Subject: Scandinavia travelogue,part 1

Here follows my travelogue about our( I, my wife and my daughter) 19-day trip to Scandinavia and Germany, from July 23 to August 11.Some photos have been sent to the webmaster for publication in our archives. I'll try to be as concise as possible.

It was , as always, independent travelling , and every reservation had been made individually without the intervention of a travel agent.

A foreword has to be said about transportation. For the first time we tried low cost airlines.

My original itinerary was to fly from Milan, Italy, to Kiruna, Sweden; to visit from there the Lofoten islands of Norway and the Sami land around Kiruna, to fly again to Stockholm, and to fly back to Milan after a second week of vacation.

These three flights would cost #910,00 per head with Alitalia, and somewhat around #780,00 with Scandinavian, if booked at the respective call centers here in Italy.

After some websurfing among low cost airlines websites I managed to build an itinerary that would also take me to Lubeck, Germany from Stockholm . we would then drive from Lubeck to Berlin, spend 3 days there, and fly to Milan. Total cost eventually was 680,00 for THREE persons.

We used Ryanair, Volareweb, and Scandinavian for the Stockholm-Kiruna -and -back leg, since it's the only airline that flies this leg ( but Scandinavian on its international website has terrific rates :for example our return flight was more or less #149,00 for me, #100,00 for my wife and #48,00 for passengers ages less than 16).

Please don't bother me anymore with objections like "low cost airlines fly to smaller, less convenient airports" and "you have to spend a lot in land transportation, and this rises up the final price." Every flight was smooth, on perfect time ( very often flights landed earlier than expected) the planes were exactly the same you would find using a major airline (actually I flew on a very obsolete plane with Olympic in June, and the leg space was miserable).

DAYS 1-3

Of course it's not easy to reach such a distant place. If we chose a triple flight that would take us to the Lofoten in one day ( get up at 4.00 a.m .and arrive around 8.00 p.m.)we would miss the chance of having a stopover in Stockholm and to see the interesting landscape of swedish lappland ( more precisely Sami land, since lapp is not a polite way of calling the people of this arctic area).

On Friday we left Milan Orio al Serio (an airport which is actually in Bergamo, 45 Km northeast of Milan) at 08.45 p.m. and landed in Stockholm Skavsta ( an airport which is actually near Nykoping, 90 km. South of Stockholm) at 11.45 p.m.. A taxi ( #13.00) took us to our hotel less tha a half hour after landing. Park Inn Nykoping is part of the Park Inn chain, a sister company of SAS Radisson. Unlike the latter, we found Park Inn to be expensive, for what you get. Our "business" room was very small, we had to carry our luggage through long corridors. Breakfast was rather good, instead.

At #135,00 I'm sure we could find a better bargain.

On the next morning , after sound sleep, we walked 10 min. to the railway station (actually a tiny country station), and took the 09.55 train to Arlanda airport, that we reached at noon.

A smooth flight , with a stop in Ostersund, took us to funny Kiruna airport at 05.15 p.m. It's one of the tiniest airports I came across, and beautiful ethnic masks hang on the walls of the luggage claim room. We picked up our rental car from Hertz 8 a Ford Focus, intermediate SW, at #525.00 per week unlimited mileage), and drove the short drive to Kiruna town in less than 15 min. This town, which is the largest municipality in all Sweden , was created in 1903 with the completion of a railway to the baltic city of Gallivare for the transportation of iron ore. Iron ore was extracted here since the 17th century, but in absence of roads and railroads it wasn't economical to do it. After 1903 the local mine increased year after year the extraction volumes and great impulse was given by the other stretch of railroad that goes to the Norwegian port of Narvik, where the sea does not freeze in winter. Narvik was so strategically important, that Hitler put all his forces to keep it in german hands after the invasion of Norway, and he succeeded in keeping it until the end of II WW.

The sun never sets here from June 1 to July 15, and it scarcely did on July 25 when we were there.

It's extraordinarily easy , though, to get accustomed to this, and we never had special sleep problems, despite the fact that blinds or curtains are practically unknown up there north.

We checked in at aptly named Hotel Scandic Ferrum (= iron in Latin),and got to our large and comfortable room with a small bathroom that cost us about #121,00.

After a nice dinner at the restaurant of the hotel ( it seemed the only place with the appearance of a real restaurant), and a quick waling tour of the unimpressive town center, we went to sleep).

On Sunday morning ( we were forced to skip Holy Mass since there isn't obviously any catholic church at these latitudes), we were ready to leave for the 400 Km drive that would lead us to our rorbu ( more about later ) in Henningsvaer. The weather was rather bad this morning, with constant drizzling and low clouds. After 95 Km on the E 10 international road ( actually a two lane basic road) we passed Abisko Turiststation, where we would have a two night stop some days later. With that weather and with 9C it seemed really an inhospitable place.

Shortly after Abisko we passed the ( almost virtual) Swedish / Norwegian border, in an area where alpine skiing is practiced in the long winters, and the landscape changed abruptly : rather than rolling green hills ( with small trees because here trees don't have the time to grow very tall), on the Norwegian side you're surrounded by imposing vistas of rocks, and on this rocks there are sparse weekend homes painted in yellow, red, gray or green, each with its national flag. These houses are built on poles, since there is practically no land to build something on, apart from rocks. A strange and interesting area.

This peculiar landscape is only seen for some Kms , then the descent brings you in a half hour to the sea, and on the E 6 road to the rather unimpressive town of Narvik. After some 80 more Kms you're forced to take one first ferry for a 25 min. hop from Skarbergen to Bognes. The following stretch of road especially in the section that bends away from E 6 to reach Skutvik is absolutely nice. In Skutvik we boarded a second ferry that leads in 2 hrs , after a short stop in the tiny island of Skrova, to Svolvaer , the "capital"of the Lofoten islands. Actually it's the largest town, with more than 2000 inhabitants, while the other municipalities in the islands are more in the 50 to 500 inhabitants bracket. The voyage is gorgeous, with layers beyond layers of mountains in the misty horizon.. As you approach the islands, you have an idea of how they're unique, with tall mountains rising steeply from the sea.

Before 07.00 p.m. we were at Henningsvaer Rorbuer in Henningsvaer. Rorbu ( pl.rorbuer) is a norwegian word that identifies a dwelling on poles, used until the 1970s by fishermen in the cod fishing industry.

Thousands of fishermen flocked here in the months of February and March each year from all of Norway and from other countries, for the big annual fish. Cod was then hung to dry and then packed and shipped all over the world, Italy being the main importer , followed by Nigeria.

Interesting photos and many paintings dating from the late 1800s and the early 1900s can be admired in the numerous local galleries.

When the new fishing techniques were adopted, the big work being made by large ships on which all the phases of the preparation are held, and also hosting the fishermen on the ships, this being of course impossible on small fishing smacks, these rorbuer where done up, the interiors modernized, and the tourists began to rent them.

Our rorbu was rearranged to host four people in two separate bedrooms, but these bedrooms, the two bathrooms and the living room-including-kitchenette are so small, that claustrophobic people couldn't tolerate to stay in them. And of course it's difficult to prepare real meals. But we'll eventually go through it, anyway. The cost for four nights including linen and towels rent ( it is customary that one should bring his own linen and towels in cabins or homes in Scandinavia), and final cleaning of the rorbu, was about #620.00.

Henningsvaer Rorbuer is set in a secluded place, at the very end of the road that passes through the whole village. The village itself is tucked away at the end of a road that forks out of the E 10 some 17 Kms from Svolvaer. Until 1982 you only could reach Henningsvaer by boat. It's called the Venice of the Lofoten, because it's made of a series of tiny islands connected by bridges and it has a magnificent port in the form of a channel obtained by closing an area of sea with a dam. From the dam you get a splendid view of it all. By all means it's one of the most magic places in the islands.

More later, ciao Leonardo from Italy