Kirkenes. Writing and a Do-it-yourself Crashcourse Russian.

I started to realize that getting to Russia from here was too easy to let the opportunity pass, and I got the necessary documents. The travel agency provided an “invitation”. So I was invited without knowing anybody in Russia. Well, they knew me, or they knew all they wanted to know about me, and that was of course that I have money. The invitation was slightly under 70€, thanks more to the strong euro than to the Russian hospitality. The embassy sold me a visa, I left my id there and was told to wait until Wednesday.

So I had five more days in the quiet little town of Kirkenes, which I spent writing and learning Russian. Yes, I got hold of a penguin complete course for beginners, which was pretty good because it had the right pace of repetition. Isn´t it amazing that I could just walk in the community library and issue a card? I found so. All free of charge, no strings attached. So I picked up some literature too, to improve my not so vivid English you know from this blog. Actually, I picked Virginia Woolf, Henry Miller and James Joyce, so you know what you can expect here, language-wise. The library also offered internet free of charge, and I finally got my blog up to date (even a little bit ahead of me, since the Ullyses copy still resides on the library shelf (it has on own shelf) as I write.

I write this account in the local cinema by the way, a metropolitan-style big theater with comfy red chairs with cup holders, popcorn, cola, a well-paid employee, and a 50.000€ surround sound system. You just can´t believe it! We are talking about a 3.500 people town in a 10.000 people community here, and they have a (state owned, as you already guessed) movie theater that easily surpassed the standards in Berlin, Paris, London. This reminds me of another nice anecdote about Norway. When Michael Moore shot his documentary “Sicko“, he also produced some footage on Norway, but did not dare to include it in his film because it was just too unbelievable! (if you don´t believe me, go check it out on YouTube). The Norwegians get a full year paid pregnancy leave, everything is provided for, it has the strongest social security system, in short it is the world´s wealthiest country, first on the WHO-list, where the US has a lousy 66th place.
So here I sit in this incredible cinema complex, which includes a small stage and bowling lanes as well, and two brand new apple computers (one of which I am staring at as I write). I met the employee and convinced him of the Cause, that is, of Couch-surfing and I stayed in his really nice apartment. To make myself popular, I said “I am the best pet you ever gonna get”.
My novel grew as well. I write on paper, with a pen (a lengthy stick with blue or black ink flowing out of it´s tip by an ingenious process which makes use of capillary forces that you hold between your index finger and thumb and let travel over a sheet of paper in a suitable angle and towards undiscovered territory of your mind). I am so grateful I can do this right now, and I hope the result of my scribbling will rejoice – you, yes you, dear reader.
On a few nights we went out to a bar. There are four bars in Kirkenes, and they are frequented by the locals, who enjoy each other´s company. It was what I expected here in the North. I remember accidentally putting that black ball in the neighboring hole at the end of a billiard game with Thomas (the new friend I made in the cinema), thereby letting him win and saving my honor.
Thomas could also hook me up with a ticket for the new James Bond movie which they played, so I will go in as some kind of special guest tonight, which will make me feel like Bond himself, the exceptional One, the guy with a big heart, the guy above the law. I will write a review on the movie, and tell you whether or not it gave me the Quantum of Solace it declares in it´s title.
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Kirkenes. Writing and a Do-it-yourself Crashcourse Russian.

I started to realize that getting to Russia from here was too easy to let the opportunity pass, and I got the necessary documents. The travel agency provided an “invitation”. So I was invited without knowing anybody in Russia. Well, they knew me, or they knew all they wanted to know about me, and that was of course that I have money. The invitation was slightly under 70€, thanks more to the strong euro than to the Russian hospitality. The embassy sold me a visa, I left my id there and was told to wait until Wednesday.

So I had five more days in the quiet little town of Kirkenes, which I spent writing and learning Russian. Yes, I got hold of a penguin complete course for beginners, which was pretty good because it had the right pace of repetition. Isn´t it amazing that I could just walk in the community library and issue a card? I found so. All free of charge, no strings attached. So I picked up some literature too, to improve my not so vivid English you know from this blog. Actually, I picked Virginia Woolf, Henry Miller and James Joyce, so you know what you can expect here, language-wise. The library also offered internet free of charge, and I finally got my blog up to date (even a little bit ahead of me, since the Ullyses copy still resides on the library shelf (it has on own shelf) as I write.

I write this account in the local cinema by the way, a metropolitan-style big theater with comfy red chairs with cup holders, popcorn, cola, a well-paid employee, and a 50.000€ surround sound system. You just can´t believe it! We are talking about a 3.500 people town in a 10.000 people community here, and they have a (state owned, as you already guessed) movie theater that easily surpassed the standards in Berlin, Paris, London. This reminds me of another nice anecdote about Norway. When Michael Moore shot his documentary “Sicko“, he also produced some footage on Norway, but did not dare to include it in his film because it was just too unbelievable! (if you don´t believe me, go check it out on YouTube). The Norwegians get a full year paid pregnancy leave, everything is provided for, it has the strongest social security system, in short it is the world´s wealthiest country, first on the WHO-list, where the US has a lousy 66th place.
So here I sit in this incredible cinema complex, which includes a small stage and bowling lanes as well, and two brand new apple computers (one of which I am staring at as I write). I met the employee and convinced him of the Cause, that is, of Couch-surfing and I stayed in his really nice apartment. To make myself popular, I said “I am the best pet you ever gonna get”.
My novel grew as well. I write on paper, with a pen (a lengthy stick with blue or black ink flowing out of it´s tip by an ingenious process which makes use of capillary forces that you hold between your index finger and thumb and let travel over a sheet of paper in a suitable angle and towards undiscovered territory of your mind). I am so grateful I can do this right now, and I hope the result of my scribbling will rejoice – you, yes you, dear reader.
On a few nights we went out to a bar. There are four bars in Kirkenes, and they are frequented by the locals, who enjoy each other´s company. It was what I expected here in the North. I remember accidentally putting that black ball in the neighboring hole at the end of a billiard game with Thomas (the new friend I made in the cinema), thereby letting him win and saving my honor.
Thomas could also hook me up with a ticket for the new James Bond movie which they played, so I will go in as some kind of special guest tonight, which will make me feel like Bond himself, the exceptional One, the guy with a big heart, the guy above the law. I will write a review on the movie, and tell you whether or not it gave me the Quantum of Solace it declares in it´s title.

Tromsø #3. On the Big Truck.

Monday passed, I wrote. A friend dropped in and we played the oldest Super Mario game. I was very bad at it. At night, I went to a bar where they had a Blue Monday, which meant beer for just 39 Kr. That was just cheap enough for me to have one beer, no gulping involved. It was a nice bar by the way, decorated with Music Posters from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, Nirvana, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and with drums and guitars on the wall. Smoking was not allowed inside, but according to Norwegian strict rules, drinking was not allowed outside. As a Berlin citizen, I was of course a bit, how would you call it?
Let’s take the next day here, too. I wrote in the morning, then went to the student’s center driv and the lastebilsentralen (cargo center) where I found out that Norcargo / Bring drives north. I got the cell phone of a driver, who took me shortly after 5pm to Tana Bru, of all places. It was a long night, but I enjoyed to be on his truck, having some conversations. Near the Finnish border (he drove through Finland to Kautokeino and from there headed north west) we saw a huge reindeer herd, which was claxoned away by the continuously used mighty horns of the big truck. The animals ran off the road. I asked if there never was a deaf one. Some Finns told me that reindeer were the most stupid animals on the planet, but I doubted, wondering why they could have survived for so long in those latitudes. It was a beautiful scene, seeing the flock making way for the large truck, one of a handful by the way, delivering goods to the upper north of Finnmark. Logistics become more easy to grasp in hardly populated areas, as to many things.

Back to the basics. I played with the thought of quoting Penn/Krakauer’s Into the Wild for some time now. “It’s hard to catch a ride up north”. For me, it was all too easy from the Truck Terminal of Tromsø. “Not all is well on the hippy front”. My ‘hippies’, the young couple with their three dogs, were very happy. “Happines only real when shared”. That’s true in Tana Bru.

Tana Bru is a little settlement, not more than a hamlet with a gas station, where they let me stay inside. I waited several hours and then got lucky again. When does it ever stop? When does the fairy point her wand at some other being than me? It feels sometimes like I am traveling in an aura of untouchableness, which is nice on the one hand, but if you yearn for being touched once again, it’s not a very good idea. So this time a carbage truck driver offered me a ride to Kirkenes, 140 km further east, near the Russian border. They have do drive all the carbage of the region to Tana Bru since there was the only dump, he told me. Again, logistics and all the human structure we create on the Earth’s surface became translucent, and in understanding I felt part of it. In the truck I thought about my writing, as my frame of reference converged with the window of the truck, which protected us from the snowy foggy, and completely dark, late afternoon.

My couch-surfing host was not there, so I had a small problem. I had to rely on the hospitality of the people here. First I asked if they wouldn’t let me just be in the hotel overnight if I did some work there. Impossible. I decided to let it all out, resulting in the following conversation:

Can I just, you know, sleep inside on the floor and I’ll work for you.
– No, I cannot help you.
Yes you can, but you won’t
– No, I cannot.
Yes you can, but you don’t want to
– No, I cannot help you.
Yes you can, admit it, it’s as easy as that, you just don’t feel like it.
– No, I cannot.
Yes you can, but you don’t want. That’s okay. You don’t need to be afraid to say you want to let a fellow human being down.
– No I cannot sir. [bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep]

Amidst the bleeping sound of the hung up intercom system and the neon lights reflected in the fresh snow, I walked away. It was time to visit the church. And right in front of the church, fortuna’s arrow struck again. A young German fellow, Daniel, led some youth group there filling in a gap year after High School, and told me it was no problem at all to stay at his flat. Saved for the night, again. I never run out of luck. Am I glad I didn’t run for president in the US, I really would have hated myself defeating Obama.

Maybe you think Kirkenes it in the middle of nowhere. But there are actually some interesting things here. Yeah, let’s render some statistics here! It is the youngest community of Norway, just celebrating the 150th anniversary as I write (that’s right); it has the only point on earth where three time zones meet, the border between Norway, Finland, and Russia, and you can book an excursion, which I won’t. It’s enough that I have to put my clock ahead two hours when going to Russia. Daniel told me a nice Russian border story. It is absolutely forbidden to cross it without a visa (if you do, you end up paying about 1000€ and spending a night in a Russian cell). So when fishermen went fishing at a creek that constitutes the border in some part, they threw out their fishing-rod just a bit too far and it got stuck on the other side. And then… a hand appeared from the bushes and threw back the line. Sometimes, Russian border guards are nice guys.



Tromsø #3. On the Big Truck.

Monday passed, I wrote. A friend dropped in and we played the oldest Super Mario game. I was very bad at it. At night, I went to a bar where they had a Blue Monday, which meant beer for just 39 Kr. That was just cheap enough for me to have one beer, no gulping involved. It was a nice bar by the way, decorated with Music Posters from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, Nirvana, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and with drums and guitars on the wall. Smoking was not allowed inside, but according to Norwegian strict rules, drinking was not allowed outside. As a Berlin citizen, I was of course a bit, how would you call it?
Let’s take the next day here, too. I wrote in the morning, then went to the student’s center driv and the lastebilsentralen (cargo center) where I found out that Norcargo / Bring drives north. I got the cell phone of a driver, who took me shortly after 5pm to Tana Bru, of all places. It was a long night, but I enjoyed to be on his truck, having some conversations. Near the Finnish border (he drove through Finland to Kautokeino and from there headed north west) we saw a huge reindeer herd, which was claxoned away by the continuously used mighty horns of the big truck. The animals ran off the road. I asked if there never was a deaf one. Some Finns told me that reindeer were the most stupid animals on the planet, but I doubted, wondering why they could have survived for so long in those latitudes. It was a beautiful scene, seeing the flock making way for the large truck, one of a handful by the way, delivering goods to the upper north of Finnmark. Logistics become more easy to grasp in hardly populated areas, as to many things.

Back to the basics. I played with the thought of quoting Penn/Krakauer’s Into the Wild for some time now. “It’s hard to catch a ride up north”. For me, it was all too easy from the Truck Terminal of Tromsø. “Not all is well on the hippy front”. My ‘hippies’, the young couple with their three dogs, were very happy. “Happines only real when shared”. That’s true in Tana Bru.

Tana Bru is a little settlement, not more than a hamlet with a gas station, where they let me stay inside. I waited several hours and then got lucky again. When does it ever stop? When does the fairy point her wand at some other being than me? It feels sometimes like I am traveling in an aura of untouchableness, which is nice on the one hand, but if you yearn for being touched once again, it’s not a very good idea. So this time a carbage truck driver offered me a ride to Kirkenes, 140 km further east, near the Russian border. They have do drive all the carbage of the region to Tana Bru since there was the only dump, he told me. Again, logistics and all the human structure we create on the Earth’s surface became translucent, and in understanding I felt part of it. In the truck I thought about my writing, as my frame of reference converged with the window of the truck, which protected us from the snowy foggy, and completely dark, late afternoon.

My couch-surfing host was not there, so I had a small problem. I had to rely on the hospitality of the people here. First I asked if they wouldn’t let me just be in the hotel overnight if I did some work there. Impossible. I decided to let it all out, resulting in the following conversation:

Can I just, you know, sleep inside on the floor and I’ll work for you.
– No, I cannot help you.
Yes you can, but you won’t
– No, I cannot.
Yes you can, but you don’t want to
– No, I cannot help you.
Yes you can, admit it, it’s as easy as that, you just don’t feel like it.
– No, I cannot.
Yes you can, but you don’t want. That’s okay. You don’t need to be afraid to say you want to let a fellow human being down.
– No I cannot sir. [bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep]

Amidst the bleeping sound of the hung up intercom system and the neon lights reflected in the fresh snow, I walked away. It was time to visit the church. And right in front of the church, fortuna’s arrow struck again. A young German fellow, Daniel, led some youth group there filling in a gap year after High School, and told me it was no problem at all to stay at his flat. Saved for the night, again. I never run out of luck. Am I glad I didn’t run for president in the US, I really would have hated myself defeating Obama.

Maybe you think Kirkenes it in the middle of nowhere. But there are actually some interesting things here. Yeah, let’s render some statistics here! It is the youngest community of Norway, just celebrating the 150th anniversary as I write (that’s right); it has the only point on earth where three time zones meet, the border between Norway, Finland, and Russia, and you can book an excursion, which I won’t. It’s enough that I have to put my clock ahead two hours when going to Russia. Daniel told me a nice Russian border story. It is absolutely forbidden to cross it without a visa (if you do, you end up paying about 1000€ and spending a night in a Russian cell). So when fishermen went fishing at a creek that constitutes the border in some part, they threw out their fishing-rod just a bit too far and it got stuck on the other side. And then… a hand appeared from the bushes and threw back the line. Sometimes, Russian border guards are nice guys.



Tromsø #3. On the Big Truck.

Monday passed, I wrote. A friend dropped in and we played the oldest Super Mario game. I was very bad at it. At night, I went to a bar where they had a Blue Monday, which meant beer for just 39 Kr. That was just cheap enough for me to have one beer, no gulping involved. It was a nice bar by the way, decorated with Music Posters from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, Nirvana, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and with drums and guitars on the wall. Smoking was not allowed inside, but according to Norwegian strict rules, drinking was not allowed outside. As a Berlin citizen, I was of course a bit, how would you call it?
Let’s take the next day here, too. I wrote in the morning, then went to the student’s center driv and the lastebilsentralen (cargo center) where I found out that Norcargo / Bring drives north. I got the cell phone of a driver, who took me shortly after 5pm to Tana Bru, of all places. It was a long night, but I enjoyed to be on his truck, having some conversations. Near the Finnish border (he drove through Finland to Kautokeino and from there headed north west) we saw a huge reindeer herd, which was claxoned away by the continuously used mighty horns of the big truck. The animals ran off the road. I asked if there never was a deaf one. Some Finns told me that reindeer were the most stupid animals on the planet, but I doubted, wondering why they could have survived for so long in those latitudes. It was a beautiful scene, seeing the flock making way for the large truck, one of a handful by the way, delivering goods to the upper north of Finnmark. Logistics become more easy to grasp in hardly populated areas, as to many things.

Back to the basics. I played with the thought of quoting Penn/Krakauer’s Into the Wild for some time now. “It’s hard to catch a ride up north”. For me, it was all too easy from the Truck Terminal of Tromsø. “Not all is well on the hippy front”. My ‘hippies’, the young couple with their three dogs, were very happy. “Happines only real when shared”. That’s true in Tana Bru.

Tana Bru is a little settlement, not more than a hamlet with a gas station, where they let me stay inside. I waited several hours and then got lucky again. When does it ever stop? When does the fairy point her wand at some other being than me? It feels sometimes like I am traveling in an aura of untouchableness, which is nice on the one hand, but if you yearn for being touched once again, it’s not a very good idea. So this time a carbage truck driver offered me a ride to Kirkenes, 140 km further east, near the Russian border. They have do drive all the carbage of the region to Tana Bru since there was the only dump, he told me. Again, logistics and all the human structure we create on the Earth’s surface became translucent, and in understanding I felt part of it. In the truck I thought about my writing, as my frame of reference converged with the window of the truck, which protected us from the snowy foggy, and completely dark, late afternoon.

My couch-surfing host was not there, so I had a small problem. I had to rely on the hospitality of the people here. First I asked if they wouldn’t let me just be in the hotel overnight if I did some work there. Impossible. I decided to let it all out, resulting in the following conversation:

Can I just, you know, sleep inside on the floor and I’ll work for you.
– No, I cannot help you.
Yes you can, but you won’t
– No, I cannot.
Yes you can, but you don’t want to
– No, I cannot help you.
Yes you can, admit it, it’s as easy as that, you just don’t feel like it.
– No, I cannot.
Yes you can, but you don’t want. That’s okay. You don’t need to be afraid to say you want to let a fellow human being down.
– No I cannot sir. [bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep]

Amidst the bleeping sound of the hung up intercom system and the neon lights reflected in the fresh snow, I walked away. It was time to visit the church. And right in front of the church, fortuna’s arrow struck again. A young German fellow, Daniel, led some youth group there filling in a gap year after High School, and told me it was no problem at all to stay at his flat. Saved for the night, again. I never run out of luck. Am I glad I didn’t run for president in the US, I really would have hated myself defeating Obama.

Maybe you think Kirkenes it in the middle of nowhere. But there are actually some interesting things here. Yeah, let’s render some statistics here! It is the youngest community of Norway, just celebrating the 150th anniversary as I write (that’s right); it has the only point on earth where three time zones meet, the border between Norway, Finland, and Russia, and you can book an excursion, which I won’t. It’s enough that I have to put my clock ahead two hours when going to Russia. Daniel told me a nice Russian border story. It is absolutely forbidden to cross it without a visa (if you do, you end up paying about 1000€ and spending a night in a Russian cell). So when fishermen went fishing at a creek that constitutes the border in some part, they threw out their fishing-rod just a bit too far and it got stuck on the other side. And then… a hand appeared from the bushes and threw back the line. Sometimes, Russian border guards are nice guys.



Tromsø #2

On Sunday we woke up with strong coffee, and went to explore the Fjord of Tromsø. It was really beautiful, and we left the car several times to take pictures of it.

[ picture of the Tromsø Fjord, thanks again to Tasos ]


I got a bit sad about the fact we’d split and I’d be alone again, and I felt some loneliness. But that is also a writer’s drug, and I try to be a writer. On our way back to Rovaniemi, we drove through a large tunnel complex with several underground junctions. Loneliness and underground junctions, sounds poetic doesn’t it?

Back at Melanie’s place I said goodbye to the others, and they drove back to Rovaniemi, and did some writing. The day passed, nothing special, and the next day too. I explored Tromsø a little bit, gazed at the Amundsen statue and dreamed about the Northpole, and stunned in front of Europe’s northernmost cathedral in Europe’s northernmost city with presumably more bars per capita than anywhere else.

I cooked a simple meal with rice, eggs (thereby overcoming an early trauma of rice ‘n eggs that I made as a kid and that was so groce that they kept reminding me). This time it was actually quiet good, and it kept me fit. I began to feel the long hours of darkness around here though, and laid down on the couch for a good night’s sleep.

Tromsø #2

On Sunday we woke up with strong coffee, and went to explore the Fjord of Tromsø. It was really beautiful, and we left the car several times to take pictures of it.

[ picture of the Tromsø Fjord, thanks again to Tasos ]


I got a bit sad about the fact we’d split and I’d be alone again, and I felt some loneliness. But that is also a writer’s drug, and I try to be a writer. On our way back to Rovaniemi, we drove through a large tunnel complex with several underground junctions. Loneliness and underground junctions, sounds poetic doesn’t it?

Back at Melanie’s place I said goodbye to the others, and they drove back to Rovaniemi, and did some writing. The day passed, nothing special, and the next day too. I explored Tromsø a little bit, gazed at the Amundsen statue and dreamed about the Northpole, and stunned in front of Europe’s northernmost cathedral in Europe’s northernmost city with presumably more bars per capita than anywhere else.

I cooked a simple meal with rice, eggs (thereby overcoming an early trauma of rice ‘n eggs that I made as a kid and that was so groce that they kept reminding me). This time it was actually quiet good, and it kept me fit. I began to feel the long hours of darkness around here though, and laid down on the couch for a good night’s sleep.