So … before life gets serious again, let me tell you about our winter holiday in Scandinavia. Oh, did I just say winter? 😯 Well, I meant winter, even though we officially had summer.
You see, this was one of those Northern Exposures when you need every single fleece and/or woolen jacket and piece of underwear you force fed your luggage at home with.
You need to see at the same time that we don’t really suffer in such conditions. We’ve been doing Scandinavia for 15 years and some were tougher than the others. You just adapt, go with the flow or by car if the water’s too cold. Not to forget the feet. But more about those later.
So the weather was the main reason why our holiday changed from “let’s hop to North Cape and go paddling afterwards” to something much more … manifold. Meticulously worked on. Mostly beautiful. And almost without mosquitoes: they hate wind and rain.
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To get to our first rendezvous near the Russian border, we drove through Germany, Denmark and Sweden and then took a ferry to Finland. I guess I shouldn’t count Denmark and Sweden as our holiday destinations, since we only drove through and spent some time in traffic jams, but then, we really tried hard and without success to like the food at their services areas, so they deserve a mention.
Our first official act as tourists was to visit the Winter War Museum and then go on a photo tour in Suomussalmi. Brown bears. We spent the night in a special hut, taking photos of many lovely brown bear families running around outside. Of course they came because there was much food lying around and wouldn’t want to be that near humans otherwise, still. It was great watching them act so naturally and run around so freely.
The next day we wanted to reach Inari but were so tired we only got to Kemijärvi, which was a good thing because they make delicious veggie pizza in the only restaurant open that late. And while we had sun in Suomussalmi, it was getting visibly gray, cool and windy by that time. We didn’t worry at that time, we still had a lot of driving to do.
Since it was cold and unfriendly in Inari, we decided not to sleep in our tent but to hire a mökki instead. It was also a clever decision because there is no sunrise and also no sunset in Inari in July and the nights tend to be rather bright, though not really that much when the weather is too bad to even catch a glimpse of the midnight sun in the north, a small disaster we managed to avoid later in Finnmark, Norway.
In Inari, Finland, we visited Siida, a most interesting and beautiful Sámi museum, where we learned a lot about the life of the Sámi people and about the nature in northern Lapland. We went hiking to the old wooden wilderness church in Pielpajärvi, the old center of Inari, where a Sámi winter village was situated in the past. See, I don’t understand why anyone would want to serve their respective gods amid gold and marble when some good wood and some paint will conjure a much better atmosphere to feel sincerely devote or in the right place or similar and the church succeeded in boosting my sentiment rather well.
After our brief and beautiful hike we went for a boat ride on the Lake Inari, around the sacred island of Ukonsaari, where the god of thunder, Ukko, used to live before Sámi people were forced to believe Christianity was better for them.
“So would you put on a beard and buy a stone at the entrance if women still weren’t allowed on the island today?” I looked at my hubby with a mock expression of a long-time sufferer on my face and confirmed his fears: “I would.” In the end, no one could go on the island because the wind was too strong to land. And did I mention the strong rain, the low temperatures, but also the beautiful rainbow already?
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And then …
“You know, I’ve been thinking about all this North Cape thing …” That’s how he set out.
I was curious: “Yeeess?”
“How about we skip this tourist magnet and visit Kirkenes instead? It’s almost as far away in the North as the North Cape, but not really a touristy place and one can surely make lovely photos of the Varangerfjord. Maybe we could even walk on the shore? You know, Varangerfjord is practically the Barents Sea …”
My eyes lit up and I agreed. It was a good idea, but …
When we asked about birdwatching along the Varangerfjord in Siida in Inari (where they have a VERY competent tourist information staff, who will even advise you about spending high quality time in Norway), they told us the best idea would be to drive along the northern shore of the fjord. So we did. We booked a hotel room in Vadsø and I drove us across the Finnish-Norwegian border all the way to Hamningberg aka The end of the world, where we finally got to touch the water of the Barents Sea. What a ride it was!
I am not sure I would have driven to Hamningberg if someone had told me beforehand about the way there … But while driving and not thinking about it I was having MUCH fun, though I got scared for a split second when I noticed how strong the wind really was.
On the way from Hamningberg, back to our hotel in Vadsø, we also visited Vardø, a town on an island to be reached through an underwater tunnel, and its Globus II radar (believed to be financed by the US so I am sure they knew we were there 😆 )
Later, and by that time it was really late, we found a gull colony on a cliff and observed a white-tailed eagle being harassed by gulls in Ekkerøy. What a sight it was, white-tailed eagles having a wingspan between 1,70 and 2,40 meters 😆
What to say: I can hardly wait to visit the Arctic region again. It was … let’s agree on ‘marvelous’ so I can continue telling you about the rest of the holiday.
After having been so far in the North we weren’t really excited about passing the Arctic Circle again near Rovaniemi, though we did take some photos at the eerily empty Santa Claus place, surrounded by shops and restaurants. The hotel in Rovaniemi was great, though. Nope, no tent for us: it was too cold and rainy.
And just like that (aka as a long ride in the rain, followed by a promising sunshine), we were at the lake Kolovesi the next day, we put up a tent at the old place and assembled the boat. And we checked the weather on his new Samsung Galaxy.
“Well,” he said, not sounding really surprised, “it would seem tomorrow is the only day we can go paddling with our canoe. After that, the wind will be too strong and it’s going to rain a lot.”
I can’t tell you what a great thing the internet is when trying to spend a satisfying outdoor holiday. Just imagine the pleasure of paddling around and taking photos on a day you know for sure is the only one with temperatures above 20 °C, almost no clouds and no strong winds … It was … let’s have ‘breathtaking’ now.
Having a smart phone at my beck and call, I still found it hard to do more than type a sentence or two for my blog and approve of your comments, though: it was all too complicated to do much and the connection didn’t really exist all the time. Not to mention the time spent charging the phone in the car, though we surely had more than enough of it …
After the one and only day of paddling … 😦 … we packed up and drove to Punkaharju, where we wanted to combine camping, hiking, visiting places and maybe some paddling if possible. We did all of it and we also found out the nights in the tent were quite cold, which is where the woolen underwear entered the stage.
We discovered the Retretti Art Centre was closed because of bankruptcy 😦 , we ate at the Valtionhotelli as every year and it was great as always, we went hiking in Parikkala and even got one sunny day in return, we went birdwatching in Siikalahti and shopping in Savonlinna, we went paddling for an hour and returned right before the rain got heavier.
On the fifth day, we left Punkaharju and drove to Lappeenranta. We visited the Karelian museum and some others there. The next day, we drove to Espoo to do some hiking in Nuuksio and go shopping in the Lumene outlet … We drove to Helsinki by bus and train and I seriously loved the Natural History Museum and the Ateneum Art Museum there. Very much so 🙂 Though I might have been all the happier because it was one of those rare sunny days …
And hiking in the Nuuksio National Park was a highlight of its own, even though the weather was badish, both times. We were making jokes about our winter holiday at that point and enjoying every step.
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And then it was time to go home. We left the ferry from Naantali to Kapellskär at 5.30 and arrived at Walsrode at 22.30 to spend the night and visit the Weltvogelpark (Bird Park) there. It was hot. Very hot. This must have been our second or third day in Germany this year with temperatures above 30 °C. The average temperature in Finland was around 17 °C. So we were out of place, but not for too long. I found a long thin skirt at the bottom of my bag and I had many unused T-shirts to chose from.