Day 127. 6th of July. No paddling.
While Stein is in Oslo, Erling is enjoying the hospitality of Margerethe and Ulf.
Our “blog editor” Karianne also joined us for a couple of days, but traveled on to Stjørdal for salmon fishing this morning.
So Erling was the only one to get a VIP tour of Pasvik.
A borderland tour, guided by Margerethe and Ulf both of whom have their roots here.
Erling has never been to Finnmark before and is mostly ignorant about the details of its history, culture and nature.
First impressions are always impactful, here it is only room for some highlights.
History: It’s borderland history. Centuries of fluid and porous borders and simultaneous taxation from multiple states. Only a treaty in 1826 firmed up the borders between Norway, Russia (Finland).
Then a campaign to “make Norway more Norwegian” and less Finnish and Sami, called “Norsk Bureising” that encouraged people from poor parts of southern Norway to cultivate new land in Pasvik as alternative to emigrating to America.
Then the second world War in which Finnmark suffered more than the rest of Norway together.
Then a cold war which turned gratitude toward a liberator into a suspect attitude.
In these times Ulf served as an officer in the border forces, and today he took us to one of the inspections towers from where they kept a watch of the border and a camp for KGB recruits just across the border.
Now it is a museum of sorts with a small café serving waffles. Detente on this spot at least.
After the break up of the Soviet Union the border opened and the exchange of people and goods across it increased massively.
Then the Russian annexation of Crimea which heightened tensions again.
What is more abstract politics in the capital translates into very concrete and tangible consequences in the “borderland”.
Culture: What made the most impression on Erling was to visit the “boarding” school where Ulf’s mother went. Population was spread out and communications poor, so from an early age kids would spend three months at a time away from home.
This was a society that much more than today, put different value on individuals based on class and ethnicity. Margerethe’s father felt the sharp end of that at another boarding school.
No substance to romanticism about a simple, glorious and harmonious past. Again the shortcomings were amplified in the borderland.
Nature: Here the main boundary is the strike slip fault that separates the eocambrian strata of Varanger halvøya from the up to 3 bn year old gneis basement to the south.
For people whose brains have not been twisted by education as a geoscientist, the most interesting boundary is probably the climate boundary between the colder coastal climes in the Kirkenes area and the much more benign climate in the Pasvik Valley, just a short drive inland. This is what made Pasvik a focus for settlement from southern Norway.
Speaking of climate, it has been a warm summers day and we enjoyed Margerethe’s cooking outside.
The weather forecast looks good for the coming week also.
Stein returns tomorrow and Sunday morning we plan to start from Grense Jakobselv. Weather Permitting.
Very interesting report from borderland. May good time last.