Archive for August, 2009

Lofoten

We’ve just come back from a trip to the Lofoten, a group of islands south of Tromsø famous for its impressive scenery :) We left on Saturday afternoon, with the last ferry to Senja. The weather was grey, the sea was calm and reflecting the grey skies… beautiful!

We spent some time on this quiet beach in Laukvik, near Botnhamn where the ferry arrives. Later on we drove along the fjords with perfect reflections…

Soon the scenery became more spectacular, and we stopped at this viewpoint where they built a very nice wooden structure to take you onto the rocks where you have the view.

At night, we drove through patches of fog, which was really spectacular when seen from higher up!

We camped in Gryllefjord, as we were planning to get the ferry to Andenes from there the next morning. The crossing took 1.5 hours, and we saw lots of puffins and some dolphins on the way. In Andenes, we met up with a friend (Njål) who lives there. He showed us around Andenes. The lighthouse is made of solid metal!

Njål works at the Andøya Rocket Range which is located near Andenes. He gave us a tour of the range, which was really interesting. They launch rockets from here, for example for studying the aurora, and they do a lot of summer camps too. A really interesting place! After that we all went to Bleik, a very nice village a bit further south. We walked around for a while, below some impressions of the village, which has some really nice beaches! After a coffee and cake we said goodbye to Njål and continued on our way to the Lofoten.

That night we stayed in a cabin on a campsite in Sortland. The next day we made a quick stop in Stokmarknes. This is the “home” of the Hurtigruten, and there was a large museum including a ship. We didn’t go inside the museum, but it was fun walking around this big ship. You could even climb below the propeller, which is HUGE!

We then took the ferry from Melbu to Fiskebøl, and drove on a quiet road along the coast, to another place called Laukvik (there are many place names in Norway that are used multiple times, it can be quite confusing!). Below you can see some examples of decorated mailboxes, something you see very often in Norway. The photo on the right is a very creative one, with a painting that continues on the next mailbox… quite funny :)

Laukvik is a very nice village, we spent some time walking around. This shed and house are owned by a Dutch travel organisation, looks very nice!

While we were in Laukvik, I realised that the Polarlightcenter should be somewhere in this place as well. This is a centre about northern lights, run by a Dutch couple. I had been in touch with them a while ago, and heard about them every now and then as they are friends of friends of my parents (yeah, complicated). I had never met them, but when we drove past the centre we decided to knock on the door and say hello. We had a warm welcome, and got a very nice tour of the polarlightcenter, based in the old village hall, full of instruments to measure the northern lights – very impressive! They also told us about a great place to camp on the beach, so that’s where we slept. It was beautiful! Next to some old boathouses, overlooking the sea… We grilled some burgers and had a nice campfire afterwards… and a visit from more Dutch people living in Laukvik :)

In the morning, while Paul was still sleeping, I went to visit the other Dutch couple living in Laukvik. They had converted a sheep barn into an art gallery, which was very beautiful. I really liked our visit of this village, and meeting the people there! It started raining just after we put the tent away, and we started our drive further south. The views were nice, even in this rainy weather. We drove to Svolvær, the capital of the Lofoten. It was full of backpackers waiting for buses, and was really touristy. So we continued further south, through very impressive scenery… we made a nice stop on this big sandy beach in Flakstad.

We then took a smaller road to the village of Sund. It’s only about 2 km from the main road, but it feels so much more “real” and less touristy than many of the places in the Lofoten. The evening light was beautiful as we drove into the little harbour… stunning!!

Next to the harbour, we found this rorbu for rent (see the photo on the right below). A rorbu is an old fisherman’s hut, where they kept their gear and they had a small place to sleep/cook/eat as well. They have become very popular as tourist accommodation, but they are not all “original”, lots of them are newly built. This one was from 1880 though, and h
as been in use (as a fisherman’s hut) until 1998! We called the number on the sign, crossing our fingers that it was available. It was! We immediately decided to stay for 2 nights, as it was such a nice cabin and not expensive at all. The rowing boat in the picture on the left was included too :)

Sund is really beautiful and I couldn’t stop taking photos! The one below is taken late at night, in the last light.

The next day we visited Å, the southern most village you can reach by road. It came recommended by anyone we spoke to before we went to the Lofoten. It is very pretty indeed, but it’s a real museum village full of tourists. We did visit the Fishery museum there, but there was hardly any information on the exhibits (not even in Norwegian) and guided tours were given only once per day (and only once a week in English!), so we were a bit disappointed. Below some images of Å: nesting sea gulls on one of the buildings, and the stockfish (tørrfisk) museum. Stockfish is big business in the Lofoten, you can see the racks for drying the fish everywhere. But at this time of the year, they are all empty.

Another view of Å…

And some more seagulls nesting on this big building! In the museum, they had this monster fish on display :)

But we also found cuter creatures in Å, like this kitten hiding underneath one of the wooden buildings…

After leaving Å, we went to Reine, a small town a bit further north. Very nice as well!

The next day we had to leave our rorbu (we would have liked to stay longer!) but we decided to use the rowing boat for a few hours. It also had an engine, so we got out to sea quite easily. The views from the water were beautiful!

We tried our luck fishing from the boat, as we had heard that there is very good fishing here. Paul caught a small cod within a minute of putting his line in! In the other photo you can see his second catch: a saithe (or coalfish) – a very pretty fish!

I was using a different kind of line and did not catch anything. It had several hooks on it and was a lot harder to handle than the simple one that Paul was using. In the end, while fiddling with the hooks, I almost got one in my hand, and let go of the line… and there it went, lost forever… oops. Paul was feeling sorry for me, so let me try the other line and explained me his technique. Quickly afterwards I caught this big cod! (on the left). My first catch!! It was quite scary actually and I was squeaking a lot.. I didn’t even want to touch it, but as you can see, I got over my fear eventually (I’ve come a long way anyway, a few years ago I didn’t eat ANY fish products!). Still, I let Paul deal with the gutting… and while he was doing that, I managed to catch another fish. We had no idea what it was, we had to stop at the tourist info to look at a poster of fish species to tell what it was: a cusk, normally found in deeper waters.

We drove back to Tromsø that day, so we bought some frozen vegetables in the supermarket (they don’t sell ice so this was a cheap option :) ) and put them in a box with the fishes to take home. It was a long but scenic drive home, with lots of rainshowers, spectacular clouds, rainbows, bridges and tunnels (up to 6 km long!). Paul’s parents arrived in Tromsø a day later, and we had the fish for dinner. I also picked blueberries while in the Lofoten so I made a batch of blueberry muffins. It’s so much fun catching/collecting our own food here!

I really enjoyed our little trip to the Lofoten, such spectacular scenery there. I’d like to come back in winter someday :). Now we have Paul’s parents visiting, and we’re all flying to Trondheim on Thursday for a few days of sightseeing around there. I’ll try to post some photos when we come back!

Vlieland

As promised, some more photos of our stay on the Dutch island Vlieland :)

Paul bought a camera just before we got there (he found a great deal on a second-hand Canon EOS 30D, and a really nice 28mm f/1.8 lens to go with it), so of course he had to try it out. Below you can see him with his new camera, and the other one is one of the results :) it’s great for portraits!

The photo below is a very wide angle photo of the sky over the Wadden sea…

The day after the wedding was a really nice sunny day, and we went for a walk on the beach. The beaches on the North Sea side of the island are sandy and very wide…

It wasn’t quite warm enough to swim, but it was great for “pootjebaden”. Paddling in English, but that word just doesn’t have the same feel to it! Pootjebaden literally means footie-bathing.

The dunes there are in constant movement, and the patterns can be really nice:

One side of Vlieland consists of a 20 square kilometre area of sand/beach, nicknamed the Sahara of the North ;) but officially called the Vliehors. Unfortunately you can’t always access this area, as it’s used by the military for shooting practice (I guess they pretend to be in the desert!). We only made it as far as the “DO NOT ENTER” signs, but on weekends you can usually access beyond this signs. There is another way of getting there, the Vliehors Express, a funny kind of 4WD truck used for excursions to this area. You can see it in the photo below (on the left). The really cool thing of this vehicle is its tires! Every year there is a poetry contest, and the winning poem is engraved on one of its tires… you can see the result below, how cool is that?? The full poem reads: “Volg nu voor heel even de woorden langs de waterlijn. Laat hier je grootste zorgen slechts natte voeten zijn” which translates as “Follow for a little while words along the water line. Let here your greatest worries be wet feet”

After our nice beach walk, it was time for a nice beer/ice tea and a “broodje kroket” at the beach pavilion, where you can sit outside but sheltered behind glass panels – really nice!

That evening we returned to the beach to watch the sunset. We were very excited about this, as we hadn’t seen a sunset for quite a while :) The photos below illustrate our different approaches to photography… Paul took this very serene pastel coloured photo of us on the beach, while I took one with the sunset in it, using flash… I have to admit that Paul’s photo is nicer though ;) but maybe that’s just because I am grinning so much in the other one!

As we watched the sunset, a beautiful two-master left the harbour, which is just around the corner from where we were. We joked that it would be perfect if it could just sail right in front of the setting sun… and guess what, it did exactly that!

It was beautiful! There were some boys swimming as well… What a magical sunset, this was my favourite moment of our time on the island.

The next day was rainy, and we stayed in the apartment that we shared with my parents and my sister. Paul had some work to do on his talk, and the rest of us was reading and watching tv and falling asleep :) A nice lazy day! We all went out for dinner, and afterwards the weather cleared. We decided to bike to the other side of the island to walk through the forest there. Originally there was no forest on the island, it was planted so that the trees would hold the sand. It was very difficult to get trees to grow here, but they succeeded eventually. Before they did this, the island was constantly changing shape as the sand was blown around, and one village was lost to the sea.

Anyway, these photos are taken on our bike trip there, it was about 8 km away. You can’t cycle much further than that, the island is very small! In the first photo you can see the typical Dutch “mushroom” which shows you the way :) you can find them everywhere in the country on cycle/walking paths.

Near the forest, we found some tiny frogs! You can see how small it is in the first photo, on Paul’s hand. I hate frogs (due to a traumatic experience as a child ;) ) but I would almost call this one “cute”….

We didn’t take many photos in the forest, as it was too dark there. We were there around sunset, the sky was beautiful! The second photo is a really nice birdwatching hut on the Wadden sea side of the island. Here you can see the mud flats that appear at low tide…

We left Vlieland on the next day… we really didn’t want to leave, we had such a great time there. On these islands you feel so far away from everything, and life is simple and fun. We’d really like to come back for a week or so next year! Before getting on the ferry, we had coffee with my parents, with some bitterballen :) Bart, Kaya and Mare were taking the same ferry, and Kaya took this really nice picture of all of us on the ferry.

Photos from Canada will have to wait a while unfortunately! We are planning to leave on a camping trip to the Lofoten tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll come back with LOTS of photos. Paul’s parents are coming to visit us right after we come back, and we’ll also go to Trondheim for a few days with them. I hope to find some time in between to update the blog!!

♥ ♥ Bart & Kaya ♥ ♥

My oldest brother Bart got married to Kaya on 10 July! The wedding took place on a Dutch island called Vlieland. It takes almost 2 hours to reach the island by ferry, and you can’t bring your car. The island is quite small, with only one village. Everyone gets around on bikes, and the island has a great holiday atmosphere. There are 5 similar islands (Terschelling is the one “next door”), and Bart and Kaya have spent a lot of their holidays on them. Vlieland is their favourite island, and that’s why they chose to get married there! Perfect choice, also because this was the only island that I hadn’t visited yet ;)

We all stayed in group accommodation which worked out really nicely! Everyone arrived the evening before the wedding, so we all had dinner together and we did some geocaching (a sort of treasure hunt using a gps) in the evening. Below you can see the ladies (plus my dad) team before and after finding the cache :)

The next morning (the big day) we woke up to rain. And not just a little bit, no it was POURING. It stayed like that for hours too… Luckily the town hall was only a short walk from our accommodation! I didn’t take any photos of the actual ceremony as there were a lot of people taking pictures already. The first photo below is taken just before we left to the town hall (the groom with his daughter Mare), and the second photo when we walked back – Mare and my mum are having a nice “OOOOO” conversation ;)

We came back to our accommodation to have some cake & champagne!

Mare seems keen on the champagne too ;) (don’t worry, it was a child-friendly champagne without alcohol!) And a portrait of Mare and my mum :)

Then it was time for speeches! There were several, including a long emotional one by Kaya’s mum (first photo) and also a long one by Bart and Kaya themselves, with some tears but also a lot of laughter :)

Paul took this nice panorama of everyone listening to the speech by Kaya’s mum…

Then there was time for presents, though most people had given their presents earlier so they didn’t have to take it to the island and back ;)

Here are two family portraits, first one with my parents, my sister, my 2 brothers and me, and then one including Kaya and Paul :)

And a photo with my mum, Mare, Paul and me…

After the speeches, Bart and Kaya had arranged rental bikes for everyone, and we cycled to the other side of the island. Bart and Kaya had a special “freight bike”, see the photo below. We cycled almost 10 km, and we had the wind against us for most of it – poor Bart!! ;)

We had a very nice lunch in a small restaurant there. After lunch, Bart and Kaya went off with the wedding photographer/friend :) to get their official portraits. We went for a little walk on the beach before returning to the accommodation where we had a big bbq in the evening. The place we stayed had a big garden with a fireplace, and we sat around until late at night. It was a great day! For the official photos, keep an eye out on Bart & Kaya’s weblog. UPDATE: they can all be found here :)

We stayed on Vlieland for a few more days, I’ll show some photos of that in my next post! It’s hard to find time for the blog though, now that we have a *real* summer here in Tromsø, with temperatures of 25 degrees :-) Quite unusual, but really nice! We’re making the most of it :)