Category: Winter


Departing under the cold snap that froze most of Europe was not a mean feat, but we were extremely lucky, unlike hundreds of thousands of other holiday makers not able to return home to family. Our departure from Geneva was delayed by barely thirty minutes and we made the most of our two day stop-over in Copenhagen to get some last minute Christmas presents. Leaving Copenhagen and with a second stop-over in Oslo the snow was falling but the Scandinavians all but ignoring the weather conditions, continued as normal without any incident and without so much as the smallest of delays were were in the Arctic Circle. The last of the sunshine we left behind in Oslo and it would be a dark two weeks before we would see and feel the warmth of the sun again.

Candles through the frosted glass of the Hytte in Frøskeland

 

The glowing red skyline from Sortland looking south over the sundet

Under the cloak of darkness, we passed the end of 2010 and celebrated the festive season in the very north of Norway on Langøya  (Long Island) where the major town is Sortland. A big part of the trip for me was the introduction to traditional Norwegian food and Norse Mythology. Norway has a quite different take on Christmas, instead of the traditional Santa Claus (or Saint Nicolas) that western Europe and anglosaxons embrace, Norway has its Nisse. The Nisse (plural form of Nissen) are gnome or dwarf like creatures with distinctive blue or red pointy beanies made from wool that live in the woods, by the sea, in the barn or house and have a very close affinity with animals. The Nisse are self sufficient and look after the barnyard animals and make handy crafts using traditional techniques. On the 23rd or December it is traditional to leave out a bowl of rice porridge (Grøt Ris) for the Nisse to bring good luck. The Norwegian television even has a full series dedicated to the Nisse (Jul på monetoppen).

Surrounded by only Norwegian speakers in Arja’s family I was obliged (out of politeness and to survive) to learn some Bokmål (as opposed to Nynorsk or Sami) so I could understand a few basic phrases. Norwegian (Bokmål) shares quite a lot of words from French and German so knowledge of these languages helps with vocabulary but not the pronunciation which is far from being phonetic. In fact it is so unintuitive (coming from a fluent French and English speaker) that it is actually best not trying to pronounce written words but to learn Norwegian orally.

Arja's uncle's fishing boat the Olagutt

Apart from the steep learning curve presented by the language barrier there is also a very strong affiliation with the sea. All the men in the  Gullvik family are fishermen or work in the fisheries industry. There is a long and tumultuous history between the Gullvik’s and the sea that brought both good and bad, wealth and sorrow. Fishing is their livelihood, without it people would struggle to survive even today as it is one of the only primary industries (apart from the oil industry and tourism) in the far north that can be carried out year long. With fish stocks in chronic shortage, even in the the remote Arctic, families of fishermen such as Arja’s family are under increasing pressure from government and regulators with extremely strict fish quotas and hefty fines if they are exceeded. Norway is also coming under more intense international pressure to abandon its whaling operations. Even though whale meat can still be easily found in most supermarkets and is popular cheap meat for grilling in the spring and summer months it is not eaten by a lot of people as it is regarded as inferior in taste and quality to herring, atlantic halibut, capelin and cod.

Traditional and delicious roasted thrice cooked pork and cracking

 

Delicious home made fish cakes from hallibut

I was extremely lucky to taste the traditional specialities of the north through homemade  food prepared by Arja’s grandmother. These included fish cakes, fish balls (dumplings), fried sea trout fillets, baked halibut, thrice cooked salted lamb chops, baked side of pork and roasted Elk for Christmas dinner. Together with the other Norwegian specialities such as Torfisk (dried fish), Brunost (cooked brown goats cheese), cloud berry jam, christmas ham, it was truly a Scandinavian feast of enormous proportions. Not to mention the extraordinary quantity of sweets and deserts, all homemade of course!

On our second last day we were lucky enough to see three wild Elk roaming near town in search of food. As the light was extremely testing and the Elk were quite shy I was unable to get any very distinctive photos of the animals. Literally minutes later we came across a heard of over thirty reindeer feeding on hay locals had left for them. Even though it was barely 3pm it was so dark that it wouldn’t have been possible to walk without street lights or a torch. Although the the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon for ten weeks there is still ambient light that persists from 9am to 2pm, during these hours the light much resembles dusk with splendid reds and oranges filling the southern sky. The post dusk light that fills the sky is extraordinary and also provides photographic challenges to capture them in a realistic condition.

Two wild Elk in the brush roaming for food near town

Not only did we return with several layers of extra clothing but with bags packed to the brim and stomachs stretched so wide we both thought we’d spontaneously explode.

View of Sortland Sundet from Sigerfjord

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It is with several months of anticipation that we are now set for take off tomorrow, heading for the Arctic Circle 66.6 degrees Nth. Although that said, we haven’t even left the confines of our lower alpine region and it very much feels like the arctic has come down to meet us in early anticipation. With over 20cm of fresh snow in the last 24hours there has been traffic chaos across most of western Europe with hundreds if not thousands of accidents, airport closures, delays to public transport and the like. Hence we are very anxious about catching our flight tomorrow given the forecasts for more snow across a large band of Europe including France and Germany. If we are lucky we’ll be spared the fate of thousands that have already spent countless hours stuck at major airports for their flights to be either postponed or cancelled.

As we search for some good news on the weather front we found the forecast for northern Norway and it was very amusing to see the symbol that the Norwegians use to represent good weather. It is much like a sun, but as the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon showing a full sun would be an oxymoron so instead they show that the weather is fine with a horizontal line and the sun shining beneath the line. I find this very amusing as it is dark 24hrs per day and it implies that the weather further south is fine. See the extracted picture for the Norwegian meteorological bureau.

Keep tuned to this spot as we post updates from our Arctic adventure amongst the reindeers and huskies.

For all last minute updates see our twitter posts.

Best Regards,

Pascal & Arja

Snow, snow and more snow

Winter has come early and europe, we wouldn’t usually even expect a white Christmas well at least not on the plateau of lake Léman, but since almost a week it has been unseasonally cold and snowing! It’s at this time of year that I wish that I had a snowmobile instead of a motorcycle, no, I’m stil not wishing for a car, but never say never! Well in truth it is possible to ride a motorbike in the snow but it’s probably more hassle and expense then it’s worth given the inevitable drops and spills that would ensue, that said I’m still hoping for the weather to clear so I can tuck Francois away and undercover from the freezing winter conditions but I was caught napping (no unlike most of the transportation public and private) and the photo below is Francois covered in no less than 20cm of fresh powder, just outside our apartment in Nyon. Needless to say the motorcycling season is over but I’m sure to get my winter fix of snowmobile when we’re up north in the Arctic Circle for Christmas! That’s right we’re taking the polar plung and heading for 68° 46’ North to spend the festive season with the Gullvik’s amongst herds of reindeer, surrounded by expansive fjords and under the dark skies illuminated only by the aurora borealis skies that define Norway in the depths of a frozen winter, brrrrrr.

After this season of indulging in powder white snow we’ll without a doubt be craving the sun, surf and warmer weather.

Riding2up has a new Blog

To capture all our updates in one easy to read location we’ve started a new blog. From our website select the main menu item Blog.

2011 Calendar up for grabs

If you haven’t played the Traveler IQ game yet and registered a high score then you still have time. Hint: to make it easier, zoom in on the page with Ctrl and the ‘+’ key

Click here to Play! (or go to www.riding2up.net and follow the links to the games page)

Remember to send a screenshot of your high score to riding2up before 15h December to go into the running for the pictured calendar. Entries close on 15th December 2010, so be quick and accurate. Good Luck!

For full competition details click here.

Best Regards,

Pascal and Arja
E riding2up
W www.riding2up.net

Alpine Camping – Emmental Treffe

We have now uploaded the photos from the Emmental Treffe, a small Swiss bikers meet in the foothills of the Alps and the home of Emmental cheese. It was a great weekend, with lots of stories around the campfire eating Roesti, Fondue and Cervolas all cooked over open wood fires in the forest above Langnau. In the early mornings we were afforded a cloudy view of the Alps from our campsite at 1045m. Please view the new album by following the link below and going to the Emmental Treffe photo album.

http://www.picasaweb.com/riding2up

As for the bikers we met, they were an eclectic bunch from all walks of life, riding old Condors (with Ducati engine) right out of WWII or Russian made IMZ-Ural military bikes with BMW Boxer engines to Moto Guzzi fully equipped with sidecar. There was even a home made side car on KLR650 ridden to NordKapp by Guido and Esther (who invited us to the meet). To our new Swiss motorcycling friends it was a pleasure to have met you all and we look forward to seeing you again hopefully in the near future.

Although you might be lead to believe that this marks the end of the riding season in Europe, this bikers meet was the first of many over the winter riding season. There are many bike meets throughout the winter months, and often the bikes and riders are covered in snow. For these cold nights camping in the middle of winter a warm sleeping bag, thermals and spikes or chains are highly recommended.

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New to Riding2up – Traveler IQ – The World Game

Do you know where Sucre or Victoria Falls are on a map? Could you point out Micronesia in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? If you’re a world geograph buff or if you just want to learn this is the game for you!

Test your skills on world geography including capital cities, tourist destinations and other place names.

Play now. Go to the new GAMES page on our website or click here.

Competition – Play and Win a Riding2up 2011 Calendar

Get the Top Traveler IQ score when played on Riding2up.net and you will win a Riding2up Calendar for 2011. Competition open until 15th December 2010 CET.

Conditions of Entry

To enter the competition contestants must send by email a screen shot (in .jpg format, see sample attached) of your top score to riding2up before 15th December 2010 to go into the draw to win a Riding2up Calendar for 2011 complete with their postal address. The decision made by Riding2up is final and no communication will be entered into. There are no runner up prizes. The winner will be notified by email. The winner’s prize is a 2011 Riding2up Calendar and is non negotiable and non transferable. The prize will be sent by post in January 2011. The winner should allow up to two weeks for the prize to arrive. Riding2up adheres to our privacy policy with respect to all personal data. All participants entering in the competition agree to our privacy policy and the terms and conditions on our website. Riding2up reserves the right to publicise competition details and winners on their website.

Warning: Games can be addictive. Any abuse or misuse is not the responsibility of Riding2up and by playing the Traveler IQ game or other activities on www.riding2up.net you, the user, accepts Riding2up terms and conditions.

If you received this email in error or would like to be removed from our email list please reply to riding2up with the subject Unsubscribe and we will remove you from all future newsletter and email updates.

Best Regards,

Pascal & Arja
E riding2up
W www.riding2up.net

As we write this from our apartment in Switzerland where it has been snowing all morning and looking out the window there must be over 15cm of fresh powder lining the streets, atop of cars and covering the limbs of trees. It is a wonderful sight to see the first if hopefully a very white winter. Needless to say Francois is going into hibernation and will need a save dry place to sit out the winter season.

Riding on snow Francois bathes under the moonlight of the Juanpass 1509m

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