We flew to Helsinki with a priority on our list: Lapland. After a night in the nation’s capital we got a flight the next day to the capital of Lapland Rovaniemi – a rather non- descript sort of city well laid out and nestled against a large lake.
The flight there was our introduction to a part of the world dominated by forests and lakes (188, 000 of them).
Like many Finnish towns and cities, Rovaniemi was strangely quiet. Finns are not an exuberant people, they like silence and if they’ve got nothing to say they won’t waste their words – but they are friendly, helpful, and speak fluent English (indeed we found them far more friendly than the Danes and Swedes).
Rovaniemi’s main tourist season is winter when people come from all over Europe to ski. Two of Rovaniemi’s attractions besides the snow; an Indian restaurant (there are a surprising number of Indian and Thai restaurants in Finland, many more than for example than in The Netherlands).
Or perhaps one unique experience: the northern most rock bar in the Arctic Circle!
Travel is Lapland is by long distance bus – always exactly on time and very comfortable.
We spent a few days at a place called Saariselka walking – there’s some good marked trails in the area and forest huts.
The ubiquitous Reindeer – a beautiful animal but also unfortunately the main item of consumption in Lapland.
Reindeer hamburgers (also pizzas)
From Saariselka we travelled to Inari, supposedly a town where the indigineous Sami people can be seen. But Inari was a typical Finnish town:
We rented a cabin on Lake Inari
Even by Finnish standards Lake Inari is large – more like an inland sea, replete with islands. In winter it freezes so hard that trucks can be driven over it.
A river feeding into Lake Inari – wild and tumutous in autumn, frozen solid in winter. This is a part of a large national park just outside of Inari.
The main trails in the park are lined with these lamps necesary for walkers during the winter months, especially the 50 days when the sun doesn’t rise!
A sign in Sami and Finnish. This is the only example in the world of the language of an indigineous people showing similarities with that of the larger, resident population: both the Sami and the Finns originally emigrating from regions of Siberia.
The major attraction in Inari, besides the walking, is the Sami musuem – the closest unfortunately anyone is going to get to experiencing the Sami culture. We got there early when there were few visitors but during the day it can get busy.
The Sami were originally Reindeer herders but have long since been forced to settle.
A Sami prayer drum – long ago outlawed by the Lutheran Christian occupiers – a similar scenario to what happened in Sweden and Norway where there were originally large populations of Sami. Norway’s record with respect to the oppression of the Sami is particularly grim.
Down the road from the musuem is a walk through the forest of about an hour to a small church at the edge of a lake – in the middle of nowhere – in the past this was a lonley outpost where the Sami were indoctrinated with the ‘word of God’.
From Inari we took a mini bus to Utsjoki, the northermost town in Lapland and on the border into Norway. Dividing the two countries is a river. This photo was taken from the Norwegian side of the river.
At this northernmost end of Lapland, the uplands are often sparse and treeless – the winters here being especially long and severe. There are some good walking trails -when the sun emerges it can get very warm and when it’s covered by cloud, suddenly very cold.
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