Archive for the ‘Sweden’ Category

Hornborgasjön

Last week Michiel was here, and on Friday afternoon we drove to Fjällbacka and spent the night there. On Saturday we went for a short walk. I didn’t take that many photos, as I had taken so many the week before, but here are some photos from my mobile phone of our walk through Kungsklyftan (the gorge)…

Entering Kungsklyftan

Michiel looking small beneath the hanging rocks…

Michiel and the hanging rocks

Descending the stairs back to the town…

Descending back to the town

And a view of Fjällbacka from the (mostly deserted) marina. It was a lot warmer than the week before, and we even enjoyed a coffee outside by the water, without wearing coats. Lovely! :)

Fjällbacka marina - quite empty this time of year

After our walk, we drove 2 hours towards Skara. We were staying in this beautiful B&B:

Our B&B near Hornborga Lake

The reason we came here was to see the spring migration of thousands of common cranes (they counted over 16.000 of them while we were there!) on the shore of Lake Hornborga (or Hornborgasjön in Swedish). Marie had told me about it, and I’m so glad we went. The viewpoint for the cranes was about 7 km from our B&B, so after we checked in we went there. So impressive to see (& hear!!) so many cranes.

The cranes! More than 16.000 of them!

I bought a new zoomlens just before this trip, so this was a nice opportunity to try it out…

Practicing my new lens on birds flying overhead

Greylag geese in for landing…

Greylag geese in for landing

And the oh so elegant cranes, I love these birds! I saw them for the first time in Fairbanks, Alaska, where they also gathered in large numbers – such a magical sight.

Two common cranes in flight

SO many of them…

Impressive to see so many cranes in one place!

Lovely view from the viewpoint. Here three cranes are crossing the creek.

Three cranes crossing the creek

Afterwards we drove a bit further around the lake to go for a walk to a watch tower. We started the walk amongst those yellow fields near the lakeshore…

Starting our walk between the fields

A boat in the reeds…

Reeds and a boat

And a lone tree in beautiful yellow evening light.

Beautiful tree!

Nearing the end of our walk. While there were many people at the cranes viewpoint, we didn’t meet anybody all evening while on this walk.

Walking in golden evening light

At the end of the trail there was this cute little cottage next to the watch tower.

A cute (and a bit abandoned) cottage at the end of the path

View back to the cottage, from the watch tower.

The trail ended at a watch tower, this is the view from the top looking back at the cottage

And over the lake…

View over the lake from the tower

Here we didn’t see that many cranes, but we saw lots of swans and other birds.

LOTS of swans, and if you look carefully, even more smaller birds on the lake

A group of swans at sunset…

Sunset view over the lake, with Castle Dagsnäs in the background

The sunset was really beautiful, especially reflected in the calm lake.

Sunset over Lake Hornborga - beautiful!

With some spectacular pink colors!

Some very pink clouds reflected in the lake

We were walking away from the sunset, but kept looking back…

Sunset views on the way back to the car

The next morning it was nice and sunny again. The garden of the B&B was full of these lovely snowdrops…

Snowdrops in the garden of the B&B the next morning

Our first stop that morning was Naturum, the information centre of Hornborga Lake. What a fantastic building! They had really nice bird art made of driftwood inside, and lots of information about birds.

Naturum, the information centre of Hornborga Lake - fantastic building!

And upstairs you had this great view over the boardwalks and bird hides (on the left).

View from Naturum over the boardwalks and bird hides

Loved the yellow colours everywhere…

Reeds & boardwalk, lovely place

A black-headed gull seen from one of the hides.

Black-headed gull

And a northern lapwing – they remind me of home (the Netherlands).

Northern lapwing

Enjoying the beautiful sunshine, although the wind that day made it feel a bit chilly. I did get a bit sunburnt!

Enjoying the sunshine!

We went for another nature walk, this time on the shore of the lake between these beautiful old oak trees.

Going for a walk among old oak trees on the shore of the lake

Loved this trail! It was close to the cranes, so we could hear them chatter in the distance at all times.

Beautiful hiking trail

A blue tit chatting away in a nearby tree… against a very blue sky!

A blue tit calling out

Blue tit and blue sky

We had a quick lunch in Skara, and then we drove to Fredrikstad. Marie and Pål had invited us for dinner, a perfect stop on the long drive back to Oslo. We arrived a bit early and decided to walk around Fredrikstad at sunset.

Fredrikstad in soft evening light

I found crocuses!

I found crocuses in bloom!

A last photo of Fredrikstad at sunset…

Fredrikstad at sunset

It was a lovely trip, and a first taste of spring weather, which made me very happy!

Fjällbacka, Sweden

Last Saturday I drove to Fredrikstad early in the morning. By the time I reached the old town, it was 09:30, but it was still totally deserted…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

After some lovely french toast made by Marie, we got back in the car and drove to Sweden. Our destination was Fjällbacka, a really picturesque fishing town / summer resort on the west coast of Sweden.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

The town is lively in summer, but now in the off season it was very sleepy. Almost all shops had signs on them, saying they’s reopen “1 April”, “After Easter”, or even “in June”! No problem for me, I prefer to visit places when they’re deserted.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

Especially when the weather is actually nice, as it was on Saturday. We even found a bench in the sun and out of the wind to have lunch – so nice! After lunch we walked up to the impressive Kungsklyftan, a cleft or gorge with huge stone blocks wedged in like a roof.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

From there, you can climb stairs up to Vetteberget, with great views over the town…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

The landscape on top of Vetteberget was really pretty, as were the clouds…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

On the other side we had a nice view towards the town and the church, as well as the archipelago of islands.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

We also walked around an area with a lot of fisherman’s cottages. They were so pretty!

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

And we found lots of nice things to photograph, like this color coordinated collection of fishing gear.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

And nets hanging on the outside wall…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

So idyllic…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

We also went for a short hike at Veddö Naturreservat, a nature reserve a few kilometers outside Fjällbacka. You could walk all around the peninsula, and they built this lovely boardwalk to connect two beaches.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

It even had a built-in bench! Very nice…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

Lovely views when the colors started to get soft towards sunset.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

We took the scenic road back towards the border, and I was hoping to find a nice place to watch the sunset from. We found a dead end road with views over the fjord reflecting the sunset, soooo pretty…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

There were lots of summer cottages and jetties by the fjord.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

Marie on the jetty at sunset…

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

And a group of geese flying over in the sunset, beautiful moment.

The deserted old town of Fredrikstad on a Saturday morning

What a perfect day! I had dinner with Marie in Fredrikstad, and then drove back to Oslo. I had driven about 400 km that day, but I really enjoyed it. So much so that I’m taking Michiel to Fjällbacka this weekend, and we’re combining it with watching the crane migration at Hornborga lake – I’m looking forward!

Katterat to Abisko: 6 days of skiing

In the week before Easter, we went on a 6 day ski trip. The biggest challenge in organizing a trip like this is arranging transport from the end point back to where you started. This was the main reason we chose to start from Abisko in Sweden: you can take a train from there to Katterat, a station in Norway that cannot be reached by road. From there you can ski back to Abisko, a distance of 70 km, with several huts along the way. We decided to stay in every single hut we came across, even if they were close together – this would give us some slack in case the weather turned bad and we had to stay somewhere an extra night. Below you can see our route, and the height profile of our trip.

A map showing our trip. We started from Katterat (top left) and made it to Abisko (on the right) 6 days later - a distance of about 70 km. Each day has alternate colours and the huts are indicated. Height profile of our trip. The big drops near some huts are the result of the gps adjusting itself the next day.

On the day before our trip, we drove from Tromsø to Abisko Turiststation where we spent the night. This is a mountain station owned by the Swedish Trekking Association, and basically a combination of a youth hostel and hotel. The atmosphere was very nice, people were there either for ski trips or for watching the aurora. That night the aurora was active, but we decided to ignore it and go to bed, as we had to get up early…

Day 1: Katterat station to Hunddalshytta – 10.5 km (5 hrs)

We got up at 06:30, as we had a train to catch at 07:45. We just about made it to the breakfast room to grab the lunch packets we ordered, no time to sit down and eat breakfast. We hurried to the train station, only to find out our train was 15 minutes delayed. This delay just kept increasing… until it was long enough for us to decide to have breakfast after all. To make a long story short: the train was eventually cancelled, and we had to wait for the next train at 14:05. That’s a 6.5 hour delay!!! It was very boring to wait around nearly all day, when you were ready to go so early in the morning… but finally, there it was: OUR TRAIN!!

We spent a frustrating day waiting for a train that was 6.5 hours delayed... Yay - the train!

After a scenic train ride, we were the only ones to get off at Katterat station. We watched the train leave with mixed feelings – now we were on our own. It was 15:30 by the time we started our trip to Hunddalshytta, and the sun had already left the valley that we were following. We followed a few old tracks from skiers, snow scooters, dogs and even someone on foot. It was a beautiful day, especially when the moon came out as well.

We got off at Katterat station, which cannot be reached by road. Let's go! :) At some point we went through an impressive canyon

Our progress was slow though – we lost the route a couple of times, and the snow was icy and hard. The route was also a constant uphill.

Soon the world turned pastel shades of blue and pink Beautiful colours and lots of windblown snow

At some point we could smell a wood fire and we knew the hut could not be far away. And there it was, Hunddalshytta in the moonlight…

Hunddalshyttene on a moonlit night...

There are actually several cabins here: one for a warden (which was empty while we were there), one big one, and a tiny one. The big one was very full, there was only one bed available. So we knocked on the door of the small one, where we found 2 Dutch men with snowshoes. They just about had place for us, and were soon feeding us Baileys – mm, what a welcome :) After a quick dinner, we went to bed early.

Day 2: Hunddalshytta to Oallavagge – 6 km (3.5 hrs)

The Dutch men left early in the morning, as they were catching a train all the way back to Stockholm from Katterat. We had a lazy morning, and watched the people in the other hut build an igloo which they were planning to sleep in that night. They were Dutch as well :D

The cabin we slept in Not very sunny, but still a beautiful view of the largest cabin, with Ristacohkka (almost 1700 m high!) in the background

We left just before noon, we weren’t in a hurry as we didn’t have very far to go that day. We did have a steep climb however, very tiring when you have to herringbone your way up. We were happy when we made it to the top of the pass!

A much needed break after herring-boning up a steep and icy slope. The three dots in the background are the cabins at Hunddalshyttene... Paul at the top of the pass

There was a nice downhill section afterwards, but it was one of those whiteout days where you don’t see any contrast in the snow. This makes it hard to estimate how steep a slope is, and as a result you don’t dare to speed up too much. There were also some old ski tracks that had turned to concrete ridges, hidden underneath a layer of fresh snow, as an extra hurdle… ;) We were relieved to reach Oallavagge and find it empty – it’s a tiny emergency shelter, with only two beds. Not many people choose to spend the night in it, but even one extra guest would have been a squeeze!

A cosy evening in tiny Oallavagge

We spent a very cosy evening in the tiny hut. When we arrived, it was -4 inside, but the wood stove quickly raised the temperature to about 30 degrees! We had some soup, then made dinner. It was nice to have the place to ourselves and get some rest. The wind was very strong, during the night I woke up once fearing that we’d be stuck there for an extra day!

Day 3: Oallavagge to Cunojavrihytte – 12 km (4.5 hrs)

The wind had calmed down a bit by the time we got up. It was still windy though, but luckily in the right direction for us :)

Tiny & cosy Oallavagge On our way in a white and lonely world - we didn't meet anyone that day!

It was a grey day, though the sun tried to peek through the clouds every now and then, but made good progress with the wind in our backs. We didn’t meet anyone all day…

Wait for me! (my usual view...) A windy day, but luckily we were blown in the right direction :)

One big disadvantage of strong wind is that you hardly feel like sitting down somewhere to have lunch. We tried to shelter behind various rocks and once behind at a surprise cabin that was not on the map. The cabin was mounted on huge skis and had probably been dragged into position for temporary use  by people working for the power company. (lots of the lakes in this area are used for hydroelectric power). When we got closer to our destination, we came across this small private cabin and a rickety suspension bridge over the river …

A lonely cabin in the distance We went to have a look at the cabin, it was a private cabin, perhaps used by Sami in the reindeer season? Quite funny to ski underneath the bridge...

We thought it might be busy at Cunojavrihytte, as it was now Saturday and ski touring is very popular in the weeks around Easter. To our surprise, we found the place to be deserted! Here too, there was one big hut and a small one. We chose the small one as it would warm up quicker. Not long after we arrived, 4 skiers turned up at the large hut. They were the first people we had seen since we left Hunddalshytta two days earlier.

Day 4: Cunojavrihytte to Unna Allakas – 4.5 km (2 hrs)

We had a very lazy morning at Cunojavrihytta, as we only had 5 km to ski to the next hut. Here are some photos of the hut we stayed in at Cunojavri, to give you an impression what they are like…

The logo of Narvik Turlag Our bedroom

As you can see there’s plenty of duvets, so you only have to bring a sleeping bag liner. Both Cunojavrihytta and Hunddalshytta have  solar panels and there are some low-voltage reading lights, but otherwise you need to bring candles with you. We cooked on the wood stove in this cabin, as for some reason the gas cooker was placed outside the living room, next to the front door, where it was freezing cold!

Paul reading the guestbook - always a great source of amusement :) Studying the map and our progress View from the kitchen to the living room

It was still windy, and the snow was blown into nice patterns around the hut. Unfortunately also inside the hut, as there was some problem with the outside door not closing very well and lots of snow got into the hallway!

Cunojavrre hytte - this is the one we slept in Spooky sign! The cabin on the left has wood and other supplies, the one to the right is for a warden (not in use while we were there). The small hut to the right is the toilet, and to the left of the warden hut is a hut with water pump for use in summer

Reluctantly, we left the warm cabin and braved the cold wind outside. It was rather flat and grey so we only stopped to take one photo at the border marker. We made it to Sweden in just a couple of hours! :)

We made it to Sweden - this is the border marker :)

Unna Allakas was our first experience with the Swedish mountain huts. We weren’t sure what to expect, we had heard they were not as cosy as Norwegian huts. They’re just quite different: Unna Allakas is a big building with 18 beds (divided over 3 rooms) and one huge living room. It’s more communal in a way. The one thing I didn’t understand is that there were more beds than seats in the hut! But there were also some huge advantages: there was a warden who ran a small shop – it’s so nice to buy a few items you would never take with you (beer, Pringles…) and of course being able to buy dinner instead of dragging it with you in your backpack for several days. They also have a recycling system, which means you can leave all your waste behind. We had the hut to ourselves when we arrived, but while the warden came over for a chat, two Swedish men arrived from the other direction (Abisko). It was nice to have some company and share route experiences with them. With only 4 people, we had plenty of space in the cabin.

Unna Allakas, the first Swedish hut on our trip We were welcomed by a thermos of hot lemonade - how nice!

Both the Swedish cabins we stayed in had a well organized system for getting water from the lake or river, and some solution for waste water collection. But while Norwegian cabins usually give you ready-chopped firewood, here you had to first saw a huge logs into smaller bits, and then chop them up with an axe – quite hard work!

Day 5: Unna Allakas to Abiskojaure – 21 km (7.5 hrs)

We got up early as we had a long day ahead of us: it was 21 km to the next cabin! I had been dreading this day for a long time, as so far the furthest I had skied in one day was about 13 km and I am really slow. According to the Swedish men it would be even more windy today than yesterday, but luckily AGAIN it was in the right direction for us ;)

Panorama of the living room at Unna Allakas - we occupied the table on the left, and the two Swedish men took the table on the right :)

Quite a lot of fresh snow had fallen during the night, and the skitracks of the Swedish guys were gone. In Sweden, the marking is quite different though: they use wooden poles with crosses, and there are sooooo many of them that it would be impossible to lose your way. I actually quite liked it, even though I can see it’s a bit of an “attack” on an unspoiled landscape. In many places you can see a snake of red crosses stretching out miles in front of you, but it means you can just ski without having to check your map/gps all the time, or discuss your route choice. After a while, the snow showers cleared up and it actually got SUNNY!! We had our first lazy break in the sunshine (an important part of easter skiing), what a difference with the previous days! The route was downhill all the way and I started to relax and enjoy the day…

In Sweden, the winter routes are marked with crosses like this Hey what's this - sunshine?! Our first break in the sun, really nice You won't get lost in Sweden ;) Here we had to make our own tracks, later we met snowscooters which made the skiing a lot easier!

At some point (about halfway) we met a group of snow scooters coming from Abisko, which meant we could ski in their tracks. That made the rest of our trip a lot easier. They are smelly, noisy machines, but sometimes they are quite welcome ;) As we made our way down the valley and into the birch forest, we finally saw signs of life: some reindeer, a couple of birds… finally some groups of cabins – we were coming back to civilisation it seemed ;)

I was so happy when Abiskojaure came into sight: we made it!! I was very proud, but also really exhausted and my feet were sore. I stumbled into the cabin, following the cheerful warden who was showing us where to sleep. The cabin was huge and very full, mostly with a big group of German teenagers. It was a bit too much to suddenly be in such a cramped hut (bunk beds were 3 high here!) after the solitude of the last couple of days. But it was fun talking to other people who were just starting a long trip and the Germans were very keen on chopping wood and getting water so we hardly had to do anything :D Another luxury of this hut: it had a SAUNA. No showers of course, but some ingenious system of mixing hot water coming from the sauna with cold water from the lake, so you could wash.

Day 6: Abiskojaure to Abisko Turist station – 15.5 km (5 hrs)

We hadn’t planned to get up early, but the Germans had breakfast at 6 am and it was hard to sleep after that. We had breakfast as soon as they had left, and by 09:30 we were ready to go :)

Breakfast at Abiskojaure - note the Easter decorations in the background :) to the right recycling bins, you can actually leave your rubbish behind in the Swedish cabins! Abiskojaure

Of course we first took a few photos around the hut. There were 3 wardens at this hut, who put up Easter decorations everywhere and they were very chatty. The place is more like a youth hostel than a mountain cabin!

The logo of the Swedish trekking Association Even the so called Weather Station was decorated for Easter

The route back to Abisko was easy but quite boring (crossing the long lake in grey conditions was not very exciting). Later it got sunny and we followed a gently undulating roller-coaster path through the forest.

The rollercoaster path through the forest near Abisko Impressive lenticular clouds

We got a bit lost in the end, as Abisko Turist station was not on our map and we had just guessed where it was on the GPS. As a result, we ended up at Abisko East (we had no idea there were 2 stations here :D) and we had to follow a scooter trail next to the road for half an hour to get back to the Turiststation. We picked up the key to our room, and rushed to a much needed luxury: a hot shower!! Clean clothes!! And finally a 3 course meal in the restaurant :)

Abisko Turiststation - good to be back ;) It looks like a factory here, but it's actually quite nice (and warm, and dry, and it has showers, and toilets that flush...)

It was a fantastic trip, it pushed a lot of boundaries for me, and now I am keen to do some more trips like this :)

Easter in the Luleå Archipelago

We got back from a 6 day Easter trip to Luleå last Monday. We drove more than 1500 km! Below is a map of the trip (click to enlarge). I have added some of the place names along the way. We did not drive to Luleå in one day, on the way there we stopped overnight at Gällivare, and on the way back in Muodoslompolo.

We left on a very sunny day, but as soon as we reached the mountains near the border with Finland it started to get cloudy and quite gray. The road there is endless and you can often see for miles! We saw some large herds of reindeer. We stopped for a break at Karesuando, on the border between Finland and Sweden. They had one of those signs giving the distances to random places in the world :)

We walked onto the frozen river which is the border and also a snowscooter highway. Under the bridge there was an area of clear ice, which looked amazing! Here is Paul standing underneath the bridge…

And here are some photos of the ice! The ice was really thick and very clear (almost like glass), it was almost unreal to stand on it and be able to look down and see the thickness and the cracks in the ice!

After the stop in Karesuando, we drove straight to Gällivare. We stopped for the night at Gällivare Camping where we had rented this cosy cabin:

The next day we only had a short drive to Luleå, about 3 hours. (It’s funny how you get used to long distances, I used to think a 3 hour drive was very long) We stopped in Överkalix, where we found a very nice bakery selling amazing cakes!! There was also a hardware shop selling mostly ice drills and other stuff for ice fishing.

We got to Luleå quite early. We had found a very nice deal at a hotel right in the city centre, Luleå Stadshotellet. I think that the Swedes (like the Norwegians) all prefer to stay in huts over Easter so hotels don’t get much business. The hotel was really nice, quite luxury but relaxed (and such a great breakfast buffet that I hardly needed any food for the rest of the day, hehe). It even had an English pub, so we had a burger and a pint for the first time in ages!

In the afternoon we walked around the skating rink. Luleå is a harbour town on the Gulf of Bothnia which freezes in winter. They make a long skating rink (about 7 km) circling the city centre. With the bad weather, they hadn’t cleared the snow off though, so nobody was skating but it was nice for a walk. We found some signs saying no cars or motorcycles allowed (in the middle of the harbour!) and also a buoy…

The next day we went on an exciting trip: driving the ice roads over the frozen Gulf of Bothnia! The sea ice is strong enough to support cars, so every year a few (official) roads are opened on the ice, connecting the mainland to some of the islands in the archipelago. Paul has been fascinated by this for a long time, and this was the reason for our trip :). Below is a map of the ice roads, we drove all of them except the one to Storbrandon. Enlarge the image to have a better look – it’s hard to read the scale on the bottom left but it indicates 2 km.

On the first day we drove to Hindersön island. It was scary at first to drive onto the ice, but the roads are very wide and easy to drive on. It was snowing heavily, so there was hardly any contrast between the road and the sky, it was all just very white! The TomTom didn’t seem to mind us driving on the sea ;) These photos are actually taken on the way back when visibility was better, except for the first one with the big sign on a sledge. This was at the junction of the ice road – also note the Easter tree behind the signs!

We drove to Jopikgården on Hindersön island (see the map), from where we continued on skis to visit some other islands. The first one was about 3km away, and the second one another 3km from the first one. Skiing through the endless white was a strange experience. The skiing is very easy as it’s all flat, but it still took us about an hour to reach the first island!

This panorama shows how when the clouds reflect the surface underneath, you get very dark clouds over the islands! They can really look like rain clouds, and at first I didn’t realize what was going on, but Paul told me that on his cruises that’s how they know where there are areas of open water – the clouds above will be much darker. How cool!

Here are some photos of our ski trip that day. Close to the islands, you get the ice breaking up and forming interesting formations. Further out at sea there’s actually an ice front that can be up to 8 metres high! Unfortunately that was too far for us, but we still found some cool formations around the islands :)

 

 

Just before we came back to Jopikgården where the car was parked, the sun finally came out!

The next day we decided to visite a town called Piteå, about an hours drive south of Luleå. It looked like a friendly town, but there wasn’t much to see or do there, so we didn’t stay very long.

After leaving Piteå, we decided to drive another ice road, this time to the island of Junkön. This island had a large reindeer herd living on it! We had to drive slowly, as many of them were close to the road. A great opportunity to get some photos :)

It had been misty all day and this had turned all the trees to a pretty white colour, it looked very wintry and cold (and I can tell you it felt very cold too!!). When we took a closer look at the trees, we saw that all the branches were all covered in ice on one side…

We went for a short ski tour, but we found that about half of the island was military practice ground and had big warning signs around it, so we didn’t get very far. We didn’t want to cross to other islands as it was quite late already and the visibility was really bad anyway. It was a nice little trip though. I was really cold at first, so I was wearing a face mask – only my eyes were exposed to the cold!

Coming back to the car, that we had parked next to the ice road. Paul took a photo of us driving back… don’t worry, it wasn’t dangerous, there was hardly anyone else on the road and we found that these roads are so flat that the car will keep driving in a straight line even if you let go of the steering wheel!

The photo below is taken just after we left the ice road. The trees were so beautiful!

The next day we left Luleå and started our way back to Tromsø.  But first we had to get some photos with the giant chicken family opposite the hotel… they were really funny!

We were looking forward to visiting the twin border towns Haparanda (Sweden) and Tornio (Finland), but were disappointed to find there was not much to see there. Mostly a lot of huge supermarkets and also an Ikea – the closest one to Tromsø in fact, but still about 600 km away ;).  We visited Kemi instead, a Finnish town nearby. It had the feel of a coastal place. The weather had finally turned sunny, but with the wind it was very cold. We went for a short walk on the frozen sea and looked around the town a bit.

And after the giant chickens, we found a giant bike too… Come to think of it, we also saw a giant chair. What is it with giant art here? :)

Even though it was Easter Sunday, all supermarkets were open, and we visited a giant one in Finland. We found a lot of curious things in there, like these donut-shaped water bottles (I still don’t see how that is useful, but maybe I am missing something), and all the sauna paraphernalia. 

After that, we pretty much drove straight on to our accommodation (much) further north. Our arrival to Rajamaa was quite bizarre. We drove through the forest for hours until we got to our destination. We walked over to the main building to get the key of our cabin, opened the door and walked straight into a wedding party! The first person I saw when I opened the door was the bride – very bizarre! Lots of slightly drunk people but everyone was very friendly. We stayed in a very cute cabin, and the next morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny day… And the drip-drip-drip of snow melting :)

 

After packing the car we decided to go for a ski tour now that is was so sunny. We followed the river for a while – this is the river that forms the border between Finland and Sweden. It’s not very wide here and there are rapids. Because of this, the river doesn’t freeze completely and we couldn’t cross it. It was very beautiful though!

It was warm enough to ski without a jacket or gloves etc… Paul even skied in his tshirt!

We found a nice fireplace, with reindeer skins! Paul couldn’t resist…

After a while some clouds started coming in, a very pretty sky! Unfortunately it did eventually become overcast, but we made t

he most of the sunshine :) 

After our ski trip we drove back all the way to Tromsø, which took about 5 hours. When we crossed the border from Finland into Norway, we were surprised to see a green landscape! Five days previous it had still all been white… The fjord where we have been ice fishing was bright blue from all the melt water and the ice had huge cracks in it – so no more ice fishing until next winter… It has been very warm in Norway over Easter, in Tromsø temperatures reached +10C! A lot of the snow has been melting and I was getting excited about Spring. Paul doesn’t agree with me, as he would like to keep skiing for some weeks longer. Lucky for him it has gotten colder again and we had some new snow. Still, the snow is slowly disappearing and the trees have buds so I just have to be a bit more patient, but Spring is definately on the way!

I’m not sure how often I’ll be writing in the coming weeks, I’m going to Norwich in 3 weeks for a symposium and a meeting (probably my last!!) with my supervisors. I have a lot to finish before then!