Tyre change

The weather on my way home from yesterday night’s chamber choir rehearsal was, well …

It was sleeting and snowing quite intensely with temperatures around the freezing point. I was really glad, that I got a lift, because the driver’s car already had winter tyres – but not mine. When I arrived in Skelleftehamn it was dry, but I could here some rain showers later that night.

This morning it was sunny, -2 °C and the street was icy. Final call for changing my tyres. I arrived at the garage 15 minutes before opening, because I expected loooong waiting queues, but interestingly enough I was the very first. It was a beautiful morning with blue sky and the sun illuminated the yellow birch trees, shone on the frozen puddles and through the ice-covered car windows. Time to take some pictures with my iPhone.

Soon my car was equipped with my winter tyres “Hakka 9” and I could drive to work. I wouldn’t have dared with summer tyres. A snapshot from my way to work:

By the way: “Hakka 9” is how the Swedes call Nokian’s “Hakkapeliitta 9”. These studded winter tyres are excellent, but many Swedes struggle with the Finnish name.

Day 24–26 – a detour to Norway and travelling home

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

July 31 – August 1 – Grövelsjön, Röros, Flatruet, Ljungdalen, Stugun, Åsele

July 31

After a tent night in Grövelsjön (temperature minimum 5.7 °C) I take a morning stroll with several purposes: enjoying the fresh air, taking pictures and buying fresh bread for breakfast. My promenade starts at the “troll workshop” where guests are welcome to build their own wooden troll and place it beside the “troll trail”. From there I can spot some “wintry things”: a prohibition sign for scooters and red crosses marking the winter trail. I follow the red signs over a bog until I come to a road from where it isn’t far to Grövelsjön’s mountain bakery.

Annika and I have breakfast in the mountain lodge. Hm, the Brötchen are extremely delicious!

Actually I have planned to take a bath in the lake Guevteljaevrie nearby. The water was very clear but the car tires and metal scrap at the ground discouraged us.

You may realise that the name of the lake doesn’t look Swedish. You’re right. We are not only in Sweden but also in Laponia – the area of the Sámi people. Therefore towns, rivers, lakes and mountains have two names, a Sámi and a Swedish one. The Swedish name of Guevteljaevrie is Grövelsjön, as the village.

A small part of the lake is on Norwegian territory and Norway is our next destination, hardly 10 km away. Soon we are at the border.

We already met reindeers on the Swedish side, in Norway however they seem to be more numerous and they love to block roads.

In the lake Femund – Norways third largest lake – we catch up with the bathing. 13 °C in the water, much warmer in the sun. A nice place to relax.

Two and a half hours later we are in Røros. In this old mining town one could stay for days and write long articles. We however stay only for two hours. Just some snapshots:

After filling up the car we follow a small gravel road that leads us to a Norwegian mountain hut – a possible accommodation for the night. 2.5 km before the hut the road stops – at least for cars. Our luggage is chosen for travelling by car, not for hiking. So this hut that even may be fully booked is out of bounds. Will we find a shelter for the night?

#cliffhanger

August 1

Next morning we wake up in a bunk bed in our hostel in Funäsdalen. Of course we found an accommodation, not in Norway but in Sweden. After breakfast we pack our things – a daily routine – and start the next daily stage.

In Mittådalen we take a spontaneous stop. We have just crossed the river Mittån and spot a Sámi resort with souvenir shop. Beside the river there’s a kåta, a traditional Sámi hut. The word kåta is Swedish. The Sámi have several related languages and so their names for this type of dwelling vary: goahti, goahte, gábma, gåhte, gåhtie or gåetie.

We buy some souvenirs and continue. Soon we reach Flatruet, a place I’ve been especially looking forward to. Flatruet is a plateau above the tree line with a gorgeous view to all directions.

The last photo above shows the Helags massif with the Helags summit (1797metres above sea level).

I’ve been there in winter 2006 on a ski tour with J. and T. . It had been very stormy for two days and one of the huskies was so scared that she hid under the bed. We decided to abandon our ski tour. We skied to Ljungdalen where T. waited for a lift to Fjällnäs where he parked the car. Hours later he came back and we took the car over Flatruet. I had never experienced anything that looked as arctic as this snowy road leading through an infinite white void. Here’s a photo that I took from the car 12½ years ago:

That’s the reason why you should visit all Scandinavian places at least twice. In winter they are completely different than in summer.

Back to present: I hardly can tear my eyes away from Flatruet but we have to leave. It’s at least 400 km to Åsele, our today’s destination. Some more stops on the way – some of them caused by reindeers again.

In the evening we arrive in Åsele. Here we will visit M. and F. and stay overnight. Before dinner there’s time to cuddle some sheep.

Now we’re almost home. To Annika’s flat in Umeå it’s only 164 km and another 130 km to my house in Skelleftehamn. “Peanuts” compared with the long distance the last days.

Next day Annika will be home again and the day after me, too. What a wonderful journey!

Day 23 – travelling north again

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

July 30 – Falun—Grövelsjön

Yesterday morning a guest room in Vetlanda in the forestal Småland – today evening a tenting place in Grövelsjön in Dalarna’s fells. We are travelling north again.

Yesterday we travelled from Vetlanda to Hosjö/Falun where we met Alex in real life the first time. It was just an overnight stay because we wanted to take a detour on our journey home that would take a bit of time.

Tuesday, seven o’clock. We say goodbye to Alex who has to leave for work. I take a bath in the lake Hösjön nearby. After breakfast Annika and I pack our things together and leave Alex’ cosy house behind.

As Alex recommended we follow tiny roads through Dalarna County – a county I’ve never visited before. As parts of Småland the scenery is extremely charming and looks a bit like “Sweden in a nutshell”.

In Leksand we reach the Siljan, Sweden’s seventh largest lake. We take the southern road to Mora via Sollerön, an island in the Siljan. Although the road is near to the lake it leads mostly through forest so that we can see the lake only from time to time. That’s quite typical for Swedish roads.

In Åsen we take a short stop to take pictures of the wooden chapel.

We follow the road 70 to Idre and turn right in the road to Grövelsjön. The trees become smaller and the mountains on the horizon higher. I’m glad to approach the fjäll, my favourite Swedish landscape. We make a last stopover at the church …

… then we arrive at our destination for today: Grövelsjön Fjällstation. This mountain station is operated by the STF – the Swedish Tourist Association. As we already have expected there are no rooms left, but we have a tent with us, that we set up in a sparse birch forest in the middle of other colourful tents. After dinner – pasta with pesto cooked in the common kitchen – Annika goes into the sauna while I take a short hike up the mountain. I do not reach the top of the Jakobshöjden, but at least the kalfjäll above the treeline.

There are no mountains home in Skelleftehamn, but after the sandy beaches of Österlen in Skåne and the mixed woodlands of Småland I feel home again when I see these landscapes. It’s still more than 630 km to Umeå and 750 to Skelleftehamn. But we do not plan to drive home yet – au contraire! Tomorrow we will travel to Norway.

 

Day 14 – Eksjö

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

21 July – from Figeholm to Sparsör

After the days in Figeholm we have another “transport day”, where we drive to Sparsör,  3½ hours car drive west. Here we’ll visit our friends Annika and Jonas. After they visited us already two times, this is the long overdue return visit.

We make a short stop in Vimmerby, Astrid Lindgren’s birth place. We do not pay to enter “Astrid Lindgrens Näs” where you can see her birth house, we just take a short look in the shop.

We make a longer stop in Eksjö, a beautiful  locality in Småland and one of the few places in Southern Sweden where I have been before – 12 years ago with friends from Munich. A must: Lennarts Konditori, the confectionery!

In Jönköping we cross our own travel route, then we continue west until we stand in front of Annika’s and Jonas’ house where we are warmly welcomed. Here we’ll stay the next days and I will increase my laziness. That’s the reason, why the last few blog articles have become shorter.

 

Day 10 – leaving Skåne

17 July – Mälarhusen—Figaholm

Today we leave Skåne and continue to the historical province Småland, home of Astrid Lindgren and many of her characters. But before we start our tour we have breakfast and before breakfast we take a morning bath in the Baltic Sea. 12 °C water temperature – a bit chilly. We lock the tiny, cozy house where we stayed the night and start our car trip north.

We make many small stopovers and bath three other times this day, enjoying the fresh water and the warm sun.

Some photos:

Day 9 – Ystad and Österlen

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

16 July – Bjärnum—Ystad—Mälarhusen

After some wonderful relaxing days in Bjärnum Annika and I continue our tour through Southern Sweden. Today we will reach Ystad, our southernmost destination on our journey. From Ystad to Kilpisjärvi in the north it’s almost 2000 km by car.

From Bjärnum to Ystad however it’s less than two hours. Ystad is a beautiful medieval town. We strolled through the streets and alleys and I only took some snapshots because we looked for a place for lunch.

We found a restaurant near the boat harbour where we ate fish and looked at the sea, the small sailing boats and the big ferries. From Ystad you can take the ferry to Bornholm (Denmark) and Świnoujście (Poland).

Next stop: Ales stenar (Ale’s Stones), a megalithic monument east of Ystad. It consists of 59 large boulders formed in a shape of a boat, probably 1400 years old.

Next stop: Sandhammaren. Dunes, a long sandy beach and the clear Baltic Sea invites us to take a bath. Or two. Summer holidays.

We decide to look for an overnight stay. We pass a small wooden sign by car. It says “Stuga for 2” – cabin for two. We are lucky. Although it’s main season the stuga is free and we can stay for a night. It’s in Mälarhusen in the corner of a garden, incredible cozy and the beach is not far away.

We take the car to the next ICA to buy food. After a dinner with pasta and salad we take another promenade along the beach. At the horizon we spot land – the Danish island Bornholm. Finally a reason to fetch the tripod and the huge 150-600mm telephoto lens from the car and make a photo of Bornholm, where I have been more than 40 years ago.

Day 5 – Götaland

This article is part of the series “2019-07: Southern Sweden”.

12 July, Jogersö—Gränna—Bjärnum

It always seems to be the third night in a tent, when I got used to the camping mat and sleep very well. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to a real bed. Annika and I dry the sleeping bags and the tent in the sun and have breakfast. Half past nine we start our journey farther south. We have to drive 413 km, mostly on the E4, the very same European route, that connects UmeåSkellefteå, Piteå and Luleå.

Here it connects Nyköping, Norrköping, Linköping and Jönköping. While å stands for river, köping means market town.

We stop in Gränna, a town by the lake Vättern which is Sweden’s second largest lake. Here’s a large campsite, a lovingly designed minigolf course, a ferry to the island Visingsö and – most important for us now: several restaurants and ice cream shops. Children are wading in the water, grown up are sunbathing on the public benches, the place is touristic but not crowded.

There are nice bathing places along the coast of the Vättern, so we bath twice, first in Röttle, then near Sjöbergen. Since the Vättern is so large you can think that you bath in the North Sea or Baltic Sea – until you taste the water. It’s fresh, not brackish or salty.

Röttle has another attraction besides its bathing place: there were severals water mills. Here we stroll around for a while.

After our long break we continue our car trip southwards. We cross the border to Skåne, the southernmost part of Sweden. In the evening we arrive in Bjärnum.

You see the light behind the front window of the house? That’s our place for the next days.

A word to the title of the article: Sweden is divided into three parts: Norrland in the north, Svealand in the middle and Götaland in the south. The population density in Götaland and Svealand is more than ten times as high as in Norrland.

Four days in Österbotten

Last Monday Annika and I travelled to one of Umeå’s nearest neighbouring cities: Vasa. Vasa is located in Finland and the fastest and easiest way to get there from Umeå is by ferry. Taking the car round Kvarken and the Bothnian Bay – the northernmost parts of the Baltic Sea – would be more than 800 km.

2. April – sunny Islands, cormorants and bad roads

The forecast promised sunny weather and I wanted to flee the town of Vasa (round 68000 inhabitants). Our plan was to explore some of the large islands of the Kvarken Archipelago which consists of several thousands of islands and islets.

We left Vasa municipality and entered Korsholm municipality. In Alskat we left the Finnish mainland, took a bridge to the island Fjärdskäret and then the large bridge Replot bron – more than a kilometre long – to the Björkö skärgård.

We made a short stop at the church in Björköby, the main village of Björkö. To our surprise the church wasn’t locked and we could enter. Probably it was only open for the handyman working there. I even went up to the organ but I didn’t dare to climb the clock tower without asking.

From Björköby it’s not far to Svedjehamn, a boat harbour. The coastal sea was still covered with ice and no boat could be seen. Probably many of the boats were in the red boathouses, that were everywhere.

We looked around, then we followed a path to the large observation tower, which is dark and almost 20 metres high. An eye-catching landmark. Beside of some ice fishers that parked their cars at the coast, we were completely alone. Only seabirds could be heard, mostly the typical honking call of the Whooper Swans.

From the tower we had a nice view both over land and sea. The land was framed with ice, but further out the sea was open. Birds flew around, mostly Whooper Swans and small flocks of ducks (being shooed away by other birds). Suddenly a group of dark birds passed our tower, it was a flock of cormorants.

After a while of amateur bird watching we descended the tower and went back to the parked car. We were hungry and took the way back to the Replot Bridge, where we got a delicious lunch at Berny’s Café and Restaurant.

After that we headed for another island in the north. This was quite challenging to drive because larger parts of the way were covered with ice with deep ruts. I had to drive quite slow to keep on the way. In Köklot I made the photo of the only boat in the fishing port, later I just had to photograph the small red hovercraft. I would love to have such a vehicle that can access the sea the whole year round.

I followed the bad road for a while but finally I had to turn because all turnouts were closed. It took a long time to drive back and when we arrived in Vasa we both were tired.

Later this day: A dinner with Asian food, a small coastal walk in Vasa and a bit of luxury: Our flat had a tiny sauna.

3. April – history lessons, old Vasa and Indian food

Already the day before we had decided that we wanted to stay two other nights in the region of Österbotten. We had given Couchsurfing another try. We contacted K.D. that lives in the Korsholm municipality but he didn’t have any place for us. He suggested however that we could meet in the city. So Annika and I went to the monument on the market square where we met K.D.

We got an extremely interesting history lesson about Finland in General und Vasa, while we slowly walked through the city. I didn’t make a single photo, I was too eager listening. After some hours K.D. had to leave but he invited us to the museum Stundars for the next day.

Later we took the car to Gamla Vasa, the old town that burned down in 1852. Some walls, among others of the old church from the 15th century are still there.

Later this day: Indian food and another sauna session.

4. April – a meteorite, two museums and welcoming hosts

Already before the journey we learned about Söderfjärden, a large plain which is an impact crater of a meteorite impact 520 million years ago. The plain lies south of Vasa and we took the car there.

The exhibition at the crate’s centre was closed but outside there’s a model of our solar system. I never walked from the sun to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – here it was possible.

We only had limited time, so we took the car to Uranus and Neptune – two small blue-green orbs. Then we changed our perspective back to here and now. We saw the first cranes of the year, more geese and more whooper swans.

From Söderfjärden we drove to the museum Stundars, which is quite nearby. We met K.D. again who had opened the “Smedens stuga” – the cabin of the smith – together with a colleague. We thanked for the day before and had an interesting talk about history and now.

We couldn’t stay for long because we had another appointment. When we had stood on the deck of the ferry three days ago we got in contact with S.. He gave us his phone number and this day we met him in Malax where he opened the Kvarkens Båtmuseum and gave us a private guided tour.

I was deeply impressed by the boat that was used for seal hunting. The hunters lived on the ice for several months with nothing but their boat to live in. We do not talk about the middle age, we talk about the 20th century. The last time this boat was used for seal hunting was in 1963, only five years before I was born!

Through Couchsurfing Annika got in contact with A. and M. who live in Västerhankmo, north from Vasa. We were welcome to live with them for two days, although they had other guests and one of the sons would return from Australia the very same day. We felt honoured that we could stay anyway. We drove to their house, where we were shown a huge couch to sleep over and got in contact with the residents – both human and feline.

Later this day: z-z-z-z

5. April – cloudy weather and a bilingual car trip

The weather was cloudy and we were quite lazy. We had seen a lot the last days and we learned a lot. We learned especially a lot about the Finland-Swedes, the Swedish speaking minority in Finland. Although their nationality is Finnish they have Swedish as a first language. Österbotten is one of the regions in Finland with a lot of Finland-Swedes. In Vasa 25% have Swedish as a first language, in the neighbour municipality Korsholm it is 72%. All people mentioned above are Finland-Swedes and have Swedish as a first language.

The children grow up with Swedish and go to Swedish schools, where they will learn Finnish as a secondary language.

Even the culture is different. When Annika asked for (Finnish) tango events she was told that this would be more a Finnish thing and therefore not easy to find in Österbotten.

It is said, that “the” Finns are much more direct then “the” Swedes who try to avoid any conflict, when possible. I experienced the Finland-Swedes as more to the point than the Swedes and I have to admit, that I enjoyed it because of my own quite direct personality.

Back to 5. April. We took the car and travelled around, first to some other islands.

In Isokyrö we stopped for the old stone church, built between 1513 and 1533.

Temperatures were above zero and everything looked grey and dull. The leftover snow was wet and the gravel roads were muddy. When we returned to our overnight place my car looked really dirty – but in their special way the dirt patterns were beautiful anyway.

Later this day: Having a good time with M., A., and family including a very tasty meat soup with homemade bread and petting the cute cat

6. April – with the Ferry to Umeå

6:40: the alarm rings – 7:05: we sneak out of the house (we said goodbye the evening before) – 7:45: we roll on board of the ferry – 9:00: the ferry starts its journey back to Sweden – 12:30 (Swedish time): we arrive in Holmsund, 20 km from Umeå.

Thank you, K.D, thank you S. “för trevlig sällskap” – for nice company!

Thank you, M., A. and family – for your hospitality and “för trevlig sällskap” as well!

Later this day: The first flowers of the year:

A trip to Murmansk with Barents Press

This article is part of the series “2019-03: Redex Murmansk”.

Last year a friend of mine told me he would travel to Murmansk and asked me if I wanted to follow. The friend finally did not have the time, bit I got the opportunity of a Murmansk trip thanks to Barents Press, a journalist network in the Barents Region. I became a member as a photographer this year.

The project called Redex 2019 has a strong focus on sport journalism and sport events in Murmansk. People who know me may know that I do not care about sport competitions. In this case however there’s a large sport event I’m interested in: the 3rd Ice Swimming World Championship. I’m very glad that I was invited to travel and my thanks go to Barents Press for the invitation, for taking all the costs and for the great organisation.

Monday 11 March, 7:00. I just finished my breakfast in a hotel in the Comfort Hotel Arctic in Luleå and we are ready to travel to Murmansk. We, that is five journalists, me, and Sergei, our Russian chauffeur. He came from Murmansk with a Mercedes 15 seater minibus the day before. Good to have a bit of comfort, for we will travel about 840 km which will take the whole day.

Off we go. To Finland it’s only 130 km.

And – swoosh, are we in Finland. You hardly realise that you just crossed a border.

There are different ways to Murmansk. We will take the way via Salla. We make a lunch break in Kemijärvi where we got an extraordinary delicious lunch at Mestarin Kievari with a lot of salat and side dishes and even two different desserts.

At 15:30 Finish time (1 hour ahead) we arrive at the Finnish side of the Finnish-Russian border. Sergei has to make some paperwork and we have to wait, then we all show our passports before we enter the bus again to drive to the near Russian border.

The first check is before we exit the bus: A Russian official gets on the bus, counts us and checks our visas. Then we drive to the custom office where we leave the bus and have to fill out a form, that we have to keep with our passport the whole stay in Russia. It takes some time to fill the form, especially since it’s so tiny.

Then we go through the control, one by one. I’m first. There’s a minor problem with my form but Tim who speaks Russian can help. I wait on the other side where there’s a small exhibition of war memorials found at the border. I say one of the few sentences I know in Russian: Можно фотографировать? Yes, I may take pictures.

Then we are i Russia. Another check of the officials, that we are complete and have our stamps on the forms and in the passports. 20 other km and we have travelled half the distance. The Russian roads and landscapes are very similar to the Finish ones. It’s not easy to take landscape photographs from a bus driving on a bumpy road with a lot of windows reflecting the light. I start to doze.

We stop in Алакуртти/Alakurtti to refuel the bus. We have to wait, because the gas station itself is being refuelled and that takes some time. Anyway it feels good to stretch my legs and to get some fresh air.

After half an hour we continue our trip. We make a short stopover at a petrol station in Кандалакша/Kandalaksha, then we drive on.

It starts getting dark and I try to sleep a bit. It’s still 250 km to Murmansk and our trip takes some more hours, but finally we approach the city.

On the sign stands: “Murmansk, Hero City”, an honorary title from the Soviet times for outstanding heroism during WWII.

Just before 22:00 local time (+ 2 hours) i enter room 838 at the Park Inn Hotel, where I’ll stay the next five nights. So the whole ride took almost 13 hours and I’m really tired. But before going to bed we meet at the lobby and go to a restaurant nearby to get a late dinner. (I remember the food was tasty, but I’m not sure because my brain already had turned on the autopilot.)

The whole route: LuleåHaparanda/TornioRovaniemiKemijärviSallaКандалакша/KandalakshaМурманск/Murmansk.

Back home

This article is part of the series “2019-03: Ski tour Vindelfjällen”.

Back home from Mo i Rana. I drove the first half from Mo i Rana to Storuman, Annika the second half to Skelleftehamn including the power-parking into 20-25 cm deep fresh snow that had fallen since last night.

First we will buy some food for tomorrow’s breakfast, then it’s pizza time!

More about the ski tour in the Vindelfjäll will come. Stay tuned …