Thaw

After spending Christmas in Southern Germany I started travelling back to Skelleftehamn in several stages.

28.12. – Augsburg—Bremen

First a local train to Ingolstadt, then a 1st class seat to Bremen, where I spent the night. In the North German Plain it was really foggy.

Both trains were in time and the journey was comfortable. Sorry folks, no Deutsche Bahn bashing.

29.12. – Bremen—Mölndal

The next day my friend Delle picked me up by car. He wanted to visit me in Skelleftehamn and I took the opportunity for getting a lift home. The first day we travelled to Flensburg, through Denmark and then to Mölndal near Gothenburg, where we took a hotel room.

30.12. – Mölndal—Umeå

Why Mölndal? There is a tyre dealer where you can hire winter tyres with spikes. After breakfast we drove to the garage and Delle’s car got spiked tyres. Then we headed east to Gävle and then north to Umeå which took the whole day.

Did we need the tyres? Not yet – the temperatures were extremely high. 10.5 °C in Vesterås and 6.5 °C in Sundsvall. Especially the first half of the journey was quite boring. Trees to the left, trees to the right. A house. A bus stop and again. Trees to the left, trees to the right. Later there was more to see – even in the darkness.

I think it was 22:30 when we arrived in Umeå, but I’m not sure. I was soo tired!

31.12. – Umeå

Finally a nice day with sun and even a bit of frost! First Annika, Delle and I bought some side dishes for the lamb chops that Delle brought from home. Then we took a short tour to catch some wintry impressions before it would get warm again.

And then: New Year’s Eve – A happy new year to you all!

1.1. – Umeå—Skelleftehamn

The last stage of the journey was short – just 130 km and I was home again after eleven days with seven different overnight stays. I’m very glad about being home again but also disappointed.

The weather is just awful. It is warm and grey, last night it rained. The roads are extremely icy and slippery. Today I took a bend on a minor road and the car just slid sideways despite the four-wheel-drive and the “Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9” – one of the best spiked winter tyres you can buy. Luckily nothing happened to the car since I took the bend quite slow (but apparently still too fast).

The whole of Scandinavia is much too warm – up to 16 °C warmer than normal and Norway broke several warmth records. It was warmest in Åndalsnes with 18.6 °C! Even though it will become a bit colder there is no stable cold winter weather in sight.

We know that the man-made climate change will lead to much warmer winter weather in Scandinavia. Maybe we have already started to witness the effects. It might be only the beginning of more drastic changes in the future.

Addendum (3.1.)

Another record: 19 °C were measured in Sunndalsøra, Norway yesterday. This is the highest winter temperature ever measured in all of Scandinavia.

12 + 31 + 29 + 31 + 13

Exactly five years ago I posted an article called “108 free days”. I was still working as an employer but I was on leave for a while with the result of having 108 days on vacation – almost the whole winter!

Yesterday was the last day of a quite tough project I was working on since early August. Today is my first free day and – if I do not change my mind – the start of en even longer period of free time. 116 days I have time for travelling, taking pictures and – finally – writing and publishing an online shop for my photo website.

Hopefully the weather will improve. Instead of the forecasted 6 cm of new snow we had freezing fog today and the last weeks were hardly better.

This weather makes it easier to say goodbye. Today Annika and I will take the night train to Stockholm Arlanda and then fly to Munich where it’s for sure that we won’t have a white Christmas. But after the holidays, when I’m back and want to travel through Northern Norway, Swedish and Finnish Lapland I hope for better weather. And snow more like this:

I’m sitting in the bus to Umeå and the fog has turned into rain. But I don’t care the weather. (Hopefully the bus driver and other car drivers do!) Now it’s visiting family and friends that matters!

Since I probably won’t post anything anymore this year I’ll wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

See you next year – in 2020!

Finally it’s snowing again

After two weeks with warmer temperatures, rain and a lot of fog it has become colder again and last night it started to snow. 15 cm fresh snow has already fallen.

Thursday, 16:55: -7.6 °C and it’s still snowing. Looks like I need gloves and a cap for jogging. And of course a headlamp, because sunset was already three hours ago.

Addendum

One hour later. 40 minutes of (slow) jogging through the wintry landscapein the dark. Exhausting, but beautiful!

My car tracks from this morning are mostly snowed over. The latest tracks are not from a car, but a snowmobile. Now I hope, that the great people of the Friluftsfrämjandet Skelleftehamn soon prepare the illuminated ski track. I’m longing for some afterwork cross-country skiing.

Closing the bathing season in Skelleftehamn?

7 o’clock. The sun was still below the horizon but already colourised sky and sea at Storgrundet.

Some minutes later – looking into the opposite direction revealed another colour impression.

There was thin ice on this bay. It was partially broken. You may already guess, why. I’ll tell you.

I love bathing in the sea and this bay is my favourite beach and bathing place. In mid-August the water temperature had been 18 °C, in September it had fallen below 10 °C and this morning it was only around 0.7 °C.

Anyhow, time for another bath.

I undressed and started wading through the ice. First I stalked like a stork, than the water got deeper and thinner and I just walked normally, breaking the ice with my thighs.

Soon I reached both open water and swimming depth. I love bathing in cold water and think it’s invigorating and refreshing. Bathing before sunrise with these beautiful morning colours is an extra bonus.

Ouchie ;-)After a bit of bathing and some swimming strokes I waded back to the beach. I already had expected cutting my legs at the sharp thin ice and so I did.

As long as the skin is cold, you hardly feel such scratches.

Being still wet I started freezing because the air was not warm neither. -9 °C the car thermometer had shown. Then the great moment came where I realised, that I had forgot to take a towel with me!

I dried myself a bit with my hands and slipped – wet as I was – into my clothes. And warm clothes it was!

This worked much better than expected and I decided to drive to the office directly. Arriving there only the tips of the socks felt a bit damp, the rest (outdoor pants and woollen sweater) felt warm and dry again.

Since the ice will get thicker and thicker every day I guess that this was the end of my bathing season 2019. At least at Storgrundet.

Some random comments

  • It has been quite cold for late October the last days. In some parts of Finnish lapland temperatures had dropped below -25 °C.
  • Later this morning I realised that I had got many more cuts and scratches from the ice than excepted.
  • The definition of a winter bath is a bath in water colder than 10 °C. According this definition I took my first winter bath this season on 9 September. But it was today that I took my first ice bath of the season.
  • While I am writing this blog article I realise that I had a roll of kitchen paper in my car. So I could have dried myself this morning.

October snowfall in Umeå

The weekend two weeks ago it was fog, that made my morning promenade along the river Umeälven special. Yesterday it was snowfall. As you can see on the three photos, the snowfall weakened more and more and most of the snow thawed away during the day. But it was a another beautiful reminder for the next winter to come.

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.

Four variations of autumn

The first autumn colours on Gåsören

21, 22 September – Annika and I are invited by Solveig and Tommy to their summer cottage on Gåsören. Tommy picks us up by boat and after a short cruise we arrive at the small harbour, where Solveig already waits for us.

We have a wonderful evening with delicious food (hand-picked porcini mushrooms!) and inspiring conversations. And the weather is just great – first a blue and sunny sky, then after sunset a starry night. After a short nightly walk to the lighthouse – built in 1912 and still active – we go to bed.

The next morning I wake up early and take photographs of the splashing waves at the eastern shore. It’s a bit windy and the temperatures are near freezing. A lot of trees still have green leaves but some of the birches and rowan trees have become colourful, especially when illuminated by the low morning sun.

After breakfast we take a stroll round the small island together before we get a lift back to the mainland. Tack så mycket, Solveig and Tommy. We are looking forward to meet again!

Fog by the river

28, 29 September – I’m with Annika in Umeå. On Saturday we make a trip to Strömbäck-Kont, one of our favourite locations by the sea. Again the weather is sunny but due to the frost of last week’s nights a lot of more trees show coloured leaves. Especially the bright yellow birch leaves look wonderful.

On Sunday I wake up early as usual and take a promenade along the Umeåälven, one of Northern Swedens largest rivers. The morning air is damp and chilly and the landscape is fog-shrouded. The fog muffles all sounds and noises and gives me the impression of being completely alone. Half an hour later the fog goes away and the magic is gone.

Nightly squalls

Yesterday, 2 October – at 3:00 I’m awakened by storm squalls shaking the house. I almost expect that my house is lifted up and lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. But the gale is no tornado and my house resists the squalls.

The weather doesn’t come completely unexpected, both wind and enormous amounts of rain have been forecasted. But as usual the forecast was – ahem – imaginative but at least the wind speeds are quite accurate.

Hail, sleet and snow

Today, 3 October – again I’m awakened at 3 o’clock, this time by a hail squall drumming on the window. It’s round 3 °C and even colder at 7 o’clock on my way to work. Between my home and the town another rain squall buckets down. It is mixed with wet snow. Beside the road I can see white patches. Is it snow or last night’s hail? When I arrived at the office at Solbacken outside of the town of Skellefteå I see, that it’s snow grains – tiny frozen white balls.

At 8:33 I look through the window of my current office room and it’s snowing. The first snow on 3 October – exactly the same date as last year. Now I’m longing for winter even more ❄︎ !

Day 19 – +30 °C

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

July 26 – Crea Diem Bokcafé in Od Kyrkby and Solviken bathing place

It’s really hot weather in Europe and so in Sweden (though not as extreme as e.g. in Germany). Time to focus on drinking lemonade in the shadow in the book café, not moving too much, trying to avoid the wasps, eating ice cream and of course taking long baths in the lake Ärtingen together with our friends and hosts Annika and Jonas.

And with this recipe the day becomes another nice one on Annika’s and my summer holiday.

Later that day – after an abundant dinner – we played music together. Clarinet, viola, double bass and piano. Sorry, no recordings and no photos neither.

Day 15–18 – Meanwhile in Sparsör …

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

22–25 July – Sparsör, Öresjö and Borås

It’s already Friday, Annika and I have been in Sparsör near Borås since Sunday afternoon and I have been extraordinary lazy. Today it’s going to be the hottest day yet with temperatures round 30 °C or above, so my laziness will definitely continue and the most exhausting action will be going to the bath place nearby.

23 July – hiking round the Öresjö

The weather is still cloudy and not so warm. Perfect hiking weather. When we have to climb the hill Örekullen we sweet anyway. The way is steep. We meet sheep in a forest by the lake and a sow with her two piglets. When we are at the south tip, we have some lunch and take a bath in the bay of Almenäs.

Later this day we drive to the city Borås and eat extremely delicious tapas and dessert in the fantastic restaurant La Copita.

25 July – a very warm day

-40 ° C I seek, +40 °C i flee. Luckily it’s not as hot as in Germany¹, but even temperatures round 30 °C are too warm for me to feel comfortable. Fortunately there are many bathing places around, one of them in walking distance. I am bathing and snorkelling. I see schools of fish and hundreds of river mussels underwater, but also a half meter long pike. Anyway the pike is much too fast to be photographed.

Later the evening we drive to Borås another time. A vivid town, especially when there’s a live concert on the town square and a dance band (far away from playing live …) playing in the city park. The air is cooler, but still round 25 °C and even the statues seem to seek refreshment in the water of the river Viskan.

¹ 42.6 °C were measured in Lingen yesterday, the hottest temperature in Germany ever measured. Even though a single hot day is no proof for the ongoing climate shift it is one of the many, many signs.

A kayak trip shorter than expected

About neoprene suits, the post-glacial rebound and changed lunch plans.

Today I wanted to paddle to Själagrundet, an island 1.6 km from mainland. The air may be warm but the water is still cold and that’s the element you should be prepared for in case of capsizing. Today I decided against the bulky drysuit and chose a thin neoprene suit for the first time.

The suit is very tight (especially if you each too much chocolate …) and hard to put on. After I managed to squeeze myself into the suit and to close the back zipper it felt quite comfortable. Until I started paddling. It was much harder to move the paddle than usual because of the tight neoprene sleeves. Every paddle stroke felt like training with a rubber band. I got used to it after a while, but neoprene will probably not become my favourite choice of kayak clothing.

I passed the island Storgrundet and headed northeast. The waves came exactly from the side which is the worst direction regarding stability. So I zigzagged a bit to avoid the waves rocking the kayak too much. Nevertheless the island came closer and closer and soon I got out of the kayak and dragged it ashore. The seagulls didn’t like my arrival. Screeching loudly they rose in the air, sailed in the wind and didn’t dare to land as long as I occupied their private property.

There are many islands whose name ends with -grundet. From Skelleftehamn for example you can paddle to Storgrundet, Norrskärsgrundet or Nygrundet. The Swedish word grund means (among others) shallow, so the translations of the islands mentioned above are: the Large-Shallow, the North-Skerry-Shallow, the New-Shallow.

Who is to blame? The post-glacial rebound! After the last glacial period the glaciers started to melt. Slowly the land, that had been compressed by the huge weight of the ice sheet started to expand. It is still expanding and rising – round 8–9 mm a year. Therefore some islands are quite new. Själagrundet for example is hardly older than 100 years. They got their names from the old times when they weren’t islands yet but shallow underwater-banks that the fishermen had to take care of.

Today Själagrundet still is mainly a large gravel bank. Only on the higher eastern side plants had started to grow. Mostly it’s flowers, but two small bushes and a small willow tree have settled there as well.

I walked around and had a look at the 260 meter long island until I got hungry and wanted to eat my lunch – salad and a chocolate bar. When I looked at the dark grey clouds that seemed to approach the island I changed my plans. Did I hear the rumble of thunder? When I would be hit by a thunderstorm on this flat island without any shelter I could get into serious trouble. I checked the speed of the clouds and decided that the best option was to paddle back to mainland, now and quickly.

I had a fast start and paddled quicker than usual until half of the distance lay behind me. It was quite exhausting –remember the neoprene suit? When I realised that there was no immediate danger of thunderstorm and lightning I slowed down. I took my dinner on the island Storgrundet. A save place with summer houses and hardly 100 metres from mainland. Then I paddled back to the small beach at the mainland, took off the neoprene suit and had a refreshing bath in the Baltic Sea in the sun.