Yet four thousand kilometers and we will see again those industrious people who withstand the northern winds and frost. They know how to wait, they are not in a hurry but manage to be in time. They are not afraid to learn something new. We will see people of incredible spirit. Solid as stone. Having no doubts.
No matter how time passes in that dreamy kingdom, it came to an end, growing into a new beginning. We connect the threads on canvas of our trip, putting the pieces of phrases together, sorting out the letters, that were hastily written down, extracting pictures from memory, throwing aside the undue. The names of the places where we have been and that we have passed by got stuck in our heads. Sometimes those names spring to mind from the early morning, getting into our heads that are half asleep over and over again, and turning into something truly unthinkable.
We are overwhelmed with thoughts. Memories are stored in pictures, our impressions are reflected on canvases that as well have black flies stuck to them. Something is already put into words, something is still building up from within. We were getting tons of impressions daily, but the main part of it is still on the way, stuck somewhere between Norway and us. Many things would be thought over, looked back on, we will plunge into the ocean of our memories in order to emerge with a shell, and maybe even with a pearl. Shaken off the autumn leaves and drops of the rain, wrapped ourselves up in a plaid and woken up at home, we will understand where we have been and what is happening inside of ourselves. We are “threading the necklace” of our trip with the pictures sorted out as beads, unscrambling and combining those in chapters of another part of the Northern journey.
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The artist's palette is all around us
250 kilometers passed by and industrial landscape is softening by cozy Norwegian houses that have windows opening onto a peculiar scenery, that is changing with light just like the paintings of impressionists do. The roots of the tree covered by a green plaid of moss got swollen like veins and radiate as a star from the trunk in every direction. Pine trees holding on to the cracks of the cliff seem to enjoy life, catching the light from lake Neytiyarvi. The lake unites the two countries in a certain way, having both customs on its banks.
Autumn has a special range of colors. The artist's palette is all around us: deep dark green spots of pines, birches of rust color, stunning trembling asps of stontium yellow, purple and carrot-coloured mountain ash with heavy bunches of berries this year. Glittering cowberry shrub, white-green moss, fuzzy cade with touches of milky-blue, glowing scarlet dogberries and dark red leaves of curly fireweed are on the ground. The sand is like ocher, the stones are of shades of gray and as if blushing on their “cheeks”, layers of a cliff look like a zebra.
We are trying to drive smoothly and the cruise control is of a great help; we take it slow, breathe in and seems like we are flowing along the coast like Hurtigruten. We manage to view not only every single house, but also windows decorated with grandma style curtains, lampshades, and collections of sculptures on the window sills.
Norway extends along the coast not only geographically: colorful houses stand far away from each other just like mushrooms that can be seen in between the trees. The road zigzags between the cliffs, meandering down by the coast. The traffic strip is yellow as birches are; we can see an upside-down blurry reflection of clouds, cliffs, boats, multicolored trees in the water. Swans float on the lake, dark gannets nestle on the stones, there are many seagulls in the ebb tide, sea eagles hover in the sky. It comes to no surprise to be fascinated by ornithology in that area.
We pass the sea coast, narrow fjords, high mountains, climbing on top of which makes one's ears clogged and gives you a thrill. Rocky beaches change into sandy ones. We pass by the farmers' fields, forests, swamps, tundra. The sun quickly follows the rain; a light breeze by the sea became very strong, whitecaps on the water hop like sheep on the fields, that we passed by several hours ago. When it is windy and rainy the mountains fade away, as if hiding one after another, fusing with clouds and cold northern sea.
One of the reasons to visit this country is the scenery. Slowly spinning the pedals, making stops at the viewing points, climbing up the mountains, sitting in a boat at the centre of a peaceful lake, one should keep his eyes wide, observing the world around.
Hold the crab!
The wind plays with an old flag and carries the handkerchiefs away. We happened to be in a multinational group: Germans, English-not-speaking smiling Frenchmen, and we — Russians with a Polish last name. Wearing wind and waterproof overalls that look like pressure suits, we became very amusing and resembling each other. You make friends much easier in such circumstances. William is a “Viking” from Germany, the largest life-jacket that was taken off Artem just a second ago looks like a small top on him. He and his wife Judy from England are traveling across Norway on a cruise liner, and are planning to go to San-Francisco by a containership soon.
Russia greeted Norway with “a high five” 20 years ago, securing the relations by a shake of the red claw (relating to crab's claw here, as there is a phrase in Russian that means “high five” but is figurative, where a palm of a hand is compared with a crab). The crab that was brought from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the coast of the Kola Bay as an experiment started a new epoch for fishermen, and for crab fishers at present. For the majority, crabs are exotic food, for the fishermen it means work, and for the tourists in Kirkenes crabs equal entertainment!
Brought the boats under control, two brave captains took us across to the other coast, pulling out the traps on our way that are full of crabs. It is warm and cosy in the home-like restaurant. Anticipation of crabs is in the air, and international conversations start and develop, being intricate as sailor's knots. To cook the freshly-caught crab claws you only need boiling water and salt, or just sea water. Fresh bread is almost ready. Lemon and mayonnaise go with crabs, while some foodies come bringing their own spices. A Bulgarian captain Dimitr takes toasted bread and gladly starts to speak Russian, having learnt that we are from Murmansk. He tells us about business there and his life here, about his wife and sons who moved to big cities – Bodø and Tromso.
You can hear the international “tweet” all across the table, but once the hot crab claws are brought out, white napkins are put on laps, it becomes silent. Now it is only crack of the crust, crunch of the buttered toasts, swish and creak of the lemon being squeezed. The interaction continues a little bit later; laughter sounds the same in all the languages. The meal with Kamchatka crabs, that are known as king crabs in Norway, brought different nations at a table together.
The bridge is a glow in the night waters...
We could see the fingerprint ridge patterns on our fingers from the printing ink of the guide book that became wet; they resembled a winding road we traveled along the whole day yesterday. The same “winding” planked footway of Alta museum was waiting for us that morning.
An audio guide whispered in one ear, a warm rain murmured in the other, like a morning shower. We were appreciating the history, feeling the smell of autumn and a special atmosphere of that place by looking at the wet stones, examining the ancient drawings, “touching” the rain. The sky reflects in the glazing wet stone, and it takes some time to notice the rock engravings, but petroglyphs seem even more attractive because of that; it makes you want to search for the engravings amidst the stone cracks, “read” them and try to understand. Those images resemble children's art: the animals are depicted side-drawn, people are pictured with their hands to the sides; when elements are combined in different ways this common language tells amazing stories. An artist depicts not only what he sees, but also what he feels in such a sincere manner. You might have noticed that sometimes a piece of paper is simply not enough for an insatiable creator, so then, you have to spread the whole roll on the floor, using wallpaper for that at times. The surface of the cliffs in the bay became a vast room for art, so an ancient artist shared his impressions on them with the help of his favorite tool so that they stay for centuries ahead.
The weather is playing with us; as soon as we looked through hundreds of engravings and walked up to the building of the museum, the sun came out. The souvenir shop sells silver accessories that are made in Kautokeino where we will go soon; and now we are getting to know Anna and that she likes gold jewelry most of all; we are joking, asking her whether she is Russian, but she is from France, she majors in the Arctic tourism and is working in the museum for half a year already, deepening her knowledge of the Scandinavian ancient art. She notices differences in the pace of life there, how relaxed the Norwegian lifestyle is and talks about their friendliness, assuming that the relations are warm and amiable largely due to the climate, and that life by the nature releases from the urban stress.
Those cliffs are solid “chapters of history”. The rocks themselves are so beautiful that you pay attention not only to the pictures, but also to the cover passing by. And who knows, how many of those pictures are there, by the coast covered with moss.
The beauty and values is not in material things
The road in the ravine follows the river bend. The cliffs and gigantic boulders are all around, with the protection mesh here and there, bulged as a spring mattress because of the massive rocks inside. We are used to living in cities, where you feel so little with all the concrete houses around, but here you feel as a part of something bigger. Being one on one with nature, a loud voice of a waterfall or a whisper of a stream show you distinctly its invisible beauty and eternal power.
From the windows you can see Kautokeino as if on the pictures; some have a curve birch in the foreground or sheep looking around the corner. The windows opening into the sky are decorated with the birds made of glass and bunches of grass. The basket is full of branches of bright Arctic birch; little leaves looking like pieces of gold soon would be found in vases all around the house. Once you see that house, you could never forget it, we will remember what we talked about under that roof.
Regina's youthful blue eyes shine as lakes when the sky is reflected in them. She rushes up the stepladder and is already close to the ceiling, completing the details of the mosaic; she is encompassing massive parts made of metal and layers of stone; it contrasts with small details. The inspiration for that wall goes up to the Genesis. Mosaics, jewelery, poems, managing the gallery; that is all about one person. Thoughts and ideas are connected into the whole universe.
Regina's gift for us was her precious time. And we are truly grateful to have had a chance to meet her! We have been offered some tea, and Regina admitted that they have samovar somewhere next to the Russian literature on the shelves. When she and her husband came there, they happened to be far away from the whole world, the books were their true friends. It was not easy to start living there, without friends, theater and music. She came to Kautokeino as if a wife of a decembrist, in reality being a wife of an abstract artist from Copenhagen who decided to find his own style in that remote place. They came there with a reindeer herd together with the Lapps, and she wanted to get to know how the local people live. It was interesting to see how people live one-on-one with nature and do without culture, art, theatre and opera. She was eager to see what was more important for her — the nature or the culture.
It turned out that inspiration is infinite there; one can derive inspiration everywhere, plunging into that life-giving and refreshing atmosphere. That can also be seen in the house decoration. The jewelery collection called “Tundra” tells about those incredible places; the images are “frozen” in silver, reminding of the frostwork and an intricate pattern of moss. After the dark winter time, people living in the North are glad with the first sunlight; when the flowers are blossoming elsewhere, it is only the time for the very first leaves here. That severe beauty of tundra is heart-touching, and inspires to create.
The Juhls had to work hard and build the house; it is hard to believe that there was a time when they, not knowing anything about jewelery, agreed to make accessories for the Lapps, and when they mastered that art they founded a gallery of silver jewelery that became well-known. Silver on the stone trays tells stories of Lappish tradition interlacing with the Christian symbols. The Lapps entrusted their ideas, thoughts and feelings to Regina while she was doing a research about their traditions as a skillful detective, combining symbols, making dreams come true in the silver form. Various forms of art are united under the bulgy roof of the house. You are impressed and inspired by every single detail around. Regina recalls Solovetskie Islands, admiring courage of the builders. They built their house from scratch, floating the materials down the river, carrying it on their shoulders. Her husband and she created their own world on the opposite bank of the river, having in mind the fact that labor is more joyful if the windows of the house open onto a beautiful scenery. Started with a relatively small house, they enlarged it decade by decade with new rooms, and even the strong snowstorm that sagged the roof was an architectural inspiration!
Kautokeino inspires you to come here. When Mary from Helsinki saw it on the picture, she felt she wanted to work there. She welcomed us, showing around the house, and admitted that looking at the walls and exhibits she finds something new every day.
The new and the old, nature and art got mixed up here. Having been around the house twice, we finally distinguished a cat that merged with a wool plaid. Cats are not uncommon, while not so many galleries would have chickens. Regina pronounced the word “chicken” in Russian. When someone is playing Tchaikovsky on the piano, you could hear the rooster 'singing along'. Life is full of daily surprises: yesterday, a fox stole a chicken, sneaking past the sheep. We told Regina about our travelings around the North, about people living... “...where no one wants to live”, Regina continued the phrase with a catching laughter. “Oh, that is a great idea”, she said.
We fell in love with Kautokeino and Regina. That is the only way one can end up here, hundreds of kilometers away from “the big life”, in the wilderness. When we think about Regina we see her on the stepladder, smiling; the ladder seems to help get away from the routine, it is a place where you can not hear people's voices, just the birds hovering high in the sky. It is essential to believe and be purposeful in order to make you dreams come true. When a person is busy, there is no time to age. People get older when they have nothing to do, but artists never get retired, they work to the last.