We arrived in Amsterdam last night, but before my short-term memory fills up with Dutch food and landscapes and experiences, I’ll write about our last few days in Scandinavia.
The day after we saw The Lights, we had a play with the kick-sleds we’d borrowed from our host, Benko. He advised Greg that they worked best on an icy surface and told him that we should take them down to the road. So yeah, we went and played on the road. Cool.
It’s quite easy to get a good speed up with those things, it’s just that stopping can be a problem. I didn’t need to resort to throwing myself into the snow banks by the side of the road, thankfully. Benko lit the fire in his BBQ hut for us, so we went and sat in there for a while, on the benches lined with reindeer skins around the hut. A bit later in the day, he gave us some moose steak that his wife had shot a few months ago and we had it for dinner, sauteed in butter. By then, we were also watching more Aurora, so we cooked the steak in the cottage rather than down in the BBQ hut.
We went for a walk along one of the cross country ski trails near the cottage. Benko zapped past on skis with his dog Huma, part Husky, part Siberian Laika, to see how his wife was going with her moose hunting. Huma is a good hunting dog, but apparently they had a lot of trouble with her mother, who killed 3 reindeer near their house. The reindeer all belong to the Sami people, and each dead reindeer cost Benko at least AUD$1000. I think that dog has now gone to the big reindeer hunting ground in the sky.
The Aurora on that second night were even better than the previous night. Really vivid and active and amazing. They started just after 5pm, by which time it was completely dark and the moon was just setting, and lasted a couple of hours. Then it got cloudy and while we knew there were probably some spectacular lights happening, we couldn’t see them for the clouds. So that was it, we’ve been lucky enough to see some great Aurora on this trip.
Next day, Wednesday, we drove south towards Lulea. Stopped for lunch at Ikea at Haparanda on the Swedish side of the border with Finland. Ikea is currently renovating their restaurant kitchen, so they were offering a buffet lunch with meatballs, chicken balls and vegie balls plus potato bake & salad. We took a short side-trip back into Finland and south to Kemi, to look at the Snow Castle. We’re too frugal to pay the 15 euros per person to look inside it, let alone stay in the accommodation which starts at 600 euros per night, and we’d already seen its Swedish sister hotel at Jukkasjarvi on our last trip, so we walked around the outside and past the north-ish facing cabins, er, Seaside Glass Villas, with huge glass fronts that have obviously been talked-up as being good for viewing aurora. I still have a problem with places that claim it’s possible to see aurora from behind glass. I wouldn’t accuse them of outright lying, but they’re definitely stretching the truth.
And then back to The Old House at Palange, where we stayed for a couple of nights when we first arrived. We like it there, we like Petr the owner and we knew the place and the procedure, so it all worked well for us, with just an hour’s drive to Lulea to return the car and fly south on Thursday afternoon. We were lucky that we could stay there again, as Petr is flying to Czech Republic today to visit his family.
We had some spare time in Lulea so we drove to have a look at the outside of the Facebook Data Centre, just because we could. I was disappointed that there isn’t a huge ‘thumbs-up’ sign at the entrance, just a small sign that said ‘Facebook Entrance’, but we got a photo of Greg standing beside it. As he pointed out, Lulea is the perfect spot for a data centre with all those thousands of computers … no need for airconditioning, just let the outside air in to keep it all cool.
Returning the Volvo at the airport went smoothly – in the 2 weeks we had the car, we drove just over 1000kms, and used less than a full tank of diesel. It cost us just over AUD $100 to fill the car with 51 litres before we returned it, but that was the first time we’d visited a servo on this trip. Great fuel economy
Our flights to Stockholm and then on to Amsterdam were good. We flew Norwegian and got exit row seats to Stockholm, and then seats 1A and 1B on the flight to to Amsterdam. Which is possibly about as close to the pointy end of a plane as we’re going to get. Norwegian offers free wifi, so Greg had a lovely time watching TV shows and surfing the ‘net and seeing where we were flying, all on his phone.
We stayed at the Tulip Inn last night and had a lovely time at their buffet breakfast this morning. Greg wants to move to The Netherlands because they have chocolate sprinkles on bread for breakfast. And he hasn’t even tried the stroopwafels or appelstroop yet!