Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Arctic Circle!

My face was pressed firmly against the floor as I examined the control dials beneath the sauna. “There are two controls! One goes from one to six, the other from one to 30!” I was shouting to my sister from the ground as we tried to figure out how to turn on the sauna. For some reason the temperature control was installed very close to the floor. We were certainly doing something wrong. The pressure was on because this was the first time that I was responsible for running the sauna. If I’ve learned one thing in Finland, it should be how to operate a sauna. It sort of comes naturally to those Finns, who had always taken the lead in my other sauna experiences. After a series of trials and errors, we finally got it going… just like real Finnish people.

Right after she landed in Helsinki, Robin and I hopped on an overnight train up north to a town called Äkäslompolo, not far from Ylläs in the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle is the area of the earth that has at least one day with 24 hours of sun, and at least one day of complete darkness each year. The Arctic Circle locals seemed pretty relaxed. Several people stopped to talk to us or offered us rides, even though we were obviously outsiders. While the towns are small, life seemed to be pretty “normal.” The weather was lovely and there was lots of electricity, running water, a couple of restaurants, and grocery stores. There were some mosquitoes, but not nearly as many as the folks in Tampere prepared me for.

This picture was taken at midnight!

Ylläsjarvi is where we saw the first reindeer… just after eating reindeer for dinner. Reindeer with mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce is a common dish in the area. The reindeer roam free, but they are tagged and owned by a reindeer farmer who harvests them when the time is right. While I had reindeer nightmares (believe it or not) before coming to Finland, it tastes delightful. Aaaand it’s good for you! Robin didn’t like it as much as I did. Maybe it takes a few months of living in Finland. First you learn to operate a sauna, and then you can enjoy the taste of reindeer! ‘Course, Robin kinda learned to operate the sauna already.

We headed back down south through Sweden. Our final stop was in Stockholm, a city that is intertwined with its surrounding bodies of both salt and fresh water. I was excited to go to Sweden because of the Vikings. They’re famous for conquering much of the northern world, and maybe even parts of Canada and the States. I was however, quite distraught when I found out that those Viking hats with two horns: they’re fake. The experts don’t think the Vikings actually wore hats like that. And I got the impression that the locals don’t think the hats are as cool as I think they are. It seemed like some people think they’re an annoying tourist gimmick. Oh well. My Viking hat visions were shattered. Robin and I had a wonderful time. I look forward to going back for World Water Week next month.

You can borrow bikes like these in Stockholm (as well as many European cities), if you need a quick way to get around.

This is an exhibit in the Nordic Museum of every day items used in Swedish and Nordic history.

These are a few shots from the ferry trip from Stockholm to Turku (Finland). We went through the Swedish and the Finnish archepelagos, with a brief stoppover on one of the Aland Islands.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah we did have a blast!!!-Robin