NorwayPosted: June 24, 2011
We aimed for what Tony called “the top of the world!” Unfortunately we had our wires crossed and his top of the world was not the top of the world I was thinking. When I spoke of reaching where the three borders meet, he was thinking Finland, Norway and Russia! I was talking Finland, Norway and Sweden. A bit of reshuffling and we decided to stick to the Sweden side and set off weaving our way, to and fro, across the Sweden-Finland border, north along the river Torne; the longest free flowing river in Europe.
The first thing we see, yes, the very first thing we see heading into Sweden was the “Museum of Modern Culture” – IKEA! I had to have a quick dose and left the store, kitchen renovation catalogue, pencil and handy paper tape measure in my hand, feeling quite homesick.
Continuing, we often felt as if we had entered Disneylands “Frontier Land” where few men dare to go, and even fewer live. The winter environment must be harsh here, trees have turned to shrubs and refuse to grow taller. Reindeer husbandry and the Sami people, still dominate this area. Scattered settlements of 3 – 7 red, timber houses, stand barren, along the river.
We cross the Arctic Circle line. “The southern most latitude where the sun does not set below the horizon and can be seen at midnight during the summer solstice.” I recall, as a child in geography, looking at maps and learning about the horizontal circles on the globe. At that time there was little relevance to my life, but if I’d imagined it, I would expect to see husky drawn sleighs, hide covered humans, white, snow, ice and cold. Instead we have green fields, wildflowers bobbing hello up and down in the breeze, farmlets, a river and a temperature of 20 degrees. Perfect traveling conditions.
Antonios patience is finally rewarded when we see two female moose, cross the road, and stop to turn around and look at us. As do up to 30 reindeer we pass, grazing on the side of the road, in small and large herds.
And then, we arrive in Norway! Almost immediately the landscape changes. I have been to Norway with Tony twice before and have obviously not seen anything. It is stunning and picturesque and after the pretty but repetitive forests of Finland, my eyes are delighting in the terrain. Snow capped mountains line deep ravines, framing V shaped views to more snow capped mountains. Rocky escarpments, running with melting snow waterfalls, edge the road.
I keep wanting to stop and take photos. Antonio keeps assuring me, there will be plenty of photos and he is right! We spend a couple of nights at Tromso. A fascinating port city, built on fishing and a history with foreign ships and seafaring trade. It is also a university city and this diversity ensures great facilities. We visit a wonderful museum with a photographic exhibition on the survival and life in Iceland. It was fascinating and beautiful. A pictorial history also resides there, of the interaction between the Northern Norwegians and the “Pomors”, Russian seamen whose links with this area, based on trade and friendship, resumed in 1990 after a 70 year absence during the Cold War.
Some brilliant advice from the fantastic staff at the Tourism office determined our route down to Fauske would be a ferry island hop to Lofoten island, one of Norways most spectacular tourist destinations. It was just superb and even the following photos cannot do it justice. One of the incredible things about Norway is thousands of islands and peninsulas of different lengths, shapes and widths, clawing out into the ocean, creating an incredible coastline. Norway has the same kilometer measure of coastline that Australia has, even though it’s 25 times smaller. And most of this coast in the Lofoten area is mountainous rock and cliff falling straight into the ocean, with some small coastal settlements, often holiday homes for the local Norwegians. A stunning landscape is created, a world class scenic drive with pristine water lapping the edges.
We visit another small museum and are shown around by an enthusiastic local, Walfred. It is the home of a local family, preserved as best as possible, and reminds me of a dolls house, inside and out. Small timber rooms, attic style bedrooms upstairs. A snapshot of living a traditional life – fishing in the winter, farming in the summer.
We end our visit to Lofoten in Nusjford, a unique fishing village listed with Unesco World Heritage, the timber buildings and historical significance uniquely preserved. It’s late in the day when I walk around the rock nestled town and the caw of the seagulls give me an eerie feel. There are few tourists around and it not difficult to be taken back 100, 200 years when this port was in its hey day, kept alive on a currency of “stock” fish, (Cod), fish still drying in the traditional way, hanging in the sun!
We have had the most beautiful few days of perfect Norwegian summer weather and enjoyed everything this stunning area has to offer. Our last ferry takes us to Bodo and we arrive in Fauske as the weather changes. We sit up in Cubby, feeling the rising excitement of seeing Noah again and can hardly wait for him to arrive home from Kinda!!