Ice-fishing expedition to the Upper North of Lapland, in 2016

I have just returned from this year’s ice-fishing expedition to the “arm” of Finland. It was an expedition that lasted for 5 days with varying weather conditions and varying fortune in the ice-fishing.

In the “arm” of Finland there are the highest fells of Finland and the river Torniojoki/Muoniojoki with extensions runs all the way along the border to Sweden from Kilpisjärvi in north to Tornio in south.

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To drive to our accommodation took us 5 hours from Rovaniemi with a short stop in the village of Muonio to pay a visit to a nice little shop of a friend of mine, Pikku Puotinen.

After some arrangements concerning too much snow on the parking lot near the cottage, we moved to the place for ice-fishing near the fell Lammasoaivo. IMG_9459 (2)

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During the stay the weather conditions varied from absolutely fantastic, warm, sunny days to cold, windy and also one rainy day The temperatures varied from -10 degrees Celsius to +5 degrees. In the beginning of the expedition the snow was hard, really hard. Even about half a meter deep. The reindeer could easily walk above on the snow. But in the end of our visit the rainy day had destroyed the hard snow completely and the reindeer as well as we had difficulties to walk in the forest.

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We moved on skies for some kilometers every day and we could also in the beginning enjoy the hard snow and the easiness to go skiing in the nature, where the depth of the snow was about half a meter. The last day was really a trial on skis, but we made it, with a sweaty result.

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Regarding the fishing, the ice was 70 cm thick, there was  hardly any snow on the ice and we got a lot of greylings and some whitefish. The amount of fish was really more than expected. My unluck, although, was the trout I had on my hook for several minutes, but finally, as I almost got it up on the ice, it succeeded to free itself from the hook! The disappointment lasted for the whole day. This trout was probably even bigger than the one I got in the year 2013 weighing 1,5 kilo.

Here is a picture of the trout in 2013. Just for my own comfort, to forget the one I lost this year…..

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The greylings were many and some were really big. Some nice whitefish I also got.

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Every day inbetween we lit a fire in different places depending on from which direction the wind was blowing at the time, and fried some sausages and had something warm to drink.

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At times when the fish was not eating, I watched the nature and, as usual, the little White-throated dipper (Cinclus Cinclus) in the rapid. Impossible to get a good picture of it with my little camera. On the snow I also found a “runway” for swans. Two swans had visited the ice during the night and left the marks where they took off again.

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Otherwise the spring had not arrived yet to this area and very few migratory birds had so far returned to Lapland. Some flocks of Snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) were flying around from the south bank of the river to the north bank. I missed the Common crane (Grus grus).

(this picture is borrowed from www.luontoportti.com, all other photos in this post are my own)

The rainy day we spent with a visit to Kilpisjärvi, the northernmost village near the place where the borders from Sweden, Norway and Finland meet. Even if it was raining on the fishing place 40 km from Kilpisjärvi, the sun started to shine as we arrived to Kilpisjärvi.

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An interesting visit to the Kilpisjärvi nature center provided me with information about the nature and the people of the area around Kilpisjärvi. After that we had a delicious lunch at the Kilpisjärvi Retkeilykeskus before we returned to ice-fishing.

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Very tired, but content we finally ended this year’s expedition to the Upper North of Finland. So far I have never been disappointed with the ice-fishing experiences in between the fells of Sweden and Finland. And so far the weather has always been, at least, partly sunny and not too cold for ice-fishing.

A visit to this place in the summer time is on my wish list.

 

 

 

 

 

The village of Inari in Lapland

I have finally visited Inari/Aanaar, a village in the north-east of Finland. As I many times already have been visiting the north-west part of Finland, Kilpisjärvi, I have put up a goal to some day also visit the north-east part. That finally came true last weekend.

Why I have postponed the visit to Inari for so many years is due to lack of company, lack of courage to dare to drive the long way alone in winter time and so on, and so on. Suddenly I found out I do not need any company to go there and winter was coming to an end so the roads were really nice and dry to drive. Inari is situated about 330 km from Rovaniemi in the middle of the “head” of Finland.

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Inari (Inari Sami: Aanaar, Northern Sami: Anár, Skolt Sami: Aanar, Swedish: Enare, Russian: Инари) is Finland’s largest, most sparsely populated municipality, with four official languages, more than any other in the country. Its major sources of income are the lumber (timber) industry, nature maintenance and tourism.

The municipality of Inari has a population of 6,783 (30 June 2015). The population density is only 0.45 inhabitants per square kilometre.

I started early Sunday morning and on my way to Inari, along road nr 4, I stopped for a short photo session on the top of Saariselkä Kaunispää, 250 km from Rovaniemi. The weather was fantastic and as I already mentioned the roads were in very good shape. No need to be afraid the car would not pass through.

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The view from the view tower was absolutely astonning. I could see far north the fells in Finland and there was snow everywhere. There were still winter tourists in Saariselkä.

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I have visited Saariselkä before, but that was during the Kaamos period and it was hard to see in the darkness how the nature was shaped. I was lucky enough to see the auroras in the night that time.

After Saariselkä there is the village Ivalo/Avvil before you arrive to Enare. Ivalo has an airport. The church of Ivalo is a modern creation. The former Ivalo church was burnt down by the Germans during the World War II.

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After Ivalo the nature changed. The road became also more curvy; not so straight forward as the road Rovaniemi-Ivalo. Along the road I saw waters, sometimes on both sides of the road. There was of course ice on them now, but I can imagine how beautiful it must be in the summer time with the lakes and the forest.

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Road nr 4 leads you directly into the village center of Enare. On the right side you have the big Inarinjärvi lake. As I arrived I realized there was a happening going on on the ice near the shore. The final reindeer cup race was taking place. As I already had attended a reindeer cup competition this year I chose to drive directly to the Sami museum Siida.

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The Siida museum was one of my main reasons to visit Inari and it was still open for 3 hours this day, as I arrive around 1 o’clock pm.

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Inari is the center of Sámi culture in Finland and the museum Siida presents the Sámi culture in an interesting way. Siida means village in the Sámi language.

The Sámi Museum Siida is the national museum of the Sámi and a national special museum in Finland. Its main purpose is to support the identity and the cultural self-esteem of the Sámi.

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The Siida museum presents the nature of northern Lapland in a very interesting way, but my main interest was today the handcrafts of the Sámi people and their culture.

After my visit to Siida, I went back to see the final races of the reindeer cup. The winner this year was Pikalaaki reindeer driven by Hanna Mikkola from the Pintamo cooperative of reindeer herdsmen.

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In the night I accompanied an Aurora safari around Inari. The company Visit Inari could provide me with a memorable tour and a perfect guide, Pekka, who could also help me with some camera settings to get perfect northern light pictures. The excursion lasted for 3 hours and we could see the auroras almost all the time!

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The next morning I also attended an excursion for ice-fishing with the same company, Visit Inari. Even if I see myself as an experienced ice-fisher I still wanted to experience fishing on the huge Inarijärvi lake, too. The excursion went by snowmobiles to some spots on the lake where the guide Mika had heard we could perhaps catch some greylings. The weather was sunny and nice and the ice was almost snowfree. The driving went well and we finally ended up trying to get some greylings from the holes in the ice. Harmfully, we did not catch any fish this day. We also tried on a place known for its perches, but without any success. In the end of the excursion the guide prepared a light lunch for us in the wilderness.

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My return to Rovaniemi started with some snowfall, but as I drove south there was no more snowfall and everything went well. I am so glad I finally made this trip. I had the opportunity to see the nice village of Inari for myself. Inari is situated so beautifully on the shore of lake Inari and I am sure the village is absolutely fantastic also in summer time.

In summer time the tour companies offer hiking tours, boat tours and fishing expeditions or just boat cruises on the lake. Definitively worth trying. Inari is not only for winter experiences.

Comments or questions are welcome.

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Still winter in Lapland

Many places in South of Finland and Sweden are already declaring the spring’s arrival by showing people pictures of flowers in the social medias. Here in Lapland we know very little about spring, yet. The season here is still winter. If you have read my post about the eight seasons in Lapland you can see it is still winter in April. Read more here.

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This time of the year is one of my favourite times. There are snow everywhere and in the evening skies there are Auroras every other week to be seen. The sky is blue and the sun is shining in the daytime. As I am a keen ice-fisher the season for ice-fishing and winter net-fishing is now starting. So far the fish have been hiding in the deep parts of the lakes and fishermen are moving around, drilling holes all over the lakes, but still do not get any fish, or at least very few. Well, that will certainly change during the next weeks. The weather has been cold and clear. Mornings have been very cold; around -20 degrees Celsius. But as the sun rises it warms up the air and it is bearable to stay outdoor doing ice-fishing already early in the mornings. Read more about auroras here and about net-fishing here.

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Net fishing is always unpredictable. Sometimes you get nothing and sometimes you are surprised by valuable and rare fish specimens. Some areas do not give you anything but pikes and burbots. You get tired of eating the same fish every day. Pikes and burbots are big fish and there is food for several days in one specimen.

But one lucky day you are surprised with a pike-perch or even a salmon trout and then you know why you continue working hard with netfishing in cold and windy weather. The reward is so much worth for a keen fisherman.

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On a big lake it helps if you have a snowmobile for your use. To get from one place to another takes so much time only by skies. Early in winter it is impossible to walk on the ice because of the huge amount of snow. But after some changes in weather from warm, sunny days to freezing cold nights the snow gets hard and easy to move on. In March the changes in weather result in hard icy surface on the snow and you can move around everywhere with help of a snowmobile or by skies. By snowmobile you can easily visit different fire places around in the nature to warm your hands and feet during a day out in the nature.

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Ice-fishing early in the winter is often a very wet experience. Water rises from the drilled holes up on the ice and that could cause difficulties with the snowmobile. Not to mention if you have a self-built shelter in tow behind the snowmobile. A dip in the water with that combination means a lot of hard work with the howell and other tools to get the carriage up on the “surface” again. Those problems are forgotten in March when you can go everywhere without risk to get stuck in wet snow-water. I have explained more about these problems here.

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This time of the year is also the time when the eggs from salmon trout are planted out in the small rapids of the rivers to hopefully grow into big salmon trouts some day. So was made also this year.

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Sometimes young salmon trouts are put into the lake to grow. All these measures grant the interest for ice-fishing and angling to stay high.

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As I am waiting for the birds to return to Lapland I have to enjoy the fish I get. Within a couple of weeks there will be swans, gulls and grouses on the ice. I look forward to that.

 

 

Nice hand made souvenirs from Lapland

In the area of reindeer herding in Finland; in Lapland, the souvenirs to bring home from there as memories are very often made of parts from the reindeer. Actually the Lappish people have always used all parts of the reindeer. Except for the meat they eat they also prepare all kinds of useful objects from the fur, the antles and even from the bones. There are practically no leftovers when the Lappish people make use of a reindeer.

Tourists visiting Lapland want to buy some souvenirs to bring home from their trip. The choice is many times a hand made item, made by the Lappish people.

An old traditional souvenir is the Marttiini knife. The knives have been manufactured in Rovaniemi, Lapland since 1928 and are of high quality. The Marttiini product range covers knives for hunting, fishing, camping, collectors, household and for professional use. The founder was Janne Marttiini, and his picture is still used in marketing.

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Souvenirs made of reindeer antlers are manufactured by a local craftsman, whom you find on the pedestrian street of Rovaniemi almost the year around. He offers his beautiful products to people walking by his tent in the city of Rovaniemi. There are candle holders and many many small objects made of reindeer antlers.

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KUPILKA is a product name for dishware of traditional Lappish form made of natural fibre composites. The biomaterial consists of 50% pine fibre (wood) and 50% thermoplastic. KUPILKA products have been designed by Kari Kuisma together with a well-known Finnish architect and designer Heikki Koivurova. KUPILKA means a “little cup” and the word stems from the Finnish word “kuppi”. It also refers to a term used by Finnish people decades ago, when men and women warmed up their hands with their “kupilka” or “little cup” by drinking hot beverages during the rough Finnish winters.

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In the reindeer restaurant Sirmakko you are served for instance the traditional sauteed reindeer on KUPILKA plates.

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Under the label “tarinatuote” you find many local hand made products from Lapland. I got inspired by these gloves and bought myself a pair of gloves made of reindeer leather with nice fitted ornaments. They are made by Sisko Ylimartimo from the company Tikkurituote. Ireally love my smooth reindeer gloves!

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If you visit an handcraft market in Lapland you most certainly will also find silver jeweller made from Paarma design. Tytti Bräysy is the artist behind these lovely necklaces. I found these products on the yearly Arctic Market in the end of November in Rovaniemi.

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Many products are sold by the Sami people themselves in the Arctic Market and other similar occasions. Silver jewelry line A Drop of Inari by Katja Lettinen is inspired by the supernatural beauty of Inari. The engraving style reveals lines of birch trees against the backdrop of a snowy mountain. With this jewelry line she was named Artisan of the Year 2014. Every piece is designed and made with touch of arctic mood in Finnish Lapland, Inari.

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One table on the Arctic Market inspired me to buy equipment to make my own Sami bracelet. There were different bags and purses made of reindeer leather and also buttons made of reindeer antles and a nice necklace with a silver chain and a piece of a reindeer bone.

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The package inhold everything I needed to manufacture my own Sami bracelet.

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Must say I am a bit proud of myself as I managed to do this.

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Some inspired artist has come up with these winter bikinis made of reindeer leather and fur. Dare to wear them?

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What to remember when you are out on the ice

The weather outside is cold at the moment. The lakes in Lapland will be covered by ice in the next weeks. Most of all I hope for some weeks with only ice – not snow. Because then I can go ice-skating, which I like very much. Last winter in the beginning of November we had excellent ices on the lakes and I took the opportunity to go ice-skating several times. I have been ice-skating every winter as a child and even now, at this age, I took an ice-skating class here in Rovaniemi some winters ago, just to catch up some old skills and do some exercising. I keep my skates with me in the car wherever I go now, in case I will find a suitable place to do some skating some day. Of course, priority nro 1 is the safety. Never enter an ice you do not know if it is thick enough and safe to enter! Always keep your ice nails with you in case of emergency!

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While I am waiting for the winter to bring ice I have finished the bracelet I bought from the Arctic Markets and planned to make myself. It is made from leather and tin thread after a Sami pattern. And I must say: not bad! I like it very much.

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Regarding outdoor life on ice a big amount of snow is definitively affecting possibilities to move on the ice. The winters in Lapland always have a lot of snow. One thing is that if there is more than 40 cm of smooth snow on the ice it makes skiing without prepared tracks (not to mention skating) impossible. Even walking is hard work. The snowmobiles are of course able to drive in quite deep snow, but if you want to go ice-fishing you have to shovel the snow away from the place before you can drill the holes in the ice.
There is another problem, too. If the ice is approx. 60 cm thick there is no risk that it breaks, but what happens is, that the big amount of snow weighs a lot and presses the ice down and water begins to rise up on the ice. This happens usually near islands, near the coast or from crevasses anywhere on the ice. Water is also rising through the holes you have made for ice fishing. As there is a lot of snow on the ice you probably do not see the water under the snow. The deep snow prevents the water from freezing even if there are several minus degrees out there. Snow has an isolating function. Animals can hide themselves under the snow and survive from freezing to death. The snow isolates them from the freezing cold.
When driving with the snowmobile you could suddenly realize there is water under the snow on the ice. If you are lucky the area of water is not so large and you can rescue by driving fast over the area. If the area is large and the amount of water under the snow is big you could suddenly find yourself sitting in the water on your snowmobile unable to move forward anymore. The water under the snow has also partly melted the snow.

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The first time this happened to me several years ago, I got scared, of course. In my mind water and ice means there must be a hole and I thought I was going to drown in that. But that is absolute not the fact! There is water, all right, but if you wear good rubber boots you are able to walk on the ice in the water. The ice is still 60 cm thick. You’d better not be alone when this happen to you. Because now you have to get the snowmobile away from this water. You are not able to lift the snowmobile all by yourself. It is also good to have a shovel or other implements to your help. By “building” a kind of platform of snow and little by little lifting the snowmobile up on that platform you manage to start the engine again and carefully steer the snowmobile away from the water area. If you are alone, you’d better call for help.
These water areas usually appear in the beginning of winter when the snow cover is growing and they disappear sometimes during the spring season. There are usually no water areas in March and April. If you are driving in the same areas year after year you could learn to know where these places usually appear and you could avoid them. But you could never be 100 % sure because the crevasses could appear anywhere. They are caused by the ice movements that happens when the temperature outside falls and rises.

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After the “adventure” in the water the snowmobile is full of wet snow and it will freeze and make it impossible to drive eventually. That is why you have to clean the snowmobile from all ice and snow as soon as possible. One thing that helps is to turn the snowmobile over to ease the cleaning process. This procedure does not harm the snowmobile, but helps you to clean away all snow and ice.

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There is also a very useful invention from SOIMET Ky that lifts up the snowmobile from the ground; the snowmobile jack. You could use it out there when you get shucked in the water on the ice to get lifted up so you can build a stable ground under the snowmobile. And you could also use it in cleaning the snowmobile from wet, icy snow after an adventure in the water. You lift up the snowmobile and start the engine. The roller will clean itself from snow while going around lifted up in the air.

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The Silence of Lapland

(Written in February 2015)

The other day I found myself sitting in the complete silence of Lapland. I was out ice-fishing alone on a lake in the wilderness of Lapland. There was no wind and this day even the air force of Finland was not out practicing flying, like the day before. I could see there were a few other parties of fishermen on the ice, but they were very far away. The lake is situated far enough from roads, so there were no traffic sounds, either.

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Then I suddenly realized I did not hear anything, and I do mean ANYTHING! It was complete silent. (In the case I would suffer from tinnitus now, this would probably be the only sound I would hear at this particular moment.) What a special feeling! I really started to LISTEN to the silence.

In between I caught some perches and the sound of them grabbling in the snow on the ice was for a moment the only voice I heard. The catch of a fish resulted immediately in the voice of a Raven (Corvus Corax) in the near forest. It of course prepared itself to take care of the leftovers from the catch. The Raven made a silent flight over my place to note the size of my fish. I could clearly listen to the sound from its wings in the air. The Ravens are the scavengers of the nature. If you leave some caught fish you do not want to take home, you can be sure they are gone from the ice the next day.

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The Common Raven (Corvus corax), also known as the northern raven, is a large all-black passerine bird. Found across the Northern Hemisphere, it is the most widely distributed of all corvids. It is one of the largest corvids, and is possibly the heaviest passerine bird; at maturity, the common Raven averages 63 centimetres (25 inches) in length and 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) in mass. Common ravens can live up to 21 years in the wild. Young birds may travel in flocks but they later mate for life, with each mated pair defending their own territory.

Common Ravens have coexisted with humans for thousands of years and in some areas have been so many that people have regarded them as pests. Part of their success as a species is due to their diet; they are specialists in finding sources of nutrition. They eat insects, cereal grains, berries, fruit, small animals, and food waste.

Some notable feats of problem-solving give evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent and they like to live near people. I have listened to a Raven “talking” a couple of years ago in the Ranua Wildlife Park. Over the centuries, it has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many cultures, including the indigenous cultures of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland and Wales, Bhutan, the northwest coast of North America, and Siberia and northeast Asia, the common raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or god.

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On my ice-fishing trip I suddenly hear a sound of a snowmobile. A quick survey over the lake tells me there is a snowmobile starting to move far, far away at the other shore of the lake. An ice-fisher decided to move from one place to another, and the sound of it is so clear. As there are no obstacles for the sounds to move along the ice, the sound travels really long ways.

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After a short ski trek back to the cabin (and yes, I left some fish for the Raven, too), to purge some nice-sized perches for my dinner, I see the small Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) jumping around on the ground and in the trees near the cabin. Their tender voice is the only thing I hear as I enter the yard. I have put some grease balls in the trees for them to eat during cold days. These birds need to find nutrition as well as the Raven, because they are also resident and do not migrate during winter. I just love the sound and the sight of the little beautiful bird. They are not afraid of people and they do not seem to be easily scared away if you just move around normally on the yard.

The commonest call is a nasal zee, zee, zee, but the notes of the bird evidently vary considerably. Occasionally a double note, ipsee, ipsee, is repeated four or five times.

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The Willow tit has to share the grease balls with a stubborn Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), who is also visiting the yard. It is also a resident bird.

I sometimes find myself checking on the Willow tits if I some day would find the Siberian tit among them. I would really want to see that, too, as I am in Lapland.

The grey-headed chickadee or Siberian tit (Poecile cinctus, formerly Parus cinctus) is a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae. It is a widespread resident breeder throughout subarctic Scandinavia and northern Asia, and also into North America in Alaska and the far northwest of Canada. It is also resident as the Willow tit, and most birds do not migrate. Curiously (with respect to its name), the bird has no grey on its head, which is black, white, and brown. It has a larger area of black under the bill than the Willow tit. And slightly longer than the Willow tit (13,5-14 centimetres).

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So I end up sitting at the terrace watching Willow tits and the Woodpecker picking some grease from their “dinner table”. This was a wonderful, silent day and the sounds from the few species of birds in Lapland at the moment, were really easy to separate from each other. There will certainly be more noise and impossible to separate different sounds from each other within a month of two, as all the migrating birds return to Lapland in the spring.

Nature paths and the necessary equipment in winter hiking

The weather conditions in Rovaniemi has been just perfect for outdoor activities for over a week now. I have spent many days outdoor walking among other things.

(This post was published last March, but due to problems with my host I have to publish it once again. The time of the year is also now suitable to publish posts with snow theme.)
So far this winter I have not visited any of the nature paths near Rovaniemi center and I decided to do something about it. A friend of mine asked me one afternoon to join her to the nature path on Ounasvaara hill near the center of Rovaniemi. We had learned there would be a hiking path also for winter hiking. My friend was very preventive and wore a pair of shoes with steel-studded bottoms to prevent her from falling if the trail is slippery. This winter steel-studded shoes have been a top-selling product this winter sold in the shoe stores and outdoor equipment stores here in the north of Finland. It has even been so popular, that you hardly any more this winter manage to find a suitable pair to buy if you want to. They have sold out almost every pair of steel-studded shoes in the stores.

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The steel-studded bottoms made it safe for my friend when we went walking on the winter hiking trail. I myself wore only normal winter shoes and somewhere in between the trail was really a bit slippery and I had to be careful where to put my feet. We met a couple on the trail and the woman was using Nordic walking sticks and that would of course also be an option on slippery trails.

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The trail started impressively by a gateway in the forest and was marked with pictures of a hiker and a snowflake along the route that was easy to follow. In summer time there is a nature path, too, but the winter hiking trail differs a little from the summer version.

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Anyway, the trail has been prepared by a snowmobile during the winter and was very easy to walk on; only partly slippery. We took the long route of 6 km with a short visit up on the top of the downhill slope of Ounasvaara. The view from up there was marvellous. We were just thankful we did not have to go downhill by skies from there.

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Our hike ended with some fried sausages at one of the fire places along the trail. The evening sun shined at us, but the fire-place was not so tidy and nice. All black with soot from the frequent use of the fire-place by the citizens and students living near by.

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Inspired by this hike I planned the next hike the same week. This time to the Vaattunkiköngäs nature path at the Arctic Circle Hiking Area about 20 km from the Rovaniemi center. This time I went alone and this time I came to regret I forgot my equipment for the shoes to prevent me from falling….Not that I did any falls; only many times close.

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The nature path of Vaattunkiköngäs does not have any winter maintenance. The area is often used by local people as well as by tourists because of its beauty and how easily reachable it is. This lack of maintenance has resulted in a path that was almost all the way very slippery and partly almost impossible to walk on. I sent some warm thoughts to my friend with the steel-studded bottom shoes all along the path. I struggled my way, and I managed not to make any falls along the icy trail.
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The walk over five bridges over the rapids is very beautiful and I had to stop and enjoy the nature every now and then. Part of the trail is equipped with duckboards and easily approached even by wheelchairs in summer. The snow depth in the forest is about 70 cm now and I could see that the snow really amuses some of the visitors, as there were tracks in the deep snow besides the trail all the way.

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This time it was not the walking that gave me satisfaction, but the goal for my walk. I ended up at the fire place of Karhukumpu. I made a fire and fried a sausage and ate it together with a cup of tea and a bun.

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(These matches for storm use are really useful when you have to light a fire to not very dry wood.)
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As I sat there and enjoyed the meal and the sun shining on me, I heard kind of “small talk” from the nearest spruce. It took me a while but then I saw my visitor: A Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus)! And at the same time a second one occurred, too. The Siberian Jay is known to wilderness traveller as a very inquisitive and fearless species, which can be seen near camps and fires and even take food if such is left nearby. I put out some of my leftovers on the bench and it did not take long time for the Siberian Jays to come and fetch it just a couple of meters from me.

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If you have heard the legend about the Siberian Jay you now realize how happy this made me. The say is that the Siberian Jay brings luck to the people it meets. It is called a good-luck bird. If a hunter kills a Siberian Jay, his hunting success disappears for ever. One legend also tells that the souls of hunters transmit to Siberian Jays after death. Ancient people called it the “soul bird”.
The Siberian Jay is 27–30 cm, between the wings even 40 cm and it weighs 74–98 g. It is the smallest bird of the crow family, living in Finland. It does not migrate during winter. It has a very nice “small-talk” sound but also a tub-thumping sound when needed.

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(This picture is not my own. I took it from Wikipedia to show the colors of the back of Siberian Jay.)
On my way back to my car I stopped at the rapid and took some photos. There was also a German man taking a lot of pictures. They are astonishing, the rapids. My interest was whether I could get a glimpse of the White-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus) there. But I did not see any. It is probably a little early for that. I’ll try again in April. The local Bird Association uses to make excursions to this place every spring to spot the White-throated dipper as it makes diving into the rapid.

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Photo from www.fageln.se.

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Checking out the newcomers in Ranua zoo

Today was a sunny day and 4 degrees celsius here in Rovaniemi, and I decided to make a trip to the Ranua Wildlife Park. I have not visited there since last spring and there have been some changes I wanted to check up.

At the cashier I was told the brown bears were still awake; they had not started the hibernation yet. That was nice to find out, because I was prepared I was too late to see my favourites, the brown bears, this time.

The Otters were taking a nap as I passed by, and after that I saw there were small cubs in the Wild Boars fence. They were digging in the dirt and did not pay any attention to me.

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In the Polar bear fence the male polar bear Manasse was swimming alone around in his pool enjoying the sunny weather. But the amount of visitors certainly did not disturb him nor inspire him to do any tricks with his toys. We were only a handful of visitors this Tuesday afternoon. His female friend, Venus, was moved to a fence of her own and she uses to spend more and more time inside the den. The staff of the zoo is certainly hoping for good news near Christmas about the birth of small polar bear cubs. The behaviour of Venus is pointing in that direction. I caught a quick glimpse of Venus as she was outside the den catching some fresh air.

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In the Brown bear fence it was just silent; the only inhabitant in the first fence, Malla the female bear, was probably inside the den to make preparations for the hibernation. Some orange left-overs outside the door showed she has been out eating them this morning still.

As I approached the fence for Jemma, the younger female bear, the humming voice told me she was there. She still licks her paws and the stone she is lying on and at the same time she makes the humming voice; like a content cat, just as she did last spring at my visit. I suddenly just felt sad about her. She was there all alone and had nothing else to do but to lick her paws. No visitors, no staff members, no friends. If you sometimes think you are bored and alone, you know how Jemma was feeling this day. The staff of Ranua Wildlife park had been manufacturing some tools to play with for the bears so that they would not feel so bored, but today none of the bears was playing with them. I like the idea, though.

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I miss the old male brown bear, Palle-Jooseppi, who has been put to sleep last summer because of his suffering from pains in his bones and his age, 28 years. He wa once found in the forest as a cub alone and abandoned by his mother and has been living in Ranua zoo since then. But this summer it was time for him to move to the brown bears’ heaven. R.I.P. Palle-Jooseppi!

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After the brown bear fences there is a new bridge leading to a new area.

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In the new area live the newcomers, the dholes or the mountain wolves. There are six of them. The oldest of them are Lymy, 8 years and Viuhu 5 years. The four younger dholes are only 2 years old: Jekku, Velmu, Raiku and Kuje. They were spread all over the fence at my visit. The dholes which were overseeing the gray wolves in the fence next to them, were making some nice voices. They seemed a little nervous about the near precence of the gray wolves, but they will probably get used to them eventually.

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The dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a canid native to Central, South and Southeast Asia. Other English names for the species include Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog, whistling dog, red wolf and mountain wolf. It is genetically close to species within the genus Canis; like   wolves and dogs. 

The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females. I wish the dholes welcome to Ranua and I hope they will find it nice and comfy in the zoo, even if the circumstances of course are nothing like being out in the wild. The dholes are endangered animals in the areas where they live.  

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After the bored brown bears and the nervous dholes, it was nice to find the wolverine couple playing together and enjoying each others presence. There will certainly be some wolverine-babies next spring.

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Another new comer in the park is the female muskox. The lonely days for the male muskox are over and they also seemed to enjoy each other’s company as they stood there eating hay together. There are no quick movements among the muskoxen; slowly, slowly everything happens.

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In the end of my visit in the Ranua wildlife park I stopped by to check on the Otters again. They were awake now and were really fuzzing around in the pool and the areas around that. They really seemed to enjoy each other’s company; the two male otters Harri and Olli. I wish they could get a female otter’s company soon.

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My conclusion of my visit is: there is really a need for a male brown bear and a female otter in Ranua Wildlife park now. The two female bears are so bored and would certainly be cheered up by a newcomer.

In the Predator Center in Kuusamoone can also get acquainted with some of the large predators that are found in Finland. At the moment, there are several bears at the Center, the oldest of which was born in 1992. Vyoti is probably the best known of all the bears. Foxes and lynx also reside at the Center. The man, Sulo Karjalainen, is living closely together with the bears, and he tells the press there are hugs and kisses between him and the bears almost every day. I wonder if there would be any suitable male brown bear to bring to Ranua zoo, that could cheer up the lonely female bears. On the homepage of the Predator Center you can among other thing follow the bearcam live.

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If you know of any other available single male brown bear, I would suggest you to contact the Ranua Wildlife park.

 

A letter to Santa Claus

Do you know who gets most letters in the world? Santa Claus, of course! Santa Claus’ post office at the Arctic Circle receives letters every day the year around from children all over the world. The nearer Christmas it gets the more letters arrive to Santa. Last Christmas Santa received more than half a million letters from 200 different countries. With less than 70 days to Christmas, it is time for everyone to send their Christmas wishes to Santa Claus.

The Santa Claus Official Post Office is situated at the Arctic Circle approx. 8 km outside Rovaniemi center in Finnish Lapland. It is open every day all year around. There the elves help Santa to open the letters and sort them out by country and when the Christmas rush is over they help Santa to answer everyone’s letter, too.

 

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You can also send your Christmas cards to your friends from here. There are two post boxes where to put your cards; one for the nearest Christmas and one for the next Christmas,

Santa Claus’ Main Post Office—the only official Santa Claus’ post office—is part of the official network of Finland’s post office, Posti. From Santa Claus’ Main Post Office, you can find a wide assortment of Christmas products, souvenirs, gift items, stamps, postcards and other products related to the collection and study of stamps.

A memory like no other from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office is a real letter from Santa. Here you can order the letter from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office in Rovaniemi. The recipient will receive the letter just before Christmas!

Since 1985, Santa Claus has received approximately 17 million letters from almost 200 countries! You can also write a letter to Santa Claus! His address is:

Santa Claus
Santa Claus’ Main Post Office
Tähtikuja 1
96930 Arctic Circle, FINLAND

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Outside the Post Office you can find an interesting point from where you can find out the distances to different parts of the world from here.

 

 

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In Santa Claus Village the Post Office is flagged with the official flag for Santa Claus Post Office.

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Just before Christmas 2014 the official Posti of Finland relised a new stamp with the picture of Santa Claus looking out from Ounasvaara fell over the city of Rovaniemi. There is only a limited amount to buy of this stamp.

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Brown bear cub Jemma in Ranua zoo

Do you remember the little brown bear cub in Ranua zoo, that got abandoned by its mom in spring 2014 and had to be taken care of by the staff? Well, now she has grown a lot since then and finally in August 2014 she got her name, Jemma, too. Ranua zoo arranged a competition among the visitors to decide the name for the young cub.

There was no problem between the bear parents Jehu and Malla, but in spring 2014 when Malla and the new born bear cub came out from the den where the hibernation had taken place, the staff in the zoo soon found out Malla was not kind to the cub. They decided to protect the cub from violence from the mother and took the cub away from her. Some bear mothers really are so violent to their cubs that they could even kill the little cub. And that was something Ranua zoo definitively did not want to happen to this cub.

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A very sad incident is also, that Jehu one day decided to escape from the zoo and got out through the fence into the surrounding forest. The staff of Ranua zoo took the hard decicion to shoot Jehu at that place, because they did not got him back in and he was not considered safe for the surrounding inhabitants of Ranua. At the moment the brown bears in Ranua are Jemma, Malla and Palle-Jooseppi; all three in separate cages.

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Well, Jemma grew up being fed by the staff from bottles. She did not miss her mother and she really likes the audience coming to watch her playing. She has come up with some special sounds as she is licking her paw. Sounds like a kitten. In between she looks up to see if anyone notices her skills. So adorable!

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You can follow more happenings from Jemmas life from the FaceBook site of Ranua Wildlife park.

Polaris, a star in the Lappish sky

Polaris, also called the Northern star, is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor and the 45th brightest star in the night sky. It is very close to the north celestial pole, making the current northern pole star. Ursa Minor (Latin:”Smaller Bear”, contrasting with Ursa Major) also known as the Little Bear, is a constellation in the northern sky.

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The North Star or Pole Star, is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. That’s because it’s located nearly at the north celestial pole, the point around which the entire northern sky turns. Polaris marks the way due north. As you face Polaris and stretch your arms sideways, your right hand points to the east, and your left hand points to the west. About-face of Polaris steers you to the south.

Polaris is also famous for marking the end of the Little Dipper‘s (Ursa minor) handle. The Little Dipper is tougher to spot in the night sky than the Big Dipper. But if you use the Big Dipper’s (Ursa Major) pointer stars to locate Polaris, you’ll be one step closer to seeing the Little Dipper.

 

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In the Sami stories the Northern Star is called Boahjenástir. It is located in the middle of the northern sky. Earlier people envisioned the sky as a roof-like dome that had to be held upright and unmoving by a world column. In this dome, the North Star was a fixed point around which all other stars endlessly circled.

 

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Earlier there existed a great fear among the Sami that the world would fall apart. This fear still exists, in different ways. This is one of the reason why Sami people used to offer a male reindeer to the North Star in Autumn. The sacrifice maintains the balance, keeping the world pillar from falling. If the pillar falls down, all the sky will fall down. And this would be the end of the known world.

 

The Sami hut and its inhabitants

If you ever had the opportunity to make a visit to a Sami hut where the Sami family was gathered around the fire place, you would probably look at the family and think these are all the inhabitants of this hut. But there are also other inhabitants in the goathi.

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One group is Máttáráhkká and her three daughters. Máttáráhkká dwells under the goahti, Sáráhkká is under the fire, Juksáhkká and Uksáhkká are both near the goahti´s main door. Boasso-áhkká also resides under the goahti, on the opposite side of the main door. From there she holds an eye on the men’s secret things and place.

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At least this is what the Sami family believes.

Sáráhkká is the most important soul of the home. She molds the body that grows around a child’s soul inside the mother. She helps a mother to give birth, and aids with the womb. Sáráhkká is very popular; she should always have a part of all food that was eaten in the hut (goahti). The Sami people were told to give her a lot to drink.

Juksáhkká can make an unborn child male, but she demands great gifts. She also instructs boys in the necessary tasks of men.

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Uksáhkká helps newborns. She protects the young children from illnesses and keeps children from harm.

So, the goahti is not simply an ordinary living space and a place to stay over night in. It is also a ceremonial place, a sacred site, and the center of the world. Thought the goahti’s smoke hole, you see the star world; the North Star, the Holy Moon and Beaivvás (the Sun). The Sami move crofter from one place to another, migrating with reindeer herds and go fishing in other places. Their center of the world, the goahti, moves with them, their home is dwelling in their hearts.

According to the Sami stories the holy spirits are always with them wherever they go.

The Lapland War

The Lapland War was fought between Finland and Germany from September 1944 to April 1945 in Finland’s northernmost Lapland Province. A peculiarity of the war was that the Finnish Army was forced to demobilize their forces while at the same time fighting to force the German Army to leave Finland. German forces retreated to Norway, and Finland managed to uphold its obligations under the Moscow Armistice, although it remained formally at war with the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the British Dominions until the formal conclusion of the Continuation War was ratified by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.

The Moscow Armistice was signed between Finland on one side and the Soviet Union and United Kingdom on the other side on September 19, 1944, ending the Continuation War. The Armistice restored the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940, with a number of modifications.

Finland was obliged to cede parts of Karelia and Salla, as well as certain islands in the Gulf of Finland. The new armistice also handed all of Petsamo to the Soviet Union, and Finland was further compelled to lease Porkkala to the Soviet Union for a period of fifty years (the area was returned to Finnish control in 1956).

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Germany and Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union since June 1941, co-operating closely in the Continuation War. However, as early as the summer of 1943, the German High Command began making plans for the eventuality that Finland might make a separate peace agreement with the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to withdraw their forces northward in order to shield the nickel mines near Petsamo.

During the winter of 1943–1944, the Germans improved the roads from northern Norway to northern Finland by extensive use of prisoner of war (POW) labour in certain areas. Casualties among these POWs were high, in part because many of them had been captured in southern Europe and were still in summer uniform. In addition, the Germans surveyed defensive positions and made plans to evacuate as much material as possible from the region and made meticulous preparations for withdrawing their forces. On 9 April 1944, the German withdrawal was named “Operation Birke”. 

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A change of Finnish leadership in early August 1944 led the Germans to believe that Finland would attempt to achieve a separate agreement with the Soviet Union. The Finnish announcement of the ceasefire triggered frantic efforts in the German 20th Mountain Army, which immediately started Operation Birke and other material evacuations from Finland. Large amounts of materiel were evacuated from southern Finland and harsh punishments were set for any hindering of the withdrawal. Finnish forces, which included the 3rd, 6th, and 11th divisions, the armoured division as well as the 15th and Border Jaeger brigades, were moved to face the Germans.

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The cease fire agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union contained requirements that the Finns break diplomatic ties with Germany and publicly demand the withdrawal of all German troops from Finland by 15 September 1944. Any troops remaining after the deadline were to be disarmed and handed over to the Soviet Union. Even with the massive efforts of the Germans in Operation Birke, this proved impossible, with the Finns estimating it would take the Germans three months to fully evacuate. The task was further complicated by the Soviet demand that the major part of Finland’s armed forces be demobilized, even as they attempted to conduct a military campaign against the Germans. With the exception of the inhabitants of the Tornio area, most of the civilian population of Lapland (totaling 168,000 people) was evacuated to Sweden and Southern Finland. The evacuation was carried out as a cooperative effort between the German military and Finnish authorities prior to the start of hostilities.

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From the start of the war the Germans had been systematically destroying and mining the roads and bridges as they withdrew. However, after the first real fighting took place the German commander, General Lothar Rendulic, issued several orders with regards to destroying Finnish property in Lapland.

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On 6 October a strict order was issued which named only military or militarily important sites as targets. On 8 October, after the result of the fighting in Tornio and the Kemi region became obvious, the Germans made several bombing raids, targeting factory areas of Kemi and inflicting heavy damage on them. However, on 9 October the demolition order was extended to include all governmental buildings with the exception of hospitals. On 13 October, all habitable structures, including barns, though making an exception for hospitals and churches, were ordered to be destroyed north of the line running from Ylitornio via Sinettä (the small village ~20 km NWN of Rovaniemi) to Sodankylä (including the listed settlements) in northern Finland. Though it made sense from the German perspective to do this to deny pursuing forces from getting any shelter it had a very limited effect on the Finns who, unlike the Germans, always carried tents with them and did not require any existing shelter.

At Rovaniemi the Germans initially concentrated mainly on destroying governmental buildings but once fire got loose several more were destroyed. German attempts to fight the fire, however, failed and a train loaded with ammunition caught fire at Rovaniemi railroad station on 14 October resulting in a massive explosion which caused further destruction as well as spreading the fire throughout the primarily wooden buildings of the town. German attempts to fight the fire had failed by the time, on 16 October, they abandoned the now ruined town to the advancing Finns.

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In their retreat the German forces under General Lothar Rendulic devastated large areas of northern Finland with scorched earth tactics. As a result, some 40–47% of the dwellings in the area were destroyed, and the provincial capital of Rovaniemi was burned to the ground, as were the villages of Savukoski and Enontekiö. Two-thirds of the buildings in the main villages of Sodankylä, Muonio, Kolari, Salla and Pello were demolished, 675 bridges were blown up, all main roads were mined, and 3,700 km of telephone lines were destroyed.

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Lapland has one of the largest Giant’s kettles or Devil’s churns in Finland

Hiidenkirnut in Finnish known in English as Giant’s kettle, also known as Giant’s cauldrons, Devil’s churns or potholes.

These potholes were created around 10,000 years ago, on the fringes of the melting continental ice sheet, by powerful meltwater flows which eroded the rock. Rocks and stones were swept away by fast flowing meltwater gushing through tunnels at the base of the glacier. In the case of Sukulanrakka, the meltwater also swept away the soil covering the rocky outcrops. As powerful eddies developed in the meltwater tunnels, the boulders carried by the flood began to swirl. Under the power supplied by the water, the rocks and boulders drilled down to the rock face underneath, creating round potholes known as ‘devil’s churns.’ Most of the rock material carried along by the meltwater accumulated to form a ridge running in the direction of the tunnel.

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There are 14 ‘devil’s churns,’ or potholes, on the rocky slopes of Sukulanrakka close to the village of Rautiosaari, around 25 km from Rovaniemi city centre.

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These potholes were created around 10,000 years ago, on the fringes of the melting continental ice sheet, by powerful meltwater flows which eroded the rock. Rocks and stones were swept away by fast flowing meltwater gushing through tunnels at the base of the glacier. In the case of Sukulanrakka, the meltwater also swept away the soil covering the rocky outcrops. As powerful eddies developed in the meltwater tunnels, the boulders carried by the flood began to swirl. Under the power supplied by the water, the rocks and boulders drilled down to the rock face underneath, creating round potholes known as “devil’s churns”. Most of the rock material carried along by the meltwater accumulated to form a ridge running in the direction of the tunnel.

Due to their depth, three of these are counted among Finland’s largest potholes.  The largest, “Devil’s soup bowl” lies at the foot of the hill and has partly collapsed. It is 8 metres in diameter and 15 metres deep.

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Two other devil’s churns, the Big Demon’s hide and Bishop Hemming’s churn, with depths of 9 and 10 metres, are located on top of the rock face.

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Here are a couple of stones from the giant kettles. IMG_6395

 

You can visit the area on your own risk, but there are stairs to use when you move up and down the giant stony area.

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Three smaller churns in the area.

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A picture from once when the churns were emptied and cleaned. tyhjä kirnu

Here is a map of the area, where you can find the 14 devil’s churns.

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The devil’s churns at Sukulanrakka have been known to local people for centuries. Many folk-tales have been told about these mysterious pot holes and about a demon who lived in these parts long ago.

When the demon heard that a Swedish bishop and his entourage were coming to convert the local people living along the river Kemijoki from their pagan ways. he resolved to get rid of these unwelcome visitors once and for all. He collected a huge pile of rocks, stones and arrows, and waited in ambush in a deep hole he dug himself in the bare rock. In the bottom of this devil’s churn the demon also brewed up a noxious potion to use against the invaders

There was a bitter struggle, as can still be seen from the massive boulders known locally as devil’s boulders which lay strewn around the area to this day. But in spite of all his weapons and his evil spells, the demon was defeated, and fled westwards over the Kemijoki river.

The devil’s churns at Sukulanrakka were first investigated in depth in 1966 and 1967, when the debris that had accumulated in them over the millennia was cleared out with the help of local residents, under the supervision of Professor Veikko Okko of Helsinki University.

 

 

 

 

Venus- the bright evening-star

During the winter nights in Lapland there is one star shining brighter than the others. The Venus star is the second planet from the Sun; Mercury is nearer to the Sun. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon it is the brightest natural object in the night sky. In Lapland you can see it during the clear nights in the west after the sunset. It is often called the “evening star”. Venus is always brighter than any star (apart from the Sun). The planet is bright enough to be seen in a mid-day clear sky, and it can easily be seen when the Sun is low on the horizon. Venus, like the other planets, has no shine of itself. The Sun provides the shine.
This photo I have taken after sun set in the west. It was a clear night with millions of stars, but one was shining brighter than the others…

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Venus is a terrestrial planet and is sometimes called Earth’s “sister planet” because of their similar size, mass, proximity to the Sun and bulk composition. The atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface is 92 times that of Earth’s. With a mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F), Venus is by far the hottest planet in the Solar System, even though Mercury is closer to the Sun. Venus’ surface is a dry desertscape interspersed with slab-like rocks and periodically refreshed by volcanism.
Venus “overtakes” Earth every 584 days as it orbits the Sun. As it does so, it changes from the “Evening Star”, visible after sunset in the west, to the “Morning Star”, visible before sunrise in the east. Venus is hard to miss when it is at its brightest. Its greater maximum elongation means it is visible in dark skies long after sunset. As the brightest point-like object in the sky, Venus is a commonly misreported “unidentified flying object”. U.S. President Jimmy Carter reported having seen a UFO in 1969, which later analysis suggested was probably Venus. Countless other people have mistaken Venus for something more exotic.

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There has been a great interest in exploring Venus from both the Soviet Union’s and the United States’ side and they have launched several robots to go to Venus. Some have crashed already on their way and some have crashed on the surface of Venus. But due to the big amount of robots sent to Venus there has been results about temperature and surface construction. All results have proven that on Venus there could not be any life, like on Earth, because of the enormous heat on the surface.
Here is a description of some of the first robots sent to Venus. The program has continued still in 1990:ies.
The first robotic space probe mission to Venus, and the first to any planet, began on 12 February 1961, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Venera 1 probe. The first craft of the otherwise highly successful Soviet Venera program, Venera 1 was launched on a direct impact trajectory, but contact was lost seven days into the mission, when the probe was about 2 million km from Earth. It was estimated to have passed within 100,000 km of Venus in mid-May.

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The United States exploration of Venus also started badly with the loss of the Mariner 1 probe on launch. The subsequent Mariner 2 mission, after a 109-day transfer orbit on 14 December 1962, became the world’s first successful interplanetary mission, passing 34,833 km above the surface of Venus. Its microwave and infrared radiometers revealed that although the Venusian cloud tops were cool, the surface was extremely hot—at least 425 °C, confirming earlier Earth-based measurements and finally ending any hopes that the planet might harbor ground-based life.

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The Soviet Venera 3 probe crash-landed on Venus on 1 March 1966. It was the first man-made object to enter the atmosphere and strike the surface of another planet. Its communication system failed before it was able to return any planetary data. On 18 October 1967, Venera 4 successfully entered the atmosphere and deployed science experiments. Venera 4 showed the surface temperature was even hotter than Mariner 2 had measured, at almost 500 °C, and the atmosphere was 90 to 95% carbon dioxide.
One day later on 19 October 1967, Mariner 5 conducted a fly-by at a distance of less than 4000 km above the cloud tops.
Armed with the lessons and data learned from Venera 4, the Soviet Union launched the twin probes Venera 5 and Venera 6 five days apart in January 1969; they encountered Venus a day apart on 16 and 17 May. The probes were strengthened to improve their crush depth to 25 bar and were equipped with smaller parachutes to achieve a faster descent. Because then-current atmospheric models of Venus suggested a surface pressure of between 75 and 100 bar, neither was expected to survive to the surface. After returning atmospheric data for a little over 50 minutes, they were both crushed at altitudes of about 20 km before going on to strike the surface on the night side of Venus.

What to do on a rainy day in Rovaniemi – Arktikum and Korundi

Even if I seem to point out that the weather conditions in Rovaniemi are always nice, I have to admit there are days in the spring time when the sun is not shining….. A nice weather condition for me is sun shine, no hard wind and no rain. The temperature is not so important to me; I like really cold weather as well as warmer weather. The eight seasons of Lapland have all their own weather conditions; both good and bad. People born in Lapland tell me the weather in spring time, in May-June, are the worst with melting snow and rain; everything looks dirty. This winter I think the wind has been stronger than earlier years, with several stormy days and milder temperatures.

Days when you do not want to go skiing, on a hike or otherwise spend outdoor, can be museum visiting days. In Rovaniemi there are the Arktikum museum and the Culture Center Korundi with the Art Museum; both worth a visit.

The Arktikum is a museum as well as a science center. Arktikum opened to the public on 6 December 1992, the 75th anniversary of Finland’s independence. It was designed by Danish architect group Birch-Bonderup & Thorup-Waade. The crescent-shaped new annex was designed by Bonderup and Lehtipalo, and it was completed in autumn 1997.

Local natural materials have been used in the building: the floors are made from Perttaus granite – the hardest type available in Finland – and from lime-washed Lappish pine. The chairs are made from birch and reindeer hide.

The most visible part of the museum, its glass corridor, is 172 metres long. The tube serves as the “Gateway to the North”, as the entrance is at the southern end and guests head north when coming in. As you walk in the glass corridor, there are exhibitions behind doors on both side of the corridor as well as along the walls in the corridor.

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Two separate actors use at Arktikum: the Arctic Centre and the Regional Museum of Lapland.

The Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland is a national and international centre of expertise on Arctic issues. It conducts locally and regionally oriented research, the high standard of these researches is recognized internationally. The Arctic Centre also provides education on Arctic issues as well as disseminates knowledge about the region and related research.

The Arctic Centre exhibition “Arctic in Change” introduces the people and animals of the Arctic as well as details the ongoing changes that are affecting the region. The exhibition showcases the Arctic Centre’s research findings, which deal with issues like climate change and life today in the Arctic region. Some of the pictures are a bit scaring when you see what the climate change already has done to the earth and the nature.

The Regional Museum of Lapland is owned by the City of Rovaniemi. It was established in 1975 and together with the Rovaniemi Art Museum it forms the municipal museum function.

The Regional Museum of Lapland is an expert on Lappish culture, prehistory, history, building heritage and nature. The Museum produces content on the North for use in education, travel and its other cooperation networks. The Museum is also an active participant in research on questions related to these things.

The Regional Museum’s permanent exhibition “Northern Ways” leads guests into the history and culture of Finnish Lapland. The exhibition is a real experience that provides an introduction to the stories behind the houses of old Rovaniemi before the war as well as to popular beliefs and superstitions about the brown bear and the Eurasian elk.

Temporary exhibitions display different related topics about Northern and Arctic life. This spring there are temporary exhibitions about the Geres – the Sámi sled; how they were made and used in old days.

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The Geres were like small boats “floating” on the snow behind a running reindeer. The Sami had different types of sleds for different purposes. There was also regional variation in different areas of Lapland. A driving sled, a decorated church sled was used for important trips to the church or courting trips. Goods sleds or caravan sleds could be either with a backboard, then called a backboard sled, or without one which was more common. Backboard sleds were used mostly by theSkolt Sámi. Those sleds suited well for transporting smaller objects and on the annual migration trips, which the Sámi used to make. Small children and small animals, such as sheep, were transported in goods sleds.

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A lockable sled, or a lid sled, was bigger than the other sleds; it could be 2,5 metres long and had a convex wooden lid. The lockable sled was used for transporting the most valuable things, provisions, alcohol and the best clothes. A caravan sled could also have a loose lid that was fastened to the sled only when needed.

Sleds were treated with tar to make them more durable and to prevent the wood from rotting. The bottoms were tarred once a year. From the early 1900s people started to paint their driving sleds in bright colors and patterns.

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This year the Lapland war is exposed in many different ways all over Lapland (70 years after the peace) and the Regional Museum of Lapland arranges an exhibition called “Wir waren Freunde – We were friends” about Germans in Lapland during 1940-1944.

A beautiful exhibition is the one about the Nature Photographs of the Year. Arktikum presents the winner of the Nature Photographs of the Year Competition. The winner photograph is “Dance of the Seagulls” by Matti Pukki. All photos are amazing!

Dance of the seagulls

The Art Museum and the Cultural Centre Korundi is situated in the centre of Rovaniemi. Korundi is easy to find as it is situated in the massive former post bus depot, built of red bricks in 1933. This iconic building is one of the few historical buildings that had survived the Second World War in Rovaniemi.

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Rovaniemi Art Museum sets its main focus on Finnish contemporary art and Northern art. In its yearly exhibition program the museum introduces works from artists who either work in the North or are born there. The exhibition program also includes exhibitions from the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation Collection as well as some interesting insights into Finnish and international contemporary art.

On Art Thursdays Korundi is open from 11am to 8pm with free entrance to the art exhibitions from 6pm to 8pm.

So, earlier this winter I went one Thursday night to look at the exhibitions from Petri Eskelinen’s mechanical pieces of art. The embracing machine “Mechanics of Embrace” was very impressive. Could be in use on the yearly “Hugging Day” on January 21st. When you move the former arms of the machine, the machine embraces you with arms around your back. Nice.

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On the second floor there was the exhibition “Crazy Forest” with Finnish contemporary art; all of them with inspiration from the forest. Artists have always been inspired by forest. For Finns, forest is a very important part of nature. Our wintry forest is full of snow. Hares are white and so is Pekka Jylhä’s “Bearer of Light”. This piece of art made me laugh as I entered the exhibition.

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Be ware of reindeer on the road

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This winter in south of Lapland there is extremely much snow. The depth of the snow was approx. 85 cm in Rovaniemi last week. The last few days have been sunny and warm and that has reduced the snow depth a lot. The fluffy snow from last week has changed into more compact snow in the nature. This makes it also easier to approach the snow with skis or snowmobiles.

The large amount of snow in the city is a problem for the traffic and the cleaning has taken a lot of time. It has been very clever to mark the electricity boxes with a long stick. They very quickly disappear under the large amounts of snow.

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When the snow melts you will find out what you forgot to put away in the autumn before it started snowing….

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It is not only the cars and the pedestrians that suffer from the large amount of snow. Also the reindeer in the forests have to struggle with the snow. It makes it hard for them to find food and it causes troubles to move for them. If the forest is covered with fluffy snow 85 cm and the legs of an ordinary reindeer are approx. 80 cm, you understand the trouble the snow causes to the reindeer.

During spring the conditions change as the snow is getting more tight by the influence of the sun and warmer temperatures, the snow is getting so hard that the reindeer as well as people and snowmobiles can move on top of the snow because the surface is indurated by the warm sun in the day and the cold nights.

This time of the year you have to look out for reindeer on the roads, because they rather walk on the roads than in the forests because of the snow. Another reason for them to stay on the road is the salt spread on the roads to melt the snow. Reindeer also want the salt.

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Once I was driving there was even a reindeer sleeping on the road. It did not get up, but I had to slow down my car and pass by it very carefully. I could see it looking at me, so it was not dead, but it really did not bother to rise.

Every year about 4,000 collisions take place between cars and reindeer in the reindeer herding areas in Finland. The modern technique could be used to transfer warnings between the cars on the road. That is a project going on and it will be first available for commercial vehicles. The reindeer warning system means when one driver sees reindeer on the road he could just by pressing a button on his phone get the message to other cars in the surrounding areas to let them know where the risk to crash a reindeer is really remarkable at that moment. That would save a lot of reindeer lives. The collision risks with reindeer involved are largest in October-January. This warning system can be in everyone’s use at the earliest during the year 2016.

In the dark autumn evenings reindeer also walk along and across the roads. Last year there were tests made with a new invention with reflex color sprayed on the antlers of some 300 reindeer in the reindeer herding areas. This made it easy to see a reindeer even from afar and the driver had time to press the brake and avoid crashes. Many other ways have been tested, but for example collars with reflex has not met the expectations, they have eventually fallen off in the forests. The reflex paint was put on bone antlers, not on still growing antlers. Tests for how well the paint stayed on the antlers in different weather conditions were taken last spring. Last autumn tests for how successful the method is in preventing crashes is taken. The tests are not finished and the results are not ready yet.

This method would protect the female reindeer more than the males, because the males use to drop the antlers during winter. But on the other hand there are more female reindeer than males. If a reindeer dies in a collision the state of Finland grant punitive damages from 253-759 euro per reindeer, depending of how valuable the reindeer is. A stud or a doe is considered more valued than fawns for example.

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The Sun is one of the most important spirits of the Sami

The sun eclipse last Friday (on March 20th) got me inspired to tell you about the sun in the Sami history.
Sami call the sun Beaivi or Beaivvás. The sun is one of the most important spirits or Gods of the Sami. In drawings on Sami drums there is often Beaivvás in the middle of the drum. The Sun can be drawn round, as we are used to see it, but also the four-cornered drum-picture with reigns of light drawn in four directions is interpreted to be the Sun.

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The Sun is always important to the Sami. In Enontekiö in the north of Finland in old times a cake was baked of meal and reindeer blood. At the end of winter, this cake was placed outside against the wall, as an offering to Beaivvás. This offering was thought to bring good fortune in reindeer herding. The Sami asked the Sun to shine to give light to wanderers in the mountains, to seafarers and to herders searching for lost reindeer.

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There is also a Sami story about a woman named Mariska, and a priest who tried to convert Mariska to Christianity.
The priest says, “My poor child, you are now the only pagan left in this region”. Mariska agrees and turns around and sends a kiss to the Sun. She answers, “When you are old like me, you will like the warm Gods”. The priest continues: “But what happens, when the Sun disappears in the winter, behind the clouds?” “One of Beaivvás´ sons sits upon my wood oven. I give him firewood to eat.”, replies Mariska.
“I thought that wood is also one of your Gods. I have seen how respectfully you treat the bark and use it in your handcrafts. How can you put your God in the fire?”, asks the priest. “Only a God is worthy to be food for another God”, answered Mariska, and then she explained that she prefers a God that can be cut down, like a tree, instead of a God she cannot see nor touch.
The story tells Mariska eventually turned into Christianity, but she still continued to worship the Sun.
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Ice-fishing expedition to the upper north, in 2015

This time of the year I use to attend an expedition to the upper north of Finland to experience ice-fishing on a frozen river. This year was no exception. I returned from this year’s expedition yesterday, tired but happy and content with the trip.
After a 5 hours’ drive along the Northern Light road which mostly follows the border between Sweden and Finland we arrived to Ropinsalmi in the municipality Enontekio in the north of Lapland, Finland. The nature and surrounding start to change from “normal” nature to fell nature after 3 hours’ drive. The fells of Finland and especially the beautiful fells of Sweden can be seen through the car’s window during the drive. Especially if the sun is shining on snow-covered fells the sight is breathtaking. The colors are mainly white, blue and brown.

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As you can see from the picture the road was dry and not covered with snow anymore. The spring time has come to Lapland. Still the ice on the river Torniojoki-Muonionjoki-Könkamaeno was about 70-80 cm thick.
After checking in and changing of clothes we immediately aimed to the ice-fishing area; first by car and the last part of the journey by skis. The first day’s transport to the ice consists of a motor auger, a hand auger, a shovel, stools for everybody, some utensils for the fire making and of course many different fishing rods and shovels to take the ice from the holes.
The strongest person in the expedition starts making the holes with the motor auger. That is definitively not a job I could do. The auger is heavy and as it starts to drill you must have complete control of the auger and keep it in its place. My job is limited to opening the holes in the mornings with a hand auger as the nights are cold and the holes are frozen in the mornings. That is a much easier job with ice of 1 or 2 cm.
This year’s expedition starts in the best possible way. After little more than an hour there is a big catch on one of the rods. No-one knows what is on the hook; we cannot see the creature, we can only follow its moves as it struggles to get itself free from the hook, and those are really strong ones! The procedure now is to try to get the fish so tired that it will be possible to lift it up through the hole without breaking the hook nor the line and loose the fish. That stadium happens after a process of draining the fish for about 10 minutes. But then the fish surrendered and the catcher (not me!) lifts it up on the ice. And that is a salmon (Salmo salar), 2,75 kg and 75 cm tall. A catch of a salmon at this latitude is real rare, as the salmon lives in the sea Bothnian Bay 300 km to the south from here. The Salmon jumps in the rapids up along the river, but no one could imagine they can travel this far. In the pictures you can still see the hook in the mouth of the salmon.

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This night is the night of big catches as I also end up with a pike weighing about 2,5 kilo.
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Our ice-fishing expedition lasts for 5 days of at least 10 hours of ice-fishing every day. You might think this is impossible to carry out. But I did not find it difficult at all. The days go fast and contain a lot of nature spotting, pauses at the fire-place and even shorter trips on skis in the surroundings. There are pauses during the day when the fish simply do not eat and then it is suitable for the fishermen to also take a break and do something else, such as rapid spotting. The rapids are not far away from the fishing place.
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The weather during this expedition is perfect every day with little wind and modest temperatures. Starting the first day with some degrees above zero and getting colder towards the end of the period. To go skiing on snow half a meter deep at this time of the year usually happens on hard snow and you kind of “fly” away along the snow. But in an evening after a whole day of degrees above zero, the snow gets softer and does not carry a skier any more. And that was what happened to us the first night. We sank into the snow about 30 cm at the most and it was a struggle to get to the fishing place. But as the weather conditions changed and the temperatures got colder later during our stay the conditions for skiing got better and better. Here is a picture from three different days of skiing tracks. You can hardly see the last track; when the snow was so hard there were no tracks at all made from the skis.

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On the first two warm days the conditions on the ice was also a bit challenging with water on the ice and uncomfortable to move around.
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But the conditions changed and at the end it was just perfect with sun shining from a blue sky and hard snow to move on made it so much easier for us.
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The catch consisted of 1 salmon, some pikes, some whitefish and a lot of greylings. We wanted especially a lot of greylings as they are very tasty and not so easy to catch on other places where we use to do ice-fishing. And a surprise like a trout or even a salmon is always the bonus of the expedition!
One day during the expedition we always make a trip to the place Kilpisjarvi in the north of Finland, near the place where the borders from Norway, Sweden and Finland meet. This year was no exception and the weather in Kilpisjarvi was perfect as always. The Saana fell was shining in the sun and the surrounding Swedish fells were absolutely white from snow even if the amount of snow on the ground in Kilpisjarvi was not exceptional much.

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As I sit by the hole waiting for some catch I use to observe the nature and different sounds from the nature. During these days I saw flying swans, two species of the northern hawk-owl (Surnia ulula), two species of the white-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus), a lot of snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) and I heard the sound of willow grouses (Lagopus lagopus) from the bushes of fell birches (Betula pubescens ssp. tortuosa) nearby.

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These pictures are of a white-throated dipper and a snow bunting taken of me with my camera that does not have a lens that can take closer pictures.

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The meeting with the hawk owl was the first one ever for me. The hawk owl is a non-migratory owl that usually stays within its breeding range. It is one of the few owls that is neither nocturnal nor crepuscular, being active only during the day.

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This year’s expedition was a success and I am glad I was able to make it.

The Germans in Rovaniemi, the evacuation and the reconstruction

First a little background information. It is not easy to understand the different movements and how the enemies changed during an era of a few years. I am not trying to make an over all description of the war’s consequences here, but only to explain the efforts the local people of Lapland had to take caused by the steps taken during the Lapland War in 1944-1945.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the majority of the world’s nations—including all of the great powers. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries.
During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–1940 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland; and in the Continuation War of 1941–1944, following Operation Barbarossa, in which Germany had invaded the Soviet Union. After fighting a major Soviet offensive in June/July 1944 to a standstill, Finland reached an armistice with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–1945, when Finland fought against the retreating German forces in northern Finland.
German operations in Finland expanded further upon the outbreak of the Continuation War, to the extent that there were already as many as 64 command stations in Rovaniemi in January 1942, employing over 3,000 people, mainly Germans. It is estimated that some 6,000 German soldiers were stationed in the town at that time, plus the Austrians, Dutch, Estonians and Swedes, who were working for them. That was a big amount of foreigners considering that the town officially had 8,200 Finnish inhabitants, many of whom were at the front. Almost every village in the rural district had German depots and other types of German military activity. There were at least 200,000 German soldiers in Lapland during a time of four years, from 1940-1944.
The presence of the Germans in Rovaniemi had a considerable impact on the local economy, reflected in the form of a continuous shortage of labour, a doubling in wage levels compared with other parts of Finland. There were a continued rationing and a lack of accommodations, which similarly caused rents to double. The Germans for their part, sold liquor to the local people, which is one reason why Rovaniemi at that time had the worse crime statistics i Finland. The drinking caused drunkenness as well as thefts and other crimes among the inhabitants.

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Although the behavior and customs of the Germans departed from what the local people had been accustomed to, daily interaction established close personal relations not only between the military and civil leaders, but also at other levels. The population was in general well disposed towards these alien troops and the local people even came to like the Germans. Many of the local people would have learnt at least the rudiments of German language, and some far more. Although most of the local women were unenthusiastic about the Germans, and the German military leaders specifically forbade marriage with the Finns, some Finno-German offspring (=illegitimate child) were born. Women, who gave birth to a Finno-German child had unfortunately no good reputation and many of them chose to leave Finland together with the German soldiers and go to Germany. They dreamed of a family and a better life there, but it happened they returned disappointed after some years. The Finnish government questioned these women as if they had been German spies during the war, before they could return to their homestead. It happened some women even found out their German soldier already was married in Germany and had a family, and so they saw no possibility to stay without a job and someone to support them and had to return home to Finland.

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When the Germans took over responsibility for the northern front, the local men were transferred to the main Finnish forces of the Karelian Isthmus and other fronts, where a total of 377 of them eventually died in action.

Finlands War

When Finland signed an armistice with the Soviet Union, problems were immediately expected with regard to the withdrawal of the German troops from the country. With this in mind, orders were given on 7.9.1944 for the whole of Lapland to be evacuated. Transports from Rovaniemi began on 16.9. and were completed in 22.9; in a week’s time (!). Since people from the rest of Lapland were also passing southwards through Rovaniemi and the Germans were moving northwards at the same time, all roads and railway lines were unbelievably congested. In the course of one week a total of 20,000 people moved from Rovaniemi to northern Sweden and 4,500 south to Ostrobotnia in Finland. They usually took their horses and cows with them, but slaughtered most of the sheep and pigs before leaving. Only a few men remained encamped in the woods to see how things would turn out. Some men were taken as prisoners of the Germans when found.
One man, who stayed in Rovaniemi during the evacuation, was Johan Moilanen. He had worked at a saw mill in Rovaniemi before the war. He had earned enough money to buy a little wooden house in Rovaniemi, on Vartiokatu, and the family had moved there. then he worked on the newly built Children´s Home as a caretaker. He managed to stay in Rovaniemi during the destruction, even though everyone thought he was evacuated, and he survived and had also in a strange way managed to negotiate with the German Army leaders that they should not burn down the house of Johan Moilanen and the Children´s Home on Ounasvaara. And so these houses were preserved from the Germans´ demolish.
As the evacuation began in September 1944, people tried to take all their most valuable possessions with them, as no one knew, whether they would ever be able to return. The official restrictions were to take as little as possible, but people still carried enormous numbers of packages to the railway station. The last evacuation train left Rovaniemi on September 23rd 1944. Surprisingly lot of the packages found their way back to Rovaniemi also after the evacuation.

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The largest armed engagement between the Germans and the Finns in the Rovaniemi area was at Taipaleenkylä on October 12-14th, when the Finns failed in their attempt to intercept the rear of the German forces and 60 Finns were killed in the operation. During the Lapland War as a whole 1,300 men were killed. Over 90 % of the buildings in the villages Rovaniemi, Savukoski, Inari and Enontekiö were destroyed.

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The German began to destroy the town to the ground on October 10th, first demolishing the manor house of Konttinen and finally burning down the church on October 16th. The Germans usually left the churches untouched when ravaging the villages of Lapland, but in Rovaniemi the last thing they did before they left was to set fire to the church. They also destroyed the churches of Kemijärvi, Enontekiö and Turtola. A regiment led by Lieutenant Colonel Wolf H. Halsti tried to intercept the Germans north of Korkalovaara on October 16th, but was too late.
Within a couple of days they had also left the area of Rovaniemi, at which point the first demobilized Finns from the front began to drift back to the ruins of their home villages. The people who returned immediately after the war had to live for some time in cellars and temporary huts and temporary buildings.
Rovaniemi had been an idyllic village with wooden houses still in autumn 1939. Five years later there were only ashes and ruins left of the buildings.
The Germans destroyed 548 houses, 96 private commercial buildings and nine public buildings in Rovaniemi. Slightly over a hundred buildings in Rovaniemi were not totally destructed, although many of them were damaged. Almost all schools in the rural district were also destroyed. The outbuildings were also destroyed, as were most of the roads and bridges. Most of the villages on the lower reaches of the River Kemijoki below the borough survived. In Lapland as many as 14,779 buildings were destroyed.
The first civilians returned in spring 1945, the granting of return permits having been delayed until the area had been cleared of land mines and other explosives. The borough of Rovaniemi was declared safe by the end of June and the rural district by the end of July, although explosives were still found in some places in the following years, and are still found now and then during constructing works.

About 200 civilians and 54 men working with mine eliminations in Lapland were killed by mines after the war. All the local people had arrived back by the end of September, apart from 279 who had died in the course of the strenuous journey into exile.
The sight which the returning inhabitants saw as they came to Rovaniemi was only ruins and ashes. Of the houses there were only the chimneys left. Rovaniemi was for some time called “The Chimney Cape”.

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It was decided in March 1945 that the town plan should be completely renewed, a task that was assigned to the celebrated architect Alvar Aalto.
Among the first new buildings were locals for the provincial administration, dwelling houses and a number of schools. The new church, built partly with help from Lutherans in America, was inaugurated on 20.8.1950, but the Ounaskoski and Suutarinkorva bridges, which were important for traffic passing through Rovaniemi, were only completed in 1951. As all the bridges over the Kemijoki River had been destroyed, a temporary trestle bridge was built over the rapids of Ounaskoski at the point where the Lumberjack’s Candle bridge stands today. Even the trains ran on tracks laid on the frozen River Ounasjoki for two winters. On October 13th 1944 a train full of ammunition exploded on the railway station of Rovaniemi and the fire spread to big parts of the city.

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You can learn more about the Lapland War and the Germans in Rovaniemi if you visit the Arktikum, the Provincial Museum of Lapland in Rovaniemi and the exhibition about the Lapland War. There will also be a temporary exhibition about the Germans´ presence in Lapland from 1940 until the Lapland War started. ”WIR WAREN FREUNDE – WE WERE FRIENDS” – The Encounters of Germans and Finns in Lapland during 1940-1944 –exhibition opens on the 27th of April 2015, 70 years since the Lapland War ended. The exhibition lasts until January 10th, 2016. With this exhibition Rovaniemi tries to exploit the sad memories of the Lapland War to attract more visitors to the city. Especially Germans are expected to be interested.

Finland and Lapland received gifts of clothing and food from the United States. Some American Quakers lived in Rovaniemi from Christmas 1945 onwards to make sure that the help reached its right destination. In addition, the Evangelical-Lutheran parishes in the United States assisted in the building of a new church to replace the one burnt down by the Germans.
Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the United States, visited Lapland on June 11th 1950 to witness the reconstruction work in person. In honor of the occasion, the governor Uuno Hannula and the mayor Lauri Kaijalainen, assisted by Jarl Sundqvist, forest manager of the Forest Company Kemi, had a log cabin built at the place where the Arctic Road crossed the Arctic Circle. This can be regarded as having laid the foundation for post-war tourism in Rovaniemi.

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The cabin provided for Eleanor Roosevelt soon became too small to cope with the number of visitors, and the Borough Council started to build a new Arctic Circle cottage. In 1984 this was again extended further to create a whole Santa Claus Village with shops and cafés and a post office. The Santa’s Official Post Office frank letters and cards with the Arctic Circle motif and you can visit Santa Claus himself every day of the year today.

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