Our first stop after Norway was in Lulea, Sweden, a medium sized town near the border with Finland. The AirBNB we rented was in a small village outside of Lulea called Church Town. Many years ago towns like this one sprang up in Sweden. The idea behind the church towns was to have a place where farmers could stay when they attended church. This village had around 500 cottages.
A typical street in Church Town was lined with these one or two room cottages. Each cottage was maintained by the farmer who owned it. The cottages were only to be used by the farmers when they were in town to attend church. Thus, they were forbidden from spending more a night or two consecutively in their cottage.
The cottages are still owned by descendants of the families that built them over a hundred years ago. The same rules are still apply. Owners and family members can only stay in them a night or two. This lady was kind enough to show us the inside of her cottage.
The Lutheran Church in the center of the town has a practice where they hold drop-in marriage services most Saturdays. All you have to do is speak with the pastor for a few minutes to convince him/her you are serious about getting marriage. Then you walk to alter and exchange vows. When we visited the church, five couples had already signed-up to get married that day.
The mixologist at this bar told Alena that the proper way to add mint flavor to her drink was to spank the mint. Who would have guessed.
We hiked to the top of a fell (in Finland small mountains are called fells) . From the top we could see 50 miles or more in all directions.
Alena hiking up to the top of the fell.
One of the hikes we took was through a bog in a national park in central Finland.
Another photo of the bog taken from from a wooden observation deck the park service constructed.
A couple of 250cc MZ Motorcycles with sidecars.
This is the inside of the oldest wooden church in Northern Finland. When this church was still active, members of the congregation would sometimes be allowed to bury family members under the floor. We looked through the cracks in the floor and saw the skeletal remains of a child and a man that were buried there many years ago.
Russia borders Finland on the east. One day we decided to drive to the border crossing at Raja-Jooseppi to see what was there. We naively thought it would be a small border town where Fins and Russians were joyfully celebrating over tall glasses of vodka the fact that they were neighbors. Instead we found this bleak scene. No happy neighbors toasting each other could be found.
View of Lake Inari in Northern Finland.
Photo of the sun taken at midnight in Inari. It was bright enough to do about anything you would normally do during the daytime. In this part of Finland the sun does not set between May 22 and July 22.
The Sami museum in Inari was terrific. It was filled with all kinds of hand made items that were commonly used by the Sami in everyday life.
After spending a few days in Finland we decided to head north back into Norway and spend a night in Vardo on the Arctic Ocean. To get to Vardo we followed the Tana River which forms the border between the two countries.
In addition to wild rapids the Tana is also know for its great salmon fishing.
Small active church along the Norwegian coast above Finland.
Hugh racks of cod fish heads drying in the sun. Later we learned that the dried fish heads would be shipped to Africa where the will be ground up and used as a food supplement.
Peaceful fishing village along the coast a few miles south of Vardo, Norway.
The radar dome in the background is on a highly restricted military based in Vardo, Norway. When locals asked the US workers about the purpose of the base, they were told it was a NASA tracking station used to communicate with the space station. Several years ago high winds blew part of the dome off, exposing a communications dish which was pointed directly at Russia. Since then none of the locals believe it is a NASA facility.
While in Vardo we took a boat ride to Reinoya Island which is the summer home for tens of thousands of nesting birds. There are many different species of birds living peacefully together. The birds are so tame you can walk within a few feet of them without them getting agitated.
One of the coolest things we experienced while on the island were the puffins that nest among the rocks and vegetation. I was about 10 feet from this puffin when I took its picture. Notice the black bird in the foreground.
Two birds having a serious discussion.
During a particularly dark period in Northern Norway, people thought there were witches amongst them casting spells and generally causing problems. This is a memorial that Vardo created to acknowledge those who were executed. In total 91 people were put to death for being witches.
A plaque for each person executed for witchcraft is mounted along the walls of the memorial.
In northern Finland the reindeer are everywhere. And since the Sami people domesticated them they have no fear of humans. This one was just casually walking across the road in no hurry to get out of our way.
This reindeer was walking down the middle of the road paying absolutely no attention to us as we slowly passed in our car.
Sami (name of the native peoples in this part of Finland) built these corrals in the middle of the forest for their annual reindeer roundup.
A hut near the corrals, which still used by the Sami during the annual roundups.
A favorite delicacy of the Fins is a big bowl of fried white fish. They were crunchy and salty with a mild fishy taste.
While in Finland we were above the Arctic Circle for seven days. Alena can’t decide which side she is on.
When we got into Helsinki I just loved the weather forecast.
The main city library in Helsinki is designed to look somewhat like a large ocean liner. In this photo Alena appears to be on the bow of the Titanic.
As its name implies, the Rock Church in Helsinki was cut of solid rock. It was a very peaceful space.
One evening when wee were walking back to our AirBNB, we heard lots of commotion from a side street. We found out that it was coming from the Corona Bar that was closing. The place was packed and the band would do New Orleans proud. We never figured out why the bar was closing. Looked like a money maker to us.
An old Russian Orthodox church in Helsinki.
We were at the National Historical Museum when I came across this photo hanging in the wall. You might notice the familiar face and the caption. This “photo” was electronically generated in a booth nearby and displayed here.
While down by the harbor we stopped at a stand for some street food. I selected a delicious cheese empanada. I had no more than one bite when one of these aerial thieves did a blitzkrieg on my empanada and flew away with it.