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  • nordland rundt

    I'm recently back from a whirlwind trip around Nordland, the Norwegian fylke (county) just to the south of Troms, the county where I live. We've had some dear friends visiting from the states, and it seemed like a great opportunity to get ourselves off the beaten track and show our friends a nice cross-section of northern Norway. We were lucky to have some very nice weather and the autumn colors were pretty spectacular, all of which we got to enjoy from planes, trains, and automobiles - and on foot too, of course.

    Nordland is long and narrow from north to south (the mainland part is so narrow that one of its larger fjords, Tysfjord, ends just 6km from the Swedish border), but it's also home to the famous Lofoten archipelago. The Arctic Circle also cuts through Nordland. We began our journey with a train ride from Bodø to Mo i Rana (after flying to Bodø - there's no train that goes to Tromsø)*, where we rented a car and started heading north. We stayed somewhere new each night and the drives were short, which meant there was time for long pit stops or detours depending on how we were feeling each day - it's an approach I can highly recommend. A few highlights:

    The flight! Flying over northern Norway on a clear day is always a special treat. Tromsø to Bodø is just a quick 45-minute hop.

    Saltfjellet is incredibly unique. The area surrounding this mountain range is all national park, and I'm so glad we got to spend some time here. Going north meant a stop at the bizarre gift shop at Polarsirkelsenteret (situated at the Arctic Circle) before we made it to our lodgings for the night, the charming Saltfjellet Hotell Polarsirkelen (which has a great big common room that's lovely for knitting or reading, for the record). The hotel is surrounded by nature, and it's a short walk from the Lønsdal train station if you don't have a car. This area is incredible for hiking, and the colors are just beautiful in autumn (I feel very lucky that we got to see it like this - as the woman at the hotel said, "one windy night and it's all gone!").

    Wobbly time lapse from Saltstraumen, the world's strongest tidal current. #Saltstraumen

    A video posted by Dianna Walla ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Saltstraumen has one of the strongest tidal currents in the world, and I've been looking forward to seeing it in person for a long time. We arrived at just the right time, as the tide was changing, and the speed of the water and the meandering whirlpools were difficult to wrap my head around. We also got to see some "Saltstraumen safari" boats zig zag and run circles across the water. We stayed a night here at a rental cabin, but on the quiter side of the water at Saltstraumen Brygge (on the peninsula just to the south of the strait - that was our view in the photo directly above).

    Visiting the former mining town of Sulitjelma tucked into the inland mountains on a lake is an experience I'm unlikely to forget. We weren't able to walk through the mine museum, but as mining was an active industry here until 1991, the traces were easy to see.

    And one last highlight: we took a Hurtigruten boat from Svolvær back to Tromsø, and were blessed with clear weather and some very active northern lights that night. Unfortunately, a moving boat + long exposures don't make for the best photos, so I left my camera in the cabin. 

    Aside from the stops, the drives themselves were just beautiful. It's hard not to love long drives down tree-lined roads at this time of year, especially when the pit stops are also beautiful.

    If I haven't convinced you that a road trip through Nordland in autumn is worth it, Van over at Snow in Tromsø went on a roadtrip through Nordland last October and shared a photo essay on her blog. Since she was there a few weeks later in the year than my trip, the mountains all have a lovely dusting of snow.

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    * After having watched Nordlandsbanen minutt for minutt (the slow TV program produced by Norwegian national broadcaster NRK that documents the train journey from Trondheim to Bodø) multiple times, I was really excited to spend three hours on the northern end of the route. Someday we'll do the whole thing. The full journey is 10 hours - I often put it on TV in the background when I'm working, as it's relatively meditative background nosie - and you can check it out here (for free) on the NRK website if you're interested.

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  • first days of september

    Yesterday evening the weather was good and I got to take a nice long walk around Tromsøya (I hope you all enjoy these posts about my walks around Tromsø, because they're often the highlights of my weeks). I know many of you are trying your best to hang on to what's left of summer, but here in the Arctic, fall is truly beginning (and I have to admit I'm quite happy about it). Autumn is a special time in Tromsø. The transitional seasons are short here (snow in September is not unheard of), but somehow that makes the way they mark the passage of time even more special to me. Ephemeral joys, and all that. 

    I love the life cycle of the fireweed. Five weeks ago it was in full bloom, and while there are a few stubborn blossoms still clinging to their stems, now most of the plants have lost their flowers and opened up their seed capsules (I love the silky hairs of the seeds). And in fall, the green leaves turn a vibrant red-orange. Many of the fireweed plants have turned already.

    The leaves on the birches and the rowans have started changing, too. There's still a lot of green - in some places the change is overall and subtle, and in others great tufts of leaves have changed at once. In a few weeks everything will be golden and red.

    Autumn means a return to the most beautiful light. During the midnight sun, the light can be very mundane - the most beautiful time of day to see the sky is the middle of the night, when the sun is low in the sky (and if it's overcast, the sky is just the same all the time). There are no sunsets. I'm so, so excited to have proper sunsets again, because the sky here is so incredible.

    And of course, with sunsets comes a dark night sky again - the return of stars, and the return of one of my favorite things, the northern lights. The sky was clear enough on Friday to see them, even if they weren't very strong.

    So I'm quite content to welcome autumn with open arms. Bring on the changing leaves, the northern lights, and the stars. I'll keep walking with my camera, the closest thing to bringing you along with me.

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