SE—DE—NO

Sweden—Germany—Norway, that’s the short version of my travel route the last two weeks.

Obbola – Sweden

Christmas was less than two weeks ago but it feels much longer. The kayak defrosting in the winter garden on Christmas Eve to prepare for a last paddle tour in 2022 with Annika. The drag marks of her kayak in the snow the day after. Last year. Long ago and far away.

On 25 December we travelled to Germany – a 24-hour train journey from Umeå to Bremen to celebrate the 90th birthday of my mother.

Bremen, Oldenburg, Münster, Heidelberg, Düsseldorf – Germany

After two days of celebration we visited friends in Oldenburg and Münster and then continued to Heidelberg by train to meet my old and loved friends I got to know in Munich many years ago. I love the north but I miss my friends in Germany. Some of them I haven’t met for many years. But that’s another story.

On 30 December we travelled to Heidelberg by train, our southernmost destination in Germany. From Tromsø, Heidelberg is further away than the North Pole though much easier to travel to ;-).

While the weather in Bremen was partially rainy, New Year’s Eve in Heidelberg was warm and sunny. The temperature of  18 °C was much warmer than usual for the season and felt like a warm spring day in Obbola (or like a great summer day in Tromsø).

In the air

On 2 January we took the train to Düsseldorf Airport, from where we flew home the next day. I travelled to Tromsø in Norway with an early direct flight, Annika to Umeå in Sweden some hours later. I could see the sun for many hours while flying on 11000 feet altitude but it didn’t reach the earth. Norway lay in the shadow. In Southern Norway it was too early, in Tromsø the sun won’t rise before 16 January.

Tromsø – Norway

Today has been my 2nd work day in Tromsø this year. With temperatures round -10 °C it’s almost 30 degrees colder than in Heidelberg 5 days ago. I enjoy spring but I embrace winter. I feel home in the North. And when I can watch polar lights from my doorstep with just a parka and warm boots over my pyjamas I realise how privileged I am that I may live here – both in Obbola and Tromsø.

The last two kayak tours 2022

It’s Friday and the day before Christmas Eve. It’s actually my last working day but I worked only short, thanks to flextime. At 11:10 I stopped developing software for this year and went out kayaking.

Two days before the sea was open between our small ice covered bay and the islet Lillskär. Today it is covered with a layer of new ice. I drag the kayak to the end of the bay and start the tour.

Just crossing the 100 metres of ice seems to take ages. The ice is too thick to paddle through, too thin to walk on and too soft to push oneself forward with arms and ice claws. So it’s a lot of back and forth to get a bit of momentum to crash another metre with brute force. The stiff neoprene of my survival suit does not make it easier and I’m so exhausted when I leave the ice behind. I change plans. I won’t visit Obbolstenarna today (farther away) but the island Bredskär again. I turn the kayak and paddle north. Partially to open water, partially through fields of thin feathery ice. Let’s see, how far I’ll come.

I reach Bredskär and start to circle it. Looking at the right I see snow covered islands in the distance and ice fields. It feels and looks quite arctic.

This impression changes directly when I look left and see the forest of Bredskär passing by. Looking straight ahead gives another view: The port of Holmsund with the ferry to Finland. Between that and me: many ice fields.

I pass the small bay with the sandy beach and slowly follow the shore line. When I want to turn left again to enter the sound that leads back I am stopped by another ice field, this one thicker than the others. I remember the first 100 metres today and decide not to break through but to turn. It will make the tour a bit longer but I have holidays and I’m not cold. The outer side of the island is beautiful anyhow in the light of the lowering sun.

Yes, the sun is lowering. The tour took longer than expected. I decide to watch the sunset from the kayak and slow down a bit. My fingers are getting a bit cold, but it’s worth it.

A good two hours later I arrive at the first ice field again. The ice channel that I had created by breaking through has frozen over again but breaks under the weight of my kayak. Shortly before 14 o’clock I stand on the bay ice again. The tour was a bit demanding, but impressive and beautiful. A great start into the Christmas holidays!

I’m however quite sceptical about Annika’s and my idea for tomorrow: Christmas eve paddling together. With temperatures round -10 °C the ice will probably be too thick the next day. A pity!

One day later – Christmas eve. Annika and I peek through the spotting scope to check the ice situation. Looks like the ice has gone. I walk to the ice edge and see our observations confirmed: Yesterday’s ice has gone and beside of some new and thin ice fields the water is open. So let’s take a kayak tour together!

This paddling tour was magic. The sea surface was smooth as silk, the sun felt warm and the new ice was easy to paddle through. The air was so clear that we could spot islands far away and there was almost no wind. Beside of the high frequency noises when crushing the ice with our kayaks and a dog at land barking at us it was completely silent.

It was Annika’s first winter paddling tour and I’m glad and lucky that it was such an exceptionally great one. May many other tours follow in the future! In spring, summer, autumn and winter.

 

 

 

 

Break at work IV – skiing through the forest

It’s Friday, the last day before weekend and the last opportunity this week to take a break at work.

In the morning I participated a workshop via video conference from my home office in Obbola. I just love the view through the window, where I can see the sun rising over the Baltic Sea and the snow covered backyard.

The workshop ended at 12:20. Right after that I took my old backcountry skis and dressed for a ski tour through the forests. Sunny, calm, -12°C. I wanted to go “Spåret”, a local forest trail. I followed the gravel road, crossed a ditch and followed the trail. Some hundred metres I was lost. When the snow is fresh everything looks quite alike. So I just made my own path. The fluffy snow was as deep as on the trail.

Later I found Spåret again and followed it. I walked through the shadows because the sun didn’t rise more than 3.3° above the horizon today. But at the part north of the treeless swamp the sun had a chance to peek into the forest edge.

At the road I decided to walk straight ahead instead of turning right to avoid the asphaltwith my skis. This was when I lost Spåret for good. Mostly I followed animal tracks because optical orientation is hard when it looks like this:

But it was fun because there was always something to see, even in a forest covered with 40 cm of snow. A frozen puddle at the rim of a swamp – a small pine covered with rime – thick animal tracks – the temporary (and abandoned) snow cave of a black grouse.

Sometimes I could see a roof of the house or hear a car. It’s Obbola, no wilderness. And so I came to the road that we use to take to town. I didn’t follow it but took a side road today. Less asphalt, more snow!

I arrived home at 13:55, some minutes after sunset. Again the horizon was coloured orange – and again I had a video meeting.

Break at work III – running to Vitskärsudden

It’s sunny again and significantly warmer than yesterday, but still -12 °C. I do not have time to take a longer break, so today’s plan is just running to Vitskärsudden. I’m a bit faster on the streets that have been cleared of snow and much slower on the snowy parts. I took a short photo break at the beach of Vitskärsudden, but no winter bath. Would have been a challenge between the ice floes. This break took round 30 minutes, including the photo break.

Break at work II – ice paddling

Today has been another clear and calm day. It was colder than the day before with temperatures round -19 °C. Today’s plan was paddling, at least round Lillskär, the small skerry nearby.

Step 1 – fetching the kayak

I knew exactly where our kayaks are. They lay in the garden – hidden under a layer of powder snow. So the first part of my paddle tour was digging out my kayak.

Step 2 – dressing and get equipment

Survival suit · thick mittens · ice claws · smartphone · camera · waterproof bag for the camera · paddle. Just the basics, I won’t go far.

Step 3 – crossing the ice

After some frosty days the ice on the shallow bay seemed to be thick enough to support my weight. I walked over the ice dragging the kayak behind. At the edge of the bay there was an ice range that I had to cross. I entered the kayak and mostly I used my ice claws to drag myself forward. Sometimes the ice supported the weight of me in the kayak, sometimes we broke through. Although the ice range to cross was only 100 metres wide I had to take several breaks. Some to take photos, some to catch my breath.

Step 3 – paddling

Then I reached open water. Almost. The water was covered with a thin layer of transparent ice needles that made the water look crystallised. It slowed down the waves and I could hear the high-pitched clinking while I was paddling through. Very fascinating!

In addition to that the sea was smoking. When it is as cold as today, the surface water evaporates and quickly resublimes to tiny ice grains that build this moving fog that colours the sea in a pale white.

Step 4 – visiting an ice exhibition

When I passed Lillskär I bent right to the mainland. There were some ice-coated rocks and thicker ice floes there – an extremely beautiful view in the low sunlight. I just went straight ahead. The first ice floes were split by my kayak, on the thicker once I had to use my ice claws again to move forward.

Step 5 – back to land

I realised, that my tour has taken much longer than planned, although the distance was tiny. I was clad in my survival suit, the kayak was on the ice and in 20 minutes my video meeting would begin. I had to hurry up!

The ice near the mainland was too thick to paddle through, but too thin to walk on. So, ice claws again. Not easy, when you lack trained arm and abdominal muscles. When I approached another shallow, I just left the kayak, splashed a bit trough soft ice and knee deep water until I reached the bay again.

From there I could walk on the ice and drag my kayak behind until I reached our property. I went to the house and transformed from paddle guy to IT guy as fast as possible. I informed my boss and colleagues that I would by 5 minutes late. That gave my the chance to take a hot shower, because I was freezing.

Did I miss anything of the meeting? No, the others had to fix audio and that took longer than my shower.

After the meeting, round 12:15 I walked out again to make a photo of the cloud bank and the sea smoke in the low winter sun.

Tomorrow shall be another cold and sunny day. Let’s see how I’ll spend my work break …

Break at work I – island hopping

The Baltic Sea at Obbola has hardly a tidal range. When we get high water or low water it’s mostly due to the wind. Today we had gusty wind from north that let the air temperature of -12 °C feel much colder and to a sea water level of 70 cm below normal, that’s really rare.

Today I took a break at work to enjoy my beloved winter weather. Today’s plan: island hopping to Lillskär, a skerry less than 250 metres away.

Along the small bay I walked to the sea. A lot of rocks that normally are underwater were visible now, some of them wore rings of ice.

The skerry was even nearer than usual when I took this photo because I already stood on the ice. You see parts of the skerry in the right.

I had a decision to make: Shall I try to cross the ice or just wade through the icy water? I decided to wade, because you can get bruises when you go through the ice, even in my thick neoprene survival overall.

So I waded through the water which was less than hip deep. On the islet I had to wade through some thigh deep snow drifts, then I arrived at the outer shore of the islet.

Oh, I love winter when it’s a bit rough and I enjoyed being out. But not for long. Soon I went more or less the same way back …

… and home. After I had changed clothes I had five more minutes until the 10 o’clock meeting. Good timing.

 

And suddenly it’s winter

Last Tuesday it got sunny and I paddled kayak.  On Wednesday it got cold and the small sound between island Lillskär and mainland was covered with ice.

Although it’s mid-December and despite temperatures between -10 °C and -14 °C there were still whooper swans around. Don’t they migrate south? In the morning they managed to paddle through last night’s fresh and thin sea ice. In the afternoon the swans had left. Perhaps they finally decided to fly south.

On Thursday it snowed. In the afternoon 10 cm of fresh snow had fallen and everything was white and bright, even in the night.

On Friday Annika and I had a day off and visited friends in for a long weekend. They live in Kusfors in the inland, round 180 km north. On the way there and there we found more winter. It was not very cold but it snowed quite a lot. I took some images from the car while Annika was driving.

Yesterday on Sunday we came back to our house in Obbola round 20:00. Our property was covered with 45 of fresh snow. Since it had been sub-zero all the days the snow was pretty fluffy. We had to do quite a bit of snow shovelling – but after taking a photo.

Today it’s Monday and a new working week has begun. I had a lot of meetings today and therefore no time to paddle kayak. Oh yes, the kayaks … where are they? I know they lie beside the wooden terrace. Here they are, well hidden under a thick blanket of snow, right beside the window of the winter garden.

But there are other things to do as well. For example opening the afterwork ski season in Olles Spår near Umeå together with Annika. The snow is still soft and the cross-country skiing trail still slow but the first time of skiing is always special and we are happy and grateful that we live in a place where winter is around us.

Now it’s half past nine in the evening and I’m blogging. Snow is falling and the thermometer shows -9.5 °C, the same temperature as the last hours.

And you? What kind of winter do you like? Or do you prefer other seasons?

Finally it’s sunny again home in Sweden!

After a period of dull and cloudy weather that felt like ages the sun finally came out yesterday. Since I was flexible with working hours in the  morning I could make a small kayak tour.

The first part was easy. Since our house in Obbola is on the coast I only had to change my clothes and drag the kayak from the house to the bay. The bay was covered with ice. As usual I just sat in my kayak and started pushing myself ahead using ice claws. This works surprisingly well until you have a lot of water on the ice as I had yesterday. Although I wore neoprene gloves I got cold fingers. As usual this took some time but finally I reached open water.

It was then that I realised that I had forgot my paddle. Fortunately the bay is shallow and I could leave the kayak, step on the ice and carefully walk back to land to fetch the paddle. Some minutes later I sat in my kayak again ready to circle the island Bredskär. I watched the hooting whooper swans and even four flying goldeneyes, a species of ducks. At the northwestern tip of the island there was a small, slushy ice field, the rest was open water. The big freezing hadn’t started yet. When I reached the eastern side of the island I could watch the sunrise some minutes after 9 o’clock.

The last part of the otherwise calm tour was surprisingly wavy. When one breaking wave came out of nothing and of course directly from the side I was afraid that I could capsize but the wave just lifted me gently up half a metre and down again. I was lucky. Sometimes it’s nice to own a less agile but super stable boat.

Even it was only some degrees minus the kayak was covered with a layer of frost that glittered in the warm light of the sun. I just had to take another photo when I was back on land.

And then? After taking a hot shower I made it to the 10 o’clock meeting. In time!

From Tromsø to Obbola

Friday, 18 November – walking back from work

It’s weekend. Today I stopped working already at 14:15. Sunset was 40 minutes ago and the light is beautiful while I’m walking home.

In Tromsø there’s hardly any snow, but a lot of rime. In the evening there’s polar light, but I only take a smartphone snapshot – tomorrow is a long day.

Saturday, 19 November – taking the bus to Narvik

Today is travel day. Round 16–17 hours it will take me from home to home.

Yes, I have two homes. One “work home” in Tromsø where I work and one “Home home” in Obbola where my wife Annika and I have a house by the Baltic Sea.

The weather is gorgeous and I take many photos through the window of the bus. Therefore some of the motives are blurred. The last one – the large bridge Hålogalandsbron is jittery because it has become dusky.

Saturday, 19 November – taking the train to Umeå

It’s a long ride from Narvik to Umeå. Departure 15:10, arrival 1:40 in the night. But it is a though train. I don’t have anything more to do but being awake on the arrival in Umeå. While I eat my take-away sushi outside of the train station it gets dark and so there is not much to see from the landscape in the train unless it stops.

In the frosty inland where it is quite cold I witness a special phenomenon. The whole forest we are passing is lit in green light. Another aurora? No, it’s cloudy. There are passages where the power lines for the train are coated with rime ice. The layer is so thick, that the current collector of the train looses contact and the electricity jumps over emitting bright green light that illuminates the dark forest.

The train arrives in Umeå in time and Annika already waits at the station. Another half an hour and I’m home home. Bed is waiting!

Sunday, 20 November – winter feelings

Oh, what a blessing it is to be home home. Normally we are supposed to work at the offices of the Norwegian Polar Institute but my boss knows about our long-distance relationship (or is it called long-distance marriage?) and allowed me to do home office until Christmas. Tusen takk! And it is even wintry and a bit sunny and a bit snowy.

From now on I can enjoy the view from my home office.

Monday, 21 November – the first home office day

Enjoying the view from my home office is a pleasure but when all of the sudden the morning sun peeks through the clouds I just have to go outside and make some photos!

And what do I do at lunchtime? This:

 

Some summer days in Sweden

I was home in Sweden for only three weeks but the time feels long and rich. Annika and I had guests most of the time but some days in between just the two of us.

A short kayak trip in the sun

On 1 July I used my lunch break to paddle to the beach. I took a bath and lunch there and then paddled back to work. Ah, I love this type of lunch breaks!

A day trip to Norrbyskär

On 3 July Annika and I took the car to Norrbyn and from there the ferry to the island Norrbyskär. Always worth visiting, especially when the warm weather invites to a bath.

A wavy kayak trip

On 4 July Annika and I made a kayak trip to and round the island Tarv. Normally this would be a quite relaxing tour of 10–11 km. But due to the windy weather the sea was pretty choppy and we had to focus a lot on the waves and the rocks.

No one of us took any photos there, but in the more sheltered waters beside and behind the island it was possible to take some photos again. And another bath.

Finally rain

On 7 July it finally rained in Obbola. The rain came too late for the dried up lawn but probably saved a lot of flowers and bushes in our garden.

Hiking twice

On 8 July Annika and hiked twice. First round Grössjön together with guests from Germany, then just we two at the Kronören naturreservat. Grössjön is mostly forest and bogs (and a lot of mosquitoes) while Kronören is also open landscape by the sea.

Back to Tromsø

Ten days ago an 10 July I travelled back to Tromsø. Train Departure in Umeå 2:15 in the night, bus arrival in Tromsø was 17:30.

I felt cold and made a Covid test the next day. Bang – positive! Therefore I couldn’t take advantage of the beautiful summer weather in Tromsø but stayed home in bed the week.

I made some short hikes on the weekend but the weather was dull, foggy and rainy.