Far and near

Two photos from yesterday morning: The Baltic Sea seen from the peninsula Näsgrundet some minutes after sunrise. The frost covered blossom of the autumn hawkbit in my garden.

Today it’s the last day of September. This week brought the first snow to the fjäll and the northernmost parts of the country. Even in Skellefteå and Ursviken some single snow flakes had been spotted some days ago! And according to SHMI it is officially winter in Stekenjokk since 23 September.

From Wikipedia: The Swedish meteorological institute (SMHI) define winter as when the daily mean temperatures go below 0 °C (32 °F) for five consecutive days.

 

From glaciers to the East Fjords

This article is part of the series “2018-08: Iceland”.

Saturday, 2 September – from Svinafell to Reyðarfjörður by car

Annika and I woke up quite early and left our cabin in Svinafell already round 8 o’clock. That’s why we were almost alone, when we came to the lake Fjallsárlón into which the glacier tongue Fjallsjökull calves. Some larger and many small icebergs floated on the brown glacier water. We walked along the shore, touched some of the small ice blocks and watched them floating into the creek Fjällsá.

When we left the beach of the lake, many more people arrived, although this “first lake” is not as the “third lake”, the Jökulsárlón. The latter is much more touristic. Many cars stood on the huge parking place and hundreds of tourists walked around, taking pictures or took tours with zodiac boats or amphibian vehicles. The good thing with cold lakes: You always find the opportunity to take pictures without any  tourist.

We didn’t see many animals yet on Iceland, beside of many sea birds and of course countless sheep (mostly in groups of three) and Icelandic horses. Here we saw the first wild mammals: seals swimming around in the lake, diving and reappearing again after some time.

After we left these lakes behind and continued east, the traffic on the Ring Road decreased more and more. We were on the way to the East Fjords that are far less touristic than the south of Iceland. It was just fun to drive the Ring Road and watch the scenery changing. Just a few pictures from some of the breaks we made.

It was quite late when we arrived in the coastal town Reyðarfjörður, where we got a room with an own bathroom. Time to cook and wash some clothes.

The next day we would leave the East Fjords and head north.

Hveravellir

This article is part of the series “2018-08: Iceland”.

Wednesday, 29 August – Thursday, 30 August

After our long bus tour we arrived in Hveravellir in the Highlands of Iceland. Hveravellir lies 650 metres above sea-level and here you can find geothermal areas, where fumaroles emit hot gas, mostly water, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. The latter one is responsible for the smell of rotten eggs.

We went along the wooden path (don’t leave it, the crust is thin and boiling hot!) and looked at the fumaroles. Then we continued a path westwards.

The landscape scenery changed. The path led mostly through lava rock, only sparsely covered with soil, moss, grass and some flowers.

Some sheep were grassing here and there. They preferred the grassy parts of the desertlike surrounding.

The willows however had to cope with the soil that they had got and even more with the weather. There were flat and crouching on the ground to avoid exposure to the wind.

The way we chose is no circular track so after a time we had to return to Hveravellir, where we had booked an overnight stay. We used to wooden bridge to cross a small stream. You have to be careful, the water is hot!

“Home” again we cooked tortellini for dinner and bathed in the hot tub that was located right beside of our mountain hut. While Annika stayed in the hut after that I took another walk and enjoyed the evening light. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. (And I thought, it would only rain on Iceland!) The motives? Smoking fumaroles against the light · glaciers and snow covered mountains far away · sheep nearby.

I slept very well but woke up quite early. Time for another walk, this time enjoying the sunrise.

The night has been cold and ice crystals covered flowers and leaves. The wet parts of the ground were covered with hoarfrost that looked hairlike.

The fumaroles enveloped the geothermal areas in steam. I can do without the sulphuric smell, but the look is very impressing, especially with the warm sunrise colours.

After my early morning walk Annika and I had breakfast and then packed our stuff. The bus back to Reykjavík wouldn’t leave before 12, so we had time for a two-hour walk together, this time heading south. One of the things that make Iceland unique for me is the colours, not only the colourful mountains in Landmannalaugar, but even the moss and the grass looks special. And the volcanic lava rock is so sharp that the photos look oversharpened.

Round 11 o’clock we had returned to the parking place waiting for the bus. But we spontaneously changed plans when we met Matti whom we got to know in Reykjavík some days ago. He was here by car and invited us to join him and his friend. They wanted to drive to another place, hike around then return to Reykjavík. We happily agreed and had a great time, but that’s another story …

 

 

Eternal winter in Skellefteå

The July in Sweden was the hottest since 1756, when temperature measurements began. In Skellefteå it was extremely warm as well in July: 29 days had a maximum temperature above 20 °C, 19 days of them above 25 °C.

There is however a place of eternal winter in Skellefteå, just 3 km away from the centre.

Is it a glacier? Is the ice age coming back? No, of course not, this area is just Skellefteå’s snow dump. The last winter was long and snowy and more than 13000 trucks transported snow to this place until the end of April. This resulted in a snow pile of 25 meters in height – another record.

No wonder, that there is still a lot of snow left despite the warm summer. At the edge Tussilago was flowering as if it were spring. The snow was surprisingly clean, only grit and a bit of rubbish showed that I was near civilisation.

Call me stupid, but I had to touch the ground to feel the icy snow – yes, it was cold. It may be tempting to visit this place on a hot summer day, but that’s maybe not the best idea. For one the place is anything but beautiful and for another not without risk, because there could be invisible holes under the icy snow. I was extremely cautious while taking these pictures.

If you would ask me about the strangest place in Skellefteå in summer, the Skellefteå snow dump was definitely a candidate.

Links

A mountain tour in Arvidsjaur

Yesterday I used my new car to drive to Vittjåkk, a small skiing area near Arvidsjaur, two hours away from home. Annika and I were there in wintertime and made a showshoe tour up the hills. I lived in Munich for six years and do not call these hills real mountains, but at least they reach above the treeline.

I parked again at the same parking lot and ascended the first hill that seems to be nameless. The sky was free of clouds, it was quite warm and I was completely alone.

Soon I was on top of the first hill. I wasn’t alone anymore. Some horseflies tried to make friends with me or at least with my blood. I descended the first hill and went up the Vittjåkk.

From the top I had a wide view over large forests, lakes and a higher mountain range.

Beside of taking pictures I didn’t rest because the horseflies really loved me. So I continued downhill again and was a bit flabbergasted that the whole hike took hardly more than 90 minutes. The hut village was completely abandoned, only a snowmobile showed that this place is only used in wintertime. And other signs showed that too …

Four typical observations in Northern Sweden’s inland in summer, when you go by car

One: construction sites. Almost all major roads are under constant repair each summer. It takes a lot of time to travel. Sometimes you have to wait for a traffic light becoming green or a follow-me car. Sometimes you follow an expencive camper whose driver doesn’t dare to drive more than 20 km/h on the gravelly sections. And this may go on for miles. Swedish miles! (A Swedish mile is 10 km.)

Two: lupins. Many roadsides are overgrown with lupins. They are beautiful, but they are invasive and threaten biodiversity. The Swedish Transport Agency has started to fight theses flowers.

Three: reindeers. Most reindeers are in the mountains but there are always reindeers left in the inland. Keep attention when driving! When you see one reindeer you can be quite sure that others are around, too.

Four: bilingual town signs. On many place in Northern Sweden you are in two countries at the same time. Sweden, the official nation and Sápmi, the region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people. Therefore many places have (at least) two names, a Swedish and a Sami one.

I drove a lot yesterday: 535 km in total. But as a result I know the new Subaru Outback much better and got used both to the automatic gearbox as the electronic systems. I’m very satisfied with the car that is much more comfortable than the old one. The only drawback, it might be the white colour: The horseflies just love the car. When I return to the car it is mostly surrounded by some dozens of this pests and they will even try to follow when I set off. (They manage round 25 km/h.)

 

3×2 weekend images

Still summer weather – blue sky, temperatures not too hot and the last rain seems to be away like ages. Flowers are blooming, the Baltic Sea is blue and the cows are left on the green pastures for the first time of the year.

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Wednesday

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

A bicycle tour in seven scenes

1. To Ihre by bus

It’s Wednesday. As yesterday we’ve planned a bicycle tour, this time north from Visby again. Today we want to try to take the bus and cycle back. We have to get up early, the bus leaves at 7:55. As we hoped, the bus driver will transport our bikes. The way however is a bit unexpected: Two bus drivers lift the heavy bikes on a transport rack attached to the back of the bus. It doesn’t look very stable. The bus driver however observes the back camera to check the bikes and it works, we arrive in Ihre without any problems.

2. The beach at Irevik

This stone beach is one of the beaches, where you can find fossils, e.g. Rugosa. There are so many fossils that I find them though hardly looking. (I found fossils however on almost every beach in Gotland.) As a child I collected fossils and it would have been almost impossible to remove my from these beaches. Now I love to look at the white swans as well, but I have many stones in my pockets.

3. Lickershamn

Probably the highlight of the day: Lickershamn, a cute old fishing town where you can buy both smoked fish and ice cream (a good combination if not eaten simultaneously!). We sit outside, it is warm as if it were summer and we enjoy the smoked salmon pieces and the shrimp salad.

4. Raukar near Lickershamn

We saw them already on the way to the sea: The raukar near Lickershamn. A rauk or sea stack is a steep rock formation formed by wave erosion. Due to the post-glacial rebound these rauks are quite far away from the Baltic Sea that formed them.

5. Lickershamn fornborg

Quite near there lies a fornborg, an ancient refuge castle. If you are not into archeology it’s hard to find the leftovers from the iron age in the forest. So I decided to take a picture of the blue flowers that bloomed everywhere in the light pine forest.

6. Ungemiss gård

We pass a farm, now café and art atelier, too. A chicken comes closer curiously. We however want to reach the Krusmyntagården before the kitchen closes and do not take a longer break.

7. Krusmyntagården

We’ve been there two days ago; Krusmyntagården is a wonderful place with great food, even though Annika and I do not fall in love with the saffron pancakes, a speciality from Gotland. It’s really nice to sit outside, have an ice cream, a lemonade and relaxing.

Extra: Brissund bathing place

Next stop: the near sandy beach in Brissund. The water feels much colder than the day before and is hardly more than knee deep. Refreshing however since the air is so warm.

After the bath we head home, first along the main road, then along the beach promenade, then through the old town. The dinner (taken on the roof terrace of our apartment): green asparagus with ham and potatoes.

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Tuesday

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

Today is Tuesday and the day starts as Monday did: with a breakfast on the roof terrace under a blue sky. The air is calm and warm and we want to make a bicycle tour again, this time with e-bikes. At the bike rental we hand back our normal bikes and get our e-bikes which we want to test for two days. Yesterday we cycled north, today we’ll head southwards.

Right south from Visby we leave the main road and enter the Södra Hällarna, a natural reserve.

The ground is dry and the vegetation looks more Mediterranean than Swedish. To the right there are cliffs by the sea.

With a normal bike we could follow the minor paths, but the e-bikes are too heavy to carry. We keep left and land on the main road again. The next stop is a bit special.

No, it’s not the tree houses, even though they look both interesting and beautiful. It’s this:

Here, in a amusement park in Kneippbyn stands the Villa Villekulla, the house of Pippi Longstocking! Everyone who knows the series from 1969 and the two films of 1970 also knows this house, that was used for the outdoor shots of the series and films.

The amusement park is closed – it is still off-season – but the door is open and we are able to creep in to take some photos. Pure children memories!

Some other nice spots nearby: Fridhem and Högklint.

Now we try to choose smaller ways for our bicycle tour but we do not succeed. South of Kneippbyn lies Tofta Skjutfält, a military training area and the ways that Google Maps proposes are blocked by fences or serious prohibition signs. So we stick to the main road, which is a bit boring. But at least there’re possibilities to get food, e.g. in the Suderby Herrgård.

We continue to Gnisvärd. On the way there we see the large stone ships, old graves from the later Bronze Age surrounded by stones in the form of a ship.

And much more is to see, from ancient rune stones to cozy cabins by the sea.

Later we follow a small path to Tofta Strand, a sandy beach. It’s more than 20 °C and it feels even warmer in the sun. Hardly imaginable that I photoed ice and snow less than a week ago. Annika and I take a bath. The water is still cold, but the sun warms us after the bath.

Later: Annika and I are back in Visby and take a stop at Glassmagasinet, “Swedens biggest ice cream shop”. And they do have a huge amount of different sorts of ice cream, anything from dark chocolate with 78% cocoa to bright blue Smurf ice. The best thing is not the assortment, it’s the taste. The ice cream is real Italian ice cream and tastes fantastical! Attention: This place can be very crowded even off-season.

It’s seven a clock. We cycle to the beach, sit down on a breakwater and look at the sun going down. It will take almost two hours until it has sunken down at the western horizon. A rare experience when you live in Umeå or Skelleftehamn, where the Baltic Sea is in the east.

A last photo from our roof terrace. We won’t sit here for long. It has been a long day and we are tired. Soon we fall asleep. Tomorrow: Another cycle tour.

 

 

 

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Monday

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

It is Monday. Yesterday Annika and I arrived in Visby,  Gotland and planned to explore the island mostly by bicycle. It is warm and sunny already in the morning and we have breakfast on the roof terrace of our fantastic apartment, that we’ll have for a almost a week.

After that we pack our backpacks and walk through the old town of Visby to a bike rental outside the city walls.

It is almost 9 o’clock and the bike rental should open soon. There is however a small paper attached to the door, that the rental is closed today. Fortunately it’s not the only one in Visby. We walk again through the beautiful old town to another bike rental at the harbour.

This bike rental is open. Annika and I want to try out e-bikes, partly for curiosity, partly because of “holiday laziness”. Just this day all e-bikes have been rented to passengers of the large cruise ship that we saw on our way there. We decide to rent normal bikes and to reserve e-bikes for the next day. And off we go.

We ride along the sea. We pass the jetty were people use to bath even though the water is shallow.

Then we follow a bicycle path that leads to the beach promenade. It’s the first time in the year that I sit on a bike after the long winter and I enjoy the warmth of the sun. Just t-shirts, zip-off pants and sandals, that’s enough. We want to be as near to the coast as possible. And it is possible even though the path becomes smaller and smaller. We are cycling round stones and over tree roots crossing the narrow path. I have to stop for a photo of the marsh marigold flowers at the beach – one of my favourite flowers.

Sometime there are so many stones that we have to walk our bicycles. And suddenly the way goes up. Many stone steps lead up along a steep slope and we have to carry our bikes. Now we’re quite glad that we don’t have e-bikes which are certainly much heavier than ours.

A bit later: We have found better and larger ways, mostly minor roads and arrived in Själö hamn where we make a rest. We don’t have anything to eat with us, we trust in the open cafés along the roads. Själö hamn however has neither café nor kiosk. No problem, we just started the tour.

We continue northwards, partly on roads, partly along the beaches (walking the bikes) till we arrive at Krusmyntagården (spearmint farm). Here’s a restaurant and a shop where you can buy herbs and other products. We sit outside and eat the first ice cream of the day.

Annika rings Ingrid, a facebook friend. We make an appointment at the parking place of the Lummelundagrottan – a limestone cave – in an hour. This time we follow “real” roads and soon we arrive at the parking place where we wait for Ingrid . A bit later she arrives and we get to know each other in “real life”.

Ingrid shows us around Lummelunds bruk. In older times there was a water mill and the creek and pond are still left. The ground under the tree is covered with wood anemones and wild garlic.

A bit later we arrive at the huge main building of Lummelunds bruk. Beside of it there’s a tourist shop that among others sells local fossils. I already found two fossils at the beach and learned that it is solitary corals, called tomteluva (gnome hood) because of the form.

We return to the parking place and decide to drive to Krusmyntagården again, Ingrid by car, Annika and I by bike. There we sit outside, eat the delicious food of the restaurant and talk and talk and talk. What a fantastic afternoon: great food, great weather, and great company.

It is already in the evening when Annika and I say farewell to Ingrid and start cycling home. We follow the main road 149 that has a bicycle path. It’s still warm and sunny.

The next day we want to cycle again, this time south.

Spring birds and spring flowers

Two days ago I took the car to Umeå, 130 km south from Skellefteå. Last time I was there in January and it was winter. This time it was springtime. Nevertheless, more than half of the ground was still snow covered in Skelleftehamn and Bureå. But while I was driving southwards the scenery slowly changed. More and more snow free meadows and grasslands showed up. The grass is still brown and huge water puddles cover the lower parts.

In Lövånger I saw a lot of birds on the meadows and made a short stop to photo some of them. No great shots but it shows some of the most common migratory birds that already had arrived here.

(click on the images to see the bird’s names in English, Swedish, and German.)

South from Lövånger there was hardly any snow left, it remained only in ditches, in the shadow of forests and on some northern slopes – everywhere where there’s less sun. Still the landscape looked a bit dull, for nor the birches neither the other plants had got leaves.

Some hours later. Annika has ended her working day and we walk along the river Umeälven, which is free of ice. Only some small ice floes drift on the surface that mirrors the blue sky.

On the other side of the way along the river there’s a southwards slope. And here many spring flowers, not only tussilago are blooming. I counted six different flower types on the walk into the center of Umeå. Here they come:

(again, click on the images to see the flower names. Hopefully there are correct)