Båtsfjord

Båtsfjord. A small Arctic town, lost somewhere in the north at the end of a fjord (hence the name, maybe?). Isolated from its neighbours by a rugged landscape made of abrupt cliffs and rolling hills, the main activity there seems to be fishing. This industry has attracted workers from 40 different nationalities; many Lithuanians came directly there with their cars, as the registration plates could certify.

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On the high road

With so much snow falling down, I was afraid we couldn’t reach Båtsfjord the day after, for this little town sits in a remote bay, north of the Varanger peninsula. Our host for the night was not very reassuring either, when she said the road went up in the mountains and therefore was not very well cleaned…

As we drove along the fjords, all fears disappeared: the road was perfectly maintained. Sure, we were driving on ice, but that’s what studded tyres are made for.

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Clear skies

After the storm, I woke up at 4 to see the sun rise. I emerged from the house in 50 cm of fresh snow: Sunday morning, a private yard, of course noone had cleaned the way up there. So I made my own trace in the pristine duvet, and roamed the streets of Bjørnevatn, which serenity was only troubled by the din of loaders moving the snow off the road.

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Here are the birds

We checked in at BIRK Husky, a place well known to the birding community for its feeders, which offer great opportunities to meet the local fauna, and particularly the taiga specialities.

Right after waking up, on my way to the toilets, I saw two Siberian tits (Poecile cinctus) at the feeders. A bit later, I spotted three or four squirrels in the vicinity, some chasing each other in the trees while other peacefully enjoyed sunflower seeds from the feeders. That was before birds woke up: usually, they are active at dawn, but that day it seemed that activity peaked a bit later, and the morning was slow to start.

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

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Varanger, Day White

So there we were, flying north above a sea of clouds. I had awakened at 3.30 to catch an early flight to Oslo. There, I had met my friend Marci, and we had embarked on Norwegian flight DY310 to Kirkenes. The seat layout was a bit cramped up there, but my friend enjoyed the free wi-fi. Actually, I really saw no difference between this low-cost airline company and another non-low-cost one (except for the wi-fi). A good thing for travellers.

The trip was absolutely uneventful, until we arrived to the main airport of Finnmark. Under the clouds, we saw snow and sea pass by before our eyes, and just when we thought we would land directly with no fuss, the pilot pushed the throttle, and up again we went, for “a bit of sightseeing”, as he put it. Visibility was too low, so we tried from the other side, and managed to touch the ground (we assumed the crew used autopilot for the second attempt). However, the runway was kinda icy, and I felt the plane move from left to right after touchdown. The pilot had to add an extra bit of reverse thrust to take the plane to a halt. It was quite brutal, I had never experienced that, but it was effective: soon we were walking on the tarmac, trying not to slip on the ice while reaching the terminal. Needless to say, it was quite chilly. It was even snowing.

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Prince of the woods

Hello world! I’m in Norway for a week, with my friend Marci, chasing arctic birds along the Russian border or on the Barents Sea. This is kind of a luxury trip, as we have internet in the evenings to share our adventures in real time 😀

Pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)

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Kusama at HAM

HAM, like Helsinki Art Museum. Sorry, we’re not going to talk about food 😉

kusama

…or maybe we are?

Tennispalatsi hosted a retrospective exhibition on Yayoi Kusama, “one of the most famous artists in the world”, though I had never heard about her. We visited the museum on New Year’s Eve (after Finlandia-talo), as it was free during the evening. Before going upstairs. to the bigger hall, we got introdued to Kusama’s life by a slideshow presenting the most important events of her life.

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White wings of Hanko

Hanko, a small and isolated town, is located at the southernmost point of mainland Finland. When we told our colleagues that we would go there in winter, Miguel and I saw bemused expressions on their faces: “Hanko, now?”, “There nothing to do in Hanko in winter”… Not something to scare us, of course. I’m quite amused when I do something people wouldn’t even consider, even more so when I enjoy it!

Miguel had downloaded an app for geocaching, so immediately after leaving the train, we began our quest, and found a capsule in a tree, where we wrote our names. Alas, after finding a second one next to the water tower, our other targets remained invisible. Now, though, we can say we have done geocaching.

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