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Reindeer fillet and Sami Joik in a Lean-to at Norway Russian boarder

Kirkenes at 70ºN 30ºE is as far east as Istanbul and Cairo and as far north as Point Barrow in Alaska. You find this city in the municipality of Sør-Varanger with borders to Russia (196km) – the only NATO border to Russia – and to Finland (140km). Temperature measurements in February show a minimum of -52ºC while summer maximum can reach +32ºC. The municipality has approximately 4000 lakes and offers a great variety of outdoor activities. In addition to the lakes, there are great salmon rivers, cloudberry, hunting, a vast network of snow mobile tracks as well as perfect conditions for cross-country skiing.
When attending the Norwegian Computer Society’s (NCS – DND) annual meeting last weekend, we had an adventurous evening at Sollia Inn (Gjestgiveri) where you are in the middle of this fantastic boarder landscape and fauna. Let me give you an idea from my own photo album (click all pics to bigify and enjoy):

Kirkenes Solli Lean-to in Norway #5
Behind me is lake Pikevann and on the horizon: Russia. I could not resist trying that four-wheeler :-)

On the lake (the Russian boarder goes in the middle of the lake), I spotted some ice fishers and walked closer, ready with my Nikon S2 camera:
Kirkenes Solli Lean-to in Norway #10
A small fish; Perch. This was on the Norwegian side (you can’t walk over the boarder on the ice just like that), but the guy was a Russian. He was quite good in English, a business man with two years visa and stayed at the Inn.

On the shore of Pikevann (lake), they have built a monument and restaurant with architectural inspiration from a Lean-to (= Gapahuk):
Kirkenes Solli Lean-to in Norway #1

Sitting inside, nice and warm by an open fireplace and a fantastic chef, the view gives it a magical atmosphere:

Kirkenes Solli Lean-to in Norway #3 Kirkenes Solli Lean-to in Norway #4
The picture to the right was taken 8PM: The sun was about to go down (the midnight sun is there from May 20th).

We had the most fantastic gourmet adventure – a cuisine made of local ingredients:
Kirkenes Solli Lean-to in Norway #7
Kamchatka-crab (King crab) Chinois

Kirkenes Solli Lean-to in Norway #8
Filét of Reindeer

Joik, the native song style of the Sami People:

Let me and this culinary feast with a cultural pearl, but first an introduction: The original inhabitants of this area are the Skolt Sami. This Sami group migrated between the coast and inland in the present Norwegian, Finnish, and Russian territory long before any borders existed. In 1826, the previously disputed areas were divided between Norway and Russia (Finland being a Russian principality), causing great difficulties for the Sami. During the 19th century Finnish settlers (Kven) arrived to the valleys, and from 1906 Norwegians came in numbers because of the iron mining starting up in Kirkenes.

Their Yoik or Joik, a unique form of cultural expression for the Sami people, can be understood as a metaphor for Sami traditional culture itself. Like the Sami people, the yoik has been misunderstood, ridiculed, appropriated, and even threatened. A form of song which utilizes a scale and vocalizations which are unfamiliar to virtually everyone in the Western (American and European) world, the history of the yoik is representative of all the encroachment and abuse that the Sami people have suffered at the hands of outsiders.
At the dinner the evening before, the Sami John Henrik Mienna song his joik made for his uncle, John Anders:

Sami local Costume in Norway
Left: John Henrik with costume from Kautokeino. Right DND’s annual meeting host Mariann W. Magga, with her costume from Sør-Varanger.

I used my Nokia N82 to record his joik. I’m very sorry for the bad picture quality (difficult with a lot of lights from behind), but hope you understand I still want to share because of the wonderful song:

The whole weekend was a wonderful experience and I hope you enjoyed my sharing it with you. Check the two other posts!:
Catholic Orthothodox Easter Celebration in Zapoljarnyj Russia
and Snow Hotel, Reindeer and Dog sledding in Kirkenes Norway.

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  1. That’s a very interesting post, Renny. I was blown away by the great differences in the temperature during summer and winter…-52C. Too cold for me, I’m afraid. I find 10C cold…whimp that I am.

    As for reindeer fillet…that would be like eating Rudolph, wouldn’t it? I won’t eat kangaroo steak because I keep thinking of Skippy and also we have kangaroos that come up the driveway and visit us.

    The scenery is magnificent and thank you for showing your visit.

  2. Another fascinating post! I loved the song. It’s very important for traditions to be kept going for future generations.

    I followed the link to the Sollia Inn – it looks so wonderful.

  3. oh renny, that was really fascinating since it is an area and a culture i know so very little about. i learned so much. i am especially glad you recorded the joik. i am wondering if they often use instruments other than a guitar. is there some traditional instrument that would go with that sort of music?

    the food looks fantastic too. i love king crab and since i am very fond of venison i think it would be nice to try reindeer.

    1. Always happy when you learn something from my posts :-)

      A good question Michelle: Actually they normally don’t use instruments at all. John said this was an exception.

  4. The King Crab looks wonderful but as a professional Santa I am shocked to see you eating one of my reindeer. Actually I like venison very much and expect that reindeer is very tasty. The song I do not find strange at all. It is more a chant than a song and is not totally unlike some of our Native American chants. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I have to admit that I’d have probably eaten Rudolph and enjoyed it to :) From your first photo it appears that the four wheeler has a plow attachment – I’m guessing that would be a necessity up there. Thanks for sharing from such an interesting place.

  6. Renny!!! Thank you so much for this post I’m intrigue and the costume is so colourful. I just love it!!

    By the way, I attended a seminar to day about the challenges on worklife balance versus career in the Nordic Countries (Norway, Sweden & Denmark). I enjoyed the sharing from the folks and see if I can post something soon :D

    You looked great in that four wheeler ;)

  7. Hello! have been reading your blog for a while but have not posted. I am so enjoying reading about Norway, and fun different things, not if I just did a google search. My family on my fathers side came from the Hallingdahl area and had a tradtion of being Hardanger Fiddlers (is that right? ) My great-great-great grandfather was evidently well known and in demand after he moved to the US and would take “Christine” (his violin) to play at weddings and such. One day I hope to visit!! And I would have tasted Rudolph, have had kangaroo and cobra so why not be adventurous??

  8. wow,that restaurant is indeed fancy. didn’t know it would be big from the way it looked outside and that food seems delicious too, although i must admit i don’t eat reindeers, there’s also a restaurant nearby here which offers such exquisite meals but have never tried it.

    the costumes are very colourful and those 2 are such good sport to strike a pose :D beautiful scenery, i hope that guy had more luck with the fish than that small one .. that’s a lot of work for such a catch.

  9. Hey there,
    Woahh….That’s some place. I’ve marked it in my list of places to visit…….one day soon. Definately.

    The pics got me. Nature is surely unbeatable in beauty, inni??

  10. What a great post! Really interesting, Renny. I’d like to try that four-wheeler too. :) The view from that restaurant is simply amazing. I think I would forget to eat! Although… the food looks good. The costumes are so colourful, beautiful!

  11. You are having fun – that is the way to enjoy the life when you still have it ;-)

    PS Thank you for the comment, and I hope that all is well with you too.

  12. I am amazed by the variation in temperatures and how hot it can get in Summer up there! I had never heard of the Sami people – thank you for again educating me as well as entertaining me with your wonderful photos

  13. Hey Renny, how be u?
    Listen, U have been coomented upon on my blog. read Comment no 120 and 131. Maybe Ud like to tell em something??? Or…maybe not. :-)

  14. thanks for sharing your experiment with us! I would like to meet one day sami people and really appreciated the song and watching the costums. Can’t realize how people can survive at – 52°c !!! I suppose they stay comfy at home! But summer temperature are very nice. I even prefer a 32 than the hot temperature we can have in south! But don’t worry at all! If temperature is too hot we can stay swimming in the Mediterranean sea!

  15. Renny…this was another great post. The scenery is awesome, the food looks great. And you look like you are having the time of your life…like usual!

    So tell me… is reindeer better than regular deer?
    Does it cost alot?

    Hope all is well

    Love, Jess

  16. Wow! what a lovely co-incidence!! I was invited by the Swedish Embassy in Singapore to a movie preview of Wolf, a movie on the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Sweden.

    I marvelled at the hundreds of reindeer and here one landed on your plate. :P

    Part of Encore! The European Season in Singapore,
    EUFF aims to foster greater cultural exchange between Europe and Singapore, offering Singaporeans the opportunity to watch some of Europe’s most acclaimed films, which few outside Europe would have had the chance to watch.

    There is no Norwegian film. :(

  17. Hey Renny,

    4000 lakes? It must be a gorgeous place to be in :D! I love water, and places surrounded by water are more suitable to develop one’s intuitive skills…

    Renny, you look great in this picture, man…the colour of the turtle-neck jersey suits you! :D

    The Kamchatka-crab Chinois looks delicious!

    I watched a movie once (I think with Juliette Binoche – can’t be sure now) where one of the characters descended from the Sami culture (and the movie told us a bit about this culture and how much they suffered). It is horrible when people mistreat others simply because they do not understand their ways *nodding*.

    You were right: the song is beautiful! Here’s to Yoik *raising my glass*!

    I loved the fact that you shared this with us: thanks, Renny :D!


  18. The scenery is beautiful but those extremes of temperatures are amazing. Too cold for me I’m afraid!

    As usual you make the food sound so delicious, my mouth is watering!

    The Sami music was really interesting – was the film Max talks about ‘Miss Smillas Feeling for Snow’?

    …. its never too cold if you know how to dress right :-) ….
    I think your right about the film. That is a Danish movie (not seen it myself) about concerned with rather deeper cultural issues, particularly Denmark’s curious post-colonial history, and also the nature of relationships that exist between individuals and the societies in which they are obliged to operate.
    So there was no Sami there, but maybe Eskimos.

  19. wow what a feast! ;)

    do norwegians (and scandinavians in general) use other brands of mobiles besides nokia?

    I think Nokia is the biggest (as in the rest of the world), but by all means: you’ll find e.g. Sony/Ericsson, Samsong, LG and of course iPhone.

  20. I like your new car :lol:

    Food looks awesome as usual, I guess you need that to warm up. Lovely setting too… I have a thing for wooden houses.

  21. Very interesting post and photos, colorful in many ways. Of course we have Sami people here in Sweden too, but I have never seen them in real life. I wonder if I ever will? Time will tell….

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