Archive | December, 2012

Norwegian Mountains

4 Dec

I thought it was strange that the sun only rising at 11.30am – and then I realised, from the darkening sky, that it was actually sunset!

We were on a narrow road in a big coach so we couldn’t stop for pictures, which is why these are blurry and not the best ever, but it was such a beautiful sight that I couldn’t resist trying to share just a little of the experience.

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These were taken on the trip from Kautokeino to Karasjok, and I would recommend making the trip in winter – if your cars and tires are good! There were a couple of super steep slopes  and I have to give a huge kudos to the bus driver for keeping us on the road!

 

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Kautokeino

4 Dec

It took around nine hours travelling on a stuffy bus to arrive, but it was worth the wait. The snow was half-way to my knees and the lights of the town twinkled invitingly, like a picture on a Christmas card. We dragged our heavy suitcases through the snow to our cabin and set up camp.

The cabin at the Arctic Motel was adequately sized for the three of us, with a table, a basic cooker and a bathroom. And it was warm, so warm, compared to the minus 7 degrees outside. The big cabin was even better, with couches and a proper kitchen to make dinner.

The next day we visited Juhl’s Silvergallery, started by Regine and Frank Juhl’s in the 50’s, at a a time when there were few roads in the town and all the building materials for their house had to be rowed across a river and carried up the mountain. Even the house is a work of art, it’s construction based on the nature around it. Each room represents a decade of their work, and all of it relates to their lives and their interest in nomadic cultures, not just the Sami. It’s a beautiful place to visit and it’s packed full of things to look at. There are even chickens inside.

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After this we took a trip across to the Sami university, Sami Allaskuvla, to meet the students and take a look around. It has something like 200 students there, but the place is modern and well-equipped. We got to talk to some students who were practising duodji (traditional handicrafts) and making shoes for themselves. The library was fantastic, with a great collection of Sami, Norwegian, Swedish and English texts. I even found a copy of Romeo and Juliet. The university also teaches journalism, teacher-training and other courses. Many student study there, but the majority study in their home towns with the use of online lectures and assessment, which is a great way that ensuring that everyone who wants it has access to the education.

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After this we visited Beaivváš Sámi Theatre and met this brilliant character of a lady, Rawdna Carita Eira, who had just written Silver Lake for the theatre. She showed us around, took us to the costume department and gave us a little presentation on the theatre. The theatre isn’t just based in Norway, but has travelled all over – even to Japan and Nepal.  I would like to catch one of their shows one day. They ‘subtitle’ in English and Norwegian – they incorporate it as part of the set or decorations.

Kautokeino is a beautiful place. The next morning me and a couple of friends took a walk into town while everyone else was still sleeping. It’s a much bigger place than I thought, but very peaceful and quite. Still, there is a lot going on and it’s worth a visit. Just wrap up warm! On the way home my breath was freezing on my scarf and I was very glad to have brought snow trousers with me!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Tallinn

2 Dec

I arrived in Tallinn with a sickly stomach and feeling shattered. We hopped off the ferry and were greeted by graffiti and a grubby looking, torn about city. I remember saying: ‘I like it already’ and grinning and feeling much better as I plodded along the glass-splattered pavement into the city centre.

Sadly, this feeling was not to last.

Tallinn was a bizzaro, fake-feeling, tourist-populated city and sure it was pretty, but if you punched through the cardboard cut-out scenery all there was to see was guys with duffel-bags behind the scenes, blinking in the light.

The architecture was interesting, very medieval and quaint, and good to look at. The cobblestone pavements reminded me of my university city and I thought that this might bode well. But the streets felt claustrophobically narrow and uncomfortable after a while, as they seemed to have no regular pattern, and it was a relief to finally find our way through them and arrive at the hostel.

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This place was interestingly decorated, and I was incredibly pleased to find that tea and coffee were free. I was, however, disappointed to find a great cloud of flies hovering about the tin box. I made myself a cup to be polite but I didn’t drink more than a sip.  It’s was called the Alur hostel and it cost something like 16€ a night to stay. The weird thing about this place, apart from the slightly obnoxious, slightly spooky long-haired girl at the desk, was the fact that no lockers for our bags were mentioned but yet we found a couple of rows of them upstairs. We were early and ended up having to wait for our rooms because we didn’t just want to leave our stuff at the desk. Anyone else who goes should inquire and get back to me on this maybe I’m just paranoid but I got a bad vibe from the place.

After we had our rooms we headed into the city center and decided to use the last couple of hours of daylight by walking around the city. We saw so many souvenir shops that I lost count, a couple of churches and many, many Russian tour groups. No one in the shops seemed very pleased to see us or serve us and it was very disheartening whilst I was so tired. Everywhere we went seemed to lead to nowhere except more tourist shops and more dead ends. The next morning, in an attempt to enjoy the city on my own I went for my usual early morning walk. I was disappointed to find a dark, empty city, save for a few men in shadows who seemed to watch me a little too carefully. I was really scared and got spooked by a homeless guy watching me from the alcoves, so I headed back to the hostel as early as I could, stumbling through the winding streets.

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Despite my largely negative view of Tallinn there were some highlights though:

1. The Peppersack –  A great medieval restaurant, in which all the servers were dressed in medieval clothes. The place was huge inside and the food was really cheap – I think this was a gimmick used by the place which said that everything was 50% off, when I’m sure that the food was actually this cheap regularly, but anyway it tasted good. They had this incredible honey beer which tasted great, but sadly was only sold on the premises.

2. Draakon – Another medieval eating place, but this one was much smaller and darker, because it was mostly lit by candlelight. It gave it a great atmosphere – even if it was hard to see your money in the light. The pies were delicious an only 1€ and the drinks were only 2€. Great place to get breakfast before a long journey home. Be warned though, if you buy soup you have to sing for your spoon!

3. The viewing platforms – They gave the best view of the city – but don’t try the warm beer or glogi that they sell up there, it’s disgusting! It was nice to watch the sun set over the city, and I would have liked to catch the sunrise, but hey ho.

602558_10151270006599090_2060148392_nThese were the nicest pictures I took from the place, and I took them upon leaving the place. Kind of sums up my Tallinn experience. However, many people have loved their time their, so maybe it just depends. Perhaps its’s one of those things which everyone has to try.

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This concludes my Helsinki trip series as we spent a couple more hours in Helsinki while we waited for the train, time which I spent walking on my own through the city, then took the long seven hour journey back to Oulu.

I just got back from a week in Lapland too, so stay tuned!!

Also, thanks to all those who are following me, old and new followers! You guys are awesome =)

 

 

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