While I was away at my first MFA residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, Chris was on his own adventure to Jokkmokk. Here’s his photo essay.

***

On a cold, foggy morning in Amsterdam, on the way to the train station, I walked down a street that reeked of beer, weed, sex—and a hint of vomit.

My adventure had begun at home in Montana the week before. I’d packed a backpack with no itinerary, just a fantasy of standing in a train station, looking up at a departure board, and picking an exciting destination. Like in college, but without the hostels.

Now, as  I turned the corner in Amsterdam, the first stop on my ten-day unplanned adventure, the old city revealed her charm …

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Next stop: Denmark. Off the dunes, at the northernmost tip of the country, two cold seas meet. Oddly, they don’t mix.

Here I met an old fisherman. We were the only ones there at sunrise. He said it was strange that the predominant waves were coming from the North Sea side, he said they usually come from the Baltic Sea side.

We chatted about the magical light here and how it inspired impressionist painters over a century ago.

Rubbing his rough grey whiskers, he gazed at the lighthouse just down the coast. We bid adieu, and I started my long hike back to Skagen, along the sandblasted beach, the cold, salty wind stinging my cheeks.

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Beginning the day with a walk to the Skagen station in Denmark (sprinting to catch the departing early train), followed  by a ferry ride to Sweden across a white-capped sea, a taxi mishap, a delayed flight to Stockholm in a blizzard, another flight to Kallax, taxi to Luleå for an overnight in a hotel, and then a three-hour ride on a “broken” bus, I eventually arrived in Jokkmokk, the Arctic Circle, where the temps hovered around -25F. I tried to wander around during the couple hours of light, but when my eye froze shut during a blink, I gave up.

The next morning, layered up with half the clothes in my pack, off I went to the bus station, hours before sunrise. The dark bus station was not a good sign. I soon learned from the only other soul stirring on this arctic morning that the bus was “frozen.”

Sometimes misfortune turns to serendipity. And it did in this case. The canceled bus gave me a chance to get to know some local Sami people, who helped me arrange a ride to Luleå. Perhaps the highlight of the Jokkmokk trip.

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Back in the Netherlands, little Dutch boys raced their bicycles on a path alongside the canal, where a thin sheet of ice reflected the morning sun.

Townsfolk, going in and out of their glossy green houses, greeted me warmly.

I’m not certain if the scent of Edam cheese was just in my head or really in the air.

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31 thoughts on “On the Road to Jokkmokk

  1. Awesome pictures Chris! Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities to visit.
    Always enjoy reading about your and Monica’s adventures.

    Patti (Diaz) Cattell-Bell

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh how I love these photographs. I especially loved the part about Denmark – I still have distant family there. This was a lovely post – I thoroughly enjoyed it! I think the scent of cheese was probably in your head… I began salivating just seeing that danged photo!! Thanks a lot!! Ha ha.

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    1. Yeah, Denmark was very cool. Like you, I have distant relatives there…at least that’s what the National Geographic genome project says. (P.S. Monica says to let you know she’s fallen behind on your posts, too much homework, but she’s gonna catch up soon!)

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  3. Hi, Chris–

    I’m inspired by your destination-less travel plan. My husband is recently retired and we have been traveling a lot, but mostly in tours. There are many benefits to tours, and I enjoy them. And I’d love to take an off-season ramble around some part of Europe with a minimum of planning and see what I can discover and what I learn about myself.

    I don’t know how I stumbled on this blog, but I have enjoyed the few posts I’ve seen and I appreciate that I’m not inundated with posts. Quality over quantity. Thanks.

    Sallie Wolf
    http://www.salliewolf.com,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sallie, thanks for reading, and for your kind comments. The “minimal planning” concept is a rewarding way to travel, at least for me. Definitely need to stay flexible…and patient. Happy rambling!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great photos! Unplanned travel can be enormous fun, and surprisingly stress-free. It’s all about going with the flow, and even the vagaries of local transport become an event in themselves. As opposed to a frustration because, oh hell, we’re not going to make it to (Wherever) tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Whoa!!! Those are GORGEOUS photos!! Love, love, love reading Monica’s posts and enjoying your amazing pics. Thanks so much for sharing!!! xo Maribeth

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  6. Chris, I know it’s redundant, but the photography is fantastic. What camera are you using? And how did you ever hear of, let alone decide to visit Jokkmokk? Thanks for another geography lesson.

    Enjoy the day,
    John

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    1. Thanks, John. I hope you don’t laugh at me like my travel photo class instructor did when I answered the same question. I use an iPhone. Specifically, these were taken with the new Iphone 7 plus. I’m way too lazy to carry around even a small camera. Regarding Jokkmokk, I was having breakfast in Skagen, pondering my next move, when I got an email from my brother that said “you oughta go to Jokkmokk”, so I did.

      Enjoy the day as well!

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  7. My daughter and I have taken that same train ride from Copenhagen and the ferry across to Sweden. We stopped along the way to visit the Isak Dinesen house/museum and toured Hamlet’s castle. I can hardly believe the beautiful photography you capture with your iPhone! Lovely work. How did you find so many clear days?! I was surprised not to see more thatched roofs, and the occasional stork. I suppose the storks had migrated for the season.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lois! That’s so cool you’ve taken the same trip, we’ll need to share stories. I was really lucky on having clear days, and somehow the thatched roofs didn’t make the cut on the few pics I posted…but they were plentiful, and charming for sure!

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