Hooooot! Hooooot! Hooooot!

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Today it was the 5th day I worked for the Norwegian Polar Institute in their office at the Framsenteret in Tromsø. But it was the first day where I was distracted by three loud hoots of a ship. I left my office to walk to a gangway with a view to the seaside. And as I already guessed a Hurtigruten ship was in the process of docking. The Polarlys. I took a photo with my iPhone for this blog.

Normally two Hurtigruten ships should dock in Tromsø each day. A northbound at 14:15 and a southbound at 23:45. A map of today however shows that the Polarlys is the only Hurtigruten ships north from Trondheim at the moment.

(Map source: https://global.hurtigruten.com/map/#norway)

This is of course because of – guess what! – Corona.

After work I left the office and could already see the ship because the landing stage is near the office. I went there to take two more photos, then I went home. Weekend!

I would love to continue with my photo series “bevegelse” (motion), that I started on a Hurtigruten journey in winter 2016. However the next northbound departure on a Saturday is not before 31. October and then the days have become quite short. Probably I’ll must have some patience.

To the photo series “bevegelse” >

Wintry weekend in June

Friday, 5. June

At 16:00 I’m at the southern entrance of the University Hospital of Umeå to fetch Annika from work. We go for a weekend tour that we’ve planned for months. We want to drive the vildmarksvägen on the day of it’s opening. Most of this tourist route is open the whole year, but a part is closed more than half the year due to heavy snow.

Today’s destination: the small town Gäddede, where we have hired a tiny cabin on the campsite. The weather is grey but all birch leaves glow intensely. The Swedish weather forecast issued a level 2 warning for high flow but to our astonishment there is very little water in many lakes we pass. We pass even some reindeers, three moose and some black grouses.

Saturday, 6. June

After breakfast we drive along the lakes Kycklingsvattnet, Stor-Jorm and Lill-Jorm. The lakes are open and everything is green. In the distance there are snow covered mountains.

Ten minutes later it looks like this:

What happened? Time travel? No, we are just 200 metres higher than before and although its only 600 metres above sea level the conditions are still wintry here. From now on we travel between the seasons. Sometimes still winter, sometimes already spring. The small brooks and streams carry a lot of water, but most of the lakes are quite empty.

We leave the vildmarksvägen and turn left to pay the Norwegian border a short visit. Of course we are not allowed to cross it due to corona. So we turn our car back to the vildmarksvägen. We travel along some lakes, first partly frozen, then still ice covered until we come to a sudden stop.

A long line of cars, motor cycles and camper vans waits in front of us. They all wait for the opening of the closed passage. We leave our car and walk to the barrier, that will be opened at 12 o’clock.

After half an hour of waiting the barrier opens and the long line of cars starts to move. The next hours there’s a lot of stop-and-go, because people are just stopping and parking anywhere to take pictures making the vildmarksvägen a single file road. But nobody seems to be impatient or even angry, they all have come to see the large snow walls beside the road that tell a lot about last winters snow falls.

Annika and I climb up one of the walls to have a look to an old concrete hut marked with a red cross. We peek inside where we find first aid equipment. Is it still in use? Well, perhaps not, the dressing bandages were fabricated 1957.

And outside: winter landscapes with metre-high snow. We really regret that we have forgot to take our skis with us. Some others are smarter than we and ski through the white. Well,maybe next time …

After driving a bit back and forth we finally take the obligatory snow wall photos.

Sunday, 7. June

After an overnight stay in the rainy Saxnäs we head back home. While there is some old snow left in Saxnäs the Swedish inland is free of snow. As on the trip there some of the lakes have very low water levels. I could stroll there for hours but we want to arrive early home in Obbola und so I only take two shorter strolls to take some pictures.

After some hours of driving, a lunch break in Lycksele and another two hours of driving we arrive home in Obbola in the afternoon. Thank you Annika for a fantastic weekend trip.

Farewell Skelleftehamn

Sweden. Somewhere in the north. A little town called Skelleftehamn. A small street called Tallvägen. Street number 35. My house, that I named flygelvillan. The large living room. The left half with the grand piano and the computer. That has been a central place to me for many years.

At this place I wrote most of the blog articles of way-up-north.com. I worked. I planned my travels. I communicated. I looked out of the window when it snowed. I played on my grand piano. I rehearsed with a jazz trio and an opera singer. I composed and arranged for big band and chamber choir.

A central place.

Two days ago, on 15 May 2020 I left my house for good. It’s still mine but I’ll sell it this year.

Two days ago at 8 o’clock the large moving lorry arrived and five people started to carry all my belongings into the large car. First some furniture, then more than 150 boxes, pulka, kayak, skis and large bags with sleeping bags and down jackets. And finally my Yamaha grand piano.

The whole move took less than eight hours. Then my grand piano stood erected in the living room of Annika’s and my new house by the sea.

Shall I be sad because I left Skelleftehamn? Perhaps I should, but I’m not. The positive feelings about living together with Annika and having found such an extraordinary place to live dominate. I really have been looking forward to this new life and now it has become reality.

Past – present – future

About ten years in Sweden and what will happen next

← Past

Have a look at this photo. It’s a special one:

This photo I took the morning of 23 April 2010, exactly ten years ago. It was the very first day of a new chapter in my life: Living in Sweden.

So today it’s my tenth Sweden anniversary. What a great life I’ve had all those years!

I’m especially grateful that I got to know Martine and Lasse right from the beginning. It was the balcony of their former house in Skellefteå where I took this photo from. Lasse and Martine not only gave me a room to stay for the first weeks but much more. They introduced me to many great people and showed me the surroundings, among others Skelleftehamn.

When I took these photos on 24 April 2010 I didn’t know that I would buy a house in Skelleftehamn only a month later and move there in summer 2010.

☉Present

The month of April uses to be the month between winter and spring. It still may snow intensely but the snow won’t last. And so it is this year, too. The rivers are mostly open and only the lakes are still covered with old ice.

But this April is special. Although the weather is really fine I’m inside quite a lot. It’s not because of corona or work but …

… because I pack my things. I’m moving. I’ll leave Skelleftehamn after almost ten years! The removal van will come in three weeks and I have a lot of stuff. The 35 banana boxes on the photo are filled with books and I didn’t even start to pack my winter equipment. Down jackets, sleeping bags, pulka, skies, winter boots …

→ Future

I’m going to move 148 km south. Annika and I have bought a house in Obbola near Umeå, the largest town in Northern Sweden. In two weeks Annika and I will finally become sambor. Sambo (sam = together-, bo = to live) – is the common Swedish term for people in a relationship living together without being married. Oh, how I’m looking forward to live together with Annika after years of a weekend relationship with many car rides on the boring E4 between Skelleftehamn and Umeå.

I’m also looking forward to something else. The house is located by the Baltic Sea. It’s only sixty metres from our terrace to the shore and I’ll be able to see the sea from my “office room”. There will be no excuse why I shouldn’t take a ten minute kayak trip before breakfast, when the weather is nice.

It’s hard to make photos from the future. The photos below I made three weeks ago.

The photo I couldn’t take three weeks ago was of the mink strolling along the shore. Wrong lens …

Starting my winter journey – Solberget

I have stopped counting how often I’ve been at the wilderness retreat Solberget in Swedish lapland. First of all it’s a nice place with great people, then it’s the week of the winter market in Jokkmokk, which is round 90 km away. Finally I just had to make a stopover here since my stove that I need for a ski tour was stored here.

Wednesday – a small ski tour

On the top of the hill Solberget I get to know Steffen who has spent some days in the mountain hut. It’s his last day and we ski down together. The way back is not long and so we extend our tour. Do we stand on a small bog or a frozen lake, when I make this photo? I don’t know.

Thursday – winter market in Jokkmokk

I’ve been here several times. This time I only stroll over the market and hardly make any photos. The only exception: The artist Yana Mangi, who gave a phantastic concert in the small old church in Jokkmokk.

Older photos from the winter market for example here, here and here.

Friday – ski tour on the Vihtukkajankka

It’s been long since I’ve been on the Vihtukkajankka. Together with Steffen I make a ski tour onto this mountain. First it’s cloudy but soon it clears up. Skiing through the snowy forest is sometime like visiting an art exhibition.

And here I have slept the last days:

Saturday – a foggy day

Acually I just wanted to be lazy but the fog was so beautiful that I skied down to the large bog Päivävuoma/Solmyran to make some “bog fog” photos.

This is my favourite photo from that day:

I close this article with a small riddle. The next photo is no photomontage but a single shot. Where am I?

And suddenly I am in Lapland

Just 300 km from home – bright sky and temperatures round -25 °C – finally a winter as it should be in Northern Sweden.

I shot theses photos in Solberget tonight. Here I will stay some days and visit the winter market in Jokkmokk.

Closing the bathing season in Skelleftehamn?

7 o’clock. The sun was still below the horizon but already colourised sky and sea at Storgrundet.

Some minutes later – looking into the opposite direction revealed another colour impression.

There was thin ice on this bay. It was partially broken. You may already guess, why. I’ll tell you.

I love bathing in the sea and this bay is my favourite beach and bathing place. In mid-August the water temperature had been 18 °C, in September it had fallen below 10 °C and this morning it was only around 0.7 °C.

Anyhow, time for another bath.

I undressed and started wading through the ice. First I stalked like a stork, than the water got deeper and thinner and I just walked normally, breaking the ice with my thighs.

Soon I reached both open water and swimming depth. I love bathing in cold water and think it’s invigorating and refreshing. Bathing before sunrise with these beautiful morning colours is an extra bonus.

Ouchie ;-)After a bit of bathing and some swimming strokes I waded back to the beach. I already had expected cutting my legs at the sharp thin ice and so I did.

As long as the skin is cold, you hardly feel such scratches.

Being still wet I started freezing because the air was not warm neither. -9 °C the car thermometer had shown. Then the great moment came where I realised, that I had forgot to take a towel with me!

I dried myself a bit with my hands and slipped – wet as I was – into my clothes. And warm clothes it was!

This worked much better than expected and I decided to drive to the office directly. Arriving there only the tips of the socks felt a bit damp, the rest (outdoor pants and woollen sweater) felt warm and dry again.

Since the ice will get thicker and thicker every day I guess that this was the end of my bathing season 2019. At least at Storgrundet.

Some random comments

  • It has been quite cold for late October the last days. In some parts of Finnish lapland temperatures had dropped below -25 °C.
  • Later this morning I realised that I had got many more cuts and scratches from the ice than excepted.
  • The definition of a winter bath is a bath in water colder than 10 °C. According this definition I took my first winter bath this season on 9 September. But it was today that I took my first ice bath of the season.
  • While I am writing this blog article I realise that I had a roll of kitchen paper in my car. So I could have dried myself this morning.

Open house day at Polarforskningssekretariatet

When I was a child I wanted to become a researcher. Of course I hadn’t the slightest idea, what a researcher really does. I assumed he would travel around the world looking for insects or collecting fossils – both passions of mine. Then my interests for maths and computer science as well as for jazz and playing piano grew more and more and my childhood dreams of beetles and trilobites faded into the background. To make a long story short: 1992 I started studying jazz piano and then worked as a musician; in 2002 I had started working with programming, which still is my main profession. I really like my job and the freedom that it gives me, but …

There are jobs that I would take instantly if I only had the chance.

Today was open day at the Polarforskningssekretariatet – the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat in Luleå. The Polarforskningssekretariatet “promotes the conditions for and coordinates Swedish research and development in the polar regions.”¹ It was really interesting and inspiring both to look around and to talk to the people working there.

If you know me, you also know about my passion for the Arctic regions, even though I only have visited a really tiny part. What you probably do not know is that I had contact with the Polarforskningssekretariatet some months ago. There had just published a job ad for a forskningsstödsamordnare – a research support coordinator – for the ship based expeditions to the Arctic. I applied for that job, although I guessed that without any fundamental experience within leading large international projects and especially research I wouldn’t have a chance. And I hadn’t. Today I learned that 80–100 people applied for that job.

I’m not disappointed, but a bit pensive. That would have been a job to my taste. Transforming needs into plans, working with international teams, travelling to Greenland or the North pole, but most of all: doing a meaningful job in times where climatical research is more and more crucial to humankind.

There are several lives I could have chosen. I could have become a mathematician, a composer or – following my childhood dreams – a scientist. It’s easy to say that I should have made other choices. If I were a scientist today I would miss my time as a jazz pianist. Life is just too short to squeeze in all the different interests. But just today I would have loved to become a part of the polar research in Sweden.

¹ quote taken from the English website.

Lighthouse day on Gåsören

Gåsören is probably my favourite island in the small archipelago off Skelleftehamns coast. It has two lighthouses, the old house-like built 1879–81, and the new tower-like built in 1921. The latter one is still in service. Yesterday was fyrens dag – lighthouse day – on Gåsören. Annika and I wanted to go but beside of my kayak I don’t a boat. How good that Mats – active both in the jazz club and the boat club – gave us a lift from the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan. The wind had weakened but the sea was still choppy and Mats had to drive slowly against the waves. Gåsören however is not far away and soon we dock the boat in the small harbour.

There were not many people on the island yet, more were expected for 21 o’clock. Tommy, who has a summer cottage on the island lit a cosy fire, while I went around and took pictures of the lighthouses and the brick-built cellar, that I’ve never been in before.

Round 21 o’clock the new lighthouse was lit automatically. The summer days of eternal daylight is history for 2019. The flag of the Swedish Cruising Association fluttered in the wind.

Round 21:30 Tommy lights the bulb of the old lighthouse and welcomes the guests. More than expected had come – round 30–40 people.

I take the opportunity to take some pictures from the top of the old lighthouse, where you can climb outside through a little wooden door. In the west it’s the industry of Rönnskär that gives light, in the east it’s the moon.

The people started to leave. Some of them have come by the booked tour boat, other by their own boat. Soon only a few people were left. Those who would stay in their summer cottages (there are only two on the island) plus Mats, Annika and me.

Round 23 o’clock we leave the island. Hopefully I’ll have some more opportunities to visit Gåsören this year.

Day 24–26 – a detour to Norway and travelling home

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

July 31 – August 1 – Grövelsjön, Röros, Flatruet, Ljungdalen, Stugun, Åsele

July 31

After a tent night in Grövelsjön (temperature minimum 5.7 °C) I take a morning stroll with several purposes: enjoying the fresh air, taking pictures and buying fresh bread for breakfast. My promenade starts at the “troll workshop” where guests are welcome to build their own wooden troll and place it beside the “troll trail”. From there I can spot some “wintry things”: a prohibition sign for scooters and red crosses marking the winter trail. I follow the red signs over a bog until I come to a road from where it isn’t far to Grövelsjön’s mountain bakery.

Annika and I have breakfast in the mountain lodge. Hm, the Brötchen are extremely delicious!

Actually I have planned to take a bath in the lake Guevteljaevrie nearby. The water was very clear but the car tires and metal scrap at the ground discouraged us.

You may realise that the name of the lake doesn’t look Swedish. You’re right. We are not only in Sweden but also in Laponia – the area of the Sámi people. Therefore towns, rivers, lakes and mountains have two names, a Sámi and a Swedish one. The Swedish name of Guevteljaevrie is Grövelsjön, as the village.

A small part of the lake is on Norwegian territory and Norway is our next destination, hardly 10 km away. Soon we are at the border.

We already met reindeers on the Swedish side, in Norway however they seem to be more numerous and they love to block roads.

In the lake Femund – Norways third largest lake – we catch up with the bathing. 13 °C in the water, much warmer in the sun. A nice place to relax.

Two and a half hours later we are in Røros. In this old mining town one could stay for days and write long articles. We however stay only for two hours. Just some snapshots:

After filling up the car we follow a small gravel road that leads us to a Norwegian mountain hut – a possible accommodation for the night. 2.5 km before the hut the road stops – at least for cars. Our luggage is chosen for travelling by car, not for hiking. So this hut that even may be fully booked is out of bounds. Will we find a shelter for the night?

#cliffhanger

August 1

Next morning we wake up in a bunk bed in our hostel in Funäsdalen. Of course we found an accommodation, not in Norway but in Sweden. After breakfast we pack our things – a daily routine – and start the next daily stage.

In Mittådalen we take a spontaneous stop. We have just crossed the river Mittån and spot a Sámi resort with souvenir shop. Beside the river there’s a kåta, a traditional Sámi hut. The word kåta is Swedish. The Sámi have several related languages and so their names for this type of dwelling vary: goahti, goahte, gábma, gåhte, gåhtie or gåetie.

We buy some souvenirs and continue. Soon we reach Flatruet, a place I’ve been especially looking forward to. Flatruet is a plateau above the tree line with a gorgeous view to all directions.

The last photo above shows the Helags massif with the Helags summit (1797metres above sea level).

I’ve been there in winter 2006 on a ski tour with J. and T. . It had been very stormy for two days and one of the huskies was so scared that she hid under the bed. We decided to abandon our ski tour. We skied to Ljungdalen where T. waited for a lift to Fjällnäs where he parked the car. Hours later he came back and we took the car over Flatruet. I had never experienced anything that looked as arctic as this snowy road leading through an infinite white void. Here’s a photo that I took from the car 12½ years ago:

That’s the reason why you should visit all Scandinavian places at least twice. In winter they are completely different than in summer.

Back to present: I hardly can tear my eyes away from Flatruet but we have to leave. It’s at least 400 km to Åsele, our today’s destination. Some more stops on the way – some of them caused by reindeers again.

In the evening we arrive in Åsele. Here we will visit M. and F. and stay overnight. Before dinner there’s time to cuddle some sheep.

Now we’re almost home. To Annika’s flat in Umeå it’s only 164 km and another 130 km to my house in Skelleftehamn. “Peanuts” compared with the long distance the last days.

Next day Annika will be home again and the day after me, too. What a wonderful journey!