Arctic trip III: Say "welcome", Norge, beauty!

(This is a post I should have written yesterday, but I did not get to it)

We left Fauske on Wednesday and traveled to the Lofoten islands. The process was smooth in the beginning: we left early in the morning and the first kilometer or so, it was okay. Then one fellow traveler slipped and broke the (unopened) vodka bottle which was the first indication that things will not go that smooth on that day. In hindsight, it has to be told that he could have broken his arm, so, the damage was really minor.

Then we went to the bus station and took the bus to Skudvik, and from there, we went by ferry to Svolvær (and, if you ever wondered: the Notwegian æ is pronounced as the a in smart). In Svolvær, we did not catch the right bus and found out that (1) the next bus is in two hours (2) the next bus will not bring us to the desired destination (3) the next bus will cost us around 200 NOK each. So we took the only reliable public transport hereabout, which is the Hurtigruten ship line and paid 160 NOK each. Yes, the big one. Yes, it says something about both the roads and the Easter traffic here.

We arrived in Stamsund in a rather cute hostel which looked like (and probably was derived from) a fisherman’s house directly in the fjord. The next four days consisted mostly of wandering around and socializing with the other people in the hostel, almost all of which were in some way or another downshifters, hipsters and French girls. As a means of relaxation from the XKCD-style long walks along the fjord, I was reading HPMoR and taking pictures of varying quality — I have to say that the weather in Stamsund was not exactly predictable and changed on a hourly basis. We managed to see some glowing aurora remnants, though.

At some point we were looking at the book shelf in the hostel and were recommended a book titled “Tod in den Lofoten” (“Death on the Lofoten islands”, most probably not translated). The cover depicted a naked woman sitting on the beach, turned with the back to the reader, which is a direct violation of stage rule number zero: Never turn your back to the audience. I tried to take the book seriously. I failed. While reading the first pages, I had the same feelings I usually get when I read the “tasty parts” of low-class fan fiction, which are some mixture of disgust (“Ew, you can’t write THAT!”) and researcher’s curiosity (“What real-life experience moved the author, a German pastor, to the conclusion that real, non-cardboard characters would act like THAT?”).

On a positive note, I must say that the Lofoten archipelago is really beautiful — in any weather. I have shot about 250 pictures of which only the very best are here (and I wand to note here: I love my tripod!). I recommend to look at these pictures while listening either to classical music (like the Ninth Symphony) or melancholic Scandinavian metal. It fits surprisingly well.

We left Stamsund on Sunday (Happy Easter!) and proceeded to Tromsø with the Hurtigruten line. The ship was very nice, but in the end, rather boring (not so if you are seasick :D), so I was mostly reading, drinking tea and making pictures of what appeared appropriate. I managed to find the limits of my camera (not too hard if you try, really): the evening-night shots are… well… see for yourself. Probably better optics can solve this problem.

Arctic trip II

Today we walked around Fauske and came upon a farm with (probably emo, judging by their hair styling) horses and a marble mine. Manual focus rules, but now I need a decent viewfinder, which is not really cheap. I probably should just wait for the prices to fall.

Arctic trip I

Since my recent posts about Life, the Universe and Everything did not receive much attention, I infer that this one will probably generate more interest.

Today I arrived in Fauske, which is a small village near (in the Norwegian sense of “near”) Bodø, and is definitely farther north than the Arctic Circle (>67° N). The Norwegian sense of “near” was explained to us by a local girl who (by the way) dropped that a Norwegian mile is ten kilometers, which says a lot about distances here.

The following pictures were made near not too far from the cabin. I finally surrendered to my urge to force the camera to do what I want, which resulted in making most of the pictures in semi-manual mode, and some of them fully manual (as in, manually setting up the aperture, the shutter speed and the focus distance). I was being helped by the camera, so it was not a great deal, but it felt good. Being in control always feels good 🙂


I have been to Oslo on Saturday. I managed to take a whole lot of pictures, but nevertheless I also want to tell you something that did not quite fit in the camera. Foremost, one of the main problems of Oslo is that you have to look very carefully for a spot to make pictures from — the city is somewhat dense. Another thing that strikes really hard is the contrast between different parts of Oslo. When you are riding to Holmenkollen (where we were heading to) on the tram, you see a lot of cute little, mostly wooden, houses and you might be inclined to think that spending a significant part of your life in Norway does not sound that bad. Near the train station, the city looks more Amsterdam — a lot of building is going on, and there are a lot of semi-skyscrapers (lower than in Frankfurt, but higher than in your average city). Then, if you go further north from the station, you come — very abruptly — into a part of the city that looks very ghetto-like: graffitis, old houses, strange people running around, stuff like that. I was somewhat happy to get out of that neighborhood.

Another thing that is not mentioned in the pictures is the ride to Oslo and back. Norway is a long country, so, the train from Trondheim needs quite a while (about seven hours) to reach Oslo. The most sensible way to travel is to do it overnight, so you can get some sleep and do not lose time in the transit. The ride back was with a bus — similar time schedule, less comfortable, but also a little cheaper.

Yeah, yeah, you are bored and need more pics. Here they come:

One of the impressions from Holmenkollen was that almost every Norwegian there was really drunk — and that even before they won that 50km race. No, really, nearly everyone had a bottle in his or her hands and when the race was over, somebody cried “Swedes go home!” (because the Swedish racers did not perform good).


So I went skiing on Saturday. Last time I was skiing about nine years ago, but since we were cross-country skiing, it did not lead to unpleasant consequences. Going uphill is very exhausting, but hey, I knew what to expect.

Behold, more Scandinavian melancholy:

The most important thing while skiing around here is that with all the snow, I cannot reliably estimate distances. Which leads to problems like “hey, I have no clue how steep it is. Let’s come nearer and look better!”


So yesterday I have been walking in the suburbs of Trondheim. It was a nice day to go hiking, for it was not that cold and one could shoot really good pictures. I found it quite surprising to see that you can actually go skiing pretty far downhill here. I always imagined that the mountains here are not that high. Apparently, I was wrong:

The view from the place we were headed to was really great. Unfortunately, I did not manage to capture the sunset, but this picture should roughly give you an impression:

 And tonight, I managed to see some northern lights. It was a great sight, but unfortunately, my photography skills were insufficient to capture them nicely (auto-focus screws it up, and you have to set up everything from aperture to shutter speed manually). Still, you can get the idea:

So today I had my first lecture in Trondheim. It felt pretty much embarrassing as it turned out that the lecture language was Norwegian and my Norwegian skills were somewhat insufficient for attending a lecture (it got better during the 90 minutes, but not that much). Well, the lecture was not of my primary interest anyway. (That is the undisputed pro of universities in English-speaking countries) But then, I managed to get a Norwegian mobile number, so the day was not entirely unproductive.

Between lectures, I was reading more stuff from Less Wrong (yeah, I am advertising a bit 😉 ); mostly, the ideas depicted there are pretty much sensible and one of the most important ones can be compressed as follows: Any worthy (scientific) idea has to decrease entropy and narrows down explanations. Example: Saying “The system shows emergent behavior because of its great complexity” is not an explanation since it uses buzzwords without revealing any details. Another things that are worth reading are the articles on cognitive biases. They make me want to replace my rusty old brain with an inference engine (if possible, clocked at the same speed, thank you). And, if you want the same stuff, but wrapped into a story, just follow the link. You have been warned.

Oh, and pictures for attention attraction:

(This one is brought to you by my tripod)

And this is a nice view of the city center (yes, it is not that big) with the Nidaros cathedral on the right and the fjord in the background.


It was -10 according to my laptop outside today. I’m saying this just to emphasize how much I am doing for you, dear readers 😉

This is a gas station. Note the absence of any human beings whatsoever. There are many fully-automatic gas stations around here, mostly because you don’t need humans to process card payment.

Everything taken within a five minutes’ walk from my dorm.