Summer weather in Tromsø

10:30. I am sitting in my car on my way to Sommarøya – “The summer island”. The sun is shining and it is warm already. Today it is supposed to be 19 °C, much warmer than the last weeks (or months). The first photo stop, a parking place by the sea. Tussilago is blooming everywhere.

The road leaves the sea and leads through the valley Kattfjordeidet. The lake Kattfjordvatnet lies on 149 metres of altitude. Does not sound much, nevertheless it is high enough that most parts of it are still covered with ice. I like the open areas – small waterfalls and beautiful reflections.

The valley is 12 km long. I leave it behind and meet the sea again. And two locals – reindeer that know the traffic rules and walk on the other side of the street (or better said in the ditch).

Just before the tunnel Oterviktunnelen there is a parking place and shortly after a beautiful sandy beach. It looks so warm, but I didn’t measure the water temperature …

I am lucky, I find a nice shell, a “pelican’s foot”. Then I continue my ride and enter the tunnel. It is not long, just 607 m.

Almost wherever you stop there are nice places to explore, for example this tiny beach, less than ten metres wide. It is not far away from the bridge to Sommarøya.

From the bridge you can see a lot of small islands, many of them with sandy beaches. A kayakers paradise, although the weather can be pretty rough. But if you like challenges, take your boat, head west and after 1600 km you are in Greenland. ;-)

The last weeks I have seen three kinds of wild flowers blooming in and around Tromsø. (1) Tussilago – 17 April (always the first). (2) Dandelion – 26 April. (3) Oxlip (or another primula) – 8 May. Today I discovered two others. According to Pl@ntNet, which I use for identification a Goldilocks buttercup (91.2%) and a Purple mountain saxifrage (94.6%).

Would I find one of my favourites flowers as well – the Marsh marigold, which loves wet places and has an incredibly beautiful hue of yellow. Yes? I found some of them beside a small pond.

On Sommarøya I hardly took any picture, on the outer island Hillesøya I took a photo of one of the boat harbours. In my back an open door, a dark room and in there a man cleaning fish.

After taking lunch in the snack restaurant Havfrua (“The mermaid”) it was time to drive back. I chose the way round the south of the island Kvaløya and made some small stops. One at the ponds and puddles in a boggy area, which now are free of ice. Another by the church Hillesøy kirke, which is by the way not on the island Hillesøya.

And then the time came: 20 °C according to the car thermometer! Last time it was so warm here was last August.

I took another stop to take a photo of one of the mighty mountains on the other side of the strait Straumsfjorden. When I looked down into the deep water I spotted a shoal of fish. It was hundreds, probably thousands of fish resting in the shadow. The photo is heavily edited to make the fish more visible.

After a while I came back to more known areas – less than 30 minutes away from my “work flat” in Tromsø. I stopped at a small grave yard. Most tomb stones were free of snow, but those located in the snow drifts will have to wait a bit longer. Anyhow snow in the lowlands has become the exception. Even the bogs that tend to be cold are hardly frozen any more. And so I had to be quite cautious to avoid wet feet, when I looked for a good place to take a picture of that beautiful pine tree other there – the last photo for today.

Those of you that are not so familiar with Norway as a country may ask yourselves: Why did Olaf make an excursion on a Friday? That’s because today it is Constitution Day. On 17 May 1814 the Constitution of Norway was signed and this is the most important day of the year. Even through our street a marching band walked by and all people have their best clothes on – many of them the traditional bunad which shows, from which part of Norway they come from.

And so I shout out: “Gratulerer med dagen, Norge!” – Happy birthday, Norway!

Here is an article from 10 years ago: Syttende mai (German text).

A day trip to the island Vannøya

It is 10 o’clock on Sunday, 28 April. Marika, whom I know from work and I are in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya waiting for the ferry. It will take us to the island Vannøya where we want to stay for the day.

I want to take photos, so I am opening the boot of my car and realise that I have forgotten my camera backpack at home. Sh*t! Fortunately I have my Sony camera with me, which does a pretty good job on landscape photography But no time to be grumpy, here comes the ferry.

After a ferry ride of forty minutes we arrive at the island and take the western way to the fishing village Torsvåg. We pass the Polargirl, a passenger ship that uses to make touristic excursions in Svalbard in the summer season.

After seven kilometres we come to our first stop: A small beach. The view is incredible. Snow covered mountains in the back, a cloudless sky above, some islets with white sandy beaches and shallow waters of a turquoise colour so intense that you can see it on satellite images.

We start cleaning the beach, mostly of plastic. A huge amount is plastic nets and ropes from the fishing industry. The plastic is harmful to the environment and is especially dangerous to sea birds. Beach cleaning has become quite popular and it is a good feeling to remove the garbage from nature even when it is only a drop in the ocean. The next photo showing me is taken by Marika.

We stay there for a while, not only because the scenery is to beautiful and the sun shines warmly, but because there are seals out there. Some of them were sitting on rocks until the tide came in, others are swimming in the turquoise water. They are too far away to take good pictures, but I can observe them through my binoculars.

We continue our road trip, occasionally stopping when there is any wildlife. And there is quite a lot. Here at partially frozen puddles we do not only see crows but also a Eurasian curlew.

Minutes later we arrive at Sandsletta, a larger beach. The small sandy dunes are reminiscent of the German North Sea, the mountains aren’t.

There are some more photo stops, either for scenery or for animals. This time a reindeer (we saw some of them) grazing by the road.

Then we arrive at the fishing village Torsvåg. Parts of it are located on Vannøya, others on the small island Kåja. To get there by car you have to cross a dam with a single file concrete road. In the harbour area there is a huge rack full with fish hanging to dry. The dried fish is called stockfish. And there is the Torsvåg lighthouse. If you look north from there, you can see some stony islets and rocks and then there is the open Norwegian sea. Next stop Svalbard.

Is this the end of the island? Well, at least it is the end of this road. But there is more to explore. We turn, drive back 8 km and turn left onto the road to Burøysund in the east. Marika spots an eagle with prey, probably a mountain hare. I do not stop timely and the disturbed eagle flies away to land on a stone nearby. I make a photo through the windscreen, but it is blurred. Anyhow it shows, how big eagles are. You see the crow for size comparison?

Ten minutes later I have stopped the car again, this time for two ptarmigans that first strolled on a meadow by the road and then decided to ignore us and cross the road. Another object with flying abilities was easier to photograph, but what does a propeller plane do on a parking place by the road? Does it use the road for taking off and landing?

We arrive in Burøysund. The whole of Vannøya is a bit “Norway in a nutshell” with its snowy mountains, the blue sea, the rocky shore, the coastal villages. Here anyhow the rocks are special. They are sharp-edged with their “teeth” up into the air and look wild and rough.

Now it is time to head back. On a place we spotted already on our way there we take a late lunch break with the view to the sea (and some ptarmigans and seals in the distance) and the wetlands in our back.

Even if we take the second last ferry we have plenty of time. And we need it, because while driving further I spot something in the water which does not look like seabirds. It is an otter. No, it’s two, wait – three. They meet in the sea and then swim side by side.

Then they go ashore quite near us. One is swimming away soon while the other two stay on land for ten minutes. What an experience so see them so near! I’m sure they have seen us as well but since we are quiet they ignore us. What a pity, that I forgot my Nikon to use the large telephoto lens. The Sony did not manage to take good pictures, also because of the light situation. Anyhow – for the archives – two pictures of the otters:

This day really delivered! Incredible weather and a lot of wildlife. Reindeer, curlews, ptarmigans, geese, eagles, a lot of other birds I do not know, a white mountain hare, the first butterfly of the season (a small tortoiseshell), several seals and now the three otters. Time to catch the ferry with a hasty detour to the south east of the island from which you can see the Nordfugløya (Northern bird island).

Finally we have to hurry a bit but we reach the 19:15-ferry in time. Another forty minutes ferry ride in beautiful light …

… and we are back in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya which is connected to the island Kvaløya with a tunnel which is connected to the island Tromsøya with a bridge, and that’s where I live. There are worse places!

Takk for turen, Marika!

Farewell Obbola

As almost every day the last weeks I went to the coast yesterday. This place is less than 100 metres away from Annika’s and my house in Obbola. It was partly cloudy but the upcoming sunrise made the clouds and ice extremely colourful. I waited for the sun to rise and then went back to my home office room to continue working.

Today I have other plans. After three weeks of being home – part vacation, part work – it it time to travel back to Tromsø. Normally I do this by train and bus, this time I travel by car. After I’ve found a nice flat in Tromsø I took my Norwegian car here to fetch some more stuff.

Such as a box of books, kitchen stuff, an uplighter, an Ivar bookshelf, my acoustic bass guitar, a bulky winter sleeping bag and more stuff that I want to have in Tromsø. Now my car is full but I still can use the rear-view mirror.

I guess I might need my down parka for if the weather forecast is correct it might be -25 °C on my way back to “work home”. But not today where I only have to drive round about 200 km to Gagsmark to visit friends and stay over. From there its 470 km go drive to Kuttainen (Saturday) and then 300 other km to Tromsø (Sunday).

Farewell, Obbola!

Two wintry sunrises

From polar night into the solar light

It is crazy – three days ago Annika and I have been in Tromsø in the middle of the mørketid – the polar night – where the sun hasn’t risen for weeks. Two days ago we went to Gällivare in Swedish Lapland by car. Yesterday we continued our way south and crossed the polar circle. The sky was clear and full of colours and then – at 10:23 – we saw the sun ahead. It did not only rise above the horizon but also the forested hills.

The sun was low but we saw it for several hours. That was a great feeling especially for me who haven’t seen the sun for almost a month.

But days are short and already at two o’clock in the afternoon the moon dominated the sky.

Soon it was too dark to take good photos from the moving car. At half past six we arrived at our house in Obbola, where I’ll stay for three to four weeks.

Today I worked from home and could see how it gradually got brighter. I took a break and went to the coast. I was lucky – now I got a real sunrise. Not above a road in the Swedish inland but above the partially frozen Baltic Sea. So beautiful!

 

A sunny car trip to Jøvik

As in many other countries 1. May is a rød dag, a red day which is an official holiday. The weather is beautiful and I decide to do something I haven’t done for a long time: a car trip.

I take the car to Jøvik, a village in Tromsø municipality located on the peninsula Lyngenhalvøya, home of the impressive mountain range “Lyngen Alps”. As soon as I leave the E8 travelling is slow. On the one hand there’s a lot to see, on the other side the roads are in a pretty bad shape.

Just some photos I took on this wonderful day trip:

 

#escapism – microvacation

Two days ago Annika took the train from Umeå to Narvik to visit me in Tromsø. But what do you do when there is no bus connection to Tromsø the same day? Normally you’d take a hotel and continue the next day.

This time we made it slightly different. I took the car to Narvik as well – a very stormy ride – and fetched Annika from the train station.

Then we took the car to Harstad and stayed over night there. The next day we went up early and waited for our transportation to arrive. The Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge.

We left Harstad round 7:45 and passed the ship Havila Castor. Havila Kystruten serves the same route as Hurtigruten.

Then we took an extensive breakfast that we had booked with our 6½ hour cruise back to Tromsø. After that we listened to a lecture about the Arctic and the Antarctic. Then one of the main attractions followed: the hot tubs at the stern of the ship.

To my delight the weather forecast was wrong. It didn’t rain the whole journey, it snowed. That’s much nicer when you travel in February – even in the hot tub. Sometimes snow fall was intense enough to hide most of the scenic mountains we passed. A pity for the tourists.

At the Norwegian Polar Institute I often hear the tooting of the arriving Hurtigruten ship in the early afternoon. Now we heard it while we were standing on the top deck, passing the southern part of Tromsøya, where I live and then the Framsenteret, the building where I work. When we arrived I went to the car deck and fetched my car.

After arriving in my small apartment we were quite tired but decided not to take a nap but a walk to the bay Telegrafbukta. The reason: 15–20 cm fresh snow had fallen in Tromsø and it was still snowing. Just beautiful. The forecast however predicted warmer weather and a lot of rain for the next day.

This time the weather forecast unfortunately was correct. Today it really has been raining most of the day and the snow transformed into large puddles of ice and brown slush. Well, we will have snow and cold temperatures the day after tomorrow, when we travel to Svalbard for a week.

 

Scotland: the west coast of Isle of Lewis

This article is part of the series “2022-10: Autumn in Scotland”.

It is 10 October.

Yesterday evening we arrived on the Isle of Lewis, took the reserved rental car (Annika driving) and stayed in the Ravenspoint Community Hostel. Today we want to go by car to explore the west coast of the island.

We do not meet a single person while taking breakfast. We succeed in not raising fire alarm while frying eggs, we pack our backpacks, revert our personal rearrangement of the beds in our twin room and get in our small car – a Kia Picanto. While Annika has been in Scotland much more often than me it is our joint premiere in exploring this country by car.

After taking a detour to a small beach at Tobson we continue to Callanish Stones, one of several arrangements of menhirs. Although yesterdays gale has subsided it is still very windy with some showers of rain. My challenge as a photographer is not only to keep my small Sony dry (first photo is an iPhone photo) but also to take pictures while a large family uses the standing stones for playing hide and seek.

We make a stopover at Doune Braes Hotel for lunch. There we spot the standing stones again – as a colourful leaded window, animals included.

Next stop: the Gearrannan Blackhouses, a village of thatched cottages that was inhabited until 1974. Now it is not only a museum but one of the cottage is a hostel, where we check in and reserve a bunk bed. We have a look at the museum, where a local shows his expert knowledge regarding weaving looms. The view of the coast from the village is quite impressive. The waves are high and smash surf and spray against the rocky cliff.

Now we continue the road north to the headland with the catchy name Butt of Lewis. When we arrive there I’m really flabbergasted. Neither Annika nor I have ever seen waves breaking so high as here at the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis. Extremely impressive, a bit daunting and also a bit wet because sea spray seems to be everywhere. Keep in mind, that the rocks in the next photos are round 10 metres high. Thanks, Google Earth for your elevation data.

It takes some time until I can tear myself away. Next we head for Port of Ness, a harbour village nearby. The sandy beach is broad and shallow. Huge waves roll ashore. While they are breaking the wind gusts blow the spray away – a fascinating view. I decide that today is just not the day to take a relaxing bath in the Atlantic ocean.

We return to our parked car and drive back to our hostel – part of the Gearrannan Blackhouses. The museum is closed and it looks like we are completely alone in our cottage, that can host 13 guests. While we boil water to cook pasta we still can hear the waves splashing ashore at the rocky coast round 100 metres away. After dinner we fall fast asleep . Stormy weather is exhausting, and so is left-hand driving. So, thank you, Annika, my luv, for driving us.

 

10 days in Scotland

This article is part of the series “2022-10: Autumn in Scotland”.

It has been years, since Annika and I were on holiday outside of Fennoscandia. This October we enjoyed a ten day journey to Scotland from which I just arrived in Tromsø yesterday.

For this article I chose 2 photos for each day. Some more articles will follow later.

6 October – Edinburgh

I landed in the late morning and have the rest of the day strolling through Edinburgh. Blue sky – so it can actual stop raining in  Edinburgh ;-). In the evening I wait for Annika who is taking the tram from the airport. Now it is raining. Finally we are together.

7 October – travelling to Ullapool

We have pre-booked train tickets to Inverness where we will spend three hours before taking the coach to Ullapool. Well, in theory. The trains do not go the whole way due to heavy rain flooding. The rest is operated by replacement buses. So much to rain in Scotland. In Inverness we catch the connecting coach to Ullapool and have even time for a pizza.

8 October – hiking in Ullapool

After two travel days we want to be outdoors and look for the hiking trail to the hill Meall Mor after a hand-drawn sketch. We find it. From the top we have a view to the town, the hills and mountains in sun, clouds and rain.

9 October – taking the ferry to Lewis

After breakfast we take our backpacks through rain and heavy winds to the ferry terminal just to learn that the ferry has been cancelled because of the gusts on the Minch – the straight between Ullapool and the Isle of Lewis. Luckily the afternoon ferry runs according schedule and we arrive in Stornoway at nine o’clock. Scotland premiere: We hire a car. Annika is driving. Left-hand traffic in darkness!

10 October – exploring Lewis

We explore Lewis by car. Great that Annika is brave enough to drive in Scotland (I’m not). Read the article The west coast of Isle of Lewis about this day.

11 October – Peat bogs and Northern Gannets

From Gearrannan Village we take a small way back to Stornoway. In the bogs you can see traces of peat mining. We give back the car, take the ferry back and are watching the elegant aerial manoeuvres of the Northern Gannets. In Ullapool we receive another car that we have hired for the next two days.

12 October – exploring Assynt

We start exploring Assynt, the region north of Ullapool. Read the article Stac Pollaidh about this day.

13 October – taking a bath

Finally – our first bath! At Achmelvich beach. I will write more about this day later …

14 October – travelling to Edinburgh

It is time to give back the rental car and travel back to Edinburgh. First by coach, then by train. This travel confirms my theory that Scottish coaches and trains are designed solely for transport, not for comfort.

15 October – flying back

Short ones, long ones – all holidays comes to their end. Annika takes me to the tram, again it’s me travelling first. What a wonderful holiday. Thank you, Annika!

A winter journey from home to work

Last Saturday I travelled to work. ObbolaTromsø, that’s round 1000 km – the reason why I do not commute weekly.  This time it is a bit suspenseful, because there are two obstacles on my way.

One obstacle is easy: taking a covid test at the test center. The other is much bigger: The road over the Bjørnfjell – the only road – has been closed for many hours due to stow storm conditions. Well, I start my journey anyhow. We’ll see.

At 5:30 in the morning Annika takes me to the train station in Umeå. The first 9½ hours were just a “normal” train journey beside of the train being mostly ahead of time. One change in Boden – nothing special, just long and a bit boring.

I leave the train in Abisko Turiststation where I parked my car. My car – will I find it or is it submerged under a pile of snow? To my relief hardly any snow covers my car. I already hoped so, because Abisko is known for its low precipitation because mountains in the west protect it from bad weather. Much more snow and rain fall on the other side of the mountain range and that’s exactly where I have to go through. Some minutes after leaving Abisko behind it starts snowing. Snowfall increased more and more but isn’t severe and the Swedish mountain road is open. Soon I cross the Norwegian border and …

… have to stop because of a lowered tollgate with a red blinking light. Beside of two trucks I am alone. I am relaxed because I know that the road has been opened for driving in convoy one hour ago (thanks internet!). I just have to wait for the large snowplough to fetch us.

After twenty minutes the tollgate went up and the red light goes out. That’s all that happens. I hesitate. And now? Do I have to wait? Or may I drive? I don’t dare and ask one of the Norwegian truck drivers. He answers I should just go ahead and so I do. The drive is snowy but not bad and soon I arrive at Bjørnfjell brøytestasjonen where the snowploughs are located and now also the Covid19 registration. I register myself, get a covid test and start taking photos while waiting for the result.

I take an image of a snowed in car. The snow plough driver goes to me and asks for what purposes I take photos. “Just for my blog.” “Ah ok, just curious.” Good to talk to him, because so I learn that beside of the mountain passage behind Bjerkvik road conditions are good. Here they got a lot of snow the last 24 hours and one of the cars looks like this:

After round 20 minutes I get a ping ♪. It’s an SMS with a link to my test result. Negative :-). 260 km to go, that’s four hours when conditions were good.

The first 100 km the road conditions are good and weather is ok. The next photo shows how driving looks like.

The next hour it snows a lot. Sight is still good. To my left and right everything is covered with snow, from the largest church to the smallest branch of a tree. Winter wonderland.

Then it starts to get nasty. Snowfall intensifies more and more and the snow has the consistence of superglue. My windscreen wipers hardly manage to push away the gluey snow and finally I have to turn into a side road and de-ice the wipers. Scratch, scratch … . I’m not alone. In front of me a car with a driver doing the same. Behind me another car stops. Am I in the way? No, just another scratch, scratch. On the other side of the side road another one.

I still have some holes to peek through but it is extremely tiring to drive car through the night like that. Alas, after two hours I drive over the large concrete bridge Tromsøbrua and am on the island Tromsøya. Apparently Tromsø’s snow removal has given up. The minor roads are covered with 20 cm of snow with deep tyre tracks. I understand more and more why most Norwegians have cars with all-wheel drive (and so have I).

22:45. I make a last stop at the supermarket nearby that is open until 23:00. I’m lucky because Norwegian supermarkets close on Sundays. By the way: the supermarket’s parking place is in much better condition than the roads.

One other minute driving and I arrive at my flat in Tromsø after 17½ hours travelling. I’m tired but it takes another hour until I’m relaxed enough to sleep. Next week I’ll walk …