We had barely settled in our cottage that I was already planning an early adventure for the morning to come. No one in the house dared follow me, so I left alone, before sunrise. In a tree, a Common blackbird (Turdus merula) sung.
Texel, in the Netherlands, is the first of the Frisian Islands, a series of isles that dot the coast of the North Sea, all the way up to South-West Jutland, in Denmark.
This trip, in the end of April, was a family reunion. Kevin was studying in Delft this year, and my parents spent a week in the region. I joined them for the three-day weekend, meeting them at the airport before driving to Texel. On the way, I was astonished by the sheer number of birds along the road: swans, geese, ducks, coots or grebes were everywhere! At that time, it was still pretty much winter in Finland (chilly weather lingered very late this year), so this abundance was a shock. Oh, and you’ll notice those birds I listed are all waterfowl: that’s because the Netherlands are a wet country. It’s obvious as soon as the plane goes down a little bit: canals, lakes, rivers… there’s water everywhere.
April, this year. After a long winter, days had started to get slightly warmer (not warm yet, but warmer) and longer, and some birds had returned from the south. It had been quite a long time I hadn’t been to my favourite place in Helsinki, so I decided to visit it again.
In April, a few weeks after this Norwegian escape, I went to Paris. While the main point of this visit was to meet friends from another life, I also had time on my own to explore known and less known places. At dawn or even before, at sunset and after, or during the day, I enjoyed the city at every possible time of day.
I have finished telling the tale of our Arctic expedition. Before we move on, I wanted to share some practical tips about traveling in the region.
First, though, here are the links to all the previous posts, in case you’ve missed some 🙂
En rød dør | Hornøya, cliffside haven | Soil, Varanger edition | Vardø | Vadsø | Varangerfjord | Whatever floats your boat | Advanced course in eiderology | Båtsfjord | On the high road | Clear skies | Here are the birds | Varanger, Day White | Castles in the Air | Prince of the woods
A red door, in Danish. That’s with this expression that our teacher introduced us to both the “ø” sound (a bit like “ö” in Finnish or “eu” or “œ” in French) and the soft “d”, which is for me pretty much like a “l”, except the tongue goes to the bottom of the mouth and not the top. At first, it sounded complicated… after a few months, it still felt complicated, but I also found the whole pronounciation very funny, and I learnt to appreciate it.
There are some birds that spend almost all year at sea, and come to shore only to breed. Those species, like albatrosses or penguins, often gather in large and spectacular colonies, and since they barely see humans, they are fairly easy to approach. I have fond memories of the Sept-Îles in Brittany, or Låtrabjarg in Iceland.
Hornøya is also one of those magical places where pelagic birds gather.
We arrived in Vardø in the middle of the afternoon, and soon found our accommodation before heading out again for sunset. At that moment, we were at the very end of Norway, still far North but also further East than Saint-Petersburg or Istanbul (it’s easy at this latitude ;)). The small town lies on a island linked to the continent by a tunnel; Marci was really impressed to see such infrastructure in a remote location like this one.
In the evening of our fourth day in Varanger, we slept in Vadsø, the administrative center of the county of Finnmark, home to some five thousand souls. In the morning, before driving to Ekkerøy, we visited the little town. Marci looked for a souvenir shop, but there didn’t seem to be anything of interest in the citycenter. What I noticed, in Vadsø but also in other towns, was a lamp store. I guess that, in places where the sun disappears for several weeks every year, inhabitants are particularly mindful about lighting in their houses, and so this kind of business thrives. I also liked the colourful houses.