Friday, August 27, 2010

Norway – arriving in Kirkenes

Kirkenes is located in the extreme northeastern part of Norway. It is the capital of the municipality of Sør-Varanger and borders the Barents Sea, which is a part of the Arctic Ocean. It is about 240 miles (400 kms) north of the Arctic Circle. Actually this is where Norway ends. This area was jointly occupied by Russia and Norway until the borders were set in 1826 between these two countries and Finland. Kirkenes is further east than most of Finland and only 7 kms (4.3 miles) from the Russian border (37 Kms/22 miles from Finland.) It has a frontier feel.

We had left Atlanta in the evening and after a change of plane in Paris we arrived in Norway the following afternoon. We stayed in Oslo that night then early the next morning we boarded a plane on Norwegian airlines and arrived in Kirkenes before lunch. When we left Oslo it was raining and there were heavy dark clouds but as we approached Kirkenes I could see the ground below. It looked very barren with many lakes and no towns. From the air it reminded me of Newfoundland and its unspoiled wilderness. I took some pictures from the aircraft.

Click on pictures to enlarge, then click again on each to bigify

These were taken from the aircraft with my little Olympus Stylus on the “Behind Glass” setting.

Kirkenes is quite a long way from Oslo, about 875 miles. Oslo is closer to Zurich, Switzerland (873 miles) than to this city in the north of Norway. Kirkenes is located in Norwegian Lapland – in the county of Finnmark which is the largest county in Norway. It is larger than Denmark (or about twice the size of Vermont) but has a population of only about 75,000 people.

Postcard of the Sør-Varanger area around Kirkenes

Kirkenes was initially populated by the Sami people, indigenous people of the area (it is derogatory to call them “Lapps” we were told.) I had booked a room in the center of town, at the Barents Frokost Hotell. A 14-room bed and breakfast whose clients are mostly Russians – the TV channels were both in Norwegian and Russian.

Our room was on the second floor, last one of the left

The hotel was centrally located – in front of the main square where a Russian market takes place once a month. I had not realized that there was a day tour to Russia which included a day-visa, to the port of Murmansk. We could have come a day earlier if we had known about it.

The German Marines and Air Force had a base in Kirkenes with 30,000 men during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. They were stationed there because of the proximity of Kirkenes to the Soviet port of Murmansk (which was not under Nazi control.) Soviet planes bombed Kirkenes day and night with more than 1000 air raid alarms and more than 320 aerial bombings. In October 1944 Kirkenes was liberated but the retreating Nazi forces burnt it to the ground. As a result, Kirnenes was, after Malta, the most bombed place during the Second World War. In the middle of the square is the War Mother’s Monument which commemorates women’s efforts during the war.

There is also a pretty fountain and a profusion of violets around it.

Russian fishermen come to sell their catch in Kirkenes as prices are much better here than in their ports to the east. Signs in the streets are both in Norwegian and Russian.

Across the square is the large Arctic Hotel where excursions can be booked.

We checked but were too late to go on the “king crab safari.”

The river boat trip on the Pasvik River was also completely booked.

The river boat goes down the river which borders Norway and Russia.

But the “husky hike with local lunch” was available after 2 pm (a late lunch then I guess.) We booked this trip and I shall talk about it in my next post. We then walked to the small harbour and watched fishing vessels, both Norwegian and Russian.

Some Russian fishing trawlers tied to the dock looked like they were antiques and left there to rust. No one was around them; they look deserted and very old.

A guy in a Jeep picked us up to go and visit the husky kennel and when we came back to downtown Kirkenes we walked to the edge of the bay. Even though we were way past the Arctic Circle it was quite nice and I did not need a jacket.

It had been a lovely day, but we were still jet lagged. We went back to our little hotel facing the old church (Lutheran, built in 1862, but there are two Eastern Orthodox churches close by, too) and had a choice of watching TV in Norwegian or Russian...

In winter Kirkenes must be very pretty although from November 21 to January 21 they are in winter darkness (the midnight sun shines from May 17 to July 21.) Many activities are offered in winter like dog-sled trips, ice fishing, snowmobile tours, cross-country skiing and a snow hotel. Since I live in the Deep South this arctic environment in winter might be pretty hard on my system...

Here is a postcard of Kirkenes in winter.


""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Bonjour Chère Vagabonde ! :o)
Je suis contente de te lire à nouveau ! :o)
Ce voyage semble génial ! Vous avez beaucoup de chance de pouvoir voir et admirer de tels endroits ! :o) Merci de nous en faire profiter sur ton joli blog ! :o)
J'aime beaucoup les paysages, l'église et encore plus le monument de la Mère de guerre, qui commémore les efforts des femmes pendant la guerre... très beau !
MERCI à toi Vagabonde et GROS BISOUS !!!! ****

Linda Reeder said...

I do have to ask. What brought you to such a remote location!

Vicki Lane said...

I'm enchanted by the idea of such remoteness -- though I've never visited anywhere even vaguely remote. Beautiful pictures!

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Wow! What an amazing trip and I cannot wait to see Part 2.

I have been almost to the other end at the tip of Argentina but we were there in the spring. I did think about the severe winters.

Kay Dennison said...

What a glorious adventure!!!! Thank you for sharing it with us!!!!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What an interesting and unusual trip. I would have loved going on a "king crab safari."

I have been on vacation in northern and central California for the last two weeks and enjoyed the cooler than normal temperatures these areas have been having.

Fennie said...

Amazing! I learn so much from your blogs, Vagabonde. They are so well written and photographed. The high Arctic (I've never been there) must be fascinating. But the light would worry me. I don't really like the low northern light. Look forward to reading about your trip. Where are you off to next?

Pondside said...

I've been looking forward to these posts. What an adventure!

DJan said...

You ARE one of the most well traveled people I know, VB. And I sure am more knowledgeable because of following your blog. Very interesting, and I look forward to part 2. And thank you for the lovely email.cabiti

Anonymous said...

When thinking of indigenous people I don't usually think of far up north. What a fascintating trip! Thanks for the explanation.

Elaine said...

That looks like a wonderful trip! What a change from Atlanta where it has been so hot. I liked the collage of photos from the airplane. It really gives you a feel for the countryside. I look forward to your next post.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What an interesting place. The high Artic must be fascinating. I was surprised you didn't need a jacket.

If only we could get to these far away places without that dreaded jet lag. It gets me every time.

sweffling said...

Lovely blog, I adore vicarious travel. I went up to the North Cape many years ago, and to the north of the arctic circle in Sweden for New Year a few years ago. We went snowmobiling, husky sledging, etc. and had a great time. It was minus 40c which was cold but not quite as dark as I had expected. But after a week I needed some sunshine.

Looking forward to the rest of your hols!

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Passage chez toi en ce dimanche matin ! Je t'embrasse et je te souhaite une belle journée ! :o) BISOUS BISOUS BISOUS ! ***

Deborah said...

Vagabonde, I wondered immediately why you had chosen this place to visit? Not that it is without interest - far from it - but I imagine they don't get a lot of tourists. You would have done your research before you went there, I have no doubt, so please explain what it is that drew you to this remote place.

As always, full of interesting bits and pieces and the map is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

It looks like an amazing place, and as the others have said, I am curious as to how you found it and chose it as a destination. I love your photos and your descriptions of the northern area. You say it looked like Newfoundland, which is a place I hope to see someday. Thanks!

Unknown said...

In despite of being a short time with you, it was a great time together. I remember very well when we had dinner in the DS Louise, you were talking about Kirkenes. Lovely evening and good memories osf the Oslo Blog Gathering.
I invite you to see about in my Blog
Kisses and hugs.

Friko said...

A journey to the top of Europe, fascinating.
You are a true traveller, not merely a tourist.

claude said...

Tout d'abord, merci pour la carte postale.
Mais dis moi tu étais au bout du monde !
Que j'aimerais avoir un tapis de violettes comme ceux là dans mon jardin.
C'est le pays d'origine de mon ami Américain. Son grand-Père a émigré avec tout sa famille en Amérique. Larry est typé très nordique.
Je ne pourrais pas vivre dans un pays où il fait nuit 2 ou 3 mois dans l'année.
Tu as fait un magnifique voyage.

Ginnie Hart said...

I've been waiting for these posts from Norway, Vagabonde, so much closer to me than Atlanta these days! I think you went to the top of the world, almost. Maybe that's what drew you to there...apart from the Blog Gathering in Oslo, of course. :)

DianeCA said...

Kirkenes is a pretty unique place even for Norway. I am a bit glad you missed the king crab fishing and the boat because I think the dog hike sounded really interesting, and it is something I bet you don't find too many other places. I just have to take the Hurtigruten cruise sometime, really!

RennyBA's Terella said...

You know I've been to Kirkenes a lot of time - and even from there, a couple of visit in Russia - and to read this post and see some spots of the town through you're lens was very interesting.
I'm glad you took this trip at summer time - and could experience the midnight sun - because as you said: it's pretty dark during the winter time (although it has it charm too of course).

Looking forward to more posts from you're trip with Hurtigruta, down the coastline to Bergen too. You see, I've never done that :-)

Even if this was before the OsloBG, I'll include this post in my collection of participants adventures in Norway too.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** MERCI Vagabonde !!!! Je vois que tu es en famille dans la banlieue de Nashville en Tennessee ! et autour de toi des petits enfants ! ça bouge et donne du travail mais quel plaisir d'être "en famille" chez ta fille n'est-ce pas Vagabonde ? :o)
Je te remercie pour ton message chez moi, je suis touchée par ton passage parce que tu n'as pas beaucoup de temps. Encore MERCI ET GROS BISOUS Chère Vagabonde ! :o) BISOUS BISOUS BISOUS !!! ***

claude said...

Dis moi, tu est une grande voyageuse !
Pour mon poulet créole, je l'ai servi (je crois l'avoir mis dans mon post ou alors j'ai oublié) avec du riz créole, of course !
Il pourrait être aussi accompagner d'haicots vers ou de pommes de terres sautées.

kyh said...

U were in the Arctic Circle! Am jealous! ;)

I love the views of the marshlands... And the lakes. So beautiful! And I'm sure it gets very cold there! Esp at night. :D

Marguerite said...

Wow, you sure do lead an exciting life, with such lovely trips! Looks so beautiful and your photos are excellent, as always! Looking forward to hearing more! Bon voyage, cher!

Vagabonde said...

Dear blogging friends - as soon as we came back from Norway we drove to Tennessee to visit family and just came back. I wrote this post last night and this morning. I did not have time to visit your blogs but will do so this coming week. I appreciate your visit and really enjoy reading your comments.

Keri said...

What a fascinating trip. Looks like you were there at the right time of year. Winter postcards look a bit on the chill. Certainly a long way from home. I can tell you that you didn't miss a thing here in Atlanta. Thanks or sharing this. You and camera did a great job. Looking forward to the next entry. Keri

Jojo said...

I love your blog and I'm so happy that you stopped by my blog to leave a comment!

EDIMGIAFAD is an acronym that is well known in my hometown. It stands for "Every day in Middle Georgia is Air Force Appreciation Day." I'm from Warner Robins originally and you are the first person to ever notice the acronym. I moved to the Atlanta area in 1978 and now live in East Point.

Your blog is wonderful and I'm looking forward to reading many more posts!

Anonymous said...

What a nice place! Reminds me of traveling to Patagonia, another extreme, South this time.

Unknown said...

What a fantastic post, I enjoyed reading it and the photos are excellent. What a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for visiting my blog stay in touch. Kev

TorAa said...

Fantastic report from Norways most eastern town (there are several further North - Hammerfest is the most Northern and even the first City in the World to have Electrical Street Lamps).
It's amazing tha Kirkenes and the valleys on the Norwegian-Russian border have such a special climate - so high North. Even forests.
Boris Gleb was for years the only spot in former USSR where Norwegians could visit without a visa. Before the Russian Communist Revolution it was a lot of trading and commercial connections between the countiries in this high north of the globe, called the Pomar-Trade.
My Wifes father's family was part of it - trading Fish....

You just inspired me to write something....;)

Virginia said...

Wow, I"ve had a vacation to Norway thanks to you! My daughters' great grandmother was from Norway. A beautiful place. Lucky you to be able to visit.

Kathleen Pooler said...

Thank you for sharing your amazing journey. The pictures are beautiful and I feel I was there! I also read your post about your mother from July- what a treasure. You captured a bygone era so well. I will look forward to following your blog!(We just met on Lynne Spreen's blog)

Write On!

Kathy Pooler

Jeanie said...

Another fascinating post taking me to a place I've never been. Is this a pleasure trip for you? Part business, part long desired? No matter what, it sounds fascinating. I remember reading, as a child, a book called "Adventures of Erik and Britta" and it was set in Norway. But I really had little visual for it apart from short clips shown at the Olympics when a favored Norwegian athlete was about to ski away! Thanks!

Anonymous said...


Hello! Im Norwegian and I think its really fascinating that you travel to the north of Norway. Its not many people that travels sow far. Not even I have been there, and Im Norwegian. Very Impressing.,Very intresting blog you have..

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