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!
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:
… and pretty little flowers.
There are plenty of giant mosquitoes around, but here is an unusually small one taking a break on some squishy fungi:
We have no idea what these strange alien lifeforms are:
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.
There was an awesome, wonky dug-out home:
…and several cabins with grassy roofs:
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:
A little later, we stopped to take photos and feel the chill wind in our faces.
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.
My favorite part of the drive was spotting a far-off reindeer herd galloping over a river and up a hill!
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!
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.
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!
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.