Monthly Archives: August 2010

Quick Update!

I am writing this in an internet cafe in Oslo…

Svalbard was amazing! I will probably write quite a bit about it when I return and have some time. I also have hundreds of photos to upload, which will also take some time.
Some quick things: I did not see any polar bears :-/ Two kayakers did in June, when one was dragged out of their tent by the bear! I did see lots of other animals though.
I arrived to Oslo yesterday morning and will be taking a train to Stockholm Sunday morning. I will then fly to Tampere from there.

Running out of internet time… so here are two pictures to start.

Utö Weekend

Near the cottage.

Saturday August 7th
My day started at 3:50am when I woke up. I had set my alarm to 4:00am, but I woke up before it anyway. The reason I woke up so early is that I live in Tampere, but had to catch a ferry in Turku at 10:00am. The only train from Tampere to Turku that was available left Tampere around 5:55am. In order to take that train, I had to take a bus to get to the train station. As you might imagine, buses don’t run every 20 minutes in the early morning, so I had two options: one at 4:37am or one at 5:15am. I chose to take the earlier one to be safe. If I chose to take the later one, and managed to miss it (or if the bus was delayed), I would have missed the ferry (which only runs twice a week!)

The first ferry.

I managed to take a nap on the train and arrived to Turku around 7:50am. I found a hotel and went inside to have breakfast. I only had a bowl of cereal around 4, so I was getting hungry again. Around 9:30am I met with the rest of the group next to the ferry. We were a total of six people. The seventh had a bit too much fun the night before and didn’t make it on time. We didn’t find out until late in the afternoon, so some people were worried, but in the end everything was ok.

The island.

The ferry took about 5 hours to reach Utö, making only one stop in another island on the way. We first went to the cottage where we would stay to drop off our things. The cottage was on one side of the island next to one of two military controlled areas. The island used to be occupied by the military, but now everything seems to be monitored and operated remotely. We walked around the island for a while and learned about it. During 2009, there were 35 people living in Utö year round. This number grows in the summer, but it is still a small island. There is one store/post office and one café. There is also a hotel, but I didn’t go inside. The rest consists of small houses around the island, and some military installations in certain areas.

The cottage with security system (At no extra charge!)

Later in the day, we went to a tour of the light house. The lady giving the tour explained about the history of the island, the lighthouse, and a bunch of other things I don’t quite remember. After that, we cooked some food and had a great traditional Finnish dinner. Later on, some friends of one of the organizers that were working on the island came over and hung out.

Sunday August 8th
Since there were thousands of mosquitoes and other bugs around, we had to close the doors overnight. I woke up around 7:30am to some horrible heat. I eventually went outside to listen to music and read. When one of the others woke up, we walked around the island and took pictures while the rest woke up. We later had breakfast and cleaned the cottage before walking around the island again. Eventually it started raining, so we ran back to the cottage. It didn’t last very long though.

Old military watch tower.

Around 2:30pm, we took another ferry home. The one we arrived in had left earlier in the day. The second one was free, but made several stops and finished in the placed the original ferry had stopped. We then waited for a bus to arrive (by ferry) and got on to return to Turku. It was the first time I was on a bus that itself took a ferry. The bus was a bit late, so the driver went extra fast, which resulted in a very bumpy ride. Eventually we arrived to Turku after 9:00pm, where we all went our separate ways.

Monday August 9th
There were no trains or buses back to Tampere that night, so I stayed in a hostel. I woke up at 5:50 in the morning to pack up and have breakfast, before walking to the train station. Unfortunately there was a very large group of tourists that also wanted to have breakfast at 6am, so it took a while. The train left at 7:00am and I arrived to the train station at 6:50am. There was a small line at the ticket counter, but it didn’t seem to be moving, so I tried the ticket machine outside. Unfortunately it only seemed to work in Finnish or Swedish, so I had to ask someone for help. I managed to catch the train and arrived to Tampere around 8:50am. I then took a bus straight to work.

More photos from the trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/apg88/sets/72157624562727287/

Island website: http://www.uto.fi

Vacation

It has been two months since I arrived to Finland. I have two vacation days for every working month, so I decided to use them two weeks from now. I’m not really sure when I will be in this part of the world again, so I decided to take advantage of my geographical location. So where am I going?

The summer weather in Finland has been quite nice. Except for a few very warm days, I have been able to keep my apartment windows open. Most people here don’t think it is warm enough, and would very much like to travel south to have a warm summer. So what do I decide to do? As you might have expected… go north, way north.

There is an archipelago which is part of Norway called Svalbard. It is located north of the Arctic Circle, where it is nice and cold all the time. I found that there is a 5 day kayaking/camping trip in Billefjorden, so I signed up for it. I’ll be leaving Tampere on August 13th around 1am and returning the next Saturday (22nd) at 6:30pm.

This is where I’m going.

It took me quite some time to figure out how to get to Svalbard and back. I am taking a bus from Tampere to Helsinki airport around 1:45am to catch my 7:20am flight to Oslo. From Oslo I will fly to Longyearbyen (in Svalbard) with a stop in Tromsø. The kayaking trip will be from the 14-18th of August. I’m not exactly sure what I will be doing the 19th, since my flight leaves the 20th at 4:05am from Longyearbyen to Tromsø and back to Oslo. I will spend Friday and Saturday in Oslo and on Sunday morning, I will take a train to Stockholm. Finally, I will fly from Stockholm to Tampere, arriving at 6:30pm.

There are many interesting things I have read about Svalbard. For example: There are about 3,000 polar bears so they have a rule. “Anyone outside of settlements is required to carry a rifle to kill polar bears in self defense, as a last resort should they attack”. Svalbard airport in Longyearbyen is also the northernmost airport with public scheduled flights.

The main problem with this trip is that I require some winter clothes, which I left at home… I will try and borrow whatever I can from friends here and the rest I will have to buy unfortunately. Either way, I’m looking forward to the trip and will definitely write about it after I return.

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