You are looking at a 1973 LADA 21012 – a car not sold to private individuals in the USSR and one of only two left in Norway. Ronny, its proud owner, is all about the Soviet era and can beat any Swede with his passion towards American classic cars, Ronny drives a Soviet dream, a dream not even available in the Soviet union itself.
The LADA is all original, everything from headlights to the tool box in the boot! Everything is just as it was back in 1973 when for reasons unknown to man the vehicle was put on a container ship and sent off to serve the Vikings.
I don’t think this story would ever have seen the light if not for Ronny’s obsession with the car, he’s done a very good job keeping it original.
He was kind enough to take me and my friend Stina for a ride across Tromso, I immediately felt 20 years younger!
I remember the sound of the engine, the smell of petrol all around the car that used to make me feel sick when I was a small kid… the Lada 2105 I bought when I turned 20 and which exhibited pretty much all the character of this 40-year old Lada… that was an amazing day in Tromso, I’d very much like to thank Ronny for making it happen!
Welcome to Narvik – population 20000, a place that Sweeden needs to be shipping their Kiruna steel from. A place with nothing to do except for killing time and even that would be hard to do.
I arrived to Narvik on a Friday night to learn that no bar is open until late at night and until that time I was trying to find at least something to do or see… ah I wished:) But let’s see Narvik in all its glory!
Life here revolves around the port, and the rail terminal, a third of the population here must be working on either of the two, the few others must be hunters and fishermen. I don’t really know whether it’s the weather that was the reason why I arrived to and left Narvik with this impression but with the beautiful Lofoten just a few hours’ drive away, why would you ever go here… I walked the empty streets (of a Friday night! FRIDAY NIGHT!!!) and fell asleep, the next morning was even more depressing than the night before and this was the end of Narvik for me.
Oh yes, and one day they’ll finish building the bridge, the bridge is destined to become the most significant attraction of the town!
A Day of Swedish Nostalgia
I could not wait to go back to Tromso but while I was near Sweden I’ve decided to go there and spend a day by a like, I’ve grown to realise that I was seriously missing lakes. Norway is a beautiful country with its fjords and mountains but Sweden meats it hands down (and is beaten hands down by Finland!).
Just as I decided to head back to Tromso the skies cleared out, I headed “back” towards Kiruna along the very train line that brings iron pellets from Kiruna to Narvik, every 40 minutes or so a train whizzed passed me.
I don’t know who drew borders between countries but whoever it was he had a concept of what people of each country liked to see out of their windows. In Norway it’s are rock of old mountains, tiny streams and mountain lakes. And all of that will disappear once you cross the invisible frontier of Sweden!
In a matter of a kilometre or two the typical Norwegian landscapes are gone without a trace and are replaced by typical Swedish lakes and forests. Mountains “grow” trees on their slopes as if the God was making sure that it’s Sweden and not Norway! I can not understand how it’s possible, I mean you can be driving for hundreds of kilometers across Norway and the scenery won’t change much at all but drive passed the booth with the Swedish flag on it and you’re in a different landscape what so ever! It’s unbelievable!
That night I had the coldest bath imaginable in freezing-cold water of a Northern Swedish lake followed by what’s now is a traditional fire-brewed tea. The next morning I departed towards one of my favourite Norwegian cities – Tromsø. Along the way I’ll speak to sheep, get the car planted in quick sands of the Norwegian Sea and have it pulled out by a grim Norwegian farmer.
To Andenes and Beyond. I am writing these words from Tromsø, a long time since the moment when I left Lofoten, it snows in the mornings and all the beautiful views have been replaced with endless Autumn rains.
Life does not stop to wait until you’ve done what you planned to accomplish, winter will come whether you’re ready or not bringing with it the Autumn rain which will was away any foundation of what you’re yet to achieve so hurry up if you have plans, may be some of them will be accomplished;)
It was time to move back North towards Tromso and on the way I was planning to see the island of Andoya with it’s town of Andenes where thousands of tourists go on whale watching tours every year.
The Rolf’s Bar
Somewhere near the town of Kvamsøy on a rocky beach of the Norwegian Sea There is a bar. Rolf’s Bar. You on’t find it on trip adviser, it’s a small hand-built hut with… a bar, that’s all there is to it. Norway is such an amazing place, the fact there are so few people for such a vast piece of land means those who seek setting their foot into the wilderness or building a little surfer’s asylum can do it here without a problem! I even started thinking of building my own themed hut here!
Inside is a stove, a real bar full of tools and drinks – all contributed to by visitors and this is another thing that made me feel so much in Europe… Europe that I always dreamt of and the one I have not seen! Europe as a place of charitable and kind people, who leave bottles of drinks here with notes wishing all the best to people who will get a chance to use them! This is my Europe boys and girls, the Europe which is now being destroyed but parts of it can still be found frozen into the shores of Norwegian sea!
I stayed there for a night, enjoyed the sunset and beautiful sea views. Next to Rolf’s bar there is a modern glass cube built for people who would like to spend a night by the sea and enjoy sunset. Heh, there was a young couple staying there trying to get some privacy, I and a couple from Holland who stayed next to me had the front seats:)
Mushroom Season in Norway
On my way from Rolf’s Bar to Andenes I stopped for a little break and a few photos and noticed a mushroom, it was a rather healthy-looking Boletus, a delicious fungi to have with fried potatoes and soured cream. I stopped for an hour and picked a few. These few have been the tiniest mushrooms I will have seen in on the trip!
Who would have thought that for the next week I’d be eating almost entirely foraged food. Mushrooms were everywhere I looked! Large, enormous fungi! At some point I stopped picking them and started simply taking photos, I have never seen that many mushrooms in my life and I mean in my entire life put together!!!
There were Boletus, Porcinis, Penny Buns – you name them! Some almost the size of my head!
If you are ever in these placer in Aug-Sep you must read a book on edible mushrooms before you set off! Knowing what you can and, most importantly can’t pick, will make your trip more enjoyable and cheaper too!
It is here where I finally got a good use of my Finnish find – a cast iron pot! Make a fire, load the pot with ‘shrooms, butter, potatoes and an onion, wait half an hour and enjoy your meal! How do you like my “food on Instagram”?;)
Then came Sortland – a promising-looking town, probably the largest town North of Lofoten but which later turned out to be a depressing place, I spent two days around it and I can’t find a worst place to be on the whole island of Langøya. There isn’t really even a photo to post here!
Of course all this trip has been made for the sake of Andenes – a northern-most town in Lofoten archipelago (technically it’s not Lofoten but it really is part of the group of islands). Andenes is where people arrive in their thousands to go on whale safari and puffin watching.
Needless to say that I did not even bother with either whales of puffins. Andenes is good enough just as it is! It’s a place where an old jail has been converted into a pub, a place with an amazing iron lighthouse, a town where you can simply enjoy staying for a week walking around, doing fishing, talking to countless tourists and somewhat shy locals.
I was at a local cafe where I noticed a lady I’ve seen before, Kim was one of the ladies I mentioned in my Viking take from my second day at Lofoten, what were the chances of meeting her here ah? It turns out Kim was a proud resident of Andenes, I enjoyed the next two days meeting her for walks and stories, she told me that she was a vintage clothes designer, now, may of you hipsters are thinking vests and beard bands, no way! Kim is a whole mile Viking clothes designer! I was seriously impressed by her sketches!
She had a special way of seeing people in traditional clothes, she could then apply her imagination and come up with a new “traditional” design that would fit the person she’s just met!
Many designers should now feel envy of Kim’s talent. I seriously think she is one of the more talented people out there.
Kim was a chest full of treasures. Reserved and, like many Norwegians, incredibly quiet and shy. But dig deeper and you’d be rewarded with a personal world full of ideas and talents to make those ideas happen.
I know, I know, everyone has seen a rainbow, but hey, I’m a city boy, facing something like this is a bit like seeing a unicorn for me! Each and every rainbow is a once in a lifetime vision, it won’t ever happen the same way again so if you had a chance to snatch a photo – why not enjoy int! I certainly did enjoy loads of posing while the rainbow was still being seen:)
The Iron Lighthouse
A big attraction at Andenes is the lighthouse made of steel, it’s a beautiful industrial-looking structure, fully automated and if you get a right position you can get a very nice photo of it in the evening (which I did not:). I kept hoping for good weather to finally get that photo taken but as they say, if you wanna make God laugh – tell him about your plans. The light house kept its beauty to itself, all I got was this time lapse which I had to glue from a few pieces as the wind kept blowing the camera off the tripod.
I was leaving Andenes being pushed away by endless autumn rains, I did not know at the time that it was a begging of a long and very unpleasant period in my journey – the time when I’d be spending most of the days at cafes or in my car reading, the rain would not stop until well into October but at this time I did not know that, I was driving through rainy tundra hoping to soon reach Tromso and and finally see the Northern lights. What I did not know is that I was over a month away from the first sunny day in the North of Norway.
While I was climbing the “666” something flicked in my mind and I was enlightened with an understanding of what made me so unhappy in London and its Corporate culture. For years I was made to feel that “the better is ahead of us”, that I need to endure the struggle for perfection and Corporate excellence before I’d be allowed a yet another piece of food from the Corporate feeder but most importantly – it’s being able to connect with people that the Corporate culture is so good in moderating.
A Ticket to Personal Fulfilment
No one is made to work in an office environment – office space is a modern form of slavery, it completes the matrix where people are bound to perform mandatory labour through the very structure of the society they live in. Through student loans, mortgages, educational system itself, useless and pointless laws and “trends” they are all slotted in their office chairs.
A trip like the one I took was essential for me to realise that. It’s not like I did not know how the world works before but sometimes you need to take an obvious step to give yourself that boost of confidence that your understanding of this world is correct. It’s a little like going for an evening run to think over a deal or a major decision in life such as like buying a house – you know that you know the answer but to make that decision you just need that run.
This trip has brought me to Lofoten, a place where I am independent, where I don’t owe anything to anyone and no one owes anything to me.
For years I was in a job earning good money but I knew 100% that I was destined for more, I knew I was more qualified than anyone around me, I knew what I lacked among what the job had to offer and as a solution of that I saw change of the job – it looked logical to me, sure thing, I graduated from two major universities to know that!
But I was wrong. The solution to getting recognition and taking what is yours is not in getting another job – another job will be just like the one you left, most likely. The solution to being unsatisfied in you workplace for years is leaving the industry. I needed to destroy the boundaries that the system imposed on me because once you’re in a matrix you will never be strong enough to leave it.
The system knows where you “belong” and won’t let you challenge that for the sake of its own integrity. Who are you? A corporate VP… no you can’t go and do that job (… “yet”) because it’s what DIRs do, and the system does not care whether you won’t wait for 6 years to do what you want and can do today.
The solution to all that is… Lofoten. I am standing at the 666m height and I no longer belong to the system. I don’t have a loan, all my belongings are the car, the cash, the clothes that I wear and the freedom – endless freedom to stand here and watch the beautiful and FREE world beneath my feet.
It is FREE because I don’t need to pay for the mountain and anything I need to pay for does not require me being a slave to the system. Believe me, the world is a source of infinite finance, you can do so much more than what the system lead you to believe.
Just think about it, imagine you’re a senior VP in a bank and to do something you want to do the bank would expect you to do a 2-year course of something like a CFA or an MBA to become a Director… at some point just to be able to face a client…really?
Let me tell you one thing, here in the mountains I realised that to talk to a “client” all you need is to come and talk to that guy. That’s all. You don’t need to be a VP or an MD… or work for a corporation what so ever. And if what I am saying is true then the whole system is wrong. At least in the real world.
So much needs to be said about Tromsø – a northern Norwegian town, a place deep in the Arctic where oil engineers, construction builders, marine biologists and people from all sorts of interesting walks of lives live together.
Tromsø is somewhat special, it’s a unique place where Arctic nature battles warm waters of gulf stream creating a unique place for people to exist and those who exist here are special too!
The town has drawn into its nets fishermen, oil drillers, satellite engineers and adventure seekers from all over the world. This is a truly special place but to see that you need to break away from the swarms of tourists flooding its main harbour.
Tromsø meets me with cold rain that lasted forever. It is in the region of 12 degrees in its warmest month of the year, my whole life gets wet and starts to shiver and guess what the locals do? Right, they’re taking their dogs for a walk… without rain coats and without umbrellas! Basically, the only place where I saw an umbrella here was a souvenir shop. If you need an umbrella when it rains Tromsø is not a place for you.
It is in this rain where I met a lady called Stina who draws and paints the most amazing Arctic scenes and animals I have EVER seen!
And you need to know her story. A few years ago her life has been put upside down and in another person it would lead to a drama but not with Stina. She could not to what she loved most – be outdoors, active, fish and hunt, she had to spend a year at home and most would have given up at this point but Stina takes a pencil in her hand and she draws the most amazing looking lion portrait! She joins an art gallery and starts selling her paintings and drawings which depict wild life and nature of the Arctic.
The thing here is that Stina unlike most artists have actually seen this wild life, she’s not someone who’s sitting in his tiny room in Paris drinking Absinth getting inspirations for his creations in cocaine-infused dreams – Stina has seen all the wildlife she paints for real! Well, maybe apart from that lion but the lion is so realistic and stunning because in his eyes you see the look of a wild animal – something that Stina is no stranger to.
So if you are in Tromsø – try visiting Galleri Nord, it’s right next to Radisson Blu and the post office, just say hi from Serge and Stina will open the door into the fascinating frozen world of huskies, Arctic foxes, northern lights and the amazing polar bears which will look at you as if they are about to jump off the sheet of paper! It’s worth it, believe me.
The Magic of Tromsø
Tromsø lives according to vibrations of Arctic life and the industries that make it. Tell me, what makes Paris or London? I’ll tell you – nothing – millions of people all doing things which are of little or no importance to this world, even the smell of freshly baked bread no longer makes a statement because English bread is baked in massive bakeries somewhere behind a wire fence in Midlands.Our biggest cities are melting pots with nothing of taste there. Not Tromsø!
Tromsø wakes up to the sounds of fishing boats departing its harbours, seagulls seem to command this process.
First planes land at the airport, jets that take people from Oslo but most importanty small propeller planes connecting smaller regional centres. Come to the airport in the morning and walk out, passed taxis, to a petrol station and look around yourself? This is not Heathrow with its 5 terminals of wired fence, armed police with search dogs and plastic bags for liquids over 100ml – Tromsø airport is guarded by the mighty mountains with their snow caps, glaciers and all-seeing hawks.
Just stay there and see a plane land, if it’s a propeller plane you shall hear it’s chopping sound long before it approaches, if it’s a jumbo jet it will seem to dwarf the entire airport! And if you are lucky, Norwegian military pilots will fly their machines a hair above the watch tower – that’s what happened to me and it was amazing! We are the one here and we are all connected through our deeds and through our ties with the Arctics.
Tromsø is a really busy city during the long days of short summers – everything that needs building or fixing has got to be built and fixed before winter binds everything in ice. So central Tromsø reminded me of what I think the 1955 Berlin looked like – not quite 1945 but still rebuilding:)
You see, if you look at what makes up Tromsø you’ll see ruined roads, industrial-style infrastructure and peeling house paint battered by ice and Arctic winds, all these things don’t look particularly pretty but then it is so extreme that it becomes the “beauty” in itself!
There are no cobalt stone roads where they used a nail file to assure the perfect fit of things together. Everything is build to last… a winter or two but it’s also built so that you can survive that winter! These things aren’t pretty by any stretch of imagination but then once you’ve been here long enough this becomes the new style!
I spent a few amazing days in this town, waking up and falling asleep to the sound of massive ships, cruise liners, fishing trawlers and cargo ships – they all remind you of who owns the Northern seas!
There are a few things you need to know in Tromso:
Alcohol is ridiculously expensive, expect to pay North of 8 Euro for a glass of beer in a bar and you won’t pay less than 10 Euro for the same in a restaurant. But, if you manage to figure it out you’ll find out that once a week there is a cheap beer day here, but I won’t tell you where exactly;) Cheap means you pay 7 Euro for a pint of local lager – not bad, maybe you’ll even have spare coins to buy one for a pretty lady of which there are many here.
Car traffic is insane, there are seemingly no rules apart from that you need to give way to cars on your right! This means you may be driving down a wide open road and some idiots joining from a residential street with 30kph speed limit will drive into you at full speed, just because they consider themselves being on your right. There are few signs and no road markings (snow!).
Same drivers won’t ever let you join a line of traffic, I think there is a different concept of politeness here. If it’s their way they won’t move an inch to let you in.
You’re somewhere nice taking photos, someone pulls up next to you, opens a book and reads it while keeping his engine running! They are immune to noise here! The reason – I guess you do it in winter.
People will come and talk to you. They will just come forward, tell you what has just happened to them like they’ve seen a trout or a fox and then walk away before you had a chance to say anything back. I actually quite liked this Northern way. Samis are especially big in this.
The coolest thing about the way they speak it when they say “Yeah” they do it on both the exhale and the inhale… if you hear the “inhaling yeah” this means they’re particularly approving something.
I spent long hours walking up and down the steep streets of the town and could not get enough of it, but at the same time I was not sure that living here permanently would be a great idea, it is beginning of August and I can already feel cold bites in the evenings.
A Story of Two Guys and 5 Fishes
I was at the harbour taking this timelapse, actually watching the camera while it does the job, I still can not get used to the fact that people don’t steal here. And while I walked around the pier a man approaches me and starts saying something. Having discovered that I don’t speak Norwegian he continues in English like no problem at all. His narrative is about the thee massive salmons he’s just seen off the cape, he describes the sizes and where exactly he’d seen them… then walks away.
Another day I was by a bridge washing my shoes in the river, another man approaches me speaking Norwegian then switches into English telling me… that he’s just sen two massive fishes “right there”, one of them was a big cod and the other – a smaller salmon. The man finishes his story with the concern over the fact that there is no lock on the river and that tide brings sea water in, I mentioned that it’s probably an expensive project and the man replies with a phrase which made me really wonder about my entire previous life in Britain… he says “… but it’s only the money”!
You see, when something is done in Britain they’d write about it in such a way “We have just completed building a 20’000’000 GBP dam”, or “we’ve just invested 3bn into healthcare”, they don’t even know what exactly has been done – what the dam was built for or how many people they treated with those 2bn in healthcare – they only think MONEY!
Not so much in Scandinavia and I love it! Thee people think good deeds, for them money is “just money”.
For the Boys… and Scandinavian Girls!
There’s one place you should go to, it is a 160 year old fishing and hunting shop called Andersens Vaabenforretning and it is simply a fantastic man’s den! This is the place where you can get anything for your fishing or hunting needs but also it’s where you can buy a true Norwegian knife!
…and a Swedish Axe! Yes, a Swedish axe which I could not find anywhere in Sweden!
Is it expensive? You betcha! But an axe or a knife is only an equivalent of 12 glasses of beer… do you now see why they all drive Teslas?
The Two Amazing Nights
Tromsø is so affected by the Arctic climate that you never know whether you’re about to see Northern Lights, be snowed under or end up in a cloud – this is what happened to me.
One evening I experienced a stunning sunset, the other – a cloud descended from the mountains and completely blot-out the city! The town was cocooned in thick and very humid fog… but make no mistake this isn’t fog, it’s a real cloud and inside of this could amazing things happen. I walked across the bridge that connects Tromsø with the mainland and I could not resist to grab some dripping water from the bridge’s railings, have you drank a cloud? Well, I have.
And I’m sure if you stay here for longer you will write a book about the weather, it really does have so much influence on Tromsø.
What else can I say about Tromsø – it’s an industrial town, it’s rough around the edges, you won’t get a frappuccino here and if you will then you won’t have enough money left for your Norwegian knife.
Clubbing… forget about clubbing here, it’s not what you’ve seen in London.
Life here is tough, traffic is insane, people are rough… and unpredictable, the weather is rough… and unpredictable… but
But if you see beyond all this you will find real people, the people who fell victims of natural selection in fake worlds of London, Paris, New York… you won’t ever come back to them because their religion will no longer make sense.
It’s only here where you can see what your real self looks like, it’s here where the strength of your character will expose yourself and you will be given that one chance in life to meet real people at the real place called Tromsø.
Don’t miss it!
(Serge Fog, 1-6 August 2016 )
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