobile’s flight with the airship Italia two years later.

Home again we remembered that H. who we’d met the week before had asked us in for coffee some day. At 4 o’clock we knocked at the door of her house and met her husband T. who directly invited us to come in. H. was visiting a friend and would join us later. We talked and talked, about languages, life in Northern Norway in general and Ekkerøy in special and we had a good time (and got coffee, cakes, cheese, grapes and red wine). When we left H. and T. – two of the round twenty permanent residents in Ekkerøy – it was already 9 pm and sky was dark … beside of a beautiful aurora dancing above the northern shore.

It took some minutes to walk home, put on warmer clothes, get camera and tripod and the aurora already had weakened a lot when I took the photo below. So it is with northern lights: intensity can change very fast, often within seconds.

Today we have another day in Ekkerøy. Our plans so far: not any. That’s nice, too!

 

 

 

 

Eight times Ytre Kiberg and around

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Day 31 and 32 of my winter journey 2018

1. Yesterday, Ytre Kiberg – the morning

Two days ago two other guests arrived at Cape East Arctic Adventure, our cozy stay in Ytre Kiberg. They came from Utrecht in the Netherlands and were on a three week car trip from Utrecht to the North Cape and back – 8500 kilometres in total!

Trond, our fantastic host made a special breakfast for them: King crabs, locally caught in the Barents Sea. Annika and I got our share, too. King crabs are probably my favourite seafood but it was the first time I got such for breakfast.

After breakfast Trond had some work to do: clearing the snow with his rotary snow plough. Last days had been very windy with some short but intense snow showers. The snowploughs had to work a lot to keep the roads clear of snow and Trond had to clear the snow on his property several times a day. This morning the snow drifts were especially high and Trond had to work hard to get through with his snowblower.

2. Yesterday, Vardø – a private guide tour by Trond

After the driveway was cleared, Trond invited the Dutch guests and us to a short private guided tour in Vardø. We entered his all-wheel drive car and he drove us the short way to Vardø – a town with 2100 inhabitants located on an island – where he showed us some of his favourite places. There is a lot of street art in Vardø and next time I have to take a closer look to all the graffiti and more conceptual artworks. But you cannot do all in a single journey.

There’s a mountain pass between Vardø and Ytre Kiberg called Domen. It’s quite exposed to the elements and when we crossed it waves of driving slow covered the road.

3. Yesterday, Skallelv – a short visit

Soon after we arrived in Kiberg, the Dutch guests left and Annika and I made a car ride to Skallelv, 30 km south of Ytre Kiberg. The weather was really nice: sunny and hardly any wind. We went round a bit and I made some photos. I had however problems with some lenses, they got moisture inside that tends to freeze when being outside. Hopefully they will dry within the next days.

4. Yesterday, Vardø – the Vardøhus Fortress

After a rest we took a tour to Vardø again, this time we wanted to focus on two local attractions: The fortress and the witch memorial.

The Vardøhus Fortress (Vardøhus festning) was built round 1300 and is the northernmost fortress of the world. Beside of being a museum it is used today as a school for the Norwegian marine. Shortly after we arrived there, the Trollfjord, a Hurtigruten ship landed in Vardø and shortly after many tourist rushed through the fortress. In contrary to us they only had litte time.

5. Yesterday, Vardø – Steilneset Memorial

After visiting the fortress we went on to visit the witch memorial. It’s not easy to reach. First of all you have to know that it is called Steilneset Memorial (or find it visually), then you have to plunge through deep snow, because there are no cleared ways to the memorial.

In 1621 91 people, mostly women and Sami people had been executed for witchcraft. This memorial, created in 2011, shows the history of all 91 people and lists the confessions made. It is a shocking and touching place about the cruelty of mankind and worth to visit, if you are in Vardø and have the time.

After this long and eventful day we were quite exhausted and decided to take it a bit more easy the next day.

6. Today, Ytre Kiberg – a promenade in Ytre Kiberg

Today morning it was quite warm (-4 °C) and almost windless. 10 cm of new snow had been fallen over night. After breakfast we took a medium short promenade along the beach and into the village and back. The weather was changeable as it uses to be here. It could change from sun to snow within less than a minute.

Snow fall intensified and it became a bit windier, too.

7. Today, Ytre Kiberg – a private tour though the partisan museum

At 15:30 we had an appointment: we were invited to visit the Partisanmuseet – the partisan museum in Ytre Kiberg. We would get a personal guided tour from Steinar Borch Jensen – expert for the history of Kiberg and around – who would open the museum for us.

Trond took a huge spade, we entered the car, drove the short way to the museum, plunged through the snow to the entrance, where Steinar already had started to clear the outer stairs. Trond joined him shovelling.

The museum is not the biggest and the showpieces maybe not the most special, it’s the stories behind the showpieces that matter. Steinar had a lot to tell about the partisans in Northern Norway that fought on the Soviets side against the National Socialists in World War II. Beside of Steinar’s huge knowledge about that time there was another facet, that made our visit in the museum very special. Both Trond and Steinar have personal relations to the partisans. They know their relatives and they know the places where they lived. For many Norwegians the history of WWII is not just an academic interest but personal history. Soon the last witnesses of the past will be gone.

I felt very touched by the visit and was glad that we got the opportunity to get involved into the local history, but it made me thoughtful, too and reinforced my personal pacifistic worldview.

8 .Today, Ytre Kiberg – the first Varanger polar lights

Actually I planned only seven stories in this long blog article, but well …

I was out after a great two course dinner: reindeer (provided by Trond), pancakes (provided by Annika) and me doing the dishes. I wanted to make a photo of Cape East Arctic Adventure, Trond’s house, where Annika and I had such a good time. Then I spotted faint polar lights. I wore only a t-shirt and got in to fetch my Canada Goose parka. I was outside quite a while since the polar lights gradually became stronger. They constantly changed place making it hard to take any good pictures. It was -10 °C, quite windy and more and more I closed the zipper of the parka to prevent freezing. After a while the aurora weakened and I went in to look at the photos. I’m not content with the image above, but it’s a nice remembrance of our fantastic stay at Cape East Arctic Adventure in Ytre Kiberg.

Tomorrow we will leave and stay in Ekkerøy for some days.

Tusen takk, Trond, for your kindness and your great hospitality!

A trip to Murmansk – day one

This article is part of the series “2018-02: A trip to Murmansk”.

Day 22 of my winter journey 2018

tl;dr Alyosha monument · old concrete buildings · Church of the Savior on Waters · view over Murmansk · restaurant Tundra · nocturnal Murmansk

Alyosha (Алёша)When we arrived in Murmansk the day before it was already dark and we were tired. Today after breakfast we were eager to explore. We ordered a taxi to our first tourist attraction: The Alyosha Monument.

“Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during the Great Patriotic War” (Защитникам Советского Заполярья в годы Великой Отечественной войны), commonly called Alyosha (Алёша) is a monument to Soviet soldiers, sailors, and airmen of WW2.

It was build in 1974 and it’s the second-tallest statue in Russia. The 70th aesthetics and the communistic concrete appeal didn’t help to make me like this statue, but I always have difficulties with war memorials. I’m a pacifist.

I enjoyed however the view over Murmansk. It was visible, that it’s a large town (it has 300,000 inhabitants) with a large port and many concrete high-rise buildings.

After we visited Alyosha we started to walk back into the center of Murmansk, where our hotel Azimut was located. We turned right into the street Ulitsa Aleksandrova. To the left there were old concrete buildings. They were extremely rundown and I was shocked to see these building and imagine people living here. Maybe the inside would look nicer, but the outside was horrifying.

In many directions you could see these high-rise estates with rectangular concrete buildings. But we could see something else: a Ferris wheel. We went on and came to a permanent amusement park, located beside the lake Semyonovskoye (Семеновское озеро). Of course the lake is covered with ice and snow in wintertime and some locals used the ski tracks going round the lake.

From that place the next destination was quite near: the Church of the Savior on Waters (Спас на Водах), a small Russian orthodox church, built 2002.

When we came to the church I could see some people leaving, going backwards and making the sign of the cross again and again. It is allowed to enter the small church but not to take pictures. I’ve never been in an orthodox church before and I was stunned. The walls were covered with icons of saints and incense was burned. Some elderly women were lighting candles and immersed into deep prayers and almost seeking physical contact to the icons and other objects. I felt deeply touched by this lived religiosity although I’m not religious by myself. On a table some food was placed. Bread and fruit, among others a bag with three lemons. Sacrifices or donations to the priests?

I have to admit that I felt like an intruder and completely at the wrong place. I have to read more about this religion and a bit about how to behave.

We continued our promenade back and passed the Memorial Complex to the Soldiers and Seamen Who Died in Peaceful Time.

We left the memorial behind and entered the streets of the center. We walked back to our hotel and took a short rest. We passed an old theatre, painted in bright indigo but more a ruin than a building. A pity, I think it must have been beautiful in former times.

Then the hotel. I had twisted my ankle one week ago and was glad to rest the foot a bit. Time for shooting some photos from the 16th floor.

Some hours later. We decided to eat dinner and Annika and I found the restaurant Tundra (Тундра) that got excellent reviews in the internet. And excellent it was. The restaurant was fully booked but we were allowed to sit in the bar. In Russia the food is quite cheap compared to Scandinavia even in really good restaurants. The dishes are not as huge as in many places in Europe. I like that because it gave me the opportunity to taste different things: borscht and caviar with seaweed. Both very tasty!

After a nice evening at this great location with fantastic food we went back to the hotel. Murmansk is definitely not the most beautiful town in daylight but it wins a lot when it gets dark because many places, streets, parks and buildings are illuminated with lights of all colours.

We have seen a lot that day, both the beautiful and less beautiful facets of this arctic Russian town and I was as exhausted as I use to be when strolling through a big town for a whole day.

We were glad however to have another day to explore a bit more.

Some other random pictures of the day:

Crossing three borders

Day 19 of my winter journey 2018

Whilst I still haven’t finished the blog articles about my ski tour with Jonas, life (and holidays) went on. Jonas and I had arrived at Solberget on Thursday evening and Jonas went home yesterday (on Sunday). This morning I packed the last things, stuffed them into the car and went to Nattavaara Station, where Annika arrived with the 7:38 train. With this reunion another stage of my six and a half week winter journey had begun. Destination: Kirkenes and Varanger, the easternmost parts of Norway.

Today we started with a travel day by car. We travelled 600 kilometres and crossed three borders.

Stage one: (Solberget) – NattavaaraGällivareSvappavaaraVittangiÖvre SopperoKaresuando.
And the first border: Sweden – Finland.

Stage two: Karesvanto (Finland) – Palojoensuu (Finland) – road 93 …
Second border: Finland – Norway.

Stage 3: … road 93 – Kautokeino (Norway) – Karasjok (Norway) – Karigasniemi (Finland).
The third border Norway – Finland. And since it was dark and I was tired we directly continued to our destination for an overnight stay: Giellajohka (Finland).

The temperatures had been between -20 °C and -28 °C for the last hours and the weather was bright and clear. The new fingernail moon shone above the eastern horizon and the first stars came out. Good conditions for polar lights. And we had polar lights actually here in Giellajohka but unfortunately a thin layer of clouds approached and therefore the aurora was less impressive. A photo anyway:

Tomorrow we will continue to Kirkenes to visit friends. It’s a smaller distance to travel than today, just 209 kilometres.