My spider senses are tingling as I pull into Vardø. I can't quite put my finger on it but something ain't right. Maybe it's fact that on the main drag where the bars and shops lie, the road loses the hardtop and little stones ping up against the undercarriage. Maybe there's a little arctic bite in the air. Maybe we're just that bit nearer to Russia. Maybe it's the 10,000 ft tunnel that separates Vardø from the mainland that makes things feel a little ... isolated. Or maybe it's just me after a long drive.
The feeling, however, doesn't dissipate as I chose an eatery and the owner asks if I want to see the American menu. British I say, pointedly. Things warm up a bit, though, as I engage in a bit of light conversation and we chat about how she married a merchant seaman and ended up on what translates from old Norse as Wolf Island.
Said husband and I enthusiastically watch Portugal go out to Uruguay in the knockout round of the World Cup (sport really is the universal male bonding language). He tells me that I must take the road to Hamningberg, that none of his guests have ever regretted the advice and that two Belgium cyclists last month emailed back their appreciation. I promise him I will make the journey, and bid my goodbyes to have a poke about the town.
It's a pretty rundown place but I begin to warm to its desolate charm. The deserted buildings are covered in the most distinctive graffiti; they appear to be the work of a single gifted artist. On the crest of the hill is an ominous and threatening giant golfball. This is what wikipedia has to say about it:
Since 1998, the town has housed a radar installation called Globus II. Its official purpose is the tracking of space junk; however, due to the site's proximity to Russia, and an alleged connection between the Globus II system and USanti-missile systems, the site has been the basis for heated controversy in diplomatic and intelligence circles.
My spider senses never let me down.