Sunday, October 9

Top Of The World

After leaving Oslo, I headed north with Anna, the Finnish girl that I met in Gothenberg.

On the way, we took a trip to the Geiranger Fjord, the most famous in the country. It was like the earlier one that I saw, between the towns of Bergen and Flam in the south, but more spectacular. The cliffs were higher and steeper, the valley narrower, and the waterfalls more frequent. Pictures wouldn't do it justice at all. Norway is easily the most beautiful country that I've ever seen.

Anna's cash started getting low as got further north, so I suggested that she stay down south, to find a job and get some more cash. She gave me a few things to drop off to her family when I got to Helsinki, and then we parted ways.

As I continued going north, I was surprised by the size of the towns. I was expected something the same size as in northern Canada, but things were much more developed. This is probably because the temperature is much milder, but even more so because most of Norway's oil is up there.

Trains only went up as far as the arctic circle, and so my rail pass only got me about half way to where I wanted to be. Buses were the only option past there, and they were not very well networked. Every five hours I had to switch to a different company, and was told the only way to find out the other's schedule was to ask upon arrival at the town. Interesting when I was getting dropped off at 10:30 at night. But I managed to get a bit of information in advance by calling the local tourist offices.

There was one night where I was planning on sleeping outside. It was way up in Alta, a small oil town on the 70'th parallel that has no hostels. After getting dropped off at 11 pm, the bus out wasn't until 6 am, and hotels started at 200 dollars per night (for a relatively shitty one!), not worth while for a 7 hour stay. Plus the weather wasn't too cold, staying above freezing for the most part.

My plan was to hang out in a bar till 3 am, then go squat somewhere. While hanging out there, I was lucky enough to meet a guy who insisted that I stay with him, as it was 'simply not possible' to do what I was planning. A professor at the local college, he was on vacation for the week, and was hanging out with a couple of guys that he'd met in a shop just a few hours before. He also insisted on driving me to the bus station, despite it being a ten minute walk from his house, as otherwise he would consider himself a poor host. Keep in mind that the bus was leaving at 6 am, and that he'd only gotten about four hours sleep. I'd heard stories of how friendly the northerners are, but didn't expect anything quite like that.

After leaving Alta I finally made it up as far north as roads go, something that I'd tried to do in the Yukon some years ago, but never managed to pull off. The town that I ended up in was called Honningsvag, a small fishing town. Seeing the reindeer on the tundra was an incredible sight, especially since the tundra was a mix of red, yellow, and green at this time of year.

The following night I rented a log cabin in a town called Karasjok (on the Finnish border), owned by a couple that does dog sledding expeditions. The cabin itself was decorated with animal skins, which didn't make me feel very at home. Still, it was interesting to walk around the grounds, as they keep more than fifty dogs there. The adult dogs weren't interested in the guests, but the puppies were quite friendly. The town itself was mostly populated by an ethnic culture called Samies. About the equivalent of the aboriginals in North America or Australia, the major difference is that they were displaced to the north about 2000 years ago. They've kept their own language and customs the whole time, but look like any other Norwegians on the surface. Although they might be a bit shorter on average. The major regret that I had was not being able to spend more time there to learn about the culture, but my rail pass was expiering in a few days, and so I had to get down to Helsinki as soon as I could.

I'm told that northern Finland can be very beautiful, but unfortunately it's very flat, which makes it extremely boring scenery from the road. I took two stops on my way down, on the arctic circle in a town called Rovaniemi, and in an industrial city in the south called Tampere. The first was destroyed by the Nazis and rebuilt, so there wasn't much character. The second was nicer, and it was a good way to keep my entire idea of Finland from being just Helsinki. The people are very nice, but there are a lot of problems with alcoholism here, and it's not uncommon to see people falling all over themselves, drunk in the middle of the day. Or maybe seeing 'play fighting', friends beating the shit out of each other, all the while busting a gut laughing.

Helsinki itself is nice, the town itself feels very metropolitan, but not too big. I dropped off the parcel to Anna's sister Caroline last night, and ended up going to a club with her and her friend. It was a bit of a meat market, but being able to hang out with local people in a different culture is always a treat, and I had a great time.

Sometimes I want to fill in more details of what I've done, but I also don't want to make this too long, as I've heard moans and groans from some people about the length before. At the same time, I am a little impatient, as I usually don't have enough time to write things out properly. Right now I'm extremely hungry, as it's 3 pm and I still haven't eaten today. I guess in the end this will leave me with stories to tell you all in person that you haven't read before.


Blogger Eugenie said...

I've a penpal in Oulu!

4:10 p.m.  
Blogger ian said...

kewl :)

i've heard that oulu is a major economic engine of finland, so to speak. the ceo of nokia lives there! though i only passed through on the train... i had 15 minutes stop there, and nearly got hit by some people that were driving their bikes on the sidewalk! still, it looked like a pretty place.


10:57 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Write whatever you want. I feel exactly the same when writing my bj entries. Damn they're butt-fu**ingly long and probably not at all that pleasurable to read.


8:40 a.m.  
Blogger ian said...

not at all, your blogs are quite good. but i never really figured out the reason that you didn't want to post any more. if you change your mind, or want to do them by email, let me know!

5:37 a.m.  

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