Rivers of Ice

Sunrise/sunset: 07:25/ 16:37. Daylength: 9hr11min

I feel I may be writing this in the shadow of another huge event in history. I grew up in the latter years of the Cold War and remember the time when Mikhail Gorbachev brought the concepts of glasnost and perestroika to the world and then the Berlin wall came down and Europe opened up. I don’t want to see that go into reverse, but there is fear in the air as Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine.

All of my memories are from the perspective of a westerner, of course. I have a number of friends from the Eastern Bloc now, and the former Soviet Union. It’s not something I’ve discussed with them in a big way – language still tends to get in the way – but I realise these events must affect them in a different (very likely much more intense) way than they do me.

As well as that, another very different historic event is finally coming closer to home. For much of the covid epidemic, the north of Norway has been a place of relative isolation, but the inevitable wave I spoke of a few weeks ago has finally arrived both in my office in Finnsnes and in the Mattilsynet office in the abattoir in Andslimoen.

For months before Christmas, I was planning to go to Yorkshire to visit my parents during Andrew’s winter holiday the week after next. I thought it might be stable enough then to go. A few weeks back, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of booking tickets. It’s not so much that I couldn’t go to the UK; I could. The borders are open now. But if I did, I couldn’t do much more than chat to my parents in the garden. What would be the point of them keeping themselves safe all this time, only for me to pop over from Norway and bring the infection right into their house? I have begun to think about a plan C, which will involve taking three weeks off in the summer. That way, Andrew and I can go over and isolate before visiting them. How odd it all seems. Life is now more complicated than it has been for a very long time.

Back to more local events. Those still bring joy into my life, which I want to share. Earlier this week I went for a doctor’s appointment in Tromsø. Nothing serious at all. Just a routine test, which for various reasons is proving difficult. Apparently it still didn’t go to plan this time and I may have to take another trip to the hospital so they can use a different method. The hospital is in Tromsø as well, so that will involve another long day of driving. Not that I’m complaining. I love a good drive.

Anyway, the small thing that brought me pleasure this week was the discovery of the ice bridge. I had seen this mentioned online once before when looking at houses for sale. This is probably best illustrated with a map!

Currently I live in Finnsnes, which is marked with a blue dot with a white border on the far left. The abattoir where I sometimes work is a little bit south of the green circle near the bottom on the right. When I drive there, I follow the road west to Karlstad (in the centre near the red spot) then south until it meets the E6 (which is a major road that runs the length of Norway and goes into Sweden).

Houses in Karlstad aren’t too expensive. Houses where the red dot is on the map are, however, very cheap, because that area is relatively isolated. The little white road on the map on the west side of the Målselva river doesn’t really go anywhere. In summer, to get to Finnsnes (which though it’s tiny, is still the biggest “city” in the area) you have to drive all the way south to the E6 to cross the river, then backtrack all the way to Karlstad, which was very close to where you started, but inaccessible because of the wide river in between.

Karlstad then, is a place where I would consider buying a house. It’s an easy drive from there to both Finnsnes and Andslimoen. But because of the way maps work, when I look up houses in Karlstad, properties on the other side of the river also pop up in the search. It was on one of these that I first saw mention of the ice bridge. The area might be cut off from Finnsnes and Senja in the summer, it said, but in the winter, the ice bridge was a great connection.

I read it, then forgot about it, as you do, but I was driving John to work last week, when he suggested that we could perhaps go over it, as it wasn’t too much out of the way. He had been over it with a friend, he told me.

There’s a big bend in the road in Karlstad, and almost on that bend, there’s a road off to the left that I have taken a couple of times. Turn left again and there are farms along that road. But I had never gone straight on. This time we did, and to my amazement, immediately over the brow of the hill, I got my first glimpse of the ice bridge. Having seen it, I will definitely go and have a look in the summer. I hadn’t realised the river was so close. It must be beautiful. But now I was greeted with this amazing sight.

Ice bridge over the Målselva river

Ice bridge – drive at your own risk, reads the sign. And so we did. It’s quite an amazing experience to drive over such a wide expanse of ice. We didn’t stop that day because John needed to get to work, but when I was driving to Tromsø on Tuesday, I reached that corner in Karlstad and couldn’t resist taking another trip over. This time, I stopped the car in the middle of the river and got out to take some photos.

An incredible feeling to stand in the middle of a river, but it was also quite chilly at around minus twenty, so with my fingers nipping, I got back in and carried on. It didn’t take long to get to the main road.

It was really a little bit too cold to spend a lot of time wandering round Tromsø and I sat for quite a while in a coffee shop as I had set out way too early. I did pause to take a photo of this little fellow outside an outdoor sports shop. Last time I was there, he had a tent. Now he he is keeping warm inside a natty grey hoodie.

I also stopped to take some pictures of a mural; a nod to my fellow blogger, Iceland Penny, who writes the Walking Woman blog.

Even though my appointment was in the afternoon, it was still light for part of the drive home, so when I saw these beautiful ice formations, I had time to stop and take some pictures.

Blue icicles on a rock face
Another mass of icicles, formed over months of cold weather

And that’s about it for this week, I think. I hope that you are all managing to find small things that bring you joy. Only one week to go now, before my holiday. We’re only going to Tromsø, so no flights to worry about, and if we have to cancel, it won’t be a disaster.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I’m very glad you’re here.

2 thoughts on “Rivers of Ice

  1. Thank you for that mural! It’s terrific. I’m glad you finally drove the ice bridge — beautiful & strange, all at the same time, isn’t it? Driving on a river… Good luck with your next test, with the house-hunting, and with eventually visiting family in England. We just keep adapting.

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