North of the North

After four years not being to Norway it was time for a long trip (four weeks all in all) to the northern north of Norway. It was a trip of four stages:

  1. Gaby and I travelling north up to Slettnes Fyr, one of the most northern points of Norway. From there to Nordlenangen at the Lyngen Fjord, about two and a half hours northeast of Tromsø.
  2. Here we meet with Gaby’s sister Henny and her husband Uwe to spend one week in a luxury holiday home right by the sea with sauna, jacuzzi, and a 90 HP motorboat.
  3. Lofoten and Vesteralen: First another holiday home in Kleppestad on the Lofoten Islands, from where we explore the Lofoten for three days, before we move on to the vesteralen, north of the Lofoten to go for a whale watching tour.
  4. Then Uwe flys back home and Henny, Gaby and I head southwards, passing Trondheim and then go for a 5 days hiking tour in Dovre Fjell to see musk oxes.
A click on this image will open a Google Map with all these places and desciptions (in German language) and photos.

Week One: Going North

Day one is only driving. German Autobahn isn’t fun – especially with lots of traffic. We’re lucky, just a few jams and construction sites, one longer detour, but we arrive at Kiel in time and can enter the ferry after waiting just a few minutes.

The ferry for Göteborg leaves from Kiel in the late afternoon. It’s the most comfortable and fastest way to reach Scandinavia by car: We swim northbound while having dinner (great buffet with lots of seafood), sleeping (the cabin is smaller than a suite in a 4* hotel, but bigger than a hampster box and quite comfortable, even with our own bathroom and shower), and having a nice breakfast (again lots of fish). And in between we hang around on deck and watch the sunset.

On the ferry from Kiel to Göteborg

From Göteborg we head north-east until we reach the Baltic Sea, then straight north until Vallvik Camping near Söderhamn. We know it from earlier travels. It’s a small and quiet campsite right by the sea. We slow down and our trip begins to feel like vacation.

Riding a car in Scandinavia is different than in Germany. Highways are empty and restrictive speed limits make travelling a relaxed thing. Although, the road along the Baltic Sea and then the way through Finland is a bit boring – driving through endless woods with not that many spectacular views. It’s not like Norway, where views of lakes, woods and mountains all along the road make driving an exciting part of the vacation.

Vallvik Camping

Our next stop is at the northernmost point of the Baltic Sea right at the border between Sweden (Haparanda) and Finland (Tornio). We stay on the Finnish side in a hotel „with a story“. It’s about Mustaparta, a lokal hero who lived around 1700 AD. Our room is huge and packed with dark oil paintings and golden bears lying on their back, balancing glass table tops.

Next morning we have a little sightseeing walk in Tornio and Haparanda with an interesting experience: As Finland is one hour ahead of Sweden, the shops open one hour later on the other side of the road. And Gaby is one hour ahead of me on the photo we take right at the border.

Gaby in Finland, one hour ahead of Thomas in Sweden.

We go north and pass the polar circel in Finland. We know the polar circle in Norway, so we expect also here some shops and tourist stuff, but we were not aware that Santa Claus lives in Finland right at the polar circle. There are shops – tons of them – and hotels and playgrounds and adventure camps and, above all, there is music. Jingle Bells and other Christmas songs, everywhere and loud and all the time while it’s warm and sun shines 24/7. Quite weird…

Where Santa lives – and sells souvenirs…
He also sells pretty elf hats, but no – I didn’t buy one. Gaby didn’t allow me to…

Having purchased some nice souvenirs (we have a little moomin now, made of porcelain) we go on to lake Inari in the very north of Finland. We choose an older hotel a bit aside of the road, the Hotelli Inarin Kultahovi. It includes a restaurant, the Aanaar. It’s a nice restaurant, not posh in any way, but when we read the menu, we are really surprised: Dishes like „Lake Inari Slightly Salted Whitefish Toast“, „Lake Inari Dried Pike Brandade“ or „Reindeer And Its pasture“ with roasted reindeer smoked with pine needles, reindeer blood dumplings, lichen seasoned with bilberry, and Lappish potato purée make us curious. It will be an extraordinary dinner and later I find out that Aanaar is listed as one of the ten best restaurants in Finland. Just look at the desert:

Smokesauna: Birch leaf sorbet, chocolate mousse flavoured with tar liquorice and smoke
And it tastes spectacularly.

The next day we arrive at Norway. Weather has become much colder (hey, we’re as far north as northern Siberia or the northernmost point of Alaska) and sometimes there’s a little bit of rain. We arrive at Slettnes Fyr, the most northern, continental lighthouse in the world. Having left some days until our appointment with Henny and Uwe, we book a room for two nights. The first day at the lighthouse the weather is wet and cloudy and windy and cold. Nevertheless we spend most of the time outside, walking around, watching birds and seals and taking photos. The second day we wake up at 2:00 AM – the clouds are gone and sun shines. I grab my drone and take lots of movies and photos and also Gaby goes hunting for birds and reindeers (with her camera, of course).

Two hours standing around, controling the drone made me cool down. Back in bed it takes hours to feel warm again. After breakfast we have to leave: It will take us two days to arrive at the holiday home at Nordlenengen near Tromsø. The next night we stay at the Thon Hotel in Alta – and we are really impressed by the hotel staff (a young lady with a punk attitude, sitting barefoot and tailor seated at the counter, not being very friendly), but also by the breakfast: almost everything you could ever ask for for a breakfast, all in high quality, fresh and good looking – and tasting.

Week 2: Lyngen Fjord

Then we arrive at our home by the Lyngen Fjord. A nice and quite big house (5 bedrooms with 10 beds). We just started the introduction by the landlady when Henny and Uwe arrive. They flew to Tromsø and made the rest of the way in a rental car. We are at the house for one week. The weather is cold and often rainy, but the house has huge windows and a wonderful view, sauna and jacuzzi, and a fishing boat with 90 HP and so we spend a week with fishing, hiking (right behind our house there are the Lyngen Alps which reach up to 1,800 meters right from the sea), a trip to Tromsø and – last not least – relaxing. Here are some impressions:

Week 3: Lofoten and Vesteralen

After a week we have to leave our home in Nordlenangen. We head south to the Lofoten. There we rent another house in a small village called Kleppestad for three nights. The first day we explore the Lofoten taking all the way until Å i Lofoten, the most western village of the Lofoten, right in front of the Maelstrom. It’s one of the most heaviest tidal streams in the world, the one, E.A. Poe wrote a novel about. We visit a glass maker with a nice café, see dried cod heads and cool graffities and a lot of sunshine. One night we drive a few kilometers south from our house to a point with a free view to the north to see the midnight sun. Very impressive.

Day two it’s raining all day long. I stay at the house, just hanging around, reading and relaxing. Gaby, Henny, and Uwe visit Borg, the Viking museum, about half an hour from our house.

The next day we head for the Vesteralen. On the way we visit Henningsvær, one of the most iconic places of the Lofoten. Sun shines and it’s quite warm so we have coffee and cake in a nice cafe, sitting outside. And we visit an art gallery called Kavi(ar) Fac(t)ory. An amazing building with an exhibition of contemporary art and a wonderful view at the sea and the Lofoten. And I must take a drone photo of the Henningsvær football field – everybody with a drone does it…

We go north to Stave where we rented an appartment at Stave Camping. A campsite with „Hot Pots“ and a long sandy beach in front. They have spaces for tents and mobile homes as well as basic cabins and some modern, nice appartments – all with ocean view. We have dinner outside and a walk on the beach. Next day we take a whale watching tour from Andenes. We see gannets, fulmars, puffins and a sperm whale. We enjoy 14°C, sunshine and almost no wind. We’re really lucky ones.

Then the rain comes back, it’s grey and windy and rainy. We go for a little hiking tour along the beach to some nearby hills. Uwe slips and falls and hurts his shoulder so he can’t use his right arm any more. That’s not good as the next day he has to drive back to Tromsø and fly back home. At least he’s a smith and a tough guy and makes it with some Ibu and pure will. He even spends a night at Tromsø visiting a concert in the Ishavskatedralen and going up the hill with the cable car to enjoy the midnight view over Tromsø.

While Uwe returns to Tromsø, Henny, Gaby and I head south. We pass the polar circle in Norway where we don’t find anything at the souvenir shop, but have a dinner with reindeer burgers. Then we stay for the night at Krokstrand Kafé og Overnatting, a campsite right at the E6 where we rent a cabin. We have a little hike to some rapids not far away from the campsite and enjoy the dramatic sunset there.

Next day we drive until Trondheim where we stay at the Thon Hotel Prinsen, have dinner at Frati, a stylish Italian restaurant and go for a little sightseeing tour the next morning. It’s a nice, nordic city, not too big with some iconic places like the Nidaros Dome or the wooden houses along the river Nidelva.

Our next stop is Dombås, the center of the Dovrefjell. Dovrefjell is a famous mountain range about 200 km south of Trondheim. Gaby and I have been there before and we also saw the famous musk oxes of Dovrefjell during our tour. So now we hope that we can show them to Henny.

Musk oxes are related to goats although they are called oxes and weigh up to 800 kilo. They have dense and long fur and live in artic regions. Being extinguished in Norway a small herd was imported from Greenland in the 1950ies and relieved in Dovrefjell where they obviously feel like home. Today there live about 350 musk oxes in Dovrefjell. They’re quite dangerous and it’s recommended not to get closer to them as 200 meters. They already killed quite some tourists as musk oxes have no natural enemies; when they feel threatened they don’t flee but attack.

For details and hiking-maps for Norway check Norgeskart

We have a late lunch/early dinner in Dombås, then we take a small mountain road until Skamsdalsætrin where we pack our backpacks. It’s already 8:00 PM when we start our tour and we have to hike for three hours until we find a place for the first night. It has become quite cold and during the night temperature goes down to 0°C. Not a problem in a tent with three people in warm sleeping bags but hard to get up in the next morning.

But, we make it and follow the way for the Langvatnet for the first hours. After a short lunch break we leave the hiking trail in direction of Kjelsungdalen, a valley Gaby and I found the musk oxes in 2013. It’s still cold and grey and rainy and we have to walk cross-country over stones and along little lakes and creeks. Finally we are too tired to reach the musk ox valley that day so we set up our tent near a little lake almost at the pass leading to the musk oxes valley. Gaby and Henny have a bath in the ice cold lake – I resign, I’m probably to much of a mollycoddle.

The next morning we walk down into Kjelsungdalen. The weather turned better, it’s still cloudy, but sun comes out from time to time and it’s getting warmer. Then, suddenly, behind a small ground wave, I hear a snort and stand in front of a musk ox – about 30 meters away. I’m getting a little bit nervous. It stares at me and looks somehow dangerous. I turn around slowly and walk back, glancing over my shoulder from time to time. Then the musk ox turns right and slowly walks up to the pass.

We continue our way and after a few minutes we can oversee Kjelsungdalen and discover a little herd of all together 11 musk oxes spread over the left side of the valley. We look for a nice place from which we can oversee most of Kjelsungdalen and put up our tent. Then we go for a musk ox photo safari and have a relaxed day. In the night we see the musk oxes walking up the valley to a little snow-field where they jump around and wallow in the snow. It seems that the 12° or 15°C are far too warm for them. We instead enjoy the pleasant weather and the bright night and take more photos and make movies of the muks oxes.

The next day we continue our hiking tour. We head for Mjogsjøen, a beautiful mountian lake Gaby and I passed on out tour in 2013 – we have a photo of that lake printed on canvas hanging over our bed. The way to the lake takes much, much longer than Gaby and I remembered. It’s getting warmer and warmer and there are lots of midges. We are really happy when we arrive at lake Mjogsjøen and put up our tent. Then we head for a bath in the lake – all three of us. Although sun is shining the water is really cold and also the air cools down in the evening.

The next morning Henny and Gaby have another bath in the lake, then we pack the tent and head for the last stage. After about one hour we meet another musk ox having a bath in the lake. It runs and jumps around like a young goat. Very impressive. Another three hours later we arrive at our car. It’s warm, we’re quite tired and we have to pack all our stuff into the already packed car. But we make it and after another quick lunch at Dombås we get back on the road heading south.

For our last night in Norway we choose a hotel in a skyscraper. Just by case as it’s exactly along our way and has a room for three for a fair price. At the hotel it’s a big surprise: It’s the Wood Hotel and it’s in the tallest timber building in the world, the Mjøstårnet in Brummundal. Our room is at the ninth floor with an amazing view over lake Mjøsa. We enjoy the dinner buffet in the beautiful restaurant with an impressive wooden stair.

The next morning begins with a nice breakfast buffet at the restaurant and then we go south to Göteborg where we enter the ferry to Kiel. Nice weather, great buffet and a good night help us facing the fact that our trip to the north is ending…

Then we’re back in Germany back on the Autobahn. Maybe these two photos can express how it feels to be back in Germany… 😦

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