Vardø & Karasjhoka River laybyJuly 3, 2017 in Finland
Today we visited the town of Vardø that fills the island of Vardøya and is reached via the 2.9km long subsea Arctic Tunnel. Vardø is the most easterly town in Norway and claims to be the only town in Europe in the true Artic Climatic zone, where the average yearly temperature is less than 10°C and statistically there is no summer. There were no trees to be seen in this large port either, apparently the salt in the air in winter kills them off.
We first visited the Vardøhus fortress, a low level star shaped enclosure with turf topped wooden buildings inside the stone walls, also with grass growing on top of them. We are no fans of fighting and it was saddening to think of the efforts and resources that have been and are still put in to developing weapons designed to kill. It was however interesting to see and learn about the history in the area and how people did things differently, surviving on cloud berries and gulls eggs, travelling accross land on wooden skis with cannons and provisions on sledges. We also learned that in the 1600s people all over Europe believed Vardø was the devil's centre on earth. More than 80 women were burned as witches, after they either confessed under torture or survived being thrown naked with their hands and feet bound into the sea!
The town itself was made up of wooden board houses; their range of colours was cheerful to look down upon from a small hill we climbed. Some buildings, such as the cinema, had a modern appearance with bare wood and large areas of glass. We lunched in the van at the harbour, with its well maintaned fishing boats, watching Common Terns, Oyster Catchers and Eider ducks with their young.
Once we'd eaten, it was back through the tunnel and off the peninsula. On the way we saw several wooden structures by the shore, from which were hanging what we reckon were salt cod. We've seen a number of the frames but never been close enough to be sure what they are.
For the final part of our journey we travelled alongside and camped by the river that acts as a border between Norway and Finland. It was a raging torrent of dark peaty water forced into white standing waves, some of them a metre high as the current forced them over large bedrocks.
It would have been a lovely place to stay had it not been for the mosquitos who barraged us every time we set foot outdoors. We managed to avoid getting bitten when outdoors but despite getting in and out and slamming the van door as quickly as possible behind us the parasites managed to get in, possibly through the large skylight above the bed whose seal isn't airtight. We went to sleep after reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and woke up itchy, having had our blood sucked! There was a particularly large and angry cluster of bites on Vicky's neck...Read more