The Great (and not so great) North
After a short stop in Tromsø, we have to make a detour to Kiruna, the closest Swedish city : the lock of the starter of the car is broken and makes it difficult to start the vehicle. This is a good occasion to buy provisions of food and alcohol for a decent price. Once Kioki is fixed, we hit the road again to the Great North!
We drive through the infinite roads of Finnmark, the northernmost part of Norway (apart from Svalbard). It is said that this far north live more reindeers than humans. Which I can easily confirm. Landscapes change from birches forests on sandy grounds to mosquitoes swamps and bright eroded hills along the sea. It is easy to imagine how cold is the winter in this part of Europe.
The further north you drive, the less trees you see. As we are getting close to the so-called “Northernmost point of Europe”, landscapes become more and more hostile. Sky becomes grey, oppressive. Trees are like an old memory. The sea along with a strong wind fight against the rugged cliffs. But this portrait of an unbearable wilderness is quickly softened by a thick layer of grass whose hundreds of reindeer feast with. Sometimes, a small wooden house pierce through this monotonous landscape. Sometimes even a whole fishing village. Norwegians are definitely not afraid of loneliness. When all of a sudden something strange breaks through the fog. It looks like a custom toll but … how could that be? It does not take long until we understand that this is the entrance to the northernmost marketing place in Europe : North Crap Cape.
We do not plan to spend any money in this over touristic attraction but still, we remain curious. How much does it cost to be part of the great adventurers that reached the famous cape? Do I read well? I forgot my glasses … What? 235 NOK (32€)… Per person?! Ho, wait! There is a discount if you are not interested to see the over-awesome panoramic movie : only 160 NOK (22€) per person! What a good deal! … Ahem. Anyway, people do not seem to be discouraged by this scam and are queueing to enter… And by the way, North Cape is not the northernmost point in Europe. The northernmost point is Knivskjelloden and is actually not far away. You can reach it after a short walk.
After a good night of rest in the wonderful typical fishing village of Gjesvær we come back to this military-looking border. The previous “wild parking lots” have been destroyed, probably in order to avoid too much “cheaters”. We can anyway park the car along the road. May Loki the trickster god be with us, we will try to enter to the mercantile Valhalla … for free. After a kilometer of a super easy walk, we are already tasting the forbidden fruit. As simple as that. Everything is there, as expected : a huge parking lot filled with buses and camping cars, some “sculptures” to take pictures of and of course the most important, the shopping mall souvenir shop. Beuargh!
We kick ourselves out of this paradise to another more interesting place, to a city of concrete … and colors. Let’s go to Hammerfest! … Alright, this city is not exactly the most exciting place in Norway. After 4PM, Hammerfest is kind of dead. We are however really lucky to enjoy the warm colors of the sunset over the city, see a reindeer eating the grass of the cathedral’s garden and enjoy a coffee offered by a German women in her Café, the only one open. Though I can say that this place was really cool for us! :)
The final goal of this expedition gets closer as Finnmark roads become more and more desert and impressive. Sunlight slowly disappears when we finally reach Grense Jakobselv, a small sandy beach next to Kirkenes, the ultimate border with Russia. In this small bay we are surrounded by Russian and Norwegian troops. It is of course forbidden to take pictures of the military installations and we feel under surveillance like in a cold war movie scenario. Spending the night here between two watchtowers is the kind of experience I have never thought about before.
We survived anyway and have the chance to say hello to some Norwegian soldiers passing by and to try to cross the Russian border (unsuccessfully) without any visa. Russia does not want to see us? Alright, let’s visit Finland then! ;)