Hurtigruten in Berlevåg

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

Day 38 of my winter journey 2018

Annika and I travelled a lot over the Varanger Peninsula the last ten days and we only saw one Hurtigruten ship far away. Tonight we stay in Kjølnes, just six kilometres outside from Berlevåg. So we took the opportunity and looked at the incoming Hurtigruten ships at the port. The north going and south going ships meet outside of Berlevåg, today the Polarlys and the Vesterålen. Unfortunately the ships arrive at 21:45 and 22:00, so it was dark, when we stood at the edge of the breakwater to welcome (and photograph) the Hurtigruten ships.

In three days we’ll be in Berlevåg again, this time on the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge, but that’s another story …

 

Over the kalfjell to Berlevåg

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

Day 38 of my winter journey 2018

The Varanger Peninsula has many inhabited places at the coast, but you cannot take the car and drive around the whole island, not even in summer. There are three roads:

  • The E 75 to Vardø via Vadsø. In summer you can continue to Hamningberg, but this place has been depopulated since 1964 though some houses are used as summer cottages.
  • The 890 to Berlevåg via Kongsfjord. In summer you can continue to Store Molvik, but there are only summer cottages.
  • The 890 and 891 to Båtsfjord.

We explored the towns connected by the E 75 so far. Yesterday however we left the Varanger Peninsula, visited the Sea Sami Collections in Byluft and spent the night in Seida near Tana. Today we continued our trip and entered the Varanger Peninsula again, this time using the 890 to Berlevåg.

A local in Ekkerøy had warned us about this road, which leads about the kalfjell – the bare mountains above the treeline. The weather conditions can be severe and the road can be closed anytime due to bad weather or only accessible by kolonnekjøring, which means that you drive in a guided convoy led by a snowplough. Mostly it’s not snow that is the problem, but strong winds, that can create impassable snowdrifts within minutes.

The weather today however was fine and we didn’t have any difficulties in crossing the kalfjell. The road is really exposed to the elements and I can imagine that the very same road will be completely impassable in stormy conditions.

There is however another possibility to travel from one place to another: using the Hurtigruten ships, that connect Berlevåg, Båtsfjord, Vardø and Vadsø on their way from Bergen to Kirkenes.

The Sea Sami Collections in Byluft

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

Day 37 of my winter journey 2018

When we left Kirkenes last year we got the tip to visit the Sjøsamiske samlinger – the Sea Sami Collections in Byluft. We went there and were amazed at the huge collection of showpieces. This year we visited the museum again, this time with more time and a warmer winter jacket, since the exhibition rooms are not heated.

Helmer Losoa, who runs the museum gave us a warm welcome and asked us in to coffee, where he talked about the museum’s and his personal history.

Helmer was born and grew up in Byluft. Aged 15 he went to sea on the training ship M/S Gann. That was in the ’50s. He travelled for many years and lived in Oslo a long time. When he moved back to Byluft in 1990 much had changed. Everything was motorised and many things were made of plastic. Helmer wondered what had happened to the old things of the Sea Sami in this region and started to collect many items, mostly from the years 1830 – 1950. He got support for building the museum but not for running it. A part of the items were donated to the collections, but most things Helmer bought himself from his own money.

After drinking coffee and listening to Helmer we went to the museum and Helmer showed us around.

There are many facets that make the Sea Sami Collections especially interesting:

  • While many other museums focus on the Mountain Sami who herded reindeers, this museum focuses on the more unknown Sea Sami who lived by the Norwegian coast of fishing, farming and hunting.
  • The exhibition is huge! I guess you could build at least ten new museums all over Northern Norway from all the exhibits that Helmer collected under the last 28 years.
  • Helmer can tell many stories about the showpieces in his collection. Some of them belonged to his relatives and he knows a lot about the history behind.
  • There are no glass boxes. You can have a close look at everything and with Helmer’s permission you are allowed to touch some of the items.
  • The museum reflects the everyday life of the Sea Sami in older times. Beside of wooden boats or fishing equipment you will find old coffeepots or radios, too.

We stayed in the museum quite a long time. It probably would take weeks to look at all the showpieces in detail. We looked around, asked questions to Helmer and listened to his stories. After some time we left the museum and said goodbye to Helmer.

Thank you so very much, Helmer! It was a pleasure to meet you again and to be guided through your Sea Sami Collections. Hopefully we’ll meet again sometime.

The Sea Sami Collections are located in Byluft, 29 km east from Varangerbotn.

Farewell Ekkerøy

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

Day 37 of my winter journey 2018

Today we bade Ekkerøy farewell. When I woke up this morning, 5 cm of fluffy snow had fallen and covered everything except the road that already had been cleared of snow. On the beach however ice and the new snow still were present.

After breakfast we packed the car and cleaned the house Skjeldrum, that we had hired for four nights. We said goodbye to L. from whom we rented the house and left the village Ekkerøy behind.

We took the E 75 southwards: KibyVadsøVestre JakobselvNessebyVarangerbotn. Tomorrow we will head to Berlevåg, today we stay in Seida near Tana, which is already on the way.

But before that we made a detour: We took the E 6 to Byluft to visit Helmer Losoa and his incredible Sea Sami Collections. We’ve been there last year and were looking forward to meet Helmer and visit this museum again.

To the article about the Sea Sami Collections.

 

 

A skitour near Ekkerøy

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

Day 36 of my winter journey 2018

locking the rented house in Ekkerøy – taking by car to the main road – looking for a parking place – mounting the skis – following the snowmobile trail – leaving that trail – slowly ascending the hill – leaving the last willow bushes behind – skiing – breathing – viewing – enjoying Varanger’s “kalfjell” above the treeline.

Ekkerøy and Nesseby

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

Day 34 and 35 of my winter journey 2018

After some days in Ytre Kiberg Annika and I travelled to the next place: Ekkerøy. This village, 50 km southwest from Kiberg lies on the peninsula Ekkerøya that is connected to land by a natural dam with sandy beaches on each side. We already had taken a short walk at one of the beaches last week, where we had met H., one of the locals.

We arrived in Ekkerøy three days ago. The day before yesterday I took a morning promenade with my camera. I made some photos, but the light was a bit dull.

After breakfast Annika and I started a tour round the island, partly with snowshoes, partly on foot. There’s a cliff at the southern shore that looks quite impressive. At the eastern tip there’s an old wooden sea mark. The northern shore is quite flat and was more snowy. Outgoing tide already had started so we walked the last meters on the beach until we came to our wonderful house, that we’ve rented for four days.

As you might have noticed almost all photos shown in this blog have a landscape format. I have a project however that might involve having portrait format photos as well. Therefore I walked to the beach yesterday morning to find a motif fitting portrait format, not too easy in a landscape that’s extensive and mainly quite flat. It was almost high tide and it was quite cold – -12 °C and very windy. The water at the beach was almost of a slushy consistency and each wave flushed new liquid slush to the beach where it froze to a wavy line of ice. That motif went quite well in portrait format, I just have to practise my view.

(I have to think over the design of my blog, these portrait format images are way too large.)

It cleared up more and more and the sun shone from a blue sky. We took the car to Nesseby, 50 km away, where I planned to make some photos of the Nesseby Church. The more we came to the more sheltered parts of the fjord, the colder it got and the open water of the Barents Sea smoked. This phenomenon is called sea smoke and happens, when cold air lies over the open sea.

From the harbour Nesseby Church could be seen through the foggy sea smoke. It is located quite exposed at the thinnest part of a peninsula and can be spotted from long, when weather is good. After looking from the harbour we continued to the church and had a closer look.

We took a short detour to Varangerbotn. There it was even colder with -19 °C but fair weather and hardly any wind.

It’s fascinating to have a look at the fjord of the same name. At the end it’s completely frozen with many icy humps, but on the way back (and north again) it opened and sea smoke appeared again.

In Vadsø I took a promenade on the island Vadsøya to have a look at the airship mast. Since I’ve been a child I’m a huge fan of balloons and airships and it was interesting to see this mast, built in 1926 and only used twice: by Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen for their expedition over the North Pole with the airship Norge in the same year and on Nobile’s flight with the airship Italia two years later.

Home again we remembered that H. who we’d met the week before had asked us in for coffee some day. At 4 o’clock we knocked at the door of her house and met her husband T. who directly invited us to come in. H. was visiting a friend and would join us later. We talked and talked, about languages, life in Northern Norway in general and Ekkerøy in special and we had a good time (and got coffee, cakes, cheese, grapes and red wine). When we left H. and T. – two of the round twenty permanent residents in Ekkerøy – it was already 9 pm and sky was dark … beside of a beautiful aurora dancing above the northern shore.

It took some minutes to walk home, put on warmer clothes, get camera and tripod and the aurora already had weakened a lot when I took the photo below. So it is with northern lights: intensity can change very fast, often within seconds.

Today we have another day in Ekkerøy. Our plans so far: not any. That’s nice, too!

 

 

 

 

Eight times Ytre Kiberg and around

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

Day 31 and 32 of my winter journey 2018

1. Yesterday, Ytre Kiberg – the morning

Two days ago two other guests arrived at Cape East Arctic Adventure, our cozy stay in Ytre Kiberg. They came from Utrecht in the Netherlands and were on a three week car trip from Utrecht to the North Cape and back – 8500 kilometres in total!

Trond, our fantastic host made a special breakfast for them: King crabs, locally caught in the Barents Sea. Annika and I got our share, too. King crabs are probably my favourite seafood but it was the first time I got such for breakfast.

After breakfast Trond had some work to do: clearing the snow with his rotary snow plough. Last days had been very windy with some short but intense snow showers. The snowploughs had to work a lot to keep the roads clear of snow and Trond had to clear the snow on his property several times a day. This morning the snow drifts were especially high and Trond had to work hard to get through with his snowblower.

2. Yesterday, Vardø – a private guide tour by Trond

After the driveway was cleared, Trond invited the Dutch guests and us to a short private guided tour in Vardø. We entered his all-wheel drive car and he drove us the short way to Vardø – a town with 2100 inhabitants located on an island – where he showed us some of his favourite places. There is a lot of street art in Vardø and next time I have to take a closer look to all the graffiti and more conceptual artworks. But you cannot do all in a single journey.

There’s a mountain pass between Vardø and Ytre Kiberg called Domen. It’s quite exposed to the elements and when we crossed it waves of driving slow covered the road.

3. Yesterday, Skallelv – a short visit

Soon after we arrived in Kiberg, the Dutch guests left and Annika and I made a car ride to Skallelv, 30 km south of Ytre Kiberg. The weather was really nice: sunny and hardly any wind. We went round a bit and I made some photos. I had however problems with some lenses, they got moisture inside that tends to freeze when being outside. Hopefully they will dry within the next days.

4. Yesterday, Vardø – the Vardøhus Fortress

After a rest we took a tour to Vardø again, this time we wanted to focus on two local attractions: The fortress and the witch memorial.

The Vardøhus Fortress (Vardøhus festning) was built round 1300 and is the northernmost fortress of the world. Beside of being a museum it is used today as a school for the Norwegian marine. Shortly after we arrived there, the Trollfjord, a Hurtigruten ship landed in Vardø and shortly after many tourist rushed through the fortress. In contrary to us they only had litte time.

5. Yesterday, Vardø – Steilneset Memorial

After visiting the fortress we went on to visit the witch memorial. It’s not easy to reach. First of all you have to know that it is called Steilneset Memorial (or find it visually), then you have to plunge through deep snow, because there are no cleared ways to the memorial.

In 1621 91 people, mostly women and Sami people had been executed for witchcraft. This memorial, created in 2011, shows the history of all 91 people and lists the confessions made. It is a shocking and touching place about the cruelty of mankind and worth to visit, if you are in Vardø and have the time.

After this long and eventful day we were quite exhausted and decided to take it a bit more easy the next day.

6. Today, Ytre Kiberg – a promenade in Ytre Kiberg

Today morning it was quite warm (-4 °C) and almost windless. 10 cm of new snow had been fallen over night. After breakfast we took a medium short promenade along the beach and into the village and back. The weather was changeable as it uses to be here. It could change from sun to snow within less than a minute.

Snow fall intensified and it became a bit windier, too.

7. Today, Ytre Kiberg – a private tour though the partisan museum

At 15:30 we had an appointment: we were invited to visit the Partisanmuseet – the partisan museum in Ytre Kiberg. We would get a personal guided tour from Steinar Borch Jensen – expert for the history of Kiberg and around – who would open the museum for us.

Trond took a huge spade, we entered the car, drove the short way to the museum, plunged through the snow to the entrance, where Steinar already had started to clear the outer stairs. Trond joined him shovelling.

The museum is not the biggest and the showpieces maybe not the most special, it’s the stories behind the showpieces that matter. Steinar had a lot to tell about the partisans in Northern Norway that fought on the Soviets side against the National Socialists in World War II. Beside of Steinar’s huge knowledge about that time there was another facet, that made our visit in the museum very special. Both Trond and Steinar have personal relations to the partisans. They know their relatives and they know the places where they lived. For many Norwegians the history of WWII is not just an academic interest but personal history. Soon the last witnesses of the past will be gone.

I felt very touched by the visit and was glad that we got the opportunity to get involved into the local history, but it made me thoughtful, too and reinforced my personal pacifistic worldview.

8 .Today, Ytre Kiberg – the first Varanger polar lights

Actually I planned only seven stories in this long blog article, but well …

I was out after a great two course dinner: reindeer (provided by Trond), pancakes (provided by Annika) and me doing the dishes. I wanted to make a photo of Cape East Arctic Adventure, Trond’s house, where Annika and I had such a good time. Then I spotted faint polar lights. I wore only a t-shirt and got in to fetch my Canada Goose parka. I was outside quite a while since the polar lights gradually became stronger. They constantly changed place making it hard to take any good pictures. It was -10 °C, quite windy and more and more I closed the zipper of the parka to prevent freezing. After a while the aurora weakened and I went in to look at the photos. I’m not content with the image above, but it’s a nice remembrance of our fantastic stay at Cape East Arctic Adventure in Ytre Kiberg.

Tomorrow we will leave and stay in Ekkerøy for some days.

Tusen takk, Trond, for your kindness and your great hospitality!

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.

Travelling to the Varanger peninsula

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

Day 28 of my winter journey 2018

Yesterday Annika and I said good-bye to our friends Chris and Ørjan who live near the Snowhotel in Kirkenes. We wanted to continue to Vadsø on the Varanger Peninsula for an overnight stay. After breakfast, packing and saying good-bye we left at 11 o’clock. We followed the road 885 coming from Bjørnevatn and turned left into the E6 in direction Alta/Narvik. Right before the turnout to the airport we came to a stop. Some cars before us had stopped, one driver talking to a policeman. The other cars turned and we stood in the front. There we spotted a huge road sign “Closed, info telephone 175”.

The policeman told us that the E6 had been closed for some hours due to an avalanche that had to be blasted away. That could take some other hours. The E6 is not only the main road through Norway, it’s also the only way from Kirkenes to the Varanger Peninsula. So we returned to Kirkenes.

We ate some lunch, visited some shops and the library and waited for the road to be opened again. After some time it looked like the road would be opened round 14:00 so we gave it another try, were stopped again and told that the snow removal could take some more hours. We returned again, this time to our friends house ready to stay.

We went to the Snowhotel and told Chris about the road closure. Just after we told her that we would stay for another night the website informed us, that the road was usable again. I took a picture of the beautiful entrance hall made of snow and ice by a Russian artist, …

… we said good-bye one more time and took the very same roads again a third time. This time we were lucky, the road was opened and completely free of snow. We followed the E6 to Varangerbotn where we took the E75 to Vardø. Some hours later we were in Vadsø where we had our first couchsurfing experience.

Couchsurfing is a platform where people can host other people for free. It’s both great for finding a place to sleep and interesting people to meet. Our host, Nils Õun from Estonia was a really great host. He’s a professional cook and he made us a creative and gorgeous dinner. We talked and talked many hours and Annika and I were really glad to had the opportunity to meet him. Just a snapshot of the best chicken I ate in the last years, part of his dinner:

As I mentioned before was Nils a great host. Aitäh, Nils!

(Sneak preview: today we continued to Kiberg where we’ll stay for some nights. One of the nice and special places on the Varanger peninsula.)