Monday, August 08, 2005

one sami song

here's a sami song called vilbá - it's by sančuari, from their cd šleaŋgáčuoivvat. i hope they don't mind that i have it on this blog - but i do want to share some sami music with you. and here's a link to their record label DAT

and yes, the controls below work - you can switch the song off, or listen to it again!

maps and swedish stuff

we took pictures of the maps and a few things i brought back from the north (presents, and some things for myself).

can you follow our route?

click to enlarge the map!

here they are - älgar (stuffed, made of metal and wood, and in the form of salami), books, t-shirt, hjortronberry jam, polarbröd and other swedish things!

all things swedish ...

miscellaneous photos

DAY 20 - pool, planes and two little homecomers

so this is it: the last morning in sweden. not even our beloved breakfast buffet can comfort us. there is no way around it - after we have properly stuffed ourselves, there is only one thing left to do: finish packing. when that's done, we still have some time to kill, so we head down to the games room and play some pool. i am actually not nearly as bad as i had feared, and though sepp wins both games, neither of them is a debacle for me. still, what can i do but swear that i will get my revenge (and, just in case you are interested: i have had it now, last week! *G*). but then it really is time to leave. check-out, and off we are to stockholm central. there we catch an airport bus to arlanda, and we leave the city behind.

to the aircraft

arlanda is much quieter than vienna was when we left home, which is good. we have to wait a while for our check-in counter to open, but at least there's no eternal queuing among hectic, nagging people! we follow the signs saying "till flygplanen" (to the aircraft) and spend some time looking around duty free shops. we find a couple of nice t-shirts which are on sale, so we both get one. i buy some moose salami for my dad, and we spend our last swedish crowns on a few other bits and pieces.

our plane takes off at 15:57. i cannot believe it's time to go home! sigh. mälaren disappears beneath the clouds below us, and there are clouds almost all the way to prague.

goodbye sweden!

we have some time at prague airport, but we don't do anything exciting. and then it's time to board another plane, and off we go to vienna. we are informed that the weather in vienna is not so good - at least there isn't one of those mid-summer heat waves, i am glad of that. but what they announce as a light drizzle turns out to be a heavy downpour! when we land at 08:30pm, we get quite wet from the few metres we have to run to the bus that's waiting to take us to the building. and our backpacks are actually partly soaked! and it's so dark - this is really difficult, i miss the light nights, i still do.

on the other side of the clouds

i never enjoy coming back to vienna. don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful city and everything, but i find it terribly difficult to be confronted with some typically viennese behaviour and attitudes whenever i return from my travels. and this time it is even harder than usual, and i get a vintage example of "welcome back to vienna" when i drop in at the airport supermarket: two people having an argument in public, a young couple, calling each other not-so-endearing names etc. and the check-out girl is kind of flirting (in a very viennese, rather dingy way). so, indeed: welcome back!

we catch a bus into the city, and driving through the dark, rather cool, wet night, i am trying to come to terms with the fact that our nordic adventure is now over. we had a fantastic time, brought back lots of memories and hundreds of photos and, at least in my case, a strong desire to return to the unspoilt, vast wilderness of the north.

coming, not going

day 20 photos

DAY 19 - more älgar, another island and a reunion

so then - another day, another breakfast buffet, another trip into the city centre. the weather is much better today - it's sunny, there are some extremely fluffy clouds in the sky, and sepp decides it's time for junibacken, the astrid lindgren world. i love her pippi longstocking and emil, the little boy from lönneberga, so i think it's worth checking out the place. hundreds of other people seem to have had the same thought - most of them are there with their kids. i've never seen such a crowded pram park before!

since we have the stockholm card, we get in for free here (as just about everywhere else in stockholm). we get our tickets and are told that our train time is some time around 01.30 or 01.45. we don't really know what train, but find out soon that there is a story train that takes visitors through astrid lindgren's worlds, through ronja's forest, to katthult where emil lives, over rooftops to visit karlsson and so on. but first we check out the shop where i buy an emil and a pippi book - both in swedish, of course! there's lots to explore and do - for kids, that is. the frst room we visit, is so noisy and i find it quite stuffy with its low ceiling, and crammed with toys and little huts, etc. after a while i actually feel like i cannot breathe in there, and i tell sepp i will wait for him outside.

he goes on to villa villekulla, pippi's home, which he says is nice, but once again - it is definitely more fun for the little ones who can dress up and ride on pippi's horse, etc. when sepp meets me outside, we still have about 45 minutes to kill until the train leaves. we wander around, down to the shore, then decide to skip the story train ride and go to skansen once more, because it is worth seeing the buildings too. junibacken is not far from the entrance to skansen, so we hop on the tram and are there within minutes.

every child's dream: villa villekulla

what a different picture! lots and lots of people are there, enjoying the sunshine in the wonderful park. i remember the delicious pastry baked at the old bakery place, and head for the "village" section. the smell guides me to the small house where bakes are producing the lovely buns and turnovers etc non-stop. i want an apple turnover, but they've run out, so i have a cinnamon bun instead. yummy, and still warm! talk about freshly baked!

baker, baker ...

we wander around looking at the old shops, the church, farmsteads, then head to the wild animals section once more. sepp wants to find out whether the moose are a little more active today. this time we see a couple of wolves, more wolverines, our baby lynxes from the previous day, and of course the bears. and this time they impress me quite a lot, especially one of them: i have never ever seen bears climb up so high before. you always hear that when you encounter a bear, whatever you do, don't climb a tree, because they can do it better. and i certainly believe that now. one of them, a right little daredevil, keeps climbing higher and higher, it's actually hard to see him up there! people who stop at the bears' enclosure think that there aren't any bears around - until others point them out, or they notice people staring intently at a tree. it's fascinating how fast and skillful these creatures are. people start wondering how the one that's highest up will actually get back down - and i assume he'll just embrace the tree trunk and slide down. and that is exactly what he does, after quite a long stay up in the treetop.

hiding in treetops

sepp is not lucky, in that the male älg is actually sleeping. but his offspring are walking around on shaky legs, and mrs älg is out and about. skansen, if you want to go to stockholm, is definitely worth at least one visit, it's absolutely lovely, and you can spend a day there if you are not in a hurry. we listen in on the summer concert on the big stage, and i finally get my köttbullar with mashed potatoes wrapped in bread before we leave and make our way back into the city.

swedish food

we fancy another boat trip, so we check out the offers. we miss one boat to fjäderholmarna by about two minutes and have to wait half an hour, but what does that matter. we sit in the sunshine and then go out to the main island called stora fjäderholmen. this time it does not start to rain while we are on board; the water sparkles, the sun and clouds produce the light that's so typical of the north, and it's lovely to be there.

on the island, we stroll around a bit, watch a glass blower at work, i treat myself to a rather huge icecream, and then we return to stockholm city. we walk towards the central station - and i start to feel a little melancholy. this is our last evening of the journey!

the ex fish, stora fjäderholmen

sepp's hungry, so we go to a typical swedish institution - mcdonald's. we just miss the train to barkarby, and while we are waiting, i get in touch with tobias whom we still have to meet. how convenient that he lives just across from the hotel!

tobias comes to pick us up at the train station in barkarby. he's only recently cut off his long hair (*sigh*), but it is still not difficult to recognise him. it's been over seven years since we last saw each other. as i mentioned before, we spent a few weeks travelling together in new zealand, tobias, the swiss guy olivier and me, trio infernal. *S* we split up in cromwell, a small place on the south island, where i stopped to stay with an e-pal of mine, and that was the last time we saw each other.

we go over to tobias and linda's apartment which is really nice. linda is watching tv, so we only get to talk to tobias. of course we do discuss our new zealand adventures, and reminisce, but i don't think sepp gets too bored. tobias shows us pictures of when he met oli and cindy (then girlfriend, now wife) a few years ago in switzerland, and we talk about our time up north. time flies, and we have to let tobias get some rest - the poor guy has to get up before 5. cruel.

reunion: tobias and michi

so it's goodbye very soon after we said hello, and we make our way back to the hotel, carefully avoiding all the slugs that come out at night.

day 19 photos

DAY 18 - a castle, a herd of japanese and - finally - an älg!

the best thing about getting up, if you ask sepp, is the breakfast buffet. after we have enjoyed that, we take the train into the city centre where we walk down to the wharf where several companies offer short and long boat trips, either in stockholm or out among the islands on lake mälaren. we had thought about going to to gripsholm castle, but that would take up a whole day, so we are now looking for a short trip somewhere. the one we want to do, however, turns out to have been cancelled - problems with the boat. we have a look at the beautiful stadshuset (ctiy hall) opposite the quays before we hop on the boat to drottningholm for a look at the palace and a walk in the park there.

while we are on the boat, the rain sets in. and it'll be a while before it stops again. we do leave the boat for a walk around though, but it's slightly less pleasant than it probably is when it's not pouring down.

drottningholm palace is the home of the swedish royal family and a UNESCO world heritage site. it dates from the late 17th century. we do not actually go inside the palace, instead we quickly walk to the chinese pavilion which is quite pretty, but once again, we do not go inside, because we are quite determined to catch the next boat back to stockholm - shame the weather isn't better.

chinese pavilion, drottningholm

we do make it to the next boat - as do approximately 5000 japanese. the boat is packed - and nobody wants to stay outside on the deck, not in this weather. so all these fast-talking, slightly hectic, mainly middle-aged japanese pile into the boat. they can be quite ... trying, those japanese, and quite odd.

team-work, however, seems to come naturally to them. they start carrying benches and chairs into the interior, while others run off to fetch toilet paper to wipte the seats dry, and others start looking for more seats and people to sit on them. the only problem is that now the doors are blocked which the staff does not consider such a brilliant idea. so what to do? apparently they decide to follow me as i climb the stairs to check out what's on the middle deck. there's a restaurant, so i quickly turn around to go back downstairs. only, that's impossible. dozens of japanese seem to file past me, all uttering the same surprised "aaahhh! resutoran!" as soon as they have advanced far enough to see. as they all smile happily upon this discovery, i assume that they have found what they were looking for. but i am very much mistaken. japanese no., say, 73 does as all the others have done before: she smiles, says "aaahhh! resutoran!" but then she, inexplicably, she pauses. and then she does what the others have not done - she shakes her head and vehemently flaps her hands, indicating that, contrary to common japanese belief, the restaurant is not what they all wanted. "ie!" she says. "no!"

so what happens next? yes. exactly. approximately 72 japanese start filing past me - in the other direction, all repeating "resutoran" in quite a different tone than before and shaking their heads as if they'd known it all along: the restaurant is not the place to be.

wet wet wet

another episode from the boat involves a german woman. i'd noticed her before, on the trip to drottningholm. she seemed to complain about just about everything, and her husband seemed to be another such joyful character. now she is waiting to be served at the "bar" where hot and cold drinks and snacks are sold. she wants coffee. but not just any kind of coffee, she wants the perfect coffee, and that involves 5 minute instructions. first she says she wants a coffee. fine. then it's a coffee with a lot of milk. then it's a coffee with lots of hot milk. then she complains about having to wait - when she can clearly see that the poor guy behind the counter has to make a few other coffees etc before he can start making hers. bad luck for him that she is watching him. "what's that you are making there?" he tells her that it's caffè latte. she decides she wants one instead of what she ordered before. fine. but then, as the waiter is making her coffee, she keeps shouting out orders, and i must admit i would have been confused, and i feel like kicking her shins from where i am standing, right beside her. suddenly she cries out: "but that's much too much coffee!" the guy finishes making her coffee, and tells her that the machine is programmed like that, and there is nothing he can do about it. "but you could have pushed it away", she says in an insolent way. yeah right. and i assume she would have cleaned it up.

but that's not all - she now says "i need more hot milk!" so the waiter gets milk from the fridge, and before he can do anything, she snaps at him: "but i wanted hot milk!" he replies, very politely, that he will have to heat it first. and so he does. not that she actually thanks him for it, stupid bitch. some people, honestly.

back in the city, we walk around gamla stan, the old town, for quite a while. it stops raining, and occasionally the sun peeps out. gamla stan is lovely with its narrow lanes and colourful old buildings. of course there are a few streets that are crowded, where people are shopping for souvenirs. but you can easily get away from them. the light is adorable when the sun manages to break through the clouds.

one of gamla stan's narrow lanes

we have something to eat at a kebap/pizza place. very nice, and not expensive at all. as we walk towards norrmalmstorget, there is more rain, but fortunately it doesn't last long. we take the old tram to skansen, the oldest open-air museum in the world. it's got historic buildings from all parts of sweden, but also a zoo, and since a few years ago also the "akvariet" with snakes, spiders, primates, fish and a few other species.

we visit the akvariet first, and the baboons entertain us very well for quite a while. they're fun. their red bottoms are amazing, though to human eyes not as attractive as to their fellow baboons. there a few rather young ones, and their faces look incredibly human, if not exactly young - they remind us of the wrinkled faces of some old humans.

hello baby

we also get to see lemures who seem to simply love cuddles, crocodiles, colourful birds, impressive snakes, tropical fish, furry spiders and other animals. we both like the place, it's so nicely done, with lots of nice details.

group cuddling - lemures at skansen akvariet

it is so late that the buildings in skansen are all closed when we leave the aquarium, but sepp wants to - finally! - see a moose, so we decide to stay and walk around for a while. the good thing about being there so late in the day (as good as being there on an october afternoon, like i was in 1998) is that it is very quiet - hardly any people strolling around, no noise.

sepp riding a dalahäst

we make our way to the zoo (swedish wild animals)section. there are wolves - but we don't get to see them. what we do see is wolverines, lynxes, bisons, bears, reindeer and the moose. one of the bears, mother of a few young ones, has the most pathetic and sad look on her face. she looks about to commit suicide any minute. in a way comical, but then again ... but perhaps it's just one of those days; a bad fur day, so to speak. her kids are a lot more vivacious - which they demonstrate by having an apparently neverending fight. but that is one thing they have in common with all the other young animals: the lynxes and primates, the shoats and others. they're all playfully fighting, trying to outrun one another, playing hide and seek, tussling on the ground.

sepp's happy when he finally gets to see real älgar (moose), even though they seem to be having a quiet evening and they cannot be tempted to come closer.

a real moose!

we spend ages around the animals, then return to the city and walk to the central station where we catch the train back to barkarby.

day 18 photos

DAY 17 - buses, planes and a suburb train

time to say goodbye - we have to get up quite early, and we're at the bus station way too soon, around 07:15. it's a perfect morning - blue sky, sunshine, and it's already warm. a shame that we have to leave on a day like this, instead of spending it hiking or doing other outdoor things.

set to go

we have a long bus trip down to luleå which we enjoy from the front seats on the top deck of the double-decker coach. i spend the time reading, napping, and enjoying the drive. we see gällivare again, and överkalix, and - to sepp's delight - svartbyn and the tractors. we also stop in morjärv, where lotta lives. sigh.

i thought we'd have a couple of hours in luleå, but we have to leave the bus station again really soon after our arrival there, because there are not many buses to the airport, and if we don't take the next one, well, then we have to take a taxi, and we don't want that. so there's no enjoying a stroll in the sunshine, instead we move on to kallax airport where there really isn't anything to do except sit inside and read a little.

our plane takes off at 4.48pm. not even the lovely views of the archipelago can comfort me - i'm really sad, i don't feel ready for the city, i could do with a little more time in the peaceful, quiet north. but - there we are, arlanda airport, stockholm, around 6pm. another bus, to stockholm central, and then a train to barkarby, a suburb, about 15 mins from stockholm central. the weather is not as nice as it was up north, and i feel a little tired and miserable, wishing i were back in lapland.

goodbye to the north!

the hotel in barkarby seems quite nice. after a delightful shower, we have dinner at a pizzeria close by. back at the hotel, i contact tobias, my swedish friend, by sending a text message. we met in new zealand in 1998 and travelled together for about 3 weeks, him and swiss olivier and me. i have not seen him since. he has just recently moved to stockholm from strängnäs, about 1 hour from stockholm, so i don't know where he lives yet, and where we should meet.

when tobias rings, he asks me where i am, and i tell him barkarby. he says "barkarby?" when i say yes, he goes: "barkarby? at the hotel?" again i say yes, then he says: "but ... that's where i live!" wow. "i can almost see the hotel from my place!" i ask for the name of the street, and find it on the map - it really is only, maybe 5 minutes from our hotel! isn't that amazing? i mean, stockholm is quite spread out, and it's such a coincidence! i realise that we were just around the corner from his place before our dinner! small world!

day 17 photos

DAY 16 - goodbye karesuando, hello kiruna, goodbye WUZ!

a beautiful morning, it's warm and sunny enough to have breakfast at the picnic table next to our tent! we finish off most of our breakfast stuff, because, after all, this is our last day on the road. we pack up and drive towards kiruna, the town we left 10 days ago.

we stop at vittangi - the place where the coldest temperature in sweden was recorded, a chilly -53°C (or -63F), but today it's lovely and warm. we stop by the lake (julkathenjärvi) and enjoy the sunshine and the view of the calm water and the fountain in the middle of the little lake.

julkathenjärvi, vittangi

we also have a look at vittangi church on the shore of the lake. and then, it's on to kiruna where we stop at the tourist centre, find out that even here the cinema is closed during the summer months, and then we're back at the campsite where we stayed the first time, but this time we don't pitch the tent. instead we decide to spend the last night in lapland in a cabin - not such a basic one either, we actually have a kitchenette and our own bath, so it's more like a hotel room than a cabin. it's just much more comfortable to clean out the car, pack our bags and the tent for the flight, and we're not affected by rain - and it does rain later.

after a trip to the supermarket, the time has come to take WUZ to the station where we have agreed to drop the car off. by the time we get there, it's pouring down though, and we don't really feel like walking back to the campground in that kind of weather. so we stay there until it stops raining so hard, and take our time saying goodbye to good old WUZ.

we walk back to the campsite, have dinner, finish packing, then i take a sunset walk around the campsite. it actually gets almost dark very late at night, something we are not used to anymore. our last night up north.

evening sky in kiruna

day 16 photos

Sunday, August 07, 2005

DAY 15 - ex-shoes, more cross-country travels and a national park with an unpronounceable name

miraculously it is not raining when we wake up this morning! and it looks like a nice enough day - pleasant surprise. still, one sad thing in the morning: i have to leave my faithful hiking shoes behind. we decide on a simple goodbye instead of a long ceremony though. in fact, as i meet the owner, i hand the bag with our garbage over to him as he insists on putting it in the container for me.

goodbye to michi's shoes!

though we stop over at kautokeino church which is just as lovely as many others we have seen, and perhaps exceptionally colourful, we are soon on our way south, leaving norway for good this time, and entering finland again. we stop at hetta where i buy two simple silver rings made by sami people. i wear them on my right middle finger. *S*

our destination, for now, is pallas-ja ounastunturi national park. the landscape's lovely, especially in this ever-changing light, due to the sun that's sometimes hiding, sometimes out. so many shades of green, and blue!

we see reindeer on the road several times, and most of them don't seem to be in a hurry. we stop at pallas where there is a hotel/restaurant and a tourist information. it's very windy in this part of the world, and it starts to drizzle when we set out for a brief walk (about 2 or 2,5 km). it must be really nice to do a long hike there, it's quite stunning in its wild, untamed, windswept way. but we simply don't have enough time, and i don't have the proper shoes anymore. so a short walk it is. apart from a few incredibly crooked birches there are no trees. it's heather, lichen, moss, cotton grass.

easy to see which way the wind blows

the sun comes out again towards the end of the walk, and it's unbelievably warm nce we are sitting in the café, behind the window. but the sky is blue now, and the view is a delight.

wall of the hotel at pallas

on our way to karesuando we enjoy the light that once again gives the countryside a surreal atmosphere - shades of green like the ones we see there cannot possible exist in real life!

along the way, at same parking space next to the road, i actually drive the car, just once, and very briefly - just to see what i remember. backwards, forwards, and that's that. i am hopelessly out of practice, of course. i am, however, a fantastically brilliant map-reader and co-driver, even though this part of the world was not the greatest challenge i've known.

we also narrowly avoid a collision with a baby reindeer. apparently its mother moves to the other side of the road as it sees us coming, and baby wants to follow - without looking, as little ones are likely to do; and i am not only talking about reindeers! *S* so baby reindeer jumps out in front of our car, and sepp just manages to swerve, and fortunately the car coming towards us isn't any closer than it is, otherwise, well, we'd have had to hit the little reindeer; that would have caused a lot less damage than crashing with another car - but i suspect it would have been heartbreaking! so, close, but fortunately not a big problem in the end.

once again we have to cross into another country, sweden once more - back in a different time zone again, and this time for good. we stop in karesuando, find a lovely campsite by a träsk, then have to go get us some swedish money at a petrol station. during dinner we get nice views of several successive rainbows - something we did not get very often. we walk down to the shore where, once again, the light is stunning. i cannot get enough of it, and i cannot stop wondering about it. amazing. what's just as amazing is that a local ýouth has a desire to go swimming, or at least, to jump into the water. i am not a sissy, but i doubt i'd have done the same thing, at least at that time of day (around 8 pm). tough guy.

evening in karesuando

this is actually our last night in the tent, although we don't know that for certain yet, because it is undecided whether we'll sleep in the tent in kiruna, our last night in lapland.

day 15 photos

DAY 14 - rain, three countries in a day and a suicidal bird

yes indeed the rain has come to stay. it's pouring down all morning, and it does not look like anybody's going to climb saana that day - the top of the mountain is actually shrouded in mist, clouds are hanging low today. we are not quite sure what to do - wait or move on. striking a tent in the pouring rain is never fun. around lunchtime the rain almost ceases though, and we decide to act. we take the tent and try to clean it a little and pack up in the shower/toilet block. that makes things a little easier. by the time we are ready to leave, it's raining again. and today there is no escaping the rain. it feels like it's raining in the whole wide world.

we drive towards kaaresuvanto / karesuando, a little town at the finnish-swedish border. we cross into sweden briefly, stop at the tourist info / souvenir shop / café where i buy a sami cd (the song you can hear on this site is from that cd) and we have a hot drink. outside, there is no sign of the rain ever stopping again. we are not quite sure which way to go now - too soon to return to kiruna, not enough time to go all the way to gällivare or jokkmokk and do things there, so we decide to move north again, to kautokeino - which is neither in sweden nor in finland, but in norway.

karesuando is also the place where my faithful mckinleys, my hiking shoes, finally decide that their time has come. i suspect the hike in the rain the previous day did not do them much good. but i have had them for years, and they have travelled around the world with me. but one of the shoes is now definitely beyond repair. thank goodness that did not happen any sooner on this trip!

santa was here!

it's raining in finland, it's raining in sweden, and it's - surprise surprise! - raining in norway. nonetheless, the landscape is beautiful - so much green, and those little träsks in between, also little streams. what i don't quite get is that there are people out there in the heather, apparently picking something. i mean: why? why not wait for a time when it's not looking like the deluge has come?!

another thing that happens, is that a little bird chooses our windshield to commit suicide. sigh. "plonk" it goes, and the bird is an ex-bird. we stop somewhere to dispose of the little body.

kautokeino is said to have a little cinema - but unfortunately, like so many other cinemas in the north, it is closed during the summer. but we do pay a visit to juhls' silver gallery, which the guide book recommends. and it is well worth it. mrs juhls is originally from germany, and he is danish. they met in the wilderness that was kautokeino over 40 years ago. they both wanted to live away from, well, basically everything. both are artists - and their house / museum / workshop reflects that. they started out with a hut, which is integrated into the much bigger building to this day, and they added rooms through the years, each with its own character, one of them an oriental room, one of them with a mosaic that is still work in progress, and has been for several years. we get a guided tour, even in german. fascinating.

they keep sheep and chicken in a barn, which is also integrated in the big building, practically within the museum! jewellery and paintings are on display - some for sale, some not for sale. regine juhls' jewellery is clearly inspired by nature, some of it very obviously by lichen, and roots, and certain other plants. unique. just like the whole building. and they designed that building, and built a lot of it themselves; the walls and ceiling in the oriental room must have taken ages to saw out, paint, decorate. very impressive, the whole thing.

there is no hope for the rain to stop, and therefore it's quite out of the question that we sleep in the tent that night. we find a campsite with little huts - the owner is fun, he insists on speaking german, because he needs to practice. so we have a warm and dry place to stay that night, and after a trip to the supermarket and a lovely dinner, we have a very cosy night in our little house.

home-cooked meal

and outside, it is still raining as if it will never ever stop again.

campsite in the rain

day 14 photos

DAY 13 - mossies, rain and tired feet

a beautiful morning in kilpisjärvi! we take the boat across the lake (kilpisjärvi) to koltaluokta, the jetty out there in malla national park. there's this boy on board, opposite us, dressed in camouflage from head to toe. looks kind of funny on this skinny kid. *S*

kata (sami tent) at koltaluokta

the sky's blue with a few white clouds just for effect, but as we arrive at koltaluokta, the clouds start to move in from all sides, and there are some grey ones among the whites. i hope that it won't rain soon - we have 14 km to go, and that doesn't sound like too much fun in the rain! so, one step after another, we walk along the lake at first, it's flat, so it's easy walking.

the path leads to treriksröset, the border triangle (finland, norway, sweden), that's a little over 3 km, and then back to kilpisjärvi. the lake is completely calm, birds are twittering everywhere, and the sun's back out. pretty soon after treriksröset, the path climbs a little, we walk across swampy areas on planks, and then, as the path climbs again, the mossies strike. for some reason, the higher we go, the more there are - and they are a pain. they certainly are. and once again, they like to go for the head, yuck!


we have a quick stop for lunch on top of some hill with a lovely view of the national park, but the insects are so annoying that it's impossible to sit still. we talk to a finnish guy briefly, who assures us that it's not a bad mossie year - because usually "you cannot really breathe for insects". what a comfort. *S*

malla national park

and so we move on along the ridge, across boulders, across little streams. the views are stunning, it's quiet, wonderfully quiet, and i enjoy walking. we stop again along the way, near a waterfall, and thank goodness there are not as many mossies around there! it's getting cloudy again, the sun hardly ever peeks out anymore, and i am quite sure it will rain.

malla sky

and it does. once we are past another peak, descending to some plateau, the first raindrops fall. it stops again, but then - it rains. and rains. for a few kilometres, we have to walk in the pouring rain. it takes a little fun out of the hiking, especially since the slopes are rather steep and slippery in places, and we really have to watch our step.

terrible things could happen!

water mingles with mygga insect repellent and drips into my eyes, which is, well, slightly unpleasant. but still - instead of complaining, i concentrate on walking, and hoping fervently that it'll stop.

a hole in the clouds

downhill it goes, and through some wood, and then we are there! back near the main road into kilpisjärvi, at the car park. only what we did not know, is that it's another 3 kilometres to our campground! at least it stops raining again, and we walk the last part of the long hike in sunshine. i look like a little piggy, or at least my trousers are mud-spattered! and we are quite, quite knackered after these 17,5 km, and once again i thank heaven for a (free) shower! i think i spend about 20 minutes in there!

filthy michi!

i cannot for the life of me imagine climbing saana the next day, but that's only temporary, i know i want to do that.

we get us some food from the marvellous supermarket, and while we have dinner, it begins to rain again. and the rain has come to stay.

day 13 photos

DAY 12 - a different country, a different time zone and a very different language

quote of the day: "me and my glasses, we feel rather dirty!" (sepp, not me!!) not that that set the mood for the day or anything. it doesn't seem to be as nice a day as the previous one, and though there are still lots of things to do around tromsø and a hundred hikes we have not done, we decide to leave. i am not feeling too great either, so we don't even do the short hike we had considered doing, instead we leave the beautiful area and drive towards finland. we have to drive all the way back to nordkjosbotn, then north towards skibotn where we stop for a little bit to stretch our legs and say goodbye to the sea. then we head inland to the finnish border via beautiful and very lonely skibotndalen.

sepp at skibotn

another new country! and not just any country! no, it's finland!

Finland, Finland, Finland.
The country where I quite want to be,
Your mountains so lofty,
Your treetops so tall,
Finland, Finland, Finland. Finland has it all.
as monty python's michael palin so aptly put it.

it's the first time in finland for sepp, i have been to finland before - tornedalen and helsinki. but this here is outback finland. and finland, well, finland is different. i noticed it back in october 1998 when crossing the swedish/finnish border at haparanda and waiting for a train in little kemi. i thought i'd gone back in time, and landed in russia in the 1970s! (to be fair, helsinki was NOT like that!)

funny thing is that this time, sepp says the same thing. something is different once you have crossed the border and come to finland. take the campground / fjäll station in kilpisjärvi. lovely, no doubt, and like other campgrounds too - in most things. but then you enter the kitchen: unlike kitchens at other campsites, this one has compartments - which, when you think about it, is rather clever; mini-kitchenettes for 6 or 8 people. but the gas stoves! the little gas stoves with two burners! i wish now that i had taken a photo. the first time i see them, i honestly think there's a 50:50 chance that the whole thing will explode. or make that 60:40. they truly look like something you might see in a movie about russia in the 1960s. however, nothing explodes, and the things heat everything up really fast, so there. :)

or take the supermarket. it doesn't really look like a supermarket of the western european kind. they sell pretty much everything - and they seem to have put it wherever there was some space. so junk and sausages and birthday cards and t-shirts and sanitary products co-exist happily in this shop with its low ceiling and the rather dark corners. and then there's a power failure. lights out and everything. the weird thing is - nobody really says anything, neither the customers nor the employees or management. people just go on shopping in semi-darkness, and the women at check-out take out pens and paper and start doing their sums like back in the old, pre-cash-register days. i actually expect someone to make a comment like "oh, it's the 3:45 power failure! i didn't quite realise that was the time!" eventually the lights come back on, and that's that.

but take it from us, the atmosphere is different. you go to an out-of-the-way place in norway or sweden, and you go to just such a place in finland, and you'll see. like two different worlds.

and you also see it in the people. i mean, you don't get grown men in floral-print shirts (shirts! not t-shirts!), wearing their trousers at half-mast, socks, sandals, and a jacket in an indefinable shade of ochre, where i come from. and i am talking about ONE guy here, and he was wearing all that at the same time. ask sepp. i was not hallucinating. not this time.

but, back to chronological order. we cross the border just a few kilometers from kilpisjärvi. we decide to stay there and do some hiking the next day. we set up our tent, drive to the supermarket (yes, that supermarket!) and the nice tourist information centre where a very friendly and competent lady tells me about possible hikes. there is more to do here than just climb saana, the sacred mountain of the sami people, and so we are spoilt for choice.

there's one short hike the lady suggests which we can do straight away. fortunately she writes down the name of the road and the name of the hill, or we would still be looking for it.

finnish, as you probably know, is not a very accessible language. it's not a language that has any relation to anything, well, except hungarian and some other obscure languages of the finno-ugric langugage group. and, well, it's not like everybody is familiar with those! apart from the words that have been finnicized (did i just invent a word?) by adding an -i (kioski, hotelli, etc), you're completely lost. i remember fondly the dilemma i faced at kemi station in 1998 when i needed to go to the toilet. that's why symbols were invented - only kemi didn't have them! granted, you get words that are difficult to pronounce in most languages; but a whole language that is unpronounceable is quite a different matter. it's completely uneconomical. i mean, why say henkilöllisyystodistus when you can say ID card or Ausweis? the finnish must be smart, and i am not surprised they get such good results in the PISA-study. people who can remember such monstrosities of words and master such a language cannot have problems with anything else.

so anyway, we are off down the road leading to a carpark where we can leave our faithful WUZ while we conquer salmivaara, a hill rather than a mountain, but nonetheless, it's a nice walk up there, less than an hour to the top. it's rather windy up there, but the view is just wonderful. you can of course see saana, the dominant feature in the area, but also the lake, and malla national park. greens, and blues, and the treeless mountains all around.

michi on salmivaara, with saana in the background

back to the campsite after our daily hike, we have dinner, check our email too, at the retkeilykeskus, the hiking centre. and then we have to rest, because we have a long hike planned for the next day.

day 12 photos

DAY 11 - an island, two hikers and a beautiful sunset

this is perfect hiking weather - the sun's coming out just as we are getting up and having breakfast, and it gets nicer and nicer as we drive towards tromsø. we decide to go across to kvaløy where we leave the car in kvaløysletta and walk up some hill, first through a small wood, then among small birches. the sky is a perfect blue by now, with a few cotton clouds far on the horizon. definitely too warm for long sleeves, definitely t-shirt weather!

we stop occasionally, enjoying the view of tromsø as well as the mountains surrounding us. and we walk on and on. once we reach a kind of boggy plateau, and follow the path towards the north. we find the perfect spot for lunch, and once again it becomes obvious that food simply tastes better outdoors in such lovely surroundings!

view over straumsfjord from kvaløy

we see three people walking past, but at a distance. apart from that - peace and quiet, we are practically alone in this nordic summer paradise!

after some rest, we climb up to a snowfield, and - in sepp's case - onto a snowfield. it's pretty steep, which doesn't quite come out in the picture, but believe me - i was there. *S* we climb on, and by now, i mean climb - i am using my hands almost as much as my feet! we get to a point where we decide it's safer not to continue but to take a longer way towards the top.

going to extremes - sepp

but before we do that, we find us two rocks for sunbathing - after a while gentle snoring tells me that my dear husband is asleep! but it IS so lovely up there, and so quiet, and the warmth of the sun can lull one to sleep. it's so warm that i am down to my tank top, and i wish i were wearing shorts! the reason why we decide to move on is that we are running out of water. so we skip the peak, but hike back to kvaløysletta, which actually takes a while, since we have walked quite far.

ah! summer!

we don't find the path we walked before, but since we can soon see the area where we parked the car, we know roughly where to go, and make it back alright. off we are to the local spar supermarket - we need water!

tromsø, paris of the north

we decide to go for a drive, and before we know it we are in some tunnel below the water and then on ringvassøy where we drive north along the water and find that the local traffic consists mainly of sheep. but, at the risk of repeating myself: it is incredibly beautiful here, especially on a day like this.


we go back into tromsø, contemplate seeing a movie, don't contemplate a pizza (at the price of, roughly, a 7-course meal at the best viennese restaurant, it's not really an option), but - fortunately - sepp agrees when i suggest going up fjellheisen by cable car. it would be a shame to waste this lovely evening indoors.

so we take the 9pm cable car up fjellheisen - we're opposite kvaløy now. looking in the direction of tromsø we are actually looking towards the area where we were hiking earlier that day. it's amazing - the setting sun behind the mountains, the islands in twilight ...

sun setting in fiordland

there's another little peak looming, fløfjell, allegedly about half an hour from the cable car station. so we walk in that direction. and we walk and walk, and sepp would rather stop and have a picnic, but i kind of want to walk on, i mean, once we are here. so i suggest walking a little bit further, see how far it is from there, and so on, and before we know it, we are on top of the mountain (well, it's 638m anyway). it's 10pm, and the view is breath-taking.

fløfjell, 638m, 10 pm

we walk back towards the station, clouds and mountains are reflected in little pools that lie like mirrors, cotton-grass sways in the breeze, the sun sinks towards the sea, far out behind the islands.

mirror in the mountains

we float back down around 11 pm, and our feet are rather tired by now. *S* so no more peaks that day, only a drive back to skittenelv and our tent. the sun dips into the sea somewhere behind the clouds, but by the time we go to bed (or, rather, sleeping bag) it starts to rise again, almost making us believe that, as we don't want it to end, this is a day that won't.

midnight sky

day 11 photos

DAY 10 - a city, a boat and many islands

we leave nordkjosbotn to go further north - tromsø is the next destination. the first stop is just outside nordkjosbotn however, at the piggstein, a rock where many travellers have left their colourful traces. of course we add our signatures!

we've all been here!

first we drive along balsfjorden, then the road leads us away from the water, but around 30 km outside tromsø we are back, as the E8 winds its way along the fiords. the moment i see tromsø, beautifully situated on an island (tromsøya) between the mainland and the island kvaløy, i am hooked. it's a real gem. and a genuine city at that - with a population of over 60.000 it's the world's largest city north of the arctic circle!

we briefly stop at the ishavskatedralen, the arctic cathedral situated on the mainland, just before the bridge that leads us into tromsø. it's sunday, and very, very quiet. the tourist information has a few tips re hiking and boat trips, and we are lucky - there is a boat trip on the mailboat that very evening. a brief walk, and on to skittenelv, 25 km outisde tromsø, and still farther north, to a campsite next to the water. it's lovely out there, and since the sun's out, it's actually warm!

arctic cathedral, tromsø

we have a quick bite, then drive back into tromsø where we catch a bus to bellvika on kvaløy, the little village where we catch the ferry that goes out to vengsøy, laukvik, musvaer, risøy and sandøy on the verge of the arctic sea (as opposed to the rather more sheltered islands in 'fiordland'). the sun's out, the water sparkles, and it seems like the end of the world, even before we get to sandøy, farthest away from bellvika, and the northernmost point of our entire journey (above 70°).

at sea

with the wind it does get a little chilly outside, and i am glad i have my fleece jacket and my cap with me (and ON me!).

me inside approx. 17 layers of clothes

but anyway, i cannot sit still inside for very long (unlike mr lasse), it's too lovely, and too fascinating. all these tiny little islands, like dots in the sea - and then the bigger ones, where people live all year round! it's beyond me, and i know i could never live in such out-of-the-way places. believe me, out there, you'd better get on with your neighbours!

lonely out there

the cries of seagulls accompany us, and on a couple of islands, the whole population seems to have gathered for the arrival of the boat. little lighthouses are there to guide the boats during the darker days. the sun plays peekaboo behind ever changing clouds, thus continually transforming the scenery below. it's around 9 pm when we dock at bellvika and hop on the bus back to tromsø.

we go for a short walk, then drive back out to skittenelv campsite and go to bed.


day 10 photos