Two months ago – first aid course in Solberget

Day 31 – 38

Today when I look outside the window, I realised that winter finally has left Skelleftehamn. The patch of snow that I stood upon ten days ago to view the Northern Lights has melted away and some trees start to show their first little leaf buds.

Well – it looked different when I was in Solberget in Swedish Lapland two months ago, where a first aid course of the “Outdoorschule Süd” took place. The week was filled with many actions – both course units indoors and outdoors and leisure, too. If you are one of the course participant you will realise, that I left out quite much.  That’s because I tried to keep the text very short – it’s more keyword style – and focus more on the photos.


Arrival day: an incredible starry night with even a bit of faint Northern Lights


Course unit outdoors, training recovery position (“Stabile Seitenlage”) – course unit indoors, training cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“Herz-Lungen-Wiederbelebung”) – and a beautiful coloured evening sky.


How to move injured people: a lot of teamwork is needed – frost patterns again – Lars, the Sámi, tells us about the reindeer herding


How to evacuate injured people from an observation tower – reindeer sledge ride. (No people were harmed)


Ski tour to Polcirceln, where we’ll stay to nights. I slept in my tent since the two cabins are really small.


A misty morning – another “real life case”: hypothermia – a beautiful dusk. (No people were harmed)


Ski tour back to Solberget – another fantastic dinner, this time: salmon.

Saturday (again)

The last day – many serious studies as: How many people fit into the igloo (Answer: all!) or who wins the snowball fight

Thank you, Angela and Stefan from the “Outdoorschule Süd” for a great week!


Nordkalotten 2015 – final review

Just some final thoughts – quite unordered and far from being complete.

The good parts

Friends – I made the journey alone, but I spent time with friends. In Haukenes on the Vesterålen, in Kurravaara and in Murjek. At Solberget in Swedish Lapland, in Abisko/Björkliden, and finally in Kirkenes near the Norwegian-Russian border. Sharing time, thoughts and experiences with others is always great and I really enjoyed the time I was allowed to spend with old and new friends.

Conclusion: Share more time with friends!

Being outdoors – When I look back I remember mostly my outdoor trips. Some examples:

Each tour gave me the impression of being in the right place and doing it right. I realised again, that I just adore being outdoors, especially in the kalfjäll – the alpine tundra above the tree line.

Conclusion: Be outside – it feels good!

The inferior parts

Driving alone – This journey involved a lot of driving, sometimes the whole day. I consider this both boring and exhausting. Boring because you cannot share your thoughts (see Friends above), exhausting because I had to drive every single of the 6630 kilometres by myself. Sometimes I couldn’t enjoy driving as much as I hoped, I was just glad to arrive somewhere.

Conclusion: Take a friend, drive less or just stand it.

Tenting and short days – Short days aren’t any problem if you have a cabin or another warm place to stay. They are less fun, when you’re still driving without knowing whether you’ll find a cheap overnight stay. They are hard, when you lie alone in your tent and it’s pitch dark outside already at five o’clock. Again boredom is the main problem (see Friends above, again) and time as well since it may take much time to find a place for tenting, erect the tent, cook your meal, do the dishes and so on. That’s why I tented only once (and slept two other night in my tent too without the need to cook).

Conclusion: Take a friend or avoid tenting when days are too short.

Favourite places

Some old favourite places:

  • The Vesterålen – just beautiful and much easier to discover on foot than the steep and rugged Lofoten islands
  • Solberget – a perfect place to calm down and to make tours with the long wooden Tegsnäs skis
  • Abisko and around – an ideal place for starting ski tours between an hour and some weeks. I recommend Abisko Handcraft for accommodation.

And some new discoveries:

  • Låktatjåkko – Sweden’s highest located Mountain Lodge, 1228m above sea level, a perfect place to get snowed in
  • Kirkenes – great landscape with a fantastic combination of open and ice covered fjords, snowy mountains and much more. And a great team at the Kirkenes Snow Hotel

Things I can have at home, too

When I wrote about my paddling yesterday I was asked in a comment, why I travel at all, when I can have this right on my doorstep. I’ve been living in Skellefteå and Skelleftehamn for almost five years and a lot of winter experiences are really just round the corner:

  • Northern Lights –  I saw them many times, even if they may be more impressive more up north
  • Snow – Each single year we got much snow, quite often between 80 and 100 cm and I can start ski tours in my front yard
  • Blizzards – Last winter: 83 cm in 24 hours; I missed this winter’s snowstorm
  • Moose – There are a lot of them in the forest, but I only see the tracks and moose poop. Sometimes even some reindeers
  • Coldness – sometimes it can be quite cold with temperatures below -30 °C, but that’s seldom
  • Sea ice – the Baltic Sea freezes over each year. I can ski on the sea ice or, if parts are open, take the kayak and paddle between the ice

Things I cannot have at home

  • Polar night – we are south from the Arctic Circle and the shortest day is 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Real cold weather – I think you have to visit other places to get temperatures below -40 °C. Nikkaluokta and Kvikkjokk can be quite cold in wintertime
  • Mountains – we have some tree-covered hills but no real mountains and no tree line neither – a pity!
  • Wilderness – let’s face it, there’s a lot of nature around but no real wilderness. If you go through a forest straight ahead you will cut a way or find a summer cottage quite soon
  • Fjords – no fjords neither, Norway seems to have the European monopoly. Some people say, that the Baltic Sea is not even a real sea but more kind of a big lake
  • New impressions – as I mentioned I’ve been living here for almost five years and I start to know the surroundings. It’s always nice to discover something new

Wishes and ideas for winter 2016

  • I want to share more time with friends, preferably outdoors
  • I want to make (at least) one longer ski tour
  • I want to sleep in a tent when it’s below -40 °C
  • I want to visit Låktatjåkko and Kirkenes again
  • I want to paddle between ice floes
  • If money isn’t too short: I want to see something completely new. Greenland? Svalbard? Labrador? I don’t know yet

It’s all right as long as it’s winter!

Nordkalotten 2015 – the weather

Let’s make it short: I feel betrayed by the winter this year! It was too windy and it was too warm! Much too warm. And when it snowed, I was far away.

First of all it was too warm – the average temperature of the whole February was 8 °C too high in parts of central Swedish Lapland. That’s about the same difference as between Stockholm and Rome! The whole february! And March wasn’t better. The “all journey minimum temperature” I measured was only -24 °C, I expected temperatures near -40 °C, at least once.

And it was very windy – Norway got its hurricane Ole with average wind speeds up to 36 m/s (that’s level 12 on the Beaufort scale) and gusts up to 53 m/s (that’s level 16 on the extended Beaufort scale!). But many others days were windy and stormy, too, even if not so severe as hurricane Ole.

Most trees where free of snow. Either the snow was blown away or it just melted and dropped down. That made not only the pine forests looking quite boring, but also the snow looking quite dirty, since it was covered with leaves, needles, small branches, bark and much more.

That didn’t look like the untouched, virgin winter landscape in early February but more like city parks in late April, a minor catastrophe for photographers who want to show impressive winter images. Luckily there were exceptions and I got at least some wintry images with snow covered trees, even if only a few.

Yes, it has been cold in January. Some days. In Sweden, but not in coastal Norway where I was at this time. Yes, it snowed ridiculously much in the first days in February, both in the coast and in central Lapland, but not in Abisko in the western mountain region, where I was at this time. It was a bit like being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later, when Ole arrived, big amounts of snow where forecasted in the mountains, but I considered the weather too dangerous to drive there. As in early February I only saw the results, never the snow fall itself.

And then came the warmth. Since the 24th of February I’ve measured temperatures above zero almost every single day. And this effect wasn’t local, it took place in the whole Northern Europe. In Norway, in Sweden, in Finland. Streets were icy, snow was crusty and I was just glad when it didn’t rain.

Yes, when it comes to weather I am really disappointed. It was the lousiest winter ever, that I experienced north from the polar circle, where I’ve been travelling round since January 2003 now.

Don’t get me wrong! The journey was great, but mostly it was great despite of the weather, not because of the weather.

Last winter was quite bad, too, this winter lousy, now I hope, that winter 2016 will be extraordinary cold and snowy and that I’ll find the time to travel around again.


Nordkalotten 2015 – the animals

Let’s see which animals I got to see under my journey Nordkalotten 2015:

Moose (Elch, älg)

Three moose. The first one I saw from the inside of a house. A big male that walked on the road with a car slowly following. The other two I saw from the car.

Article: Where to go? Undecided yet …

Reindeer (Rentier, ren)

Countless reindeers. Reindeers are so common that I saw them many, many times (and I don’t count the tame or the fenced in ones). Several times I had to slow down or to stop because of reindeers being on the road. Sometimes they do not leave the road but instead start to flee. It’s a bit funny to follow the tails of four galloping reindeers with the car but it must be exhausting for them and I’m always glad when they leave the road.

The reindeers in Northern Scandinavia aren’t wild animals, they always belong to a Sámi family. You see them pulling sleds, posing for photos or even participate in sledge-races.

Articles: Reindeers – many, many reindeers · Jokkmokks marknad

Fox (Fuchs, räv)

The first fox I saw as a pair of eyes glimmering in the darkness while I drove car. The second one I saw from the car, too on my journey to Kirkenes. I took first same photos from the inside of my car. I tried to get nearer, but the fox went away and disappeared soon.

Mountain hare (Schneehase, skogshare)

I saw a mountain hare near Abisko. It looked at me from a hill above. I didn’t even try to follow, since mountain hares are a zillion times faster than me with skis in deep snow on hilly and forestry terrain. No photos therefore.

Seal (Robbe, säl)

We saw a seal in the harbour when we started the whale safari in Andenes. Since we were told to protect our cameras from spray and waves we all had our cameras in. No photo neither.

Whale (Wal, val)

Yes I saw whales and more than expected. A great experience!

Article: Whale watching in Andenes.

Eagle (Adler, örn)

Some. A pair sitting on the breakwater in Andenes. It was too dark for taking photos. I saw some flying here and there but too far away.

Ptarmigan (Schneehuhn, ripa)

Only two (which is a sign that I’ve been less out in nature as planned). One from the car, one in the valley Vistasdalen on a ski tour with Annika.

Article: A day trip into the valley Vistasdalen

Purple sandpiper (Meerstrandläufer, skärsnäppa)

Twice. Some at the shore in Tromsø and a larger group in Olderfjord. This was a short but awesome experience seeing them fly away and return to the same place again.

Articles: Purple sandpipers and Tromsø: At the shore.

Siberian jay (Unglückshäher, Lavskrika)

Twice. Some at the Polcirceln and two near Kirkenes. They were much to shy for me to get good photos, so I publish a bad one ;-)

Of course there are many, many more species in Northern Scandinavia but especially the big carnivores – bear, lynx, wolf and wolverine – are extremely rare to see. Most bears are seen from the car, but not in wintertime when they have winter rest. And to be honest, I don’t want to meet a bear when hiking in the forest.

Postscript: Husky

I didn’t mention the Huskies, of course they are animals, too. But I thought more about the animals found in the wilderness, when I wrote this article. Anyway, some links to articles with photos of huskies:

Articles: Kirkenes: A night in the snow hotel · Jokkmokks marknad

Postscript 2: The Old Norwegian Sheep

These curious, cuddly fellows belong to the Nøisomhed Gård in Haukenes, where I stayed right in the beginning of my journey.

Nordkalotten 2015 – the journey in numbers

The journey

My journey took 55 days – I have still some weeks holiday left but decided to shorten the trip. In this 55 days I visited Solberget, Abisko, the Vesterålen, Tromsø, Murjek, Loma Vietonen in Finland, Björkliden, Nikkaluokta, Alta, Honningsvåg, the North Cape, Kirkenes and many other places.

I slept in my tent only 3 times, had 16 free overnight stays and payed 36 times between 23 and 69 Euros.


I travelled 6630 kilometres by car, which consumed 563.5 litres of fuel (if I wrote it down correctly). The longest distance on one day was the journey back home from the Kirkenes Snow Hotel that took 856.5 kilometres.

563.5 litres were burnt to circa 1300 kg CO₂. That’s the same impact as flying from Bremen (my home town) to Tenerife and back again.


It’s hard to calculate how much the journey costed. Shell I include food that I need at home, too? The new battery for the car?

Anyway the journey costed round 3200 Euros, including the daily food, excluding the car battery and some equipment I bought.

Accommodation: ca 1350 EUR · Fuel: ca 900 EUR · Tours/entrance fees: ca 200 EUR · Restaurants: ca 250 EUR · Food: ca 450 EUR


The winter this year was extremely warm. Therefore the lowest temperature on the journey was a mere -24 °C. The lowest temperature while tenting was -22 °C. There were at least 20 days with temperatures above zero. The largest amount of snow I should guess was 150 cm since it was shoulder deep. Mostly the snow in Sweden was between 70 and 100 cm, in Norway a bit less and later on the journey less as well due to the high temperatures.

The temperature minimum home in Skelleftehamn was -16 °C. The last years it was less than -20 °C several time each winter.


Home again

I no can speak english anymore 2day. I do did travel far 2day. Kirkenes round half past 8, Skelleftehamn 22:22. That’s – I cannot calculate neither anymore – that’s many miles.

Tomorrow after big, big sleep I try to write something meaningful again.



Kirkenes: A night in the snow hotel

This is perhaps the most special place of the whole Nordkalotten 2015 journey to write my blog: On the bed in the room of the snow hotel. Behind me a warm sleeping bag, beside me a snow relief of husky dogs running.

But its a perfect match to my afternoon, where my friend had a half day of and I got a wonderful private dog sledding tour. Parts of the trail where prepared perfectly, because they were part of the Finnmarksløpet – a 1000 km dog race from Alta to Kirkenes and back again that happens right now. First I sat and enjoyed gliding through the landscape effortlessly, but on the flat sea ice of the Langfjorden I could stand on the sledges blades and steer the dogs by myself – a really easy terrain for beginners like me – and I have to admit that this is much more fun than just sitting.

A great two hour tour, thank you, C.! The only disadvantage as a photographer, most of the time you see bums and tails, but if you ignore this, it’s great fun!

Later on we got a three course dinner which was very good. To be honest, that was almost the main reason, why I booked the snow hotel night. I’ve slept in igloos before, but of course not in such a huge one with a three course dinner before.

This night is a good end of my journey. Tomorrow I’ll head home. I’m stuffed with sensations and impressions and I’m longing home. But before I went into my room, I even got some polar light again after a quite long time of abstinence.

Now I have to close, the laptop runs out of battery and I start getting cold.

Good night!


King crab fishing

Yesterday I was on one of the tours, that the Kirkenes Snow Hotel has in its program: King crab fishing. These huge crabs are caught in big crab traps.

First we were provided with scooter overalls, big leather mittens and helmets, because we were driven to the place by snow mobile. The crab trap of the snow hotel is located at the end of the Langfjorden. Normally it would be necessary to free the hole from new ice but yesterday it was too warm and the trap, that looks like a big cage, could be pulled up directly. And yes – we were lucky – a lot of king crabs were in the trap. Bry, the guide, took four of them and showed them to us. There are fascinating animals and looking at them closer they look like aliens.

Gry killed them with a knife and they’re dead in a split of a second. Then she took the legs, that’s the eatable parts and threw back the rests that instantly were eaten by cods swimming around. We took the snow mobile to the restaurant, Gry driving, me sitting behind her and the other seven tourists in the trailer. There’s an outside kitchen where the crab lags are steamed for 16 minutes. They look red after steaming. They’re eaten with white bread, butter, lemon and mayonnaise and they taste extremely delicious. I ate lobster twice in my life and many other types of crabs and crayfish but I liked king crabs best. And there’s a lot of meat in the legs. Three legs were more than sufficient to be full, I ate four and really was stuffed. Delicious!


A first day in Kirkenes

What a beautiful morning! -6 °C and blue sky. I was accommodated near the Kirkenes Snow Hotel where my friend I’m staying with works. I had a look into the Snow Hotel first, It has an impressive lobby with tables and a bar and round about 20 rooms where tourists can stay over night.

After looking around I drove into the centre of Kirkenes and had a walk at the port. First I discovered the commercial fishing part: Big piles of traps for the big King crabs and fisher boats lettered with latin and cyrillic letters. But not far away you could see the touristic part: The Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald that landed nearby.

I walked at the shore a bit and tried to make photos of the big ice floes that lay ashore but clouds had approached and the light was a bit dull. So I took the car and took the road E105 to Му́рманск (Murmansk). No, I didn’t plan to travel to Russia but I wanted at least to see the Russian border. It’s not far away and soon I parked my car just in front of the border.

I’m child of the cold war. It was great to see, that there is a normal border now (even if you need a visa for travelling to Russia) and that you are allowed to take pictures. On the other side this border seemed to be more the “end of the world” to me than the North Cape. On the right-hand side there is the lake that is marked with orange warning signs. This is part of the Norwegian–Russian border that crosses this lake. You shouldn’t set foot on the lake, but at least I went to the shore to take a picture of the Russian custom.

Maybe I will cross this border one day and take the car or the bus to Murmansk, who knows …

It already started snowing on the way to the Russian border but on the way back the snow fall intensified. It was still easy to follow the road but hills that very a bit farer away where hardly visible.

Back at the snow hotel it was still snowing a lot and quite windy but warm as well: +1 to +2 degrees. Some of the 140 huskies were still out on tour while the rest of the dogs could take it easy.

The forecast for the next day promised sunny weather. We’ll see …


Honningsvåg – Kirkenes

Day 51

To make it short: Yesterday evening I arrived in Kirkenes, that’s almost 600 km from Honningsvåg, where I started after breakfast. And 600 km in Norway is quite a long distance.

I took the E69 to Olderfjord and the E6 to Karasjok. I wasn’t in the mood to have a closer look at this little town so I just continued. The 92 to Finnland and the 970 along the winding river Tenojoki. The sun went down and I became hungry. I  found a little pizzeria and was glad, but it was already closed since 18:00 Finnish time which is 17:00 middle european time. Bad luck! To get something to eat – this part of Finnland is quite uninhabited – I bought a chicken wing in the grocery nearby. I continued the trip and crossed the border once more, being in Norway again. I stopped at a house that had rooms to rent. Would it be open in winter? Yes – but the room in the quite smelly and ugly house costed 850 NOK, that’s 99 Euro! I refused and continued my trip. After driving many, many hours I was hungry and tired. On a parking place in the middle of nowhere – meanwhile it was pitch dark – I nibbled my chicken wing and went on. I planned to visit a friend in Kirkenes but didn’t succeed to contact her yet. Anyway I would continue the journey to Kirkenes the same day and perhaps sleep in the car until I could contact the friend. That’s where my mood went down a bit – just a half cold chicken wing for dinner and sleeping in the car without any company.

Finally I arrived in Kirkenes, but I lacked the current phone number of my friend. At least the internet revealed the postal address. Finally I found the house – a flat-sharing community – but nobody seemed to be there. But I was lucky: Just before I entered my car again a woman left the house and helped me to contact my friend, who was staying at another place for some days. I took the car and 15 minutes later I arrived. Great! Now I didn’t only had a warm place to sleep but also company which I was very thankful for, because travelling alone is a bore sometimes.

Good travelling is having a cozy place to sleep, good company, enough food, internet for blogging and every now and then a hot shower.