Vardø in the wintertime was the most beautiful winterscape I had ever seen. The island is shaped like a butterfly, with one half longer and narrower than the other. On Thursday I walked to the “left” side of the island ( = the southern and longer side; picture a butterfly outline on its side with one wing on the south and the other on the north) and walked past all the houses. The island narrows to a thin strip at this point, like a sandbar, and there is nothing but field for the next 1000 metres. The winds from the ocean whip across the island at vicious speeds, and I could never face the way the wind was blowing because the blowing snow was blinding and came at me like curtains of ice. However, the sights I did see and photograph were awesome. Sights that left me standing there in total awe, as my waifish body stuck there like a solitary twig in the snow, being battered by the wind. The whitecap waves turned into deep turquoise as they bashed into the island’s coast and swelled into currents as the water rounded the island’s western tip. The snowy mountains of Norway 3 km across were silent and barren, while the view the other way was a vast ferocious frigid sea of turquoise iciness. I was part of the natural landscape, one of the many twigs poking out of the snow, exposed to the elements of the brutally windy Norwegian Arctic. It was satisfying just to stand there and look across at the Arctic beauty. This is what I came here for.
I am back in Helsinki now, after the most exhausting trip home. I went to bed early in Tana Bru, Norway, at 8.30 p.m. and awoke in time to catch my bus at 03.10 a.m. outside the hotel. I was one of two passengers. I was lucky to get some sleep at the hotel, that is, after I watched the latest episode of the Norwegian version of “Survivor”. In Thursday night’s episode the gang was trying to repair the leaky roof of their run-down shack, which had flooded the house during the night.
I stayed awake on the eight-hour ride back to Rovaniemi, and noticed a few things that were different from my last trip up here, in July 2000. (Unfortunately, I was asleep on the bus ride up here on Sunday night and missed everything.) One thing that was immediately noticeable was the new sign for the Norwegian village of Polmak. It now had a new sign with the Sami name BUOLBMÁT above POLMAK. I brought my photos from my summer 2000 trip here and sure enough, I am not misremembering things. The Sami Bridge (Saamensilta), spanning the Teno River to Norway, located at the village of Utsjoki, looks imposingly beautiful at night. Colossal, white, with red lights atop the bridge towers. When I was here in July 2000 it was the time of the midnight sun, and of course I never had the opportunity to see the bridge at nighttime.
As it grew lighter the countryside became another type of sea: a sea of untouched white for as far as you could see. Pines and lakes covered in ice and snow, and not a soul in sight. Unfortunately, the only reindeer I saw in north Lappi and northern Finnmark fylke was the steak I ate in Vardø 🙂
I grabbed the train immediately at Rovaniemi for Oulu, and the train had a brief stop at the Finnish town of Ii. I had to take a picture of the Ii train station, and will no doubt titter in delight as I show everyone this pic.
The weather coming back on the InterCity train (a step up from the second-class train from Rovaniemi to Oulu) from Oulu to Helsinki was wicked. Snowstorms were delaying the trip, and we were stalled for hours. It was aggravating the passengers, but I was fine just to sit in my seat, listening to my Finnish folk tunes on my portable compact disc player and reading all the brochures I brought back from northern Norway. If there is one quality about myself that I take pride in, it’s that I have the patience of a saint. I can sit still for hours. Why complain? What good will it do? Why surrender my valuable brain-time to thinking such negative thoughts as “When the Hell are we going to start moving?!”. Just like when I smashed my face–why scream and cry? Who will hear me? Who cares? Just pick yourself up off the road and get on with it. So it was the same with the 5½-hour delay. I just sat there and accepted that I will arrive in Helsinki whenever the train pulls into the station. My host Arto knew that I would be arriving late because he told me that on the news, the weather in the north was creating havoc with the roads and the snow was causing major traffic tie-ups. Hence my originally scheduled arrival time of 10.58 p.m. was pushed back till 04.30 a.m. Sigh. Since Norway is an hour behind Finland time, you can say that I had been in transit for over twenty-four hours without sleeping. When I got to Arto’s I was exhausted.
Today I go to the big Helsinki bookstores and then tomorrow night Arto and I are off for a full day cruise and trip to Tallinn, Estonia. Sleep on board then we have the day to shop and see the sights in Old and new Tallinn.