Scandinavia (2021): From Thuringia to the North Cape and back

Alta – Rock Carvings and Cowboys

If you search the Internet for sights in Alta, you will find, among other things, a church with a very peculiar modern architectural style, or to judge it subjectively, a very ugly church. But since we would drive past this church anyway, we decided to make a short stop there. The church looks a bit like something out of a science fiction film, which is also due to the fact that it has a completely silver-metallic shine, as if it had been wrapped in aluminum foil. On site, there was also the fact that you would have to pay the equivalent of about 10€ entrance fee if you wanted to see the church from the inside. That was certainly too much of a good thing and so we left it at that to walk around the church. After all, there was a very nice and well-kept area with public fitness equipment next to the church. I’ve been wishing for something like this for Weimar for a long time.

Arguably the biggest attraction in Alta was the Alta Museum, which was built around ancient rock carvings from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. This is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is of course a must-visit in Alta. The museum is divided into a museum building with finds and exhibitions and an outdoor area with the actual rock carvings. There are two routes of different lengths, one long and one short, along which you can admire the different drawings. We decided to just walk both routes to see everything, although you had to turn around at one point on the long route because there was construction work there. At the entrance to the museum you can choose whether you want an audio guide for a surcharge or whether a flyer is enough, but where all the information is on it. We chose the latter of the two options and read the texts to each other at the respective points. On the short route there was a fairly large group of French tourists who all had audio guides and partially blocked the paths on the thin bridges, but the problem was then solved on the long route. Strictly speaking, the rock carvings themselves were rock carvings, since images were carved into the stone and it is unclear to what extent colors were used. Since these scratches were not always easy to see, some of them were “filled in” with red paint. In the middle, the question came up whether it was a good idea to simply trace these old scratches with paint and so it was left halfway, which is why some drawings were red and others remained natural. All in all, the Alta Museum is a very nice place and definitely worth a little trip when you’re in the far north.

A bit away from the city center we found a pretty and even quite cheap campsite, which was also picturesquely situated on the water. The weather was good enough that we were able to sleep in the car again without worrying that it would get too cold at night. Since it was only early afternoon, I decided to go hiking. Kevin had found me a nice and not too long hiking trail, Lille Raipas, which was close to the campsite and was just over 5km long. The path leads past old copper mines and is characterized by different rock formations. The goal is the 286 meter high mountain of the same name, from which you have a beautiful view of the area. The only problem was getting to the start of the hike as I had the choice of walking along a main road with no pavement or wandering through the forest. On the way there I chose the second option and on the way back I chose the direct route along the main road. Of course, the forest path was much nicer, but some of the forest paths were very uneven and meandered back and forth, which made the forest path a good bit longer.

Near the campsite was Sami Siida, a large Sami tent surrounded by reindeer enclosures. There was a restaurant in the tent itself and since this was our last evening in Norway, we wanted to crown this evening with a visit to a restaurant. However, when we entered the site, it seemed deserted. It took us a while to find the entrance to the big tent and when we finally stood in front of it, the door wouldn’t open. Disappointed, we wanted to return to the campsite when we saw through a window that there were guests inside. Did we face the wrong entrance? We continued around the tent until we stood at the back entrance and saw the staff busily busy in the kitchen. However, our knocks and waves were consistently ignored. After walking around again, we were back in front of the supposed entrance and lo and behold, the door just stuck a little. Unfortunately, the first impression was not the best. At the beginning of the guest area there was a kind of reception where a bored lady in Sami clothes waited for us to speak to her and not the other way around so that she handed us two cards and took our order before we went to our seats. We were beginning to have doubts about our decision to eat here, but when the food was finally served, which was surprisingly quick, our doubts were swept away. Kevin had a reindeer schnitzel and I had reindeer schnitzel and both dishes were incredibly delicious! The meat was tender and well seasoned and there were delicious vegetables on the side. We were so excited that we ate up in no time and even ordered a dessert each. Kevin picked up a chocolate custard pudding, which was okay but nothing special, and towards the end I wanted to try a moltecreme made with the cloudberries. The cream was okay, but it couldn’t compete with the good main course either. So our last evening in Norway ended well.

Fjord horses at the fjord

We had already seen numerous fjords in Norway and also a horse on the fjord, but unfortunately we had not seen any real Norwegian fjord horses. So we had something very special planned for the next morning. In the vicinity of our campsite was the riding stable “Flatmoen Natur”, which offers various tours on horseback. As a child and teenager, I went to the riding school for a long time and of course I’m crazy about horses. Kevin has been on a horse before in Peru, but that’s about it. So we decided to book a little beginner-friendly tour called “Taste of Horse Riding”. Johnny, the owner, welcomed us. Even though he was Norwegian, he was a true cowboy from head to toe, and not just because of the clothes. His English had a distinct American accent and he told us that he had spent a long time in the USA with cowboys and horses. You quickly realized that this was his great passion. His eyes lit up every time he shared his experiences in the US and you didn’t have to be an expert to see that he had a very special approach to his horses. While the farm cat greeted us by constantly circling or rolling at our feet, Johnny briefed us on the plan for the day. He explained to us that this tour is mainly booked by couples where the woman has horseback riding experience as a child or teenager, while the man has absolutely no idea about horses. We had to laugh because that pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Next, Johnny introduced us to our horses for the day, each horse being unique. So Kevin Hercules was assigned, a true Fjord horse – finally! I got Leo, an American Quarter Horse that Johnny had won a lassoing championship with. A true champion, then. Johnny himself had a piebald named Lucky who was quite young and in need of proper training. After we cleaned our horses, Johnny helped us put on the saddle and bridle. Kevin got a short instruction in the art of riding. The next moment we went into the terrain at a comfortable walking pace. Johnny led us on Lucky, Kevin and Hercules were in the middle and Leo and I were at the end. So Kevin was secured front and back and didn’t have to worry much despite his lack of riding experience. I also have to say, before all the facts, Kevin actually cut a fine figure on horseback and did really well.

It was a dream come true to see the fabulous landscape from horseback. We rode through the forest, along the fjord and past picturesque mountains. Sometimes it was very steep uphill or downhill, but Johnny assured us that the horses knew this and in fact they mastered even the steepest ascent and descent with flying colors. At an extinguished fire pit on the bank, Lucky started to shy away, but Johnny knew how to calm him down. So he quickly dismounted and carefully led Lucky to the hearth. He lifted a stick from it and showed the inexperienced Lucky that this posed no danger. It was fascinating to watch how he treated the young horse and took away his fears. At the end of the tour, I was allowed to gallop again with Leo in the riding arena and after a 12-year break. This was a bit bumpy at the beginning, also because Leo was ridden in the so-called western style, while I had learned the classic English style in the riding school. After a few tips from Johnny, it actually worked relatively well.

After the riding tour we took a seat on the porch in front of one of the buildings. Johnny brought us coffee and tea before warming up his wife’s homemade cinnamon rolls over a fireplace. He was particularly proud of these cinnamon rolls, as they even appeared in an online review and rightly so, because they were really delicious. We chatted some more about the farm, Johnny’s time in the US, and the various competitions and western shows he had attended and showed us photos of. The morning slowly drew to a close. We said goodbye to Johnny and thanked him again before getting in the car. As soon as we set off, the weather also took a 180° turn and the bright sunshine turned into incessant rain.

Riddo Duottar Museat – One last time among the Sami

The rain pelted relentlessly on the windscreen as we made a final stop on Norwegian soil. In Kautokeino was the Riddo Duottar Museat, a small private Sami museum. This consisted of two parts: a small classical museum in the main building and an open-air museum with a few wooden huts outside. A plump man in his mid-twenties was standing at the cash desk and seemed slightly surprised, since we were apparently the only people visiting the museum at the time. He briefly explained the structure of the museum to us and gave us a flyer before we went to the exhibition. This contained a considerable number of exhibits for its small size. The next step was to go outside, but the rain was still relentless. So we talked to the cashier instead, who was visibly happy about the change. Of course, the weather was the No. 1 topic for small talk. He also said that it can sometimes be -30°C cold here in winter. When I asked how -30°C would feel, he only replied that he couldn’t say exactly because he rarely left the house and was much more of a couch potato. Combined with his rather nerdy appearance, that didn’t surprise me, but it also made him likeable. Finally we dared to go out in the rain and visited the most important buildings outside before we sat in the dry car again and headed towards the Norwegian-Finnish border.

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