Going even more north (Lapland)

Words cannot describe what an amazing and unique trip it has been to the most north tip of Finland, but I will try to give an impression of the journey in this story. After a lot of planning, gathering warm clothes and snowboots (thanks to my parents for bringing them with them), and discussing what to bring and what to leave in order to be best prepared for the cold as possible, the time was finally there. At six o’clock in the morning we were on our way to Copenhagen airport to catch our flight to Helsinki and from there, to go to Lapland by bus. A very early start to an amazing week full of snow.

When we arrived in Helsinki, there was no snowflake to be seen yet. But about 30 minutes later, the whole city was covered in a white blanket, extremely appropriate to make the best snowballs and get into a snowball fight at every cathedral or statue we stopped. And we never got bored of it, because that is what we did all day while strolling through Helsinki. It was as if the weather wanted to give us a preview of what was coming higher north, because this was also the first snowfall in Helsinki that year. When we left by bus that evening it got whiter and whiter the further we got north. On the long way, we visited a wildlife zoo where we saw polar bears and reindeers and then crossed the arctic circle at the Santa Claus Village. We had already heard some rumors that this village would be the most touristic place ever and that was definitely not a lie. If you wanted a picture with ‘the real santa claus himself’ you had to pay a ridicules amount of 40 euros and the rest of the village was packed with shops full of gloves, blankets, Christmas decoration and post cards. After the stop at santa claus village, we had to drive another couple of hours to arrive at the Lidl, nearby our final stop: Saariselka. Because this was our last chance to do ‘cheap’ grocery shopping, me and my other cottage-roommates loaded bags full of food to eat and cook the upcoming weak. After some trouble fitting it into the bus besides the other bags we left to go to our cottage, finally!!

It was already quite late in the evening when we arrived in Saariselka, dropped our stuff and eat our first meal in the cottage. That night after dinner, we went to the higher part (or as the inhabitants called it: the mountain) of the city, to get the best view on the Northern light!! While sitting there for a while with some alcohol to keep us warm, we decided that is was not going to happen tonight and got back to the cottage. This was what we did every night after that during our stay in Lapland, but we were not lucky.. We didn’t get to see the northern lights as it was far to cloudy all days. But we decided that that was only a good reason to go back there once more in the future. But besides the cloudy sky, the view in the city was amazing! It was sort of fairytale-like, magical and a bit shady and mysterious at the same time. The trees there were only pine trees and they were totally packed and covered with snow. All those deeply bended trees next to each other made the view very unique. Especially, because there was almost no sunlight anymore. If the sun came out, it did so for about three hours a day and then it got dark again. But not totally night dark as we are used to in Holland, the sky still had a light glow to it. The days in Lapland were fully planned with a lot of activities. On the first day, we made a bus tour to the see the ocean in Norway. It was really funny to see that the scenery totally changed when we crossed the border from Finland to Norway. There were other pines growing and not that much snow at all! In a little village at the sea, we ate some delicious fish soup. Then we drove to a small sauna, which an older woman of the village owned. Since we knew, this was on the program we all took our swimwear and got dressed in a little old dressing room, not well isolated at all. In the sauna, we made sure that we were really hot and sweaty to be able to survive what was coming next. Because we were there to experience a dive into the cold cold ocean! And so we did. It was really cold and especially my feet let me know that I was acting crazy, but it was still totally worth it! After our dive, we got back into our normal clothes and snowboots and felt reborn again. Then we drove back through the beautiful landscape to Saariselka. We also visited a Reindeer farm where we could enjoy a ride on a reindeer sledge and meet the local inhabitants, the Saami. The Saami are really colourful and welcoming people and we got to roast a sausage above the fireplace while listening to their stories about their habits and way of life. When we got back at night, we did a snowshoe safari. At first it was hard to find balance on those big tennis rackets, but after a running game through the thick snow, we got used to it quite fast. Without those shoes, it wouldn’t be possible to walk through the forest where the snow was at least knee height. The tour guide seemed to enjoy to take the most impassable paths he could find and we ended up climbing a really steep hill packed in snow with our knees and hands. Holding on to everything we could find on our way to the top, while the ones already there where throwing snowballs to make it even harder. Luckily, I was one of the first ones to be at the top! At the end of the hike, we got our fourth roasted sausage of that day. Since every cottage had their own sauna, we used it as much as we could while we were there. A tradition in Scandinavia is to go into the sauna, make it really hot, then go outside and jump and run into the snow, and go back into the sauna again. Of course, we couldn’t abandon that tradition, and so we lie in our bikinis in the snow several times. But the very best part of the trip was the husky safari. We went to a husky farm, where they kept hundreds Alaskan huskies, all equally enthusiast and jumpy. With two people, you could ride a sledge, one driving and one sitting in the front, dragged around by a team of six dogs. We learned that the first two were always females. They were (of course) the intelligent dogs which knew the way and understood commands as ‘left’ and ‘right’. The next two dogs were the most eager to run. They encouraged the rest of the team with their enthusiasm. And the last two dogs were the strongest. They could carry the weight of the sledge. The only thing you had to do while driving the sledge was stepping on the brake to slow them down every now and then. However, since our dogs were full of energy because it was their first ride of the day and I am not that heavy, it was sometimes pretty difficult to get them to slow down. Even jumping on the brake with two feet wouldn’t work then, which lead to some funny situations of our sledge almost crashing into the one in front of us. But the feeling on the sledge was so amazing and free! Being carried around by these fantastic dogs through a winter wonderland was definitely something I won’t easily forget! In between these activities there was also some spare time to discover Saariselka with our sledges and race from every slope we could find. The icy roads were very suitable to do ‘streetraces’ against each other. We visited some shops there and bought reindeer meat and some souvenirs to take home. I bought a traditional bracelet, made by the Saami people, from reindeer leather, silver beads and reindeer horn. Every time I wear it, it reminds me off the amazing time I had in Lapland, and makes me even more wanting to come back there one day.