Norwegian Lapland: Fjords and tundra

Written late in the evening in English • Tags: , ,

It seems that as soon as we arrived in Norway all the trees bursted into colors. In fact, there is a camping site (packed full) just on the norwegian side of the border on the valley floor surrounded by brightly colored mountain sides. It would have been just another 15–20 minutes to get there last night… (I should have stopped for a picture, but didn’t since we had “just” stopped when crossing the border.)

The road became much wider (there’s a lane divider!) by the fjord at Skibotn. We stopped to take some pictures of the fjord, but it was difficult to capture the size of everything. The drive up north gained length from the fact that there are no bridges across, instead you have to drive to the bottom of each fjord and back. The power lines have been strung straight across, though, in an impressive demonstration of modern engineering.

There were frequent tunnels as well. I guess after so many rebuilds of the road after landfalls it is simply the cheaper option. We only saw one road construction site from a landfall, and didn’t realize what it was until we were passing the crew. (Which is why we hadn’t readied our cameras…)

Once the road climbed high enough that we reached the snow line! The tundra was really more colorful in real life (and this sample has the most color from all the pictures I have from the tundra). The road was drawn with a ruler in long straight lines across expanses of flat land. There were no villages or shops as far as we could tell (except for one tourist attraction, which was closed) yet regularly there would be low small houses by the road with cars parked next to them.

It is good that we refilled the refrigerator in Finland: there are no restaurants, cafés or diners anywhere! I guess everyone eats at home. Or we don’t know how to recognize such establishments (but really, I can read most road signs, or so I think). Finally there were signs for Kafe E6 well in advance. I would have missed it, but fortunately dad likes to enjoy the views and spotted the rarity. However, our coffee break seemed to confirm the suspicion that the Norwegians do eat at home…

Alta seemed a bit too early for camping for the night (and the only camping site we saw there wasn’t at a very attractive location) so we just kept on driving and arrived in Hammerfest well after sundown. There should be some nice photo opportunities on the road back to Skaidi tomorrow. There’s a strong wind going on in Hammerfest with occasional rain. Doesn’t sound that attractive, does it? But it is not all that bad — just keep a good grip on the handle when opening any door…

Snowcaps at Kilpisjärvi

Written early in the morning in English • Tags: , ,

The view of the snowcapped fells is absolutely beautiful in the morning sun. I took off the windshield cover before breakfast so we could enjoy the view, even if it meant that the windows will get a bit foggy by the time we were ready to drive. The view is certainly worth the trouble. After breakfast we decided to do some shopping at Kilpisjärvi before continuing on to Norway.

Driving up the Tornio river

Written in the mid-afternoon in English • Tags: , ,

The border between Finland and Sweden is a naturally formed one: it follows the Tornio and Muonio rivers and their feeds. On the drive to Kilpisjärvi there are many beautiful views of the often wide river. Even though there don’t seem to be that many bridges connecting the countries it seems that villages have sprung up on the same spots on both sides. I wonder how it is today: could you just take a row boat across to visit your neighbors on the other bank?

We saw reindeer today! Before I could take a picture they had already run into the birch woods and practically disappeared, as far as a camera is concerned. This is not at all what I remember from 30 years ago about reindeer. Back then I recall they were jogging peacefully on the road in front of our car, or collecting outside our front door in the morning. Speaking of the woods — a lot of green still among the yellows. Maybe we are a bit early still, even though the forecast has already been below freezing a few nights.

The road keeps narrowing the further up we get. In the end they can’t even fit the lane divider in the middle of the road anymore… It’s good that we arrive at Kilpisjärvi early enough before the camping site is closed for the evening. It is just into off-season already, apparently, so some places have already closed for the winter and others have narrowed their operating hours. Something to remember next time, and maybe even plan a little more in advance and check which places are still open.

Lapland tour 2005

Written at evening time in English • Tags: , ,

I have been wanting to go to Lapland to see the autumn colours (ruska) for a few years now, but somehow always managed to put it off due to busy schedules. Last year I decided I would make sure that the trip wouldn’t slip another year anymore, and I stuck to that regardless of everything else going on.

My dad has been hiking in Lapland with my brother a couple of times, so he was immediately into coming with me on the trip. Hiking not being exactly my thing we took advantage of the RV my parents have. We’d be overnighting on camping sites, so we’d have hot water for washing and could refill drinking water easily.

However, the first night dad spotted a nice rest area by the Tornio river before we got to the planned camping site in Ylitornio. Instead of driving on, we decided to stay — it was late enough anyway, as we hadn’t started too early from Kauhava that morning.

Goodbye to Finland

Written early in the evening in English • Tags: ,

Yet another vacation is over, and I’m returning home. It’s been a relaxing two weeks, even with all the traveling. It has really been great that I had enough time to visit all over Finland (in Helsinki, Ylivieska, Kauhava and Lappeenranta).

Unusually I took a bus from Lappeenranta to Helsinki. I would have taken the train but it turned out that there is track construction going on, so no early trains were running. On the bus I had this woman, Anu, sitting behind me with (as I was to find out) her recently adopted dog. I thought it was overly demanding for the dog to sit so close to other people so I thought I’d let it sniff my hand. Since we were in Eastern Finland, it should be no surprise that a conversation between me and Anu continued until she got off the bus in Porvoo. And we seemed to arrive there in almost no time at all.

Back in Helsinki I had lunch with my friend and business partner Panu. He also qualifies for the “Top 10 People I Don’t See Often Enough” list.

So here I am at the airport hotel, waiting for tomorrow’s flight. As a nice surprise, the hotel has a WLAN for its guests, so I can chat on IRC and IM. However, it is going to be a long day tomorrow with a 5-hour layover at Heathrow, so less chat and more sleep is in order.

By the Saimaa

Written at evening time in English • Tags: ,

On Monday it was off to Lappeenranta. My parents took me here on the RV, and then had some vacation of their own driving back to the west side of Finland. I’ve been staying with my dear friends Hanna-Kaisa and Tapio, whom I haven’t seen in just too long. Hanna-Kaisa took me on the “usual” tour around town, visiting book stores and other places (like the new phenomenon called Lidl). And after a long (or short) day at work, Tapio would be in the kitchen (or by the barbeque) with Hanna-Kaisa, putting their secrets about Italian cuisine to work.

Otto also took me for a quick visit to the university to see a telecomms closet (the home of, no less). It happened that everyone I was planning to visit at the university turned up at that closet. Go figure… it is not next to the cafeteria or anything. Well, that just left more time for a relaxing drive around the nearby islands of lake Saimaa in Otto’s vintage Cadillac. I took some pictures about another ferry being obsoleted by a bridge.

Another frequently visited spot in Lappeenranta is the marina, with its floating beer bars. Lahi took me there — not for a beer, but for ice cream — on one evening. Next time I have to remember to go there for lunch to enjoy a vety (and perhaps a beer).


Written in the mid-afternoon in English • Tags: ,

On Wednesday I took a train to Ylivieska to visit my parents. The great thing about being up north was that it didn’t get hot or humid. In Helsinki the humidity got to be a bit much at times, but in Ylivieska we would just lounge on the balcony, safe from rain (not that there was too much of that), sunburn and mosquitoes. We did leave the balcony a couple of times to walk around the town, for instance to the store for some new potatoes and smoked salmon and sourdough rye bread — Finnish delicacies at their best.

For the weekend we drove here to Kauhava, but surprisingly (at least to myself) I didn’t really feel like I would have to visit here anymore. It has always been more about visiting my parents anyway, than visiting the house where I grew up.

A few days in Helsinki

Written early in the evening in English • Tags: ,

Helsinki was mostly rainy, but I managed to spend some time outdoors with the Selonen family. It is always great to see Arto, Laura, Katri and Karita, who keep welcoming me to their home time and again. Karita had become even more outgoing than what I remember last time — she didn’t hesitate a minute that first evening to announce that Kimmo was going to read her a bedtime story. :-) And if running about outside wasn’t enough, they also got me jumping around indoors (well, once at least) with this weird dance game.

Thanks to the organizational skills of Antti alias “Pooka” I also got to meet all the Finnish NetBSD developers one night over a dinner at La Bodega.

A week in Frankfurt

Written early in the morning in English • Tags: ,

Well, I had never spent a week in Frankfurt before. I thought there’s nothing there (sorry). However, I was somewhat wrong, I guess.

During the days, Mark — a colleague of mine from NYC — was helping me find my way around the offices of the mother bank and to communicate with the colleagues in Frankfurt. In the evenings he was showing me that there is something to the city of business. You just have to spend some time looking around (as he has in the past) and have friends like Kirk who know these esoteric venues that you wouldn’t think to visit just by looking at them from the street (yeah, what was that about the book and its cover).

We also visited Mainz and Mark introduced me to some very welcoming friends of his, Karen and Helmut, who took us to a small village restaurant with excellent food and wine. Maybe it should be counted as an advantage of Frankfurt that you don’t have to go far outside to find some really nice places…

After all the flying is over today, I should be in Helsinki.

European style

Written early in the morning in English • Tags: ,

I’ve had a wonderful week in Freiburg, visiting my brother and his family. I wish I could make these trips more often. I felt so welcome — the kids were so enthusiastic about meeting their uncle that they kept telling everyone. I visited their kindergarten and their teacher knew immediately who I was. I just need to learn more German…

It’s been great walking about the neighborhood where they live and on some of the hillsides around. The Black Forest region is really beautiful, and the weather has been excellent.

Yesterday was so uniquely (southern) European: we walked up the nearby hill to an old Gasthaus and stopped for brunch. I guess we were a bit early, but soon the place filled with all the locals on their Sunday walk. We got a great table with a superb view down to the whole town, and the light breeze was keeping us cool in the sunshine. Can you spell p-e-r-f-e-c-t! As we were leaving, we took turns taking pictures so we could have everyone in at least one picture. A stranger stops us — to offer to take the picture for us, so that the whole family can be in one picture! (Not with my camera, so no link to a picture yet.)

On the way home we took a trail through the forest. It was great seeing how the kids were so excited about walking in the forest. They do so every week at the kindergarten, so it is a familiar yet ever interesting environment for them. No worrying about getting bored, I tell you.

In a couple of hours I’ll be arriving in Frankfurt. I felt sad leaving Freiburg, especially since we got to the train station a bit late, and there was no time for a proper goodbye. I had to just jump on the train as the doors were already closing. Need to plan that better next time…