Missing Iceland article I – Reykjavík

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

While I showed a lot of photos of the varied Icelandic landscapes the last two weeks I didn’t write anything about the main town Reykjavík yet. More than a third of the Islanders lives there and almost two-thirds of the Icelanders in the Greater Reykjavík region.

I’ve never been in Iceland before and was curious about Reykjavík, too. Anyway I have to admit, that I prefer the smaller towns, the rural areas and the uninhabited landscapes, but I want to show at least some photos I took.

 

#escapism – kayaking to Gåsören

This article is part of the series #escapism. It’s about being outdoors and leaving civilisation behind in excursions that take less than 24 hours. Everyone should have time for such!

Yesterday I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and decided to make a kayak trip to the island Gåsören. I planned for an overnight stay and that means packing a lot of things:

Anything on the photo beside of the empty plastic box came with me. From left to right: Dry suit, life jacket, food and stove, camping map, spare clothes, tent, camera equipment, water bottle, book, sleeping bag, neoprene boots, 5 litre water canister. It’s almost miracle that everything fits into the kayak. Since it was quite warm I only wore pants and a t-shirt and of course the life jacket, that’s a matter of security and therefore principle.

I paddled between the islands Storgrundet and Brambärsgrundet, passed Vorrgrundet and then headed to Klubben and Flottgrundet. Here I left the islands behind and continued to Gåsören. The weather was nice and the sea was calm. Already 50 minutes later I arrived. I dragged the kayak ashore, took all baggage and went to my favourite campground (and one of the few placed not completely covered with pebbles and rocks) where I put up the tent.

After “cooking” and eating I visited two friends that own one of the two summer cottages on Gåsören. It’s really a beautiful place they have. We talked about paddling, hiking, skiing and much more. It was late when I want back to my tent and the sun started to set.

I didn’t go to sleep directly but watched the sun going down and the many fluffy but extremely clumsy seagull chicks walking around. They cannot fly yet and use to stumble over every other stone. What a contrast to the elegant flight of the grown ups.

It was much brighter than it looks like on these backlit photographs. It doesn’t get dark in the night  and I found it hard to sleep, not only due to the bright night but also to the increasing wind and the constantly screeching seagulls. I put on a woollen cap. It was not cold at all but it helped to block the direct light (though not the shrieks of the gulls).

At half past five I gave up and started to finish a book I’d been reading for a while. That took some hours. At half past eight I took a frugal breakfast: Toast with cheese.

Then I packed everything together. Clouds had started approaching and I wanted to have everything stowed in the kayak before the rain. The sky above was still blue but the sea started to get choppy.

I stopped by my friends again to say farewell. They have their cottage on the lee side of the island and we enjoyed the last hour of sun before the clouds started to cover it.

I dragged the kayak into the shallow water. It was hard to start against the wind, because the kayak was constantly turned parallel to the approaching waves. Wrong direction and quite unstable. But after some tries I managed to leave the island behind. It was exhausting but easy to paddle against the wind. Anyway I wouldn’t have dared to cross the open sea in these conditions without wearing a dry suit even if it’s only 600 metres. The water is still very cold and in case of the kayak capsizing I wanted to be completely sure to be able to reach the shore without hypothermia.

It took twice the time than the day before. The sky was grey and cloudy and it had started to rain. It may not sound like that, but it was real fun paddling through wind and waves. The hardest part was going round Vorrgrundet where I had to go parallel to the short waves. Here I had to be fully focussed to keep my balance. As soon as I reached Storgrundet I was in the lee of that island again and the water was much calmer. Soon I arrived at yesterday’s starting point.

The whole trip took less than 20 hours and is therefore a candidate for the series #escapism.

Finally, two selfies, one sunny from yesterday and one rainy from today (made in the lee of a small island).

 

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!

 

 

The first paddling 2018

At last – the first paddling of the season! The sea ice came early this winter and remained until late April. In early May Annika and I visited Gotland for a week and when we came back spring had arrived in Västerbotten. Since then I was either working or it was too windy or I was too lazy.

Despite to problems with my elbow I decided to kayak today. It was mostly sunny and hardly any wind – good conditions for a start. As many times I started at the beach of Storgrundet which is 1.6 km to go. I used the waistbelt of my pulka and a cord for dragging the kayak behind on its cart without using my hands. Quite comfortable!

At the beach I put the cart aside, put on my life jacket and started the tour, that took me first round Storgrundet and then along the outside of the islands Storgrundet,  Norrskär and Bredskär.

I took it quite easy to avoid overstressing my elbow. The first kilometre the elbow still hurted but became gradually better. I watched the blue sky, the approaching cirrus clouds, the ripples on the water and was glad to be on the Baltic Sea again.  Last time I was walking …

When you paddle along the outside of Bredskär you only see forest and a stony beach. The summer cottages are on the other side. One of the cottages belongs L. and S., my neighbours. I went ashore and was welcomed by S., who invited me to fried herring, caught by net just the day before. Delicious! We sat outside and talked about everything while I deepened the friendship with dog Dolly.

Finally I left the island and continued my tour, slowly heading home. Thank you S. for the herring and nice company!

I arrived at Storgrundet round two o’clock but it took an hour until I was home. First I just had to take a refreshing bath. Yes, it’s definitely refreshing with a water temperature round 15 °C. My tight back however loves the cold water. Then I met another acquaintance and we had a longer talk. Finally I walked my kayak home where I arrived six hours after departure.

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.

 

 

 

Skitour to Bergskäret

Today I took advantage of the marvellous weather and joined a ski tour over the frozen bay Kågefjärden to the island Bergskäret. Bergskäret is the island in the Kågefjärden that is nearest to the open sea. We were four: Hans and Stefan, with whom I have already made some trips, Kenneth and myself.

We took the car to Kågehamn where we started the tour. Round 5 kilometres over the snow covered frozen Baltic Sea and we arrived at the island. We were not the only ones. We looked for a good spot on the sunny south bank of the island where Hans made a fire with fire steel and we grilled the sausages that Kenneth had bought. I had a light down jacket with me but instead of putting that on I put off my soft shell because I felt so warm. Although it was hardly more than +2 °C the sun warmed us and the island protected us from the wind. After barbecuing, eating and resting a bit we went round the island and skied back to Kågehamn. Round 11 kilometres in the finest weather. A good way to spend the Sunday!

Tack för turen Hans, Stefan, and Kenneth.

Postscript 1

On the way back we saw the first whooper swan of the season. Another spring sign.

Postscript 2

While the snow and ice on the Baltic Sea are still beautiful the minor streets are in a very poor condition. The ice on the street is so deeply rutted that I’m quite glad about the high ground clearance of my Subaru. Anyway I learned that even a car with permanent all-wheel drive can spin out although driving slow.

A tour to the easternmost point of mainland Norway

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

Day 29 and 30 of my winter journey 2018

Yesterday we continued our journey to Ytre Kiberg which is 13 south of Vardø, one of the Hurtigruten stops. We started in Vadsø – another Hurtigruten stop – after a breakfast with our host Nils, bought a basis of food for the next days and took the E75 northwards. We made a stopover in Ekkerøy, a village on a peninsula near Vadsø. We like this place and will try to stay there for some nights next week.

At lunchtime we reached Cape East Arctic Adventure, our stay for four nights. We were welcomed by Trond, the owner and operator of Cape East Arctic Adventure and were shown our cozy bedroom, the kitchen and the homely living room. After making ourselves at home we went along the beach to the village and the harbour.

In the evening we were invited to a three course dinner based on freshly caught cod: Fish soup – cod with potatoes and carrots and finally cod roe. Everything was extremely tasty and it was Annika’s and my first time where we tasted cod roe. Yummy!

In Kiberg you are as east as you can be in the Central European Timezone, therefore sun is rising already at 6:24. I was awake very early and took a morning walk round 6 o’clock. Some snow drifts had been created by snow and wind over night but now the weather was less windy and quite sunny. At least for a short time. While I went the way to Indre Kiberg clouds approached, wind increased and it started to snow. It was hardly imaginable that it was sunny just a short time before. Weather changes here quite often as Annika and I should find out later.

After breakfast Annika and I took the car to the other side of the village, put on our snow shoes and started a hike to Kibergsneset, easternmost point of mainland Norway. This place is more east than e.g. St. Petersburg, Kairo or Istanbul! It was windy but quite sunny, when we started our tour but weather changes fast on the Varanger Peninsula:

Actually this hike is just a promenade but the weather may transform it into a small expedition. We were exposed to wind and snow and grateful, that we didn’t experienced a full storm. The weather was rough anyway and I was glad about my windproof jacket and two pairs of mittens.

We continued on a small hiking trail, first with, then without snowshoes because the thin snow layer was hardened by the wind and easy to walk onto. There’s a coastal fortress build by Germans in WW2 on Kibergsneset but we couldn’t see it in the snow weather. Instead of looking for it we continued to the small lighthouse at Kibergsneset that marks the easternmost point of mainland Norway (and most of Europe). Shortly before we reached it the sun came out and we continued the last metres in full sun. While I made some photos a small snow shower approached with the sun still shining.

From the lighthouse there was an amazing view over the arctic coast of the Barents Sea, but only for some moments. Soon the next snow shower came by and hid most of the view onto both the coast and the sea.

The way back was much shorter because we knew the way and went downwards. Even though the view was limited by the snow showers Ytre Kiberg came into view again soon and surprisingly the weather was nice and sunny again.

After this very windy promenade we were glad to find shelter in my car. We took the car to Vardø to eat something and after that we tried the road to Hamningberg. We knew that the road was closed in winter but we curious how long we would come.

Well, not very long. We managed to get to Smelror, some kilometres north from Vardø.

The main road however was definitely closed as you can see. There are no people living in Hamningberg permanently and the only motorised way to reach it in wintertime is by snowmobile. For car it is open less than half the year.

We took the car back to Kiberg, enjoyed the incredible and unbelievable colours of the sky and were surprised by a strange weather phenomenon: -6 °C and rain (including a faint rainbow!)

The rest of the day? -10 °C and wind outside, no more photos, no more excursions.

Fun fact: We took the E75 northwards. If you would take it southwards you could travel more than 4000 km and finally would arrive on Crete, Greece.

A trip to Murmansk – day two

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

Day 23 of my winter journey 2018

When we came home from our dinner last night it started to get quite foggy und it became colder. The fog intensified and the city started to smell smoggy.

This morning however was clear and some millimetres of snow dust had fallen over night making everything looking white and fresh. It was much colder than the day before (Murmansk airport reported -29 °C) but the hotel doesn’t have a thermometer so I don’t know how cold it was in town.

After breakfast we went through the Park Zhertv Interventsii (Парк Жертв Интервенции), a small park directly at the hotel.

Then we continued through the streets and across the railway to the port.

We wanted to visit the atomic icebreaker Lenin (Ленин) and check if we already could buy tickets. Lenin was the world’s first nuclear-powered surface ship and launched in 1957. She was decommissioned 1989 and subsequently converted into a museum.

Two big ships lay at the pier: Lenin and Vladivostok (Владивосток). Parts of the water surface were covered with ice but most of the water was open and steaming in the cold. The other side of the Kola Bay was hardly visible in the fog although only one kilometre away. The small ice particles in the air made the air feel quite cold.

A man left the icebreaker to meet a french couple at the pier, that had booked a tour. Unfortunately we couldn’t follow with them since this tour was privately booked. The man could speak a bit of German and we learned that the outside temperature was round -22 °C and that we had to wait for the first public tour at 12 o’clock.

So we went back to town, this time crossing the railway by a pedestrian bridge. Large chains of good wagons, some empty, some filled with charcoal were seen on almost all tracks.

While Chris and Ørjan went their own ways Annika and I went to the center to find a book shop. We knew that we had to follow the Lenin Alley (Проспект Ленина) and we found several book stores where I among others bought a pictured children dictionary English—Russian.

We continued the alley and finally came to Murmansk Mall (Мурманск Молл), a large shopping mall. Here both local stores and many international shops as e.g. H&M were found. The mall was extremely tidy and a huge contrast to the many rundown concrete buildings.

We’ve been in another mall the day before where you mostly could find Russian fashion for women. And that means mostly fur coats, partly in very fancy colours, high heeled boots and a lot of accessories in pink, silver and glitter. Some of them looked like plastic toys made for four-year-old girls, but in adult sizes. A fashion quite different from the informal one in Germany or Sweden.

I was really irritated when I entered some shops. People in Murmansk don’t smile or even laugh in public unless they know each other quite well. When you enter a shop the salesperson will stand up and observe you and even follow you through the shop. They won’t take contact with you, they won’t smile but will instead look stonily at you. I felt treated completely unwelcome and more like a thief than a customer. Strange and irritating!

Annika and I went back to the hotel and passed a Lenin figure and a house painted in bright turquoise, a colour that seems to be quite popular in Murmansk, as some other houses were painted the same.

We met Chris and Ørjan at the hotel and continued to the port together. Although it had become warmer it was still quite cold and some of the water that was open in the morning had frozen over in the last hours.

We arrived at the port at half past eleven and were the first one’s for the guided tour through the icebreaker Lenin. Shortly before twelve Annika and I could go aboard but most other tourist pushed to the front so that Chris and Ørjan were left behind. Later we realised that they attended another tour just some minutes later.

The following hour was one of the most boring experiences for long and made me remember some of the dullest school lessons. We were guided in a crowd of people by a Russian guide that loved to speak in a monotonic language without a split second of resting. Since he was so eager to talk another group behind us fenced us in so that we could hardly move and we were really glad to be able to sneak from the icebreaker before the guided tour was over. I guess, that most tourists are Russians too and so are able to understand the guide but even then I consider this kind of guiding as extremely boring and almost narcotic. My personal advise: Look at the boat from the pier but avoid the tour.

Some pictures from the inside anyway.

After this experience we needed fresh air and a café. We went to the Café Yunost (Кафе Юность), took some sweet cakes and after that we returned to the hotel to rest for a while.

In the evening we went to Terrasa (Терраса), another restaurant, though not to the White Rabbit (Белый кролик), our preferred choice. First it was Friday and then it was a holiday: Defence of the Fatherland Day. Therefore many restaurants had been fully booked. We enjoyed the food, went home to the hotel to take a short drink. Then we went to bed early. Next morning the alarm clock would ring at 6:15 local time, that’s 4:15 Swedish time.

When being in the hotel I took pictures from above. Here you could spot almost all places and attractions we visited the last two days, among others Alyosha, the Church of the Savior on Waters and the icebreaker Lenin. A good summary of the last two days.