Unique wildlife

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Svalbard has a rather big population of ice bears, but you do not get the right picture if you only focus on ice bears – there are so many other animals that you can see here. I already talked about the Svalbard reindeer I saw at Isfjord Radio. It is almost like “Garden Edens” since they are not afraid of humans.
The same is with the grouse (Rype) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lagopus_muta_-Iceland-8.jpg , that you can get so close that you almost can pick them up from the ground.
Another animal is the Arctic Fox. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_fox   It is a cute little fox that is totally white during the winter. I found this little chap at the reception. Arctic FoxSvalbard2 007

You find furs and skins everywhere. Svabard always attracted Trappers. They came to hunt and trap and then sold the skins. Normally they had a “Trappe’s station” with many smaller huts with only a fire place and a bed in the area. So they could ski around in the area and check the traps.
Trapper station
The Ice Bear is of course the King of the Island. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bear When it was allowed to hunt the polar bear, it was so hard hunted that there was only a couple of bears left. Between 1965 and 1973 the ice bear was protected in Norway and since 1973 it is totally banned. Ice bears can only be shot in self-defense. This made the population is strong again. Ice bears are cute – especially when they are small, but they are very dangerous animals and in case you are attacked by an ice bear you will probably not survive, Therefore you must carry a rifle when you are outside Longyearbyen. When we went to the dog yard our guide had her rifle between us in the front of the car.
RifleOur guide

It is a bit unusual feeling. You also see notes at the shops where they ask the customers to leave the gun and rifle outside.
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Seal meat has always been important for the people at Svalbard and still they use the meat to feed the sledge dogs. Earlier the trapper always had seal meat outside the cabin. It attracted the ice bear and it was easy to shoot for the trapper. When the ice bear was protected, the trapper had to hang the seals so the ice bear could not get them and it should not be close to the trapper’s cabin. It could look like this when the trapper stored seal meat for the winter.
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You find all kind of seals on Svalbard and they are also hunted.This is the curious harbour seal.
Harbor seal

At the Restaurant Kroa the table cloth is from seal skin and if you turn them around it is written like this.
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Walrus is also an animal you can meet on Svalbard. The Walrus is a very social animal and they love to lay side by side and have “close contact” to the other Walruses’.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walrus

 

Svalbard – the wild North

Svalbard 001The first snow

Even if Svalbard is a remote place, situated between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, it is really easy to go there. From Oslo you fly either direct or via Tromsö to the Longyearbyen Airport. The flight takes between 3-4 hours. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svalbard

When you arrive, you immediately feel that this area is totally different to other places in Norway or Scandinavia. Surprisingly you hear all kind of languages when you walk on the shopping street and it is not tourists. It is people that come from all over the world to work and live here. The University is well known and has a good reputation. The city is “young”. Even if I feel that I am at the end of the world, I hear loud dance music from the bar next door. It is Friday evening and the night just started.

Since my day started early, I will go to bed now. I really enjoy my cozy room at Basecamp, Trapper’s Hotel.
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I am looking forward to tomorrow!

Hurtigruten – the original coastal voyage

My colleagues know that I am a better person in the afternoon, ie. I am not quite as nice in the mornings. Therefore they booked breakfast for me on board Hurtigruten in the morning! Thank you!
I started my trip in Harstad at 8.30 and had a lovely breakfast while we left for the Vesteraalen Islands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurtigruten.
Unfortunately, the weather was grey and foggy so I did not make any pictures.
We arrived in Stokmarknes and in the harbor you find the Hurtigruten Museum. It is a museum free of charge for Hurtigruten travelers. Here it is possible to go on board on one of the old Hurtigruten ships and to learn about the importance of the Hurtigrute for the people living in the remote norwegian coast.
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At 18.00 we arrived in Svolvaer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svolv%C3%A6r , the capital of Lofotenhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lofoten . Immediately I took the bus down to the southern part of Lofoten. The more south you come, the smaller and more winding the roads get. The more south you come, the more stunning the nature is and you have a feeling you are “in” the nature.
In Tind, 500 meters from Å (Å is the small village where the road ends), Haman Group has a small rorbu-cabin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorbu For me, Tind is the paradise on Earth!!!
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Goodbye Sweden – Hello Norway

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Abisko is very close to the Norwegian boarder so when I left I headed west and very soon I were in Norway. There are two ways of going from Sweden to Norway here. One possibility is by car and the other by train. The first time I came here was about 20 years ago and then I went by train http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Ore_Line. I still remember that I wanted to write in my diary during the train ride, but had to stop because it was so beautiful outside that I just had to look out. Some 10 years later I was here again and full of joy I drove my car from Sweden to Norway and was so disappointed because by car you miss this incredible beauty. So now, another 10 years later, I go by train.
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I left Abisko together with a Chinese student. We talked a bit during the tour. When we crossed the Swedish-Norwegian boarder and we saw the first glimpse of the Rombaksfjord he just turned to me and said; – You must be very proud living in this country. I don’t know if he ment Sweden or Norway, but it doesn’t matter, I live in both countries. And Yes, I am very proud of my part of the world!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rombaken

Narvik has a very interesting history, but unfortunately I had just some minutes to catch the bus to Harstad and arrived there in the evening.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narvik
Tomorrow I will embark the Hurtigrute and sail through the Vesteraalen Islands to Lofoten.

Arriving in Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi

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In the evening I arrived in Kiruna, a city mainly known for its important iron ore. During World War II this iron played an important role even if Sweden did not participate actively in the war. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiruna.

Today travelers come to Kiruna to visit Jukkasjärvi (18 km outside Kiruna) and the ICEHOTEL http://icehotel.com/
My first impression is that this is a really well organized and professional place. Everything is logic, effective, designed and “makes sense”.
There are guests from all over the world and it is a kind of strange to find a small village in a middle of Lapland that is like a melting pot of people from all over the world. The last time I felt equally international must have been on the Dubai Airport.
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Arriving at the ICEHOTEL I was warmly welcomed by Beatrice, from the Press and Marketing department at the ICEHOTEL. We had a fantastic dinner (I feel like an old gramophone that repeat myself all the time) and we had capercaille. My spell check keep on showing a spelling error but it is not – it is obviously a very rare word. See here … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capercaille You can eat them and it was good!
At the ICEHOTEL the main chef is a globetrotter and extremely good, experienced and internationally trained in his profession.

My plan was to sleep in one of the cold rooms of the ICEHOTEL and I needed some mental build-up and that gave me the best reason in the world to visit the bar.
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2 glasses of wine later and it was almost midnight, I decided it is time to go to bed. It was an experience to sleep in a room made of snow and ice. You sleep in a thermal sleeping bag on a bed built by ice blocks, a wooden frame, mattress and it is topped with reindeer skins.
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In ICEHOTEL it never gets colder than –5 to -8ºC, regardless of the fact that the outdoor temperature sometimes drops down to -30º. After a bit of practicing how to keep my face warm by wrapping the sheets around it but still have free space in front of the mouth I slept the whole night. In the morning a lovely lady woke me up with a cup of warm lingonberry juice.
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The ICEHOTEL is a unique hotel and product with a lot of things to do. I tried Ice driving that is not only a lot of fun; it is also a good training if you drive on snowy roads like I do.
Fredrik showed me some exercises with the four-wheel-drive Mini’s he has in Jukkasjärvi.
At the end we changed seats and he drove… WOW! I have a lot to learn how to drive on ice.

Follow me!

Scandinavia during winter time – YES!!!
Follow me on my trip in northern Scandinavia in January. During two weeks, I will stay north of the Arctic Circle and explore possibilities in Sweden and Norway on my own.
Starting with a flight to Luleå and probably visiting the TREE HOTEL, the ICE HOTEL, ABISKO, HARSTAD, HURTIGRUTE AND LOFOTEN.

I will test the best and most special accommodations, travel with public transportation, hitchhike, eat the best meals and meet locals. JOIN ME!

Anette Karlsson
General Manager
HamanGroup

HamanGroup AS consists of Haman Scandinavia AS, Terra Nova Scandinavia AS, Authentic Scandinavia AS and Scandinavian Incentives AB with offices in Oslo and Stockholm.