Archive for March, 2008

New author with a new sleeping bag

Hello folks,

Hanneke’s just given me the ability to contribute to her blog. So from here on certain aspects (steepness of mountains, lengths of walks and temperatures for example) might be presented in a more balanced way ;-). Although this will require me to spend time at a computer during the weekends – something which I try to minimise these days. So I probably won’t write that much. Also as Hanneke draws her camera faster than Lucky Luke she tends to get the picture I was just about to take – thus robbing me of anything to blog about! Anyways, here’s a picture of a new sleeping bag that I bought to protect me from the freezing nights up here. You’ll notice someone else has scooped the photo as usual 🙂 .

Easter trip to Kiruna (Sweden)

We hadn’t really made any plans for Easter, but the weather was so stunning that we decided to go for a road trip. We managed to find a room in a hostel in Kiruna, Sweden – almost 400 km from Tromso. The trip there was very beautiful, with many ice waterfalls next to the road…

Kiruna Kiruna

… and stunning views along the way!

Kiruna

Crossing the mountains on the border between Norway and Sweden was very impressive. We also got to see where all the Norwegians hang out for Easter – all parking places along the road were more than full, there were campers and caravans everywhere too. Crazy!

The next morning we explored Kiruna. It’s a strange town – it exists because of a huge iron mine next to the town. It’s a bizarre sight! Because of the mine, there is subsidence below the city and the city will have to move to a new location in the coming years.

Kiruna has a beautiful wooden church. Because it was Easter Sunday, there was a mass going on so we didn’t want to go inside and we just admired the church from the outside. Very impressive how it’s all wood!

Kiruna Kiruna

Kiruna Kiruna

Kiruna is located in the interior of Sweden and thus much colder than Tromso – almost -20 during the night, about -14 during the day. A very dry cold though, it reminded me of Fairbanks – they even had the same glitter snow falling :-). Because of the cold, most cars are plugged in overnight to keep the engine warm. We discovered first hand that this is not just a luxury, we couldn’t start our car on the second morning… luckily a friendly neighbour of the hostel helped us out enormously until *finally* our engine started while he gave us a tow. Btw, the car in the photo on the right is really abnormally long!

Kiruna Kiruna

Kiruna has many appartment buildings (probably to house the miners), but they are not ugly. There even were some brick buildings, wow 😉 (you don’t see many of those around here!)

Kiruna Kiruna

A bizarre advertisement in such an Arctic town, and some funny graffiti:

Kiruna Kiruna

The view from our hostel window…

Kiruna

In the afternoon we went skiing. It’s incredible how empty this part of Sweden is! If you think the population density around Tromso is low, think again… So much empty land, such wide rivers and huge forests. It’s called the last wilderness in Europe and it does definitely feel that way. We went skiing next to the road though, near a snowmobile highway, hehe. This friendly dog stayed with us for a while.

Kiruna Kiruna

We went to the river, where we thought we could see big boulders covered in snow. Such a pretty sight! When I tried to destroy one (hmm some aggression??) I couldn’t find a boulder inside though! Big mystery! We don’t quite understand how they are formed. I couldn’t investigate fully though, as at some point my skies broke through the ice (very scary!!) and I was afraid I would really fall through. I went back on the land and did not dare to go back on the ice.

Kiruna Kiruna

Kiruna Kiruna

We skied back along the river, and we even saw a swan there and some cute black and white shorebirds who were singing beautifully. I do miss the birds in Tromso, there you don’t see much more than crows, magpies and seagulls most of the time.

Kiruna Kiruna

Paul jumping on his skies…and the last sunrays over a big frozen lake.

Kiruna Kiruna

The next morning we left Kiruna. Some last photos: completely buried cars next to a house, and the big mine right next to the town.

Kiruna Kiruna

On the way back, we visited the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi (very near Kiruna) – a hotel completely built out of ice. We thought it would be small and very touristy, but actually it was huge and very impressive! Here’s Paul on the ice toilet, and in one of the corridors of the hotel…

Kiruna Kiruna

This is the central hall of the hotel and full of beautiful ice sculptures.

Kiruna Kiruna

These are the “budget” rooms (still at least 200 pounds for a double room!) – very simple small rooms with beds in it. The beds are made of ice but have mattresses on top with reindeer skins. The one in the photo is for 6 people, nice and cosy 😉

Kiruna Kiruna

The art suites are more impressive, and each one is designed by a different artist. Some are really cool! When I saw those suites, I could imagine you’d want to spend the night there. Those start from 250 pounds a night, so I don’t understand why anyone would choose the budget rooms hehe.

Kiruna Kiruna

The one on the left (below) was my favourite! It’s a big dragon, its head is the bed (you sleep on its nose) and on the right you can see its feet and the tail goes all along the room. Cool!!

Kiruna Kiruna

The Turbo meter changed colour, it was next to the room with the car in the photo above. The photo on the right is a design suite (designed by the team of the ice hotel itself and not individual artists).

Kiruna Kiruna

Kiruna Kiruna

I loved this bird, it’s really amazing what they can do with ice! The photo on the right is the northern lights room and looks like it’s been made of snow!

Kiruna Kiruna

There was also an icebar, sponsored by Absolut vodka. They didn’t seem to sell anything but vodka, hmm not very tempting at noon. On the right is the chapel, I liked the decorated ceiling.

Kiruna Kiruna

There were lots of “sparks” – kicksleds typical for this area. You often see them around Tromso as well, people use them a lot to go shopping as you can put your shopping on the front and it gives more stability than walking. I finally got to try one, good fun! We also found this room where they make ice sculptures.

Kiruna Kiruna

We drove back the other way around, through Finland. Still in Sweden, we found this road over a frozen lake to a graveyard on an island… of course we had to try it out!! There were lots of signs saying how heavy the car could be and how much distance there should be between cars. And there were snowmobile crossings too 🙂

Kiruna Kiruna

This was what the road looked like most of the time – endless forest and hardly anyone on the road. Very beautiful!

Kiruna Kiruna

It was a great trip! Now it’s back to work for a few days, and on Saturday Paul’s parents are coming to visit for a few days. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for better weather, it’s been snowing a LOT here. Today I came back from town completely covered in snow hehe.

Mare

While in the Netherlands, of course I visited my baby niece Mare (born on the 20th of February). I still can’t quite believe I am now actually somebody’s aunt, but Mare is very cute! And so tiny… Here are two photos taken yesterday (click for larger versions).

Mare

Mare

Today I visited the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam with Gert-Jan. This is a modern art museum I always wanted to visit, but they are now at a temporary location while the museum is rebuilt. There wasn’t that much to see, but the exhibition of 60 years Magnum photography definitely was worth visiting, I was very impressed! Martin Parr is a Magnum photographer that I particularly like, he has brilliant photos of British sea side resorts and the Ascot races.

I’m here for two more days and then I’m flying back to winter wonderland 🙂 Tomorrow I’m going on a little trip with my mum and my sister (who took a day off work for that, how nice!) so I might have some more photos soon!

Nem's visit to Tromsø

I finally found some time to put those photos online. We had our first visitor (from the UK) last weekend – Nem came to visit! She arrived on a very sunny day, and as we already had our rented snowshoes we decided to go for a quick walk in the afternoon. We drove to a nearby lake (Finnvikvatnet) and we were hoping to catch the last bit of sun. It was really windy there, but we enjoyed great views!

Snowshoeing Snowshoeing

That evening the northern lights were very active, so Nem got to see a really good show! We watched from the balcony so we could escape to the warm fire inside when we got too cold. The next morning we woke up to a sky filled with amazing clouds:

Tromso

We took the cable car up, we were planning to go for a walk from there. I took this photo of the view, and another of the building up there – as you can see it was REALLY windy!!

Tromso Snowshoeing

We went for a walk which was quite a mission with the wind – especially for me as I have no hood on my jacket. I need a new one! Why are Norwegian jackets so pretty but so expensive… I saw a nice one for 500 pounds, hmm. Anyway… The wind was so strong you could easily lean into it, quite cool!

Snowshoeing Snowshoeing

Nem the Arctic explorer and both of us leaning into the wind.

Snowshoeing Snowshoeing

Soon afterwards we decided to give up, go for a hot chocolate in the restaurant and find a less windy place for a walk. We went back to the place where we went skiing a while ago, it always seems very calm there. We went for a fun walk and had some snow”ball” (the snow is so dry it won’t stick as balls) fights!

Snowshoeing Snowshoeing

The next day was Monday and we convinced Paul to take some time off work and come with us. Nem wanted to try skiing and as we have the same shoe size she could just use mine and I took the snowshoes. On the way there, we drove past some frozen fjords, very cool! Paul the oceanographer giving some explanations…

Skiing Skiing

And… we saw seals on the ice!! So cool! Unfortunately I didn’t have my SLR with zoom lens with me, so the best I could get was this cropped version below, in the big version you can see the seal 🙂

Skiing

We also stopped to admire the fish racks – quite spooky!! All this dead bodies hanging there haha. You could smell them too 😉

Skiing Skiing

Nem tried skiing for the very first time, but she picked it up really quickly. In these two photos you can still see the concentration on her face though, hehe.

Skiing Skiing

We skied through a valley that ended at the other side of the island on the water. This valley had no road, but we saw a snowmobile going there with supplies… there were actually some houses on the other side! Wow, they live quite isolated but such a beautiful spot…

Skiing Skiing

We enjoyed a little tea break before heading back… what a nice place!

Skiing Skiing

Nem and I both flew back to London the next day. We did spend some time in Tromsø before our flight left – we had some amazing cakes at my favourite spot (O.L. Aune) and we visited Polaria (which I thought was quite disappointing, but we had fun there with the Antarctic suit and some big puzzle that took us ages to solve 😉 )

Right now I am in the Netherlands after a very short visit to the UK… More soon!