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Coastal Drive to Norway

by Tara

In an effort to duplicate Swedish Pancakes from one of my favorite breakfast places in Champaign, I made crepes this morning, served with Lingonberries. My results were much smaller than the restaurant's due to the size of our saucepan. They were pretty tasty!

Crepes & Lingonberries

As I prepared the batter and cooked breakfast, I thought about the fact that I used to make these almost every morning during the first few months of our trip—it feels like that happened in another lifetime.

While I was reminiscing, Tyler pulled out the camera and scouted around our Arctic river-side free-camp. The forest floor is a universe unto itself.

Here are some itty bitty mushrooms:

Arctic Forest Mushrooms

… and pretty little flowers.

Arctic Flower

There are plenty of giant mosquitoes around, but here is an unusually small one taking a break on some squishy fungi:

Mosquito on Mushroom

We have no idea what these strange alien lifeforms are:

Arctic Forest Floor

Around noon, after much lingering, we left camp and hit the road. As per usual, we spotted an interesting roadside attraction within the first hour! I pulled over when I saw this sign, excited about the small houses behind it, nestled on a hill overlooking a lake.

Handicrafts Cafe

There was an awesome, wonky dug-out home:

Dug-Out Home

…and several cabins with grassy roofs:

Traditional Green Roof

Someday, I hope we have a living roof of our own, complete with a single goat who will leap up and munch away at it (though hopefully steer clear of everything in the garden…) We'll see!

As we wandered around the site, we said things to each other like, "I think I could handle living in a cabin like this." and "Yup, with a crackling wood fire, overlooking the lake, it'd be so homey!", "With a computer over in that corner, though!" After we'd explored the houses, we went into the nearby cafe and souvenir shop where I bought a coffee.

While I drank, we got to talking with the friendly people working there, and they told us all about the settlement. The cabins weren't permanent homes, but were instead places for church-goers to stay when they would come for Sunday mass. In the era when they saw regular use, nomadic peoples would come from miles away, usually only once or twice a year. When they did, they'd spend the night in the cabins.

One of the woman we met told us she was Saami (and so were most of the people in this area). I asked if anyone still lived in the traditional way, and she said, "Oh, there one or two families in Sweden who do, but that is about it." This burst my bubble a little, but such is the way of the world. I like to imagine that people are still herding reindeer and weaving their own clothes while telling stories over a fire, but that just isn't reality.

Our questions answered, we got back in our LRC and continued the trek north and east. As we drove, the landscape changed from pine forests to these strange scrubby trees:

Arctic Road

A little later, we stopped to take photos and feel the chill wind in our faces.

Tara & LRC in the Arctic Tara

And then, with hardly a sign to signify the crossing, we entered Norway. Our destination was the town of Vardø, a small island city at the end of a long coastal road. The family Tyler met while I was sightseeing yesterday had recommended it. We weren't disappointed.

Norwegian Ship & Houses Norwegian Coastal Road LRC in Norway Norwegian Sheep LRC in Norway

My favorite part of the drive was spotting a far-off reindeer herd galloping over a river and up a hill!

Norwegian Reindeer River Crossing Norwegian River

When it came time to visit the island on which the town of Vardø is located, we were confused. We thought we might have to take a ferry, but our GPS indicated the road continuing, probably on a bridge. But when we approached, we didn't see any bridge. What the? WAIT A SECOND. THERE IS A TUNNEL UNDER THE SEA!


In retrospect, it wasn't that big of a deal. The Chunnel from London to Paris is much more impressive feat of engineering. But, at the time, it didn't matter. We were going under the Barents Sea, which really, is the Arctic Ocean! We were driving under the Arctic Ocean!

Under-sea Tunnel to Vardø

We emerged from the tunnel in the town of Vardø, the Easternmost city of Norway; further east even than St. Petersburg or Istanbul. Our route has gotten a little convoluted as of late.

Vardø, Norway Driving Through Vardø

They have a pair of observatories here, no doubt excellent in the winter months when the sun never rises. You're not supposed to take pictures of them, but I did anyway. Whoops!

Vardo Observatory

There wasn't much else to see in Vardø—it was mostly the drive there we had been interested in. So, we found a park on the edge of the island and set up near a campervan who was staying there too. Out by the sea, cuddled in the tent, with a cold wind chilling us all night long, we felt like we were at the edge of the world.

Barents Seaside Free Camp
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Saami Museum


That thing they don't want pictures taken of looks like a radar to me. Based on your location, I'm guessing it's a military installation that was probably of particular strategic importance during the cold war.
Posted by Quentin on July 21st, 2010 at 2:18 AM
Another great article! :) Hope there aren't any spies reading your blog ;)

Those pancakes are making me feel hungry! :)
Posted by Tony on July 21st, 2010 at 10:01 AM
Quentin is right -- your photo shows a highly secret missile-defense radar installation run by the United States. It is not a Cold War relic, but still a strategically important site. You can read about it here: http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/track/980404-have-stare.htm

You might want to take the picture down, since it could theoretically be used in some perverse way to detain you while you are in Russia. It sounds a little paranoid, I know, but stranger things have happened in Russia.

Great blog and great pics! Good luck and I can't wait until you get on your bikes again. I know you love the LRC, but I miss the pace of the bikes.
Posted by Robert on July 22nd, 2010 at 9:29 AM
The Original Pancake House? My wife & I were just there on Sunday... :-)
Posted by Jim on July 22nd, 2010 at 9:44 PM
Very interesting looking place--looks exactly like Newfoundland, actually...(which was first settled by Vikings)...hmmm...
Posted by kanecamp on March 21st, 2013 at 4:35 PM