Wedding in Ulyanovsk

Remember my friend Nina? Guess what, she just got married!

This is great for many reasons. Personally, I appreciate the fact that I got to visit a new city and that I got to be a wedding guest for the first time in my life. Somehow I missed the weddings of my Russian friends because of travels and exams (everyone I know over there got married in the beginning of those summers when I was studying), while none of my Norwegian friends have tied the knot yet. I keep waiting for my childhood bestie Ida to get married to her baby’s father, but she insists they need to buy a house first. I began suspecting that I might never get to go a wedding, toast and cry for the bride and groom, and do all the other stuff that I’ve seen in films… I started thinking that maybe my time to be a “wedding guest just like in the movies” is past, because all the people who intended to get married, did it in their early twenties – and the rest will probably never “get out the finger” (GOTF = a fine Norwegian idiom for getting shit done).


Then came the invitation! To Ulyanovsk, of all places! I’ll tell more about this interesting city in another entry, let’s focus on the wedding for now.

wedding invitation
Wedding invitation

The family of the groom rented Imperial Club Deluxe, a five star hotel with it’s own park and a scenic man-made lake. Apparently most couples of Ulyanovsk come to this park to get their wedding photos taken, but the fewest actually rent the whole place for the whole wedding. The plans for this wedding corresponded with all the wedding movies I’ve ever seen, with many invited guests, a big reception and fireworks. Hearing all this, I happily agreed to get styled by a professional make up artist on the morning of he wedding. If you only get one chance at being a wedding guest, you better do it right. This is how I ended up looking like a princess for the occasion:

It’s funny to think about that when I was living together with Nina, she felt that she had to move away from Alta to find love. She had spent a total of nine years in this little arctic city and believed love could never happen to her there. After our period as roomies, she actually did move to a much larger city, but she met her husband while living in Alta. They met abroad, but it happened while Nina still lived with me. I remember picking him up at Alta airport a couple of years ago when he came on a visit. Who would have thought I’d end up going to their wedding!

The moral of the story: Love can find you no matter where you live 😉

Ninochka, I can’t believe we’re here.

Video summary (in Russian):

The weirdest Vardø

Vardø is basically located at the end of the world. Even the clouds today have the layout to confirm this statement, they rest like a kettle lock above this arctic fisher town and it’s 2000 and some inhabitants.

It’s like the car passes over from a land bathing in the evening sun beneath distant pink clouds into a shadowy world of brown hills and grey grass. There are no trees. Reindeer run across the road from time to time.

Welcome to Vardø town

You don’t see a lot of people. Urban winds have reached this rural place though. Hidden though town you can spot several murals, graffiti and other displays of creativity.

Pøbel (probably the most famous Norwegian street artist ever) invited several leading street artists from around the world to Vardø back in 2012. They arranged the art festival called «Komafest». I guess the goal was to wake Vardø back to life with graffiti. I hope they come back to repeat it someday.

Vardø’s history is rich and full of dark chapters. Vardøhus fortress was built in the 13th century. The place would witness some of Europe’s biggest witch trials 300 years later.

Almost one hundred people were burned for dancing with the devil under a full moon, learning dark arts from black cats and drinking bewitched beer…

Today you can read their stories at Steilneset Witch Monument where a light shines for every victim of the witch hunt.

Another noteworthy thing about Vardø:

It’s a senter for top secret NATO-activity.

See those balls in the skyline?

NfOV00959

They are radars, Globus I and II.

A third one is being built as you read this. A Russian Bitcoin Factory will soon open it’s doors as one of the closest neighbors to this new radar. American army families are moving into town, according to local media. A lot seems to be going on under the surface here. One of the houses facing the only road leading from the tunnel which connects this arctic island to Norwegian mainland, may very well be recording all comings and goings to town. I have a rich imagination and can’t help feeling watched, although I’m not sure if it’s the spies or the witches who are behind it.

What I am sure about is that Vardø is an inspiring place. It makes you want to think and write and paint.

I’ll be back.

Welcome to Bøkfjord lighthouse

Honestly, I thought I might faint climbing up and down hills to get to this place.

But the struggles were worth it.

Berries!
Also, we found tons of blueberries on the way!

Some facts:

This lighthouse, on the south side of Varangerfjorden, was established in 1910 as a result of growing traffic connected to the mining activities in Kirkenes.

During the 2nd World War, German troops took over the lighthouse, and before they retreated in 1944, the whole station was demolished.

When it was rebuilt after the war, it was given a modern, functionalistic style by the famous architects Blasted and Munthe-Kaas.

Bøkfjord was de-manned in 2006.

The view
Spectacular hike in Northern Norway…

The station is owned by the state and protected as a national monument under the Cultural Heritage Act.

The Coastal Administration is cooperating with local interests to facilitate alternative use of the premises, meaning: You can book it for a night!

Breakfast at Bøkfjord lighthouse
Breakfast at Bøkfjord lighthouse.

And if you don’t have the power to walk to this pearl of a place, you can call for a boat. As we did on the way back (not because of the «power issue» – some of us had to catch a flight in the afternoon, and boating back seemed safer than walking in order to make it to the airport in time).

Boat by Bøkfjord lighthouse
Hoho, got picked up by boat!

As the Norwegian saying goes: Everybody agreed it had been a nice trip.

Lapland holidays

When you’re living in the great north, country boundaries aren’t that big of a deal as in more populated areas. No matter if you live in the northern Norway, Finland, Sweden or Russia – you live behind the wall (you get it, if you’ve seen GOT). People up north share a lot of traditions and struggles, and there is a lot of border crossing going on. Which is why I didn’t think of going to Finnish Saariselkä yesterday as a big deal.

I didn’t take a single photo.

Whyyy,  Ksenia?

._.

Saariselkä with it’s 350 inhabitants was pretty much as expected: Quiet, empty and moody. The rain was poring down most of the day with no sight of the midnight sun. The Acho-shop was closed.

Midsummer’s Day is a Holiday in Finland. So after a delicious dinner at the hotel, we found the only open bar “downtown”. Germany beat Sweden 2-1 in the World Cup, as we were drinking fresh blueberry shots with cream while kind of watching the game.

I really wish I had some proper photos to share from this trip (not counting the selfies or snaps on my iphone).

Recommendation: If you go to Finland you MUST drink Minttu Cacao with cream! It’s delicious.

Other things you probably should do in Finland – not in the midnight sun season, though ^^

Lapland, Visit Finland

The week couldn’t have started better

Oh, Irelaland!

Some brief days in Dublin visiting friends, and I already consider moving to the Green Island.

I came on a Monday and left on a Wednesday (barely, there were some trouble getting to the airport in time… due to TRAFFIC) with the best impression.

Ireland

A couple vacation days, a journey and lots of hours chatting with your girlfriends – sometimes that is all you need to remember how to enjoy life.

Ireland

I might have gotten a minor concussion too, on Tuesday night, while dancing.

You know those movies where the main character gets hit hard in the head and then develops some kind of power, like reading peoples minds? Or changes personality, forgets certain people or who they are themselves?

I haven’t figured out if got a super power along with the head bump. I chose to think some things cleared up when my scull and the floor connected though.

I’ve been thinking so much lately, about how to love myself more, and what I want to with my life, and how I can be happier. I’m not ready to put words on it yet, but I feel lighter.

Go to Dublin, maybe you will feel it too.

“There are two days in the week on which I never worry; one is yesterday and the other is tomorrow.”

Robert Jones Burdette 1844 – 1914

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