2013/07/22: 36 km to Kirkenes
2013/07/23: 64 km to Grense Jakobselb
2013/07/24: 22 km part way back to Kirkenes
2013/07/25: 55 km to Kirkenes
Having arrived at the coast well in time for a planned rendez vous in Honningsvåg, we had time for explorations. After a chat with the information office lady, we bought a few days’ worth of food and headed east on a road that ended at the north-easternmost coast of Norway. Grense Jakobselb is a tiny settlement at the mouth of the small river that forms the Norwegian border with Russia. It was once a fishing village; now there are a few houses used only in summertime when the road is open. There is a small Norwegian garrison here. (There is pretty big military establishment with airport just west of Kirkenes.) Border posts mark the river banks on either side, and watchtowers dot the Russian side. We understand there is also a big fence on the Russian side exactly like those we have seen along other former Soviet borders, designed to keep people in. The Norwegians only build fences to keep the (domesticated North Sami) reindeer in.
There is also a lovely beach here, where we camped and spent a relaxed day and a night of eternal light. A focal point is the small stone King Oscar II Chapel, built as a way of establishing the border position and to settle fishing disputes a few hundred years ago. Apparently the construction of the chapel was suggested by a naval officer as an alternative to sending more armaments. Its tiny cemetery holds the graves of Norwegians, Sami, Russians and Finns. The east side of the river was part of a Finnish corridor to the Barents Sea between the two world wars.
We began to make our way back to Kirkenes in the late afternoon, camping on the way. Back in town the next morning, we visited the Borderlands Museum (Grenselandmuseet) and learned more of WW2 as it was fought in the Arctic, and why locals view the Russians as their liberators. We then patronized the local swimming pool with its showers and sauna, and washed our dirtiest clothing by hand in the sink before eating our supper in the town centre where Russian women sold their wares.
After a wet night in the woods just outside town, we rode into town for coffee and waffles, then to the dock to board a Hurtigruten boat for Vardø on the Varanger peninsula.
We will likely add more to Finnmark. Earlier sets, especially for the Baltic countries, still need work.