Three Days in Vadsø
*This post is about a trip I took last month to northern Sweden, Finland, and Norway. This area is also called Sapmi.*
After Eeva flew home to Stockholm, I drove the two hours around the Varanger fjord to Vadsø. The drive near the water was beautiful.
At the SW corner of the fjord, the hills became higher, and it was evident the road had to be blown through the rock. Just inland, the land also looked more dessert-like. Up this far north, fir trees won't grow. Birch trees are everywhere, but they are not tall and stately up here. Just short and scrubby.
That last picture is the beautiful church at Nesseby, one of the few left standing in this whole Northern region after the Germans retreated during the winter of 1944. The Russians were advancing just behind them, and so the Germans burned everything in their wake.
As a former history teacher and history buff, I was well aware of this war tactic, but had always associated it with Poland and areas further South. In the States, we almost never hear news and history of Northern Europe. Well, this border between Russia and Norway was quite an important one. Germany invaded and took over the government of Norway early 1940, and Norway borders Russia all the way up here. In 1944 as the Germans retreated, very little was left standing as a result of this burn strategy -- NOTHING. In Inari, Finland, I was very seriously told that ONLY A SINGLE FENCEPOST was left after the Germans retreated. And, this was during cold months!
The Germans had an outpost in Vadsø. When the call came that the Russians were advancing, this German outpost had to hurriedly get to Varangerbotn (the mouth of the fjord), before they were stranded in the northern land mass. As a result, there were a few structures left unburnt in this region, including this beautiful church.
The church itself is located on a peninsula in the fjord. The town is just a few streets north on the main road. It is a sea Sámi community: one of the postcards I bought of the church includes interior shots with lots of Sámi bonnets. Fishing boats and fish drying racks are scattered among the houses in this town. Other information I read said there was a Sámi sacrificial area near where the church was built. I'm not sure how this was discovered -- archeological digs?