Lapland; father Christmas country was probably the region we loved the most in Finland. First impression: how wild and empty! With only forests, rivers, reindeer crossing warning signs and no habitations for miles, Lapland really felt "Into the Wild". The dots on your normal European Atlas which are meant to be listing towns and villages were just one or two houses alongside the road - we were lucky we didn't have any accident with our "matkailuauto" (Finnish for "motorhome")!
|Finland has three official languages so "Finland" is written in Sami, Finnish and Swedish.|
|Jamie's in both Norway and Finland (Jamie's left leg's in Norway and Jamie's right leg's in Finland)|
|Finland is made up of thousands of lakes and forests ...|
|... Making up for some pretty scenery along the way!|
|The view from our motorhome's window, Lomakyla campsite, Inari.|
|Breathtaking view of lake Inari from the campsite.|
We loved our stay at Lomakyla. It was there that we had our first encounter with the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis. I'd already seen them in Iceland, but this was different. Jamie had been looking and waiting for them all evening when he came rushing back in the van around midnight and shouted "Come out, NOW, quick!", what I manage to see that night was magical - these bright fluorescent green lights were right above our motorhome, it felt like we could almost touch them with our fingertips! Forming the scientific pie sign, they slowly moved onto the right and disappeared.
|Jamie looking at the lake.|
The Siida museum is the National Finnish Sami museum and the Northern Lapland Nature Centre in Inari. It is a very interactive museum with indoor and outdoor exhibits about the Sami culture and way of life in Finland and its different population across the globe. It also has permanent exhibits about the Arctic nature and wildlife through the seasons - how plants and animals adapt to the different temperatures, levels of humidity etc. And temporary exhibitions about contemporary artists and/or photographers. Even those who may find museums usually boring may find part of this one interesting - especially the outdoor exhibits - kids from the age of 3 or 4 would like this too. If you start outside and continue inside, you could have a nice break in between as there is a nice cafe!
|Typical Sami home exhibited at the Siida Museum.|
|Inside the home - the kitchen - Siida Museum.|
|Inside the home - the bedroom - Siida Museum.|
|Finland experienced its first Gold Rush in the late 19th century, here's an exhibit at the Siida Museum.|
|All the red dots represents Sami populations across the world - Siida Museum.|
|En route to Ivalo, view from the Bear Cafe/souvenir shop - Marhu Tupa.|
|Cute home exhibit for kids to play in at the Bear Cafe.|
Somehow we suddenly realised that we had quite a few contacts in Finland. Some of the best friends of Jamie's eldest sister, Sallie and her partner Dan were Finnish and lived in Lapland! Jamie had met them a few times, but it'd been years since he'd last seen them. But, it all didn't matter, they all welcomed us into their homes like we were family.
Better than any bed&breakfast, it was a window into the Finnish family way of life. First stop; Tommy, Susu, Ronja (6) and Sampo (3) in Ivalo - the biggest town in Northern Lapland with a population of 5,000.
|He kindly took us fishing and hunting for the afternoon during our stay and showed us how it was done!|
|With good teaching and great skills, it was only a short time before Jamie caught some fish too.|
|A great catch! (It does look a bit gross, but washed, gutted, skinned and served salted and raw, it was delicious and a Finnish delicacy).|
To thank our hosts for their great hospitality, which included experiencing the Finnish family sauna, we cooked for them and shared some alcoholic beverages! As we could barely communicate with the children, I retorted to one old traditional activity; baking (n.b. asking Susu first) whilst Jamie was more 2.0; using our tablet, Google Translate and games such as Paper Planes! Baking wasn't really Sampo's thing, but Ronja enjoyed making brownies, helping me picking up all the ingredients, looking at the chocolate and butter slowly melting in the pan and the various mixing involved. Our gooey brownies wouldn't have won us the British Bake Off, but it did win us the hearts of our hosts, big and small!
|The cable boat crossing, Härkäkoski.|
|It was a 20km-return walk to the car park - quite a way, but worth it!|
|Along Rv955, en route to Rovaniemi.|
|Rv955, not far before the Old Reindeer Round-Up site at Sallivaara ("Sallivari Boares Ratkinbaiki").|
|Even though we were now in South Lapland, the temperature hadn't gone up so by reaching Rovaniemi, we invested in an electric heater and had our first curry!|
Second stop; Janne, Catri, Lucas (9) and Eva (6) in Rovaniemi. Closer to what we would regard as city living, Janne and Catri are still very much close to nature not only physically, but in the way they run their lives. Within a one-mile radius to the Lappish countryside, former wildlife guide, Catri and designer / carpenter by trade, Janne juggle part-time/full-time work and the tribulations of running their own business, Treeform. Part-time work enables Catri to spend more time with her children, Lucas and Rosi and be involved in their education at the only Steiner-style school in Rovaniemi.
|Janne and Catri's house just a 15-minute walk to the city centre. Their house is one of the few traditional |
Bryggen-style houses remaining in Rovaniemi.
|Catri and Jamie outside Lucas and Eva's Steiner school, Rovaniemi.|
|Lucas (up in the air) playing with friends outside the school.|
|Lucas and Eva, having a well-deserved treat after baking cookies together!|
|Lauri Tuotteet Oy, an old traditional Finnish souvenir shop on the way to the city centre.|
|One of the few graffitis alongside the main road opposite Rovaniemi Taidemuseo (Art Museum), Korundi.|
During our few days in the capital of Lapland, I took the opportunity to learn and discover Finnish contemporary art at Rovaniemi Taidemuseo (Art Museum), Korundi House of Culture. The museum had two temporary exhibitions, The 7th Wave and Hilka Ukkola. Photos below are from The 7th Wave, an exhibition showing a selection of Finnish artwork from the Wihuri Foundation curated in the past ten years. At times very bold, funny and ironic such as Stiina Saaristo's "Femme Fatale" and "The Other Sex", I was pleased Lucas and Eva hadn't come along as, looking at it, I wondered how one would have explained it.
|Heli Rekula, Space II, 2008. Video installation.|
|Quite stricking, it really felt she was inside ...|
|Stiina Saaristo, Femme Fatale, 2003. Charcoal drawing on paper glued on canvas.|
|Stiina Saaristo, The Other Sex, 2003. Charcoal drawing on paper glued on canvas.|
|"The Classic of the Season" masterpiece: Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lemminkainen's Mother, 1897. Tempera on canvas.|
Leaving Rovaniemi and coming to the end of our Lapland crossing, we headed to the Kuusamo area, Oulanka National Park and Kuusamo's Wildlife Sanctuary whilst experiencing some of the lowest temperatures on our trip; -12°C was recorded when we set camp for the night on the side of road 888 just off the crossing with rv89. I couldn't finish this post without showing a picture of Jamie in his "Long John's"; even him could feel the cold! And telling you that we experienced the "one in a million chance" encounter - when this dark fluffy bowl crossed the road, a few meters in front of us, whilst driving South on the E63, we couldn't believe our eyes! This cute little brown cub disappeared within seconds into the forests - bear sighting in the wild without a guide or knowing where to look is rare so does that mean we should have played the lottery?
|Reindeer encounter on road 81 towards Kuusamo.|
|Beautiful lake along road 81.|
|Our view for the night, off road 81 passed Posi.|
|View near the start of the walking trails at Oulanka National Park (NP).|
|First suspension bridge at the start of the "Pieni Kahrunkierros" ("Little Bear") walking trail, Oulanka NP.|
|View of Myllykoski wilderness hut and rapids, 2km on the Little Bear's walk.|
|As the sun goes down, Jamie and I decide to turn back before it gets too dark.|
|By the entrance of Kuusamon Suurpetokeskus - Kuusamo's Predator Centre.|
|Our friendly wildlife expert guide with Finland's laziest and heaviest bear (450Kg) who's still living with his mum (in the back).|
|Brown bears love honey, it's not a myth! Here's Finland's laziest bear enjoying a pot.|
|Jamie wearing his newly bought "Long John's"!|