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Arto's and Sandra's outfit at the wedding.
Arto's and Sandra's outfit at the wedding.
Year 2020 has been unusual and affected the lives of everybody in many ways, including ours. Travelling is just one part of it but as it has been the main theme of this site for over 20 years it seems fitting to write about it also now. Some of our plans got cancelled but we still had several opportunities to get out and enjoy exploring new places as well as meeting family, friends and a few new people too. As the end of the year approaches and I haven't been active in writing during the year, what follows is a summary of the last 12 months packed in one article.

Wedding gifts, Vietnamese style.
Wedding gifts, Vietnamese style.
Quite exactly a year ago, in December 2019 we spent two weeks in northern Vietnam, mostly in and around Hai Phong. Normally we avoid trips that far for environmental reasons unless we have a minimum of 2-3 months to spend in the destination — which reduces the frequency of such trips quite naturally. This time we made an exception as an old school friend of mine got married and invited us to his wedding. As it later turned out, it was the last chance of travelling to distant lands for quite a long time.

The couple was Finnish-Vietnamese but the ceremonies mostly followed the local traditions. They were colourful, joyful, at times kitschy and thoroughly documented by a two-man video- and photographer team. We also took plenty of photos but due to the request of the couple won't publish any shots of them here. The host family took excellent care of us and other Finnish guests, including a day trip together to the nearby famous Halong Bay. Simultaneously it was a chance to meet and chat with old friends some of which I hadn't seen for the last 20 years. We all stayed in the same hotel and in addition to the wedding spent some time walking around in the city together.

A classic view of the Halong Bay, Vietnam
A classic view of the Halong Bay, Vietnam
We took our rental bike out to some pretty small roads.
We took our rental bike out to some pretty small roads.
During the second week Sandra and I headed out to the countryside, booked rooms in small guest houses and rented a small motorcycle for a few days. South-East Asia is for us an exotic but easygoing, tasty food and good mood destination. Vietnam was no exception to that and especially in the friendliness of the locals at the top end of the scale. What made the stay somewhat less enjoyable was the air pollution. Almost windstill days without rain made the otherwise postcard-like views constantly hazy and we both developed a light cough which healed again as soon as we left the country.

High-rise buildings at the Dubai Marina at night.
High-rise buildings at the Dubai Marina at night.
On the way back to Germany we stopped for three days in Dubai where we would have anyway needed to change the plane. There we sent a few CouchSurfing requests and got invited to stay with an Indian architect, a perfect match in a city filled with modern high-rise buildings and plenty more coming up. With its huge shopping malls and theme-park like attractions Dubai wasn't really our world, but interesting to explore for a couple of days. Our friendly and generous host gave us some local insight to the life there.

Group photo on the rainy DAV hiking guide course.
Group photo on the rainy DAV hiking guide course.
After that came winter and spring with cancellations and lockdowns, for us of course including plenty of day hikes on the nearby Alps. In June we were able to join our already over half a year in advance booked one week volunteer hiking guide training of the German Alpine Club DAV. It was the very first course of the summer which actually took place. Despite the rainy weather we had a good time and learned a lot in the motivated and welcoming small group lead by two excellent instructors.

Christine at the mountain farm with one of the cows.
Christine at the mountain farm with one of the cows.
Right after the hiking guide course we took advantage of the reopening of EU borders and drove to northern Italy to spend a long weekend at a mountain farm. A friend of ours from Munich takes care of the cows there every summer for a few weeks. That farm doesn't generally offer accommodation for tourists (unlike some others which do) but she is allowed to invite her friends there. Cottage life and excellent raw milk, of course.

A perfect camping spot on an uninhabitet island on Saimaa lake.
A perfect camping spot on an uninhabitet island on Saimaa lake.
Cottage life continued in July in Finland by the lake Saimaa, where we stayed this time mainly at my aunt Pirkko's cottage. My father Timo had decided to have his old cottage taken down and a new one built, which wasn't ready yet. Due to the construction works and a few other tasks which had to be taken care of our yearly family visit wasn't as relaxing as usual. Still, we had some nice moments the highlight being a three day island-hopping tour using my father's small fishing boat. Even though the islands on Saimaa are very similar to each other it's always interesting to land on new ones where you haven't set your foot ever before and choose a spot to wild camp before it gets dark.

Allgäu and particularly our region around Füssen lives largely from tourism. Normally it's quite an international mix including a large number of Asians and Americans, all of whom couldn't come this season. On the other hand many Germans who would usually travel further away decided to spend their holidays here. Therefore the summer season was for the local hotels, guest houses and restaurants eventually not too bad. Bus tours were all cancelled but guided city walks in Füssen were allowed in small groups. Sandra joined the team in autumn 2019 so since then we're both official guides of the town.

Colours of a September morning on the Stubai Alps with Sandra and Ieva.
Colours of a September morning on the Stubai Alps with Sandra and Ieva.
In September Ieva, a good friend of ours joined us for a two-week hike in the Austrian and Italian Alps. We were lucky to catch a period of bombastic weather and as the main holiday season was over managed to get sleeping places in the mountain huts along our planned route. Especially the Austrian huts were quite relaxed and enjoyable to stay in, despite the new policies. Huts on the German side of the border had to comply with much more complicated regulations - the Italian ones being somewhere in between.

Sulzenau glacier lake.
Sulzenau glacier lake.
The main part of the hike was in the Stubai Alps, starting from near Innsbruck, including a lengthy detour towards the west and descending in Sterzing/Vipiteno, followed by a couple of days in the Pfunderer Alps at the end. One main advantage of this route was staying almost constantly over 2000 meters of altitude without the need to descend deep in the valleys. That not only saved effort but also helped to mentally disconnect from the daily life "down there" during the hike.

Huge straw rolls next to the Elbe river cycling route.
Huge straw rolls next to the Elbe river cycling route.
Particularly spectacular spots included the peak of the Rinnenspitze (3000 m), the Sulzenau glacier lake and a day trip from Nürnberger hut to Ferner lakes and Roter Grat (3096 m). One trend we noticed particularly on this hike was that huts are increasingly focused on offering tasty food, in some cases fancy three or four course dinner menus as well as breakfasts in buffet style. That makes hiking trips a bit pricier as they used to be (although simpler inexpensive meals are usually available too) but the meals tend to be good value and are an enjoyable way to end the day.

Cool rock formations and autumn colors at the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
Cool rock formations and autumn colors at the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
Our travel season ended in October with a one and a half week cycling tour starting from Berlin. We headed first towards Wittenberg, then followed the Elbe river, stopped for two days in the historical city of Dresden and finally booked a small holiday house for three nights at the foot of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. This time we unfortunately weren't as lucky with the weather: cloudy and rainy days with partly heavy headwinds. The last leg from Dresden towards the Czech border and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains with their fascinating rock formations was the most interesting part of the route. Due to the weather and Sandra catching a cold during the last two days we couldn't explore that area as much as we would have liked but will probably return some time in the future.

New job, new city, new hobbies

Posted: 2019-11-28 23:57:00, Categories: General, Work, Germany, 1082 words (permalink)

Leibniz Supercomputing Centre
Leibniz Supercomputing Centre
Since April I've been working three days a week at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) in Garching near Munich. It's great to have colleagues around and a physical office again instead of doing freelance work at home over the Internet. I also enjoy having convenient access to city life again.

My main home is still together with Sandra in Halblech near Füssen at the border of the Alps. It's a region blessed with a lot of natural beauty, but having spent most of my life in Helsinki I was missing having a larger city at least nearby. That was my main reason of searching for a new employment in Munich instead of Füssen or surroundings. Now I have a place to stay in both.

A sunny day by the Isar river.
A sunny day by the Isar river.
LRZ is in many ways similar to CSC, my long-time employer in Finland. It provides network, scientific computing and data services for all Munich universities as well as for other research organizations in Bavaria. The current flagship supercomputer is the most powerful in whole Europe, which makes LRZ one of the top three centers in Germany and plays a role in attracting talented people. Like at CSC, the goal is to provide stable and reliable services which researchers can depend on, but experimenting with new technologies is encouraged and the time perspective of development projects reaches further than just a few months ahead.

I'm part of the web team which provides web hosting services for the universities. My main responsibility is the administration and development of the LRZ GitLab service, a distributed version control system for source code and other files. I can put my Linux system administration skills in real use again, as well as learn new concepts of modern software development. Compared to the long term preservation planning I was involved with for almost ten years, it's more hand-on technical work which suits me well.

A small festival in the nearby Studentenstadt (student city).
A small festival in the nearby Studentenstadt (student city).
My contract is 20 hours a week which I normally divide between three days from Wednesday until Friday. That leaves half of the week for other activities and spending time together with Sandra. I left my job as a guide at the Neuschwanstein castle after two eight month seasons but continue to offer guided tours and walks in the town of Füssen and surroundings. I started that three years ago and Sandra also recently joined the team so we are now both official guides in the area. That's refreshingly different than sitting in front of the computer, keeps my language skills alive and has been a great opportunity to learn more about the region. Occasionally I also bring travel groups to Neuschwanstein and meet my ex-colleagues there.

Travelling from Halblech to Munich by public transport takes about two and a half hours one way — far too long for commuting daily back and forth but perfectly acceptable to do once a week. Immediately after getting confirmation of my new employment I started searching for a place to stay. Knowing that Munich is the most expensive city in Germany, I prepared myself for a lengthy search with a backup option of booking Airbnb or guesthouse rooms during the first weeks.

The bed and desk in my room in Munich.
The bed and desk in my room in Munich.
At times one needs luck in life, and in my search I certainly had some. Only after a couple of weeks I got offered a spaceous and very reasonably priced room in the Freimann district, right in the middle between the city center and Garching where LRZ is located. We are seven people sharing a house which might sound like many, but as four of us are in Munich only part-time it has never been too tight in the large kitchen and two bathrooms we share. We have a large sunny terrace for enjoying a drink or grilling together on summer evenings, less than 15 minutes by foot to the English garden and the Isar river, plus a direct subway line both to Munich city center and to Garching. My room is equipped with a double bed so Sandra is also welcome to come and stay overnight whenever she wants, but she mostly prefers to avoid the city.

The terrace of our shared house.
The terrace of our shared house.
As readers knowing me might guess, I usually move around by bicycle. Munich is not perfect for cycling, but especially along the Isar is a good route without any traffic lights. I have about 11 km to work and the city center is about 10 km in the opposite direction. During warm summer days I usually packed a towel and jumped into the river for a short swim on the way back from work. And when I want to enjoy some live music in the evening, I can get to the popular venues mostly within half an hour either by bike or by subway depending on which I feel like using.

Sandra and Lizzy, our new elderly cat lady.
Sandra and Lizzy, our new elderly cat lady.
In a way my life is now divided in two. At home I have Sandra, a cat again (more about that another time in a separate article), the friends we've made during the last few years, my tourist guide activities plus of course the nature with mountains, lakes and abundant hiking trails. Munich offers me the new IT work with opportunities to develop myself professionally, nice colleagues and the activities of a major city. It's a good combination in many ways, sort of the best of both worlds.

I also have a couple of new hobbies which are at the same time fun and healthy. Contact improvisation is a kind of playful dancing without choreography, which I started doing about two years ago. Lately I've become enthusiastic about Acroyoga, a combination of yoga and acrobatics with a bit of Thai massage thrown in the mix. I gave it a try in August, was hooked and found a beginner-friendly group which gathers regularly every Wednesday evening. The exercises are challenging but not competitive so people with different skill levels can be in the same class and support each other. Acroyoga isn't going to replace my classic hatha yoga practise but complements it with new interesting elements.

If you can read German (or just want to see a few photos), this article describes the typical content of an acroyoga evening and also my thoughts about it quite well. Both contact improvisation and acroyoga are practised together with a partner or in small groups and rely on mutual trust between the participants. Partners are chosen new every time and especially in contact improvisation even changed several times during the evening. That makes every session different and creates a beautiful community spirit in the group.

Happy Holidays

Posted: 2018-12-24 00:18:00, Categories: Travel, General, Work, Austria, Slovenia, Germany, Hiking, 757 words (permalink)

Sandra and I would like to wish you all a happy holiday season during the end of the year and all the best for the New Year 2019! Here's our traditional Season's greetings card. This year I've been lazy to write in the blog, so I'll use this opportunity to briefly look back on what we've been up to in 2018.

Making a hole in the ice at the Saimaa lake.
Making a hole in the ice at the Saimaa lake.
I spent a good part of the winter and spring in Helsinki, enjoying the city life as well as combining it with some IT work and other projects. Sandra stayed mostly at home in Germany but came to Finland for a couple of weeks in February and March. Together we spent a few winter days at my father's cottage by the lake Saimaa, cross-country skiing, having sauna and testing the new fireplace which was installed during the previous summer.

View over the roofs of the town Füssen.
View over the roofs of the town Füssen.
We both work part-time, which gives us quite a bit of flexibility in planning our schedules. Sandra is employed as a laboratory technician and I started in 2017 a new activity as a city guide in Füssen, the nearest town. That's a great opportunity to use my language skills and do a variety of different tours which I've enjoyed quite a lot. This year I wasn't employed at the Neuschwanstein Castle any more. It was a good experience and I could consider working there again in the future but two seasons was a good amount for now.

Classic mountain view on the Sadnig Höhenweg, Austrian Alps.
Classic mountain view on the Sadnig Höhenweg, Austrian Alps.
Our main holiday tour in the summer was a three and a half week hike over the Alps in July-August, starting from Lake Königssee in Germany and ending with a crossing of the Triglav National Park in Slovenia. We crossed the Alps on foot once before in 2010, but this was a quite different route. It was based on the route described in the hiking book Salzburg - Trieste by Christof Herrmann, but we adapted it according to weather and our preferences along the way.

One of the cute marmots we saw on the way.
One of the cute marmots we saw on the way.
The first part of our hike took us through the Berchtesgaden National Park, which is well known for its limestone rock formations. Then we continued over several mountain ranges in Austria, including parts of the Hohe Tauern National Park and the Kreuzeck Group. The Kreuzeck mountains turned out to be one of our favourite sections of the trip, with classic alpine views of rocky peaks, grassy fields, pittoresque lakes, small mountain huts and quite a few animals including marmots.

A capricorn in the Julian Alps.
A capricorn in the Julian Alps.
After Austria we walked shortly on Italian soil before entering Slovenia and the Julian Alps. There we had plenty of more limestone rock and the most demanding sections of our trip, not only because of the rough terrain but also because of the heat. The whole central Europe was experiencing a heat wave and although the temperatures up in 2000 meters of altitude were a bit cooler than in the valleys, it still got pretty hot both during the days and in the fully packed dormitories of the mountain huts at night.

Our highlights in the Julian Alps included sightings of majestic capricorns at close range and admiring the Edelweiss flowers blooming in large numbers. In most other parts of the Alps they've almost disappeared and we hadn't seen one for many years.

In addition to the walk over the Alps, we were quite a bit on the trails this year, including two nice hikes near Innsbruck. Our good friend Peter lives there, is often willing to join us in our outdoor activities and it's always a pleasure to visit him. On our last visit we also went together to a concert by Eivør, which we can definitely recommend!

Sandra showing some of the mushrooms we picked in Finland in September.
Sandra showing some of the mushrooms we picked in Finland in September.
Fireworks in Füssen on the New Years day, 2017.
Fireworks in Füssen on the New Years day, 2017.
In September we visited Finland again, which was a perfect timing for the mushroom season. We have never picked so many chantarelles, boletes and black trumpet mushrooms in two weeks. It was a challenge to conserve and bring even about half of the catch with us to Germany. One of our favourite dishes is potato dumplings with mushroom sauce, which we've been preparing quite often during the last few months.

This year we'll spend the Christmas Eve with the family of Sandra's old friends who live in a village about 30 km from us. They have two children and the grandparents will be joining as well, so it'll probably be the most traditional Christmas we'd had for years. For the New Year my parents and both of my brothers will come for a visit. We're looking forward to that, mostly we meet in Helsinki and my youngest brother Lari who lives in Canada we're anyway not seeing very often.

White wilderness in Greenland

Posted: 2017-11-11 01:35:00, Categories: Travel, Hiking, Greenland, 1925 words (permalink)

Arto and our friend Phil with his Land Cruiser.
Arto and our friend Phil with his Land Cruiser.
It's great to visit friends who live in exotic places. The eccentric scientist and wilderness expert Phil invited us in Greenland, where he works at a radar station just outside the town of Kangerlussuaq. The town hosts the island's largest airport in addition to 600 inhabitants, and is served by regular flights from Copenhagen, Denmark. That was an offer we couldn't resist so in March 2017 we flew over to experiment with various means of moving around in snow.

Kangerlussuaq viewed from above.
Kangerlussuaq viewed from above.
Upon landing, Phil was waiting for us in his Land Cruiser and we drove 15 km to Kellyville, along the only road which goes that far out of town. Kellyville consists of a big radar, main office and storage building, five container houses for the employees and a number of antennas and other measurement devices scattered around on the neighbouring hills.

Kellyville radar station.
Kellyville radar station.
Our headquarters was Phil's house, furnished in 1980's American style and stocked with all the outdoor equipment we could possible need. Phil had to work on most of the days, but he provided us a map and even a satellite phone, just in case we'd get lost or have an emergency. During the following two weeks, we explored the nearby surroundings on foot (with and without snowshoes), on skis, by car, by a snowmobile and on a dog sledge.

Sandra and Phil on tour.
Sandra and Phil on tour.
It was an arctic landscape of cliffs and small roundish mountains, with numerous streams, moors and lakes in between. They were naturally all frozen, as was the long fjord reaching over 100 km from the Labrador sea to Kangerlussuaq. There was not very much snow, the region gets little precipitation and the wind blows most of it away from the bare surfaces. Here and there bushes and grass were sticking out from the snow, hinting that in the summer there would be a colourful carpet of arctic flowers.

Sitting at the peak of Mt. Evans.
Sitting at the peak of Mt. Evans.
On our fist day trip we walked along the road a couple of kilometers further until it ended at an old warehouse filled with big rusting engines. It had been used in the past by the U.S. military to power a radio station, capable of sending a warning to the U.S. mainland in case of an attack from the east. After a quick look inside the building we headed towards the nearest peak, simply choosing a passable route between the rocks — there were no trails or paths.

Two reindeer passing by.
Two reindeer passing by.
On the way up, two reindeer passed by, searching for food under the snow. We also saw many ptarmigan tracks but no birds. Within an hour we reached the peak with views all the way until the huge ice cap, which covers almost the whole Greenland except for the coastal and most southern areas. It was a beautiful sunny day so we stopped for a while to enjoy the scenery and a cup of hot tea from our thermos.

Abandoned caravan in the middle of nowhere.
Abandoned caravan in the middle of nowhere.
We descended on the north side towards a lake and an abandoned caravan next to it. We wondered a bit how it had ended up there, as there were no roads leading up to the spot. The door was open so we took a look inside. It looked almost like a stage set from the movie Into the Wild, where Christopher McCandless leaves the civilization behind to live in an abandoned bus in the middle of wilderness. The idyll was broken only by the adjacent snowmobile and dog sledge track connecting the towns of Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq. We followed the track around the mountain back to Phil's house to cook dinner and spend a relaxing evening with him.

Arto with skis and pulka by the fjord.
Arto with skis and pulka by the fjord.
The day temperatures varied between -10 and -20°C, nights being about ten degrees colder. We had sunny and cloudy days but no really bad weather during our two week stay. One of the sunniest but still the coldest days was the one when we went skiing on the fjord. In addition to skis Phil borrowed us a pulka to pull our extra clothes, drinks and snacks instead of carrying them on our backs. The pulka could also be used as a sledge to slide down after climbing up a small hill to enjoy the views.

A bit of colour sticking out from the snow.
A bit of colour sticking out from the snow.
On our day tours we saw reindeer, a few birds and two times an arctic fox. Muscox would be one more common sighting, but we didn't see any, only local hunters heading out on their dog sledges to shoot some. It was the hunting season and traditional ways of life are protected by allowing dog sledges out in the wilderness, while restricting snow mobiles and quads on a few marked routes.

Cooking party at Phil's place.
Cooking party at Phil's place.
Almost every day either Phil or one of his colleagues drove to Kangerlussuaq, so we could easily get to the town if we wanted. Most of the buildings were constructed by the U.S. Army during the time the whole town was an air base. They have later been converted to apartments and public spaces such as a school, swimming hall and a restaurant/bar. The supermarket was surprisingly well stocked and larger than one would expect for a population of 600. The inhabitants are a mix of Greenlanders and people coming from all corners of the world. Phil's Thai friends came once over to his house and cooked all of us a sumptuous meal, with leftovers lasting for several days. Authentic Thai food in Greenland - one of the surprises of the trip.

Northern lights at Kellyville.
Northern lights at Kellyville.
One evening, Phil gave us a tour at the radar station. It was a funky mix of analog and digital technology encompassing half a century from the 1950's until this day. The radar is used for measurements in the upper ionosphere, where polar lights are formed. At his house, Phil only needs to have a quick glance at the graphs on his TV screen to tell whether it's worth to go outside. A couple of times during our stay we could enjoy the beautiful dancing lights of the nature at night.

On the snowmobile towards Sisimiut.
On the snowmobile towards Sisimiut.
One of the highlights was our weekend trip together to Sisimiut, the second largest town in Greenland with 5600 inhabitants. Phil was able to organize us two snowmobiles — Sandra and I shared one and he rode the other with a bit more luggage in the back. Tucked in our warmest clothes, we set out for a 150 km ride on frozen lakes, rivers, snow covered hills and a couple of small mountain passes.

Icy landscape in the evening.
Icy landscape in the evening.
The scenery was fantastic on both sides of the snowmobile track. The small roundish hills near Kangerlussuaq turned into mountains, the highest peak being Pingu 1306 meters above sea level. Mostly we drove on lakes and rivers and once through a small canyon with high walls on both sides. Streches crossing land were rather bumpy and we had to carefully zig-zag between the rocks sticking out from the snow. On the higher passes we had great views over the smaller hilltops. There were a few basic shelters on the way to have a small break or to stay overnight. We saw a few other snowmobile riders, dog sledges and a few people on a ski tour, but most of the time it was just the three of us.

Break at a small wilderness hut.
Break at a small wilderness hut.
Our travel speed varied mostly between 30-60km/h. On the smoothest sections we drove sometimes a bit faster, but didn't push it near the top speed. There is no snowmobile speed limit in Greenland and the machines can do about 150 km/h — they're a bit like motorcycles, but off-road and on snow. Even on lakes the snow often accumulates in small ridges, which become dangerous jumps in high speeds. With photo stops and a couple of small breaks it was a full day ride. Sun was already setting when we arrived on top of the last pass and saw the lights of Sisimiut ahead us.

A small canyon.
A small canyon.
One of the first houses belonged to Phil's friends, so we met them and after a short chat headed together out to town center. We were lucky: it was Friday evening and a couple of local bands were playing at the multipurpose hall in the center. After a nice evening we crashed for the night on the floor at the same friends' new house — they were just about to move in there the next day!

Colourful houses at Sisimiut.
Colourful houses at Sisimiut.
Saturday morning we headed out for a walk around the town. It was a mix of nice wooden family houses and bigger apartment blocks, all painted in yellow, red, blue and other bright colours. Despite the cold weather the sea was not frozen at the coast, and the local marked offered various specialities such as seal meat and a fresh sea elephant head. We had lunch with another friend of Phil's who worked as a teacher at a local school. Most of the teachers come from Denmark and Danish is the main language, but also the local Inuit language is partly used in the schools. At the end of the day, we fetched our snowmobiles and checked into a hotel for the night.

Back towards Kangerlussuaq in fresh snow.
Back towards Kangerlussuaq in fresh snow.
On Sunday we woke up to a sunny morning with about 30 centimeters of fresh snow. That made our ride back to Kangerlussuaq smoother and even more beautiful than the other direction had been. We were the first ones on the track, which was now barely visible — it was good that Phil was able to guide us on the right way. We just had to give enough gas in the steep uphills to avoid getting stuck in the soft snow in the middle of the slope.

Following Phil on the snowmobile.
Following Phil on the snowmobile.
On the way we had a coffee break at a cozy wooden hut built by a local carpenter from Sisimiut. The Greenlandic flag was up indicating "Kaffemik" which means that everybody passing by is welcome to stop by for a visit. Often that means a house full of visitors, but at Amalie's wilderness hut we were the only guests. It was already dark when we came back to Phil's house, tired but happy.

Relaxed travelling by the dog sledge.
Relaxed travelling by the dog sledge.
On the last day before our departure we booked a two-hour sledge dog tour on the fjord ice. That was a quite pleasant way to travel, sitting relaxed on the sledge while the dogs were slowly jogging in front. Compared to the sledge dogs in Finnish or Swedish Lapland, the Greenlandic dogs are slower but have more endurance to run for hours and hours, covering longer distances per day. Contact was again through Phil, who recommended Jan as he treats his animals better than many other dog owners. After the ride, Sandra got to hold one of the puppies, which was at the same time very cute and stinky.

Sandra with the cute and stinky puppy.
Sandra with the cute and stinky puppy.
On the day of our return it was snowing and windy and Phil's four wheel drive car was the right vehicle to get from Kellyville to the Kangerlussuaq airport. Our return flight was delayed by more than ten hours. It waited for other planes coming from other towns and finally left late in the evening instead of in the morning. That's not a rare event in Greenland, a good reminder that despite all the modern services it's still an arctic and remote location. Greenland air is also specifically exempt on paying any reimbursement for delays in such cases. We did get a dinner at the airport on their tab, and only missed one night of sleep in Copenhagen — the flight arrived early in the morning and we were still able to catch our connecting flight to Munich.

Greenland was certainly one of the most interesting places we've been to, and we hope to return there some day. Perhaps next time during the short arctic summer, when the coastal areas are free from snow and full of flowers in various colours.

Mountains behind the fjord in the evening light.
Mountains behind the fjord in the evening light.

Beautiful memories of Germaine

Posted: 2017-04-04 21:36:00, Categories: General, 719 words (permalink)

Our lovely cat, Germaine.
Our lovely cat, Germaine.
Germaine in the kitchen with her funny curved tail.
Germaine in the kitchen with her funny curved tail.
Our beloved cat Germaine is not with us any more. At the age of 18,5 years, she took her last breath on our bed and passed into the world of spirits. This blog article is dedicated to her and all the joy she brought when she was living with us.

When we got Germaine in autumn 2013, she was shy at first. However, in a couple of months she got used to us and little by little also to our lifestyle of often having guests around. During the years the bond became stronger and she trusted us fully — seeking closeness and developing many funny habits.

Germaine and Arto cuddling.
Germaine and Arto cuddling.
Her favourite position to observe the kitchen.
Her favourite position to observe the kitchen.
Sleeping was one of Germaine's favourite activities and she always found new favourite spots to do that. During the day, she often lay on the cushions of our kitchen bench or higher on the countertop, where a small corner was reserved for her. In the night, she usually came and slept with us in our bed. In the beginning she stayed at the foot end, but during the last couple of years she strectched herself or formed a furry roll next to our heads, usually right in the middle between our pillows. Sometimes she even slept under Sandra's blanket, with just her head and front paws sticking out.

When awake, Germaine wanted to have the full attention. She miaowed loudly and vibrated her tail, asking either food or to be petted. Petting was rewarded by a funny "kurr" sound. She sat or lay down on top of the newspaper or on the laptop keyboard, showing who was more important. She didn't mind being touched anywhere in her body, for example scratching under the belly just resulted in more "kurrs" and her walking in a loop around our feet. We could lift her up from the floor and hold her on our arms, cuddling and looking at her directly in the eyes.

You can stop using the computer, I am here!
You can stop using the computer, I am here!
Germaine has just finished a meal.
Germaine has just finished a meal.
The eating habits of Germaine were special. She categorically refused all dry food and preferred canned products instead. If she didn't happen to like a particular one, she either started licking plastic bags or simply miaowed more, knowing that sooner or later we will open another can. When we had found the suitable flavour for her mood, she started grabbing the pieces in her mouth and chewing while simultaneously moving her head, spreading half of the food around the plate in the process. She didn't hurry, often eating just a bit, walking around and coming back several times to have a few more bites. Her absolute favourites were grilled chicken, fatty fish and a piece of butter in the morning or every time we were sitting at the table. She really loved butter.

Germaine happy in Sandra's arms.
Germaine happy in Sandra's arms.
One of the funniest habits of Germaine was to jump on the kitchen chair and stand up with her front paws on the back rest. That was one of her favourite positions to watch what was going on in the kitchen and to be petted in. She answered our gentle strokes with the usual "kurr" and scratching her head against the side. Some other Germaine's habits which we fondly remember were

  • Following Arto inside the flat when he was walking from room to room
  • Going for a small excursion in the house corridor when the door was left open. She walked until the main staircase and sniffled around, before turning and trotting back to our flat.
  • Smelling the fresh air on the balcony, before deciding it's too cold and quickly coming back inside
  • Taking a peek inside the fridge every time we opened it
  • Coming to our laps when we were eating, jumping from there to the kitchen bench and back again
  • Walking on the tile floor at night, making a small tic-tic-tic sound with her claws which were slightly too long
  • Jumping on the bed and climbing to her place over us, carefully avoiding to step on our faces.

Sandra preparing to sleep, Germaine sleeps already.
Sandra preparing to sleep, Germaine sleeps already.
Germaine sleeping next to Arto.
Germaine sleeping next to Arto.
Germaine had a few health problems, but generally she was quite fit for her age. Finding catsitters during our holidays was sometimes complicated, but eventually it worked out every time. We believe that she had a good and happy life with us. She was a one-of-a-kind cat and we loved her very much. She will always stay in our hearts and in our memories.

Germaine sleeping under Sandra's blanket.
Germaine sleeping under Sandra's blanket.

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