The Adventures in Arctic Summer

As we drove in our white minivan straight up north towards the arctic on E4, I took a sigh of relief that finally, this trip was happening. For the past two weeks, we were on the brink of canceling the plans many times. We had been unsuccessful in finding a rental car that could fit 6 people. Eventually, after spending a couple of afternoons calling each rental agency in Gothenburg and Stockholm we somehow found a white minivan at a fuel station in Västerås, a small town an hour away from Stockholm. At last, we had found our ride for the next ten days.

Fully aware of the anti-petroleum sentiments in the north of Norway, we started our journey in a van covered with ugly stickers of an oil company. Nevertheless, the ugly exteriors of the van were easily outdone by the vastness and comfort of the interiors. We were six, and the maximum capacity of this minivan was nine, so there was plenty of space for everyone.

After making a few quick pauses along a few lakes on the way, we made our first stop at Skuleberget at Höga Kusten. When we went to the information center at Skuleberget to know our options for hiking up the mountain, we were presented with two options, either to take the long but easy route which was 2km long or to take the short but steep route which was 600m. Of course, the word ”easy” was too hurtful for our egos and we chose to take the steep route, well, wrong choice. It was a climb of 300m in a distance of 600m, so almost a climb of 80%, most of the trail was stairs or rocks with ropes for support. All this was still doable, but, it was one of the once-in-a-year 30°C days of Swedish summer. By the time we reached the summit, all of us had our shirts dripping in sweat and had to take them off. Thankfully, there was a small cafe atop Skuleberget selling ice cream and without losing a second we headed straight to it. The cafe offered a majestic panoramic view, and it was definitely worth all the sweat.

We were calmly enjoying the view with icecream until someone noticed that the area was full of blueberries, so the next half an hour went by in plucking blueberries. For the obvious reasons, we took the ”Easy” route back to our van and proceeded on our journey up north. The warm sunny day had a perfect ending with a magical sunset worth stopping for. 1000km and 12 hours after leaving Stockholm, we entered the Arctic circle and spent the night in Jokkomokk.

A perfect sunset, somewhere near Jokkomokk

As we continued on our journey the following day, we were still 600km away from our destination in Norway. En route, there was a plan to hike to a lake called Trollsjön in Kiruna close to the Norwegian border. As we started our drive from Jokkomokk up north, we could see that the landscape has completely changed from what we had seen in the 1000km journey before entering the Arctic circle. Our drive was pleasantly interrupted several times by reindeers and arctic foxes wandering onto the roads. Not just the landscape, but a cultural change was also evident with all the places marked in Sami in addition to the usual of Swedish. I picked some words in Sami too; like Jaure is a lake and Johka is a river. The lake we were headed to also has a more popular Sami name called Rissajaure.

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Road Tripping Croatia

A few years ago I saw an unreal picture of a dreamy place with crystal-blue water flowing through a series of lakes. At that point, I didn’t know where this place was but the scenery had convinced me to find it and pay a visit. Later, when I found out that it was in Croatia, I discovered that those lakes were not the only thing worth a visit to Croatia, the country is a photographer’s paradise. At the beginning of 2018, when I and my friends were thinking of options for our next road trip, we decided to go to visit this beautiful Balkan country.

A week in Croatia was full of amazing experiences. If I had to pick three highlights of our trip that would be: beaches, national parks, and most definitely, the roads. So I would go in that order.

The Beaches

Zadar

Upon landing in Zagreb, we felt a welcome change in temperature, it changed from around 10°C to 25+°C. So the first thing we did once we got the rental car was to drive towards the sea. As it turns out, the sea is a little far from Zagreb – a 300km drive brought us to the beautiful city of Zadar. To our luck, we got a brand new car, so we didn’t realize when those 3 hours passed. The route from Zagreb to Zadar perfectly narrates the diversity in the Croatian landscape. We started the drive along lush green forests, then came the tree-less boulder filled valleys with distant views of the water, but before we could reach close to water, we drove through small Balkan villages with fruit plantations all the way to Zadar.

Right before leaving for Croatia, a friend of mine had suggested not to miss the sunset in Zadar. Luckily, we were close to the perfect place for a majestic sunset – the old town of Zadar which sits right at the Adriatic coast with uninterrupted views of the sea. We spent some time exploring the Venetian walls of the old town till we found the ideal place to enjoy the sunset with some soothing natural music in the background from a special musical organ – öalskdfj organ, which is a unique installation making amazing melodies with sea waves. Whenever a ship or a boat passes making waves, you hear a different melody which is quite scintillating. We sat by the sea enjoying the sunset with a soothing breeze brushing across the face as the sky changed its color from bright white to blue, then purple and orange and finally the street lights took over. This setting sounded a bit romantic, but we had no choice but to make it bromantic and have fun. The things I had heard about sunset in Zader lived every bit up to the hype and more.

Zadar’s old town is a quaint narrow peninsula which was built during the Roman era; throughout the day, it is filled with tourists coming on huge cruise ships. But when we went back to explore the streets after sunset, the ambiance of the streets had totally changed. The day-tourists had disappeared and we could finally notice the shiny white stones on the streets reflecting the lights from the neon signs of the ubiquitous gelaterias, gift shops, and restaurants. Not just the lights, these gelatarias, and restaurants added a pleasant aroma of a myriad of flavors into the evening breeze which made our mouths water. Eventually, we couldn’t resist and went to one of the gelaterias and ordered more scopes of ice cream than we could finish before it all melted. At this gelateria, we realized two things: Surviving without cash was difficult in Croatia, and gelato is awfully cheap here. The guy at the counter was nice enough to trust us to come back with cash, which we did. And then we carried enough cash throughout the rest of the trip to satiate our gelato cravings.

Croatian Islands

After spending one evening and having next day’s breakfast in Zadar. We headed straight to the accomplish the real purpose of Coming to Croatia – Beaches. Our next stop was a town called Bol on the Island Murter. It was a short drive but we got delayed by road blockages to facilitate a half-marathon in Zadar. After almost an hour, the traffic blockage opened up, and we started driving towards Bol.

During the drive, while catching up on the past months’ anecdotes and blunders, another blunder happened. We didn’t realize that the speed limit changed from 60 to 50 close to a village and a policeman standing with a speed gun clocked us at 58 kmph. 15minutes of talking to a policeman who knew less than 20 words in English and 250 Kunas (Croatian Currency) later, we resumed our drive towards the beaches swearing not to miss any speed limit signs.

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Planning perfect trips without going broke!

Whenever I tell people that I visited 12 countries during my first 12 months in Sweden, I often get asked how I plan my travel, especially about managing finances. Obviously, neither I own any oil wells nor I am a drug dealer! So I need to plan budget trips and I’ve managed to do that successfully so far. You won’t believe how less our road trip to Norway cost, just SEK 2400 per person, that too including food, accommodation, fuel, toll tax, and car rentals. And we rented a Volvo V70, didn’t camp anywhere, and stayed in cabins. I’ll try to share some tips from my such experiences.

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A few days in Austrian Alps!

Last year, when I was riding on a bus from Munich to Trento (Italy), the bus passed through the heart of Austrian Alps, Innsbruck. The landscape from the bus window was itself so mesmerizing that I made a promise to myself to come back here next year. This summer, although I was trapped in Sweden with my thesis work, I made sure to take out a couple of weeks to visit Switzerland, Austria, and a little bit of Germany. I would say the most beautiful part of this trip was the time I spent in the Austria. Continue reading “A few days in Austrian Alps!”

Three sunny days in Lisbon

If you are living in Sweden, by March it’s obvious to feel an intense need to see the sun and absorb its warmth. So when it comes to planning an Easter trip, it’s a no-brainer, just head south to a place with 20+ degrees of temperature. Although, when everyone is thinking the same way, you can expect the high ticket prices. But I somehow managed to travel to Lisbon for 3 days, I know it’s against my “no short trips” rule. But doing a thesis makes you helpless and you have to break some rules.

This trip also gave me a chance to visit Stockholm as I was flying out from there. I didn’t miss this chance to go and see the cherry blossoms. Continue reading “Three sunny days in Lisbon”

An Evening in Gothenburg

This week I had the chance to visit Gothenburg. A beautiful city on the west coast of Sweden. I must confess, that I have traveled a lot in one year, but in Sweden, I have traveled very less. So it was the second city I was visiting after Stockholm and it turned out to be a nice experience.

Ironically, I was there on the day of winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. So I had not much choice than to wander the dark streets, which is not a problem for me as I’ve been wandering at nights all the time in Stockholm as well.

The city was beautifully decorated with all the Christmas lights and the streets were empty because of the holiday season: an Ideal situation for a photographer. Continue reading “An Evening in Gothenburg”

10 Trip suggestions for this Fall

I’ve been getting frequent queries over the past one month like “how to manage to travel”, “where to go this season”, “How to plan low budget trips”. Though I’m not an expert in travel planning, I’ll share my experience from past one year of traveling as I talk about the above questions one by one.

When to travel !!

If you look from the perspective of a KTH student, apart from the long summer holidays, there are two probable times in every study period when one can plan a trip.

The first option is to travel as soon as the classes are over, usually there is a gap of ten days between the last class and the exam week. So if you feel that you need to refresh a bit before getting in the exam mode, this is a perfect time. Continue reading “10 Trip suggestions for this Fall”

Norway #5: Sky • Sheep • Snow

The Glacier

Our initial plan was to hike up to Trolltunga, and we even completed a figment of the hike (though the toughest part), but then our preparations were not good enough for the weather and marshy conditions there, so we decided to keep it for the next trip.

Disappointed, we arrived at our cabin in Jondal. Turns out our host worked with a skiing company, so when he got to know about our failed hike, he suggested us to go to a glacier nearby where he takes people for skiing, turns out, this was Norway’s third largest Glacier – Folgefonna.

The drive towards the glacier was one of the most scenic.

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Norway #4: Wheels • Waterfalls • Wanderlust

Estrella

If you ask me what I enjoyed most on this trip, I’d surely say Driving, who won’t enjoy driving on such scenic roads, especially when you are driving a V70, we ended up naming our car – Estrella. So here are some pictures with Estrella.

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Norway #3: Routes • Rocks • Rain

Norwegian Routes

What’s the best part of a road trip, of course, ROADS! and when it’s Norway, it becomes even better, driving across Fjords, tunnels, bridges, narrow roads, valleys, it was all unforgettable. While I wasn’t driving, I was shooting 😉 here are some of the views of Norwegian routes. The most scenic was Route 5, Route 63, & Route 64.

When Norway starts resembling Iceland, somewhere on Route 63.

Continue reading “Norway #3: Routes • Rocks • Rain”