Laura Ricketts Designs

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Laura Ricketts Designs is a personal and business website for Laura Ricketts, hand-knitwear designer, author, teacher, crafter, mother and wife.

Filtering by Tag: Sapmi Mitten Tour

Karasjok, the Sámi political capitol in Norway

Wednesday morning dawned bright and early.  I ate my expensive breakfast, bought by myself in the expensive grocery the night before, packed up the car and left. 

Off I went down the road I had journeyed up and down the previous three days. I said good bye to the little fishing villages, and the church at Nesseby. 

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I right past the Tana museum in Polmak again, taking a quick sidetrip to cross the Tana bridge.  The various bridges across the Tana are a big deal: until 60 years ago, there weren't even roads in the area. 

Just past Polmak was the Finnish border.  That's right.  Even though I started off in Norway and my destination for the day was in Norway, borders are very close in this area.  Mountains, rivers and other formations, often make it quicker to go through a neighboring country. Crossings are easy and swift.  In fact, in the three weeks I was overseas, I went in and out of 10 countries, and the only time my passport was asked for in Europe was in Berlin, Germany on my layover on the way home.  But, that's another story. 

Welcome, Finland! 

Tana bridge

Tana bridge

The speed trap on the eastern side of the Tana bridge.  I didn't participate in the fun.

The speed trap on the eastern side of the Tana bridge.  I didn't participate in the fun.

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The Tana river is really quite beautiful.  It forms the northern border between Finland and Norway, and in this area is shallow and rocky.  The surrounding land is sheltered and excellent for farming, and unusual occupation this far north. 

The Tana river

The Tana river

The car I rented, a VW golf, had bluetooth capability, so I was able to play the songs on my phone over the stereo system. Occasionally, I found the automatic shuffle / song choice ironic.

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At Utsjoki, Finland, the very tippy-top of the country, I crossed another bridge, the twin of the Tana bridge, and went back to the Norwegian side.  Utsjoki was smaller than I expected: basically a school, grocery, gas station and several campsites. I made sure I used the cheaper gas station and grocery, then took off up and down the hills of Norway. 

I arrived in Karasjok around 11 and headed straight for the parliament building. Karasjok is a charming town.  

The Sámi parliament building in Karasjok, Norway

The Sámi parliament building in Karasjok, Norway

Roadway sign indicating the Sámi parliament building

Roadway sign indicating the Sámi parliament building

At the parliament building I met with a librarian I had been emailing back and forth for a couple years.  Kåre took me on a tour of the building, introduced me to colleagues, took me to the Sámi museum where his cousin, Berit Åse, showed me some amazing mittens, and then we had some coffee with other colleagues.

Back at the campsite, I had a very interesting conversation with a Irish shepherd, recently come to Karasjok to do 3 months of shearing. 

The parliament building as seen from the Prime Minister's seat

The parliament building as seen from the Prime Minister's seat

The Prime Minister's seat from the gallery

The Prime Minister's seat from the gallery

A handcraft shop in Karasjok that has a hilarious door covering that mimics a woman's cap.

A handcraft shop in Karasjok that has a hilarious door covering that mimics a woman's cap.

It was a very full day. Tomorrow would prove to be just as full, as I got up and drove to Alta, Norway.  Until then, knit fast, knit safe. 

Museums 3, 4 & 5

The first day in Vadsø, I drove back to Neiden and visited the Øst-samiske museum.  Curator Honna Havas has done a magnificent job putting together exhibits and planning this new museum despite multiple, frustrating set-backs to the museum's opening. Her enthusiastic love for her job and the Skolt Sámi people (referred to as the East Sámi or Øst-samiske in Norwegian, hence the museum's name) was both stimulating and infectious.

She made sure Heine Wesslin was there to talk with me.  Heine is a younger woman who lives and attends college in Northern Finland.  She also has a deep love for the Skolt people, collecting patterns and learning multiple handicrafts under the tutelage of Matleena Fofonoff, a master craftsman of the Skolt Sámi people. 

I enjoyed the drive to and from Neiden much more this second day, now that I had driven it once before and knew what to expect. 

 Øst-samiske museum in Neiden, Norway

 Øst-samiske museum in Neiden, Norway

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The second day, I drove to Polmak, Norway, nestled next to the Finnish border on the Tana river, to visit the Tana museum. It is in an idyllic location, in a sheltered valley.  This is the traditional home to the River Sámi. The curator at this museum, Turid Lindi, arranged for several Sámi knitters to meet with me and share their projects.  What a joy to see their fine knitting, and hear our conversation translated from English to Norwegian to Sámi and back again.

Tana museum in Polmak, Norway

Tana museum in Polmak, Norway

The knitting group in Polmak

The knitting group in Polmak

I also popped in and chatted with curator Mia Krogh at the Varangerbotn / Sea Sami museum.  I had previously emailed with her, but forgot to tell her I would be in the area. She rose to the occasion and rustled up four pairs of mittens.  This pair, although not Sami, was particularly interesting with its history of being peddled door to door by a crazy old man years and years ago.  Now this pattern is associated with this region, and a region of Southern Sweden.  Very curious...

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The last museum was the Vadsø museum itself. The curator here, Renate Martinussen, arranged the Knit Cafe to meet when I was there, and for me to do a presentation.  A lovely warm evening, I walked to the Knit Cafe, and enjoyed a lovely coffee and cake, warm conversation, and beautiful projects.

Renate and a wonderful knitter, Turi

Renate and a wonderful knitter, Turi

a collection of local mittens

a collection of local mittens

the international women's group joined us for the night

the international women's group joined us for the night

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Next: my drive and time in the Sámi Norwegian political center city, Karasjok. 

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.

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Transient
Transient

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?