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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The Arctic fox

The Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus or Vulpes lagopus), also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and common throughout the Arctic tundra biome.
It is well adapted to living in cold environments. It has a deep thick fur which is brown-grey in summer and white in winter. Its body length ranges from 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 in), with a generally rounded body shape to decrease the escape of body heat. The Arctic fox lives in some of the most frigid extremes on the planet but does not start to shiver until the temperature drops to −70 °C (−94 °F). Among its adaptations for survival in the cold is its dense, multi-layered, pelage which provides excellent insulation, a system of counter-current heat exchange in the circulation within the paws to keep core temperature, and a good supply of body fat.

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The Arctic fox eats any small creatures it can find, including lemmings, voles, ringed seal pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds. It will also eat carrion, berries, seaweed, insects, and other small invertebrates. The Arctic fox has such keen hearing that it can find exactly where a small animal is moving under the snow. When it has located its prey, it pounces and punches through the snow to catch its victim. Arctic foxes form monogamous pairs during the breeding season and they will stay together to raise their young in complex underground dens. Occasionally, other family members may assist in raising their young.
Metsähallitus (The National Forestry Office of Finland) is responsible for conservation, management and monitoring species on the areas which it manages. In addition, Metsähallitus has the national responsibility of promoting conservation and organizing monitoring of certain threatened species.
At the moment Metsähallitus has extended responsibility for two animals in Finland, and those are the Arctic fox and the Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis).
Metsähallitus is a state enterprise that administers more than 12 million hectares of state-owned land and water areas. Metsähallitus has the challenging responsibility of managing and using these areas in a way that benefits Finnish society to the greatest extent possible. In Lapland there are large areas that belong to the Metsähallitus responsibility areas.
Metsähallitus has been making researches regarding the Arctic fox since the end of the twentieth century and sadly to say, this year Metsähallitus did not find any activities in nests from Arctic fox in the Finnish Lapland. In fact the last time a nest from Arctic fox with puppies was found in Finland was in 1996 in Utsjoki in the very far north of Finland. The Arctic fox lives in the Norwegian fells on the other side of the Finnish border. In 2014 Metsähallitus checked on 213 nests from Arctic fox, but they did not find any marks of recent activity in them. Metsähallitus has registered 334 old nests from Arctic Fox of which 100 are in such bad shape they are not checked every year anymore.
Species of the Arctic fox were seen in Enontekiö and Utsjoki during last winter. About 100 years ago the Arctic fox was common in these areas, but has decreased dramatically since then. The reason for this has not really been found out.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund) works to make sure fragile ecosystems are supported and protected. They mitigate the effects of climate change to make sure the survival of the Arctic fox and other species.Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Warming temperatures are linked to many changes in the Arctic, including reduced sea ice, melting permafrost and rising sea levels and that could be one of the reasons the Arctic fox is moving north to the other side of the border from Finnish Lapland.
The Arctic fox can be seen in the Ranua Wildlife Park, Ranua Zoo.

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The brown bears in Ranua Wildlife Park love attention

After the hibernation the brown bears of Ranua Wildlife park just love to meet the visitors and get attention from people. On days with only a few visitors they are just bored. I went to the park early in the morning and made a round to the brown bears to check on how Jemma, the brown bear cub, among others is doing after the hibernation. She was just fine, sucking her paws and making a strange noise, like from a content cat. I was the only visitor at the cage and I could very well listen to her “humming”. But no other action was made from her side as long as I stayed there.

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After a short break at the hootchie with some fried sausages and sandwiches, I returned to the brown bear area. The igloo bar was not open, even if a sign at the entrance says it is open daily 11-15.00…

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At this time some groups of tourists had arrived to the park. They were also looking at the brown bears. Apparently the guide had told them to loudly applaud the bears and get their attention, as this had the effect on the bears they started to play and make funny movements. I joined one group and got the chance to see how the bears acted i front of a group and could compare it to how they acted when I was alone.

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Jemma’s mother, Malla, has learned to keep her back-paws and show it to the crowd. She got reworded for that with an apple or a carrot from the nice guide in the group. She continues showing her skills on and on until the guide tells her, this is enough, see you again tomorrow! I could see the bears very acquainted with this guide and she also told her group she used to visit here since she was 15 years old and now, as a guide, she returns regularly three times a week to see the animals.

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Next to Malla was also “the old man himself”, Palle-Jooseppi, the brown bear, almost 30 years old already. He was found in the wood abandoned as a little baby bear and brought to the zoo. He is a bit lazy and like to relax a lot, but he does not say no to an apple or two. He woke up on the call from the guide and took the position. He caught all the apples right in his mouth. And the tourists applauded his skills. He listens to the guide and rises his paws when asked to.

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Malla and Palle-Jooseppi live together in the same cage. It is a very large area. At the moment they do not seem to be interested in one another at all and spend time far away from each other. But hopefully the interest will wake up and they will make some baby bears next winter. Malla gave birth to little Jemma last winter, but unfortunately she abandoned the cub as they got out from the den together. For security reasons the staff then took the cub from its mother and placed it alone in a separate cage. A grown up mummy bear could even kill her cub if she does not like it.
Jemma’s father Jehu managed to escape from the zoo last winter and the staff did not see any other options, but to shoot him. He could become dangerous to the surrounding inhabitants of Ranua. And so, little Jemma spends time alone in the cage without a mother or a father. No wonder she has developed this habit sucking her paws and making the noise. The same noise is made by the cubs as the mother bear suckle them in the den. I feel so sad for Jemma.
Well, Jemma is used to people and wants their attention. She stood up in front of the group and danced and got rewarded with apples and carrots. That made her day, but also the tourists were overwhelmed.

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After that I did a short check on the other animals.

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As I drove back home to Rovaniemi, along the road the birches were “screaming”, “help us, oh Mighty Sun, to be released from this burden of snow!” “Send your warm rays and melt the snow around our crowns so we can stand up again!”
I love winter and snow, but spring is also a lovely time of the year, when nature wakes up again and birds return to the north from their resorts in the south during the coldest time of the year.

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The Sami story about the Northern Lights and Niekija, the daughter of the Moon

Last autumn and this winter have been active periods for Northern Lights. I have, myself, seen the most spectacular Northern Lights in October and November, but I have not got the camera equipment so I could take my own pictures, yet. I have to look at pictures taken by other people, and also use those in my blog. There has been activity during winter and kaamos time, too, but often it has happened when there was a cloudy sky in Rovaniemi and the chances to see Northern Lights have not been so good for a while now.
Instead I have been fascinated reading ancient stories about the Samis and the Northern Lights. The story about Niekija is one of them.
Northern Lights are called Guovssahasat in Sami language. There is a possibility to see the Norther Lights during approx. 100 nights a year. The Samis used to think that the Northern Lights were living beings with a soul and ability to hear and understand the humans. The Skolt Samis belive the lights are souls of people who were killed in a war. Other Samis believe the Northern Lights are gas coming up from the seas or the lakes. In the northern Finland people used to think the Northern Lights were made by the Fire-fox running over the lands swinging its red tail around it.

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In the old days the women did not dare to go out without a hat or a cloth on their head. They were afraid their hair could catch fire from the Fire-fox. The Samis imagined they could hear the Northern Lights talk. During the faster movements of the Norther Lights no-one was allowed to make noises or talk loud. And you could not point them with your finger either. If you insulted the Norther Lights you could be attacked by them and punished.
A long time ago there were two reindeer herders in Lapland. They were brothers. The younger brother was killed by the Northern Lights, the Guovssahasat, because he had made too much noise with his yoiking and he had insulted and teased the Northern Lights. They came down on him and killed him.

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The Northern Lights come in different shapes and colors and they also appear in different places of the sky. You can also predict the coming weather from them. High Northern Lights formed like ribbons above your head predict a switch in the weather conditions.

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Flaming Northern Lights high up in the sky predict mild weather and snowfall. If you can see them only in the north direction they predict a coming cold weather. The red color predicts warmer weather and the white tells you it is going to be cold.

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In old times the moon was named Aske in Sami land. Nowadays it is called Mánnu. The Samis tell a story about Niekija, the daughter of the moon, who fell in love with the Northern Lights. She was very pretty with a round face and red cheeks and her hair had the color of silver. The story tells she shined and glittered when she moved.
One day the Sun, Beaivvás, heard about this daughter of the Moon and how beautiful she was. The Sun thought his son, Peivalken, should travel to the land of the Moon and ask Niekija to be his wife. As soon as Peivalken saw the beautiful Niekija he immediately fell in love with her. He asked her: “Would you, my beautiful, fair maiden, try my golden boots on?” Niekija was shy and got all red in her face by the question from Peivalken, but she still tried his boots on. But the boots were hot and burned the toes of Niekija! “Oh, how these boots burn and hurt me!” cried Niekija and run away.

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Niekija escapes and hides herself and waited for the nightfall, when Mánnu, the Moon, would travel the skies. Mánnu takes her to an island, where there was a kota, a goahti, where she could rest. But suddenly, at midnight, someone comes in to the goahti! It was a group of youngsters, led by the famed Náinnas, the Northern Lights. Náinnas moved around the dark walls in the goahti. His shadows shined like silver. He could feel there was someone looking at him from inside the goahti. So he cried out: “Whoever you are, show yourself to me! If you are an old woman, you are probably my mother and if you are the same age as me you must be my sister. If you are younger than me, you are my future fiancée!” And Niekija answers: “It is only me! Here I am!” And in that moment the first rays of the morning star gently pass through the goahti and Náinnas got a close look at Niekija for the first time.

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Náinnas immediately falls in love with Niekija and asks her to marry him and Niekija accepts to be the wife of Náinnas, the Northern Lights. The life together with Náinnas was lonely for Niekija in the evenings, because Náinnas had to go to his brothers in the north, to the home of the Northern Lights, every night and run and play like flames together over the skies. Niekija would have liked to spend the evenings together with Náinnas in the goahti. She sat in the kota alone and fabricated a blanket from reindeer hides.

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She made embroideries with the Milky Way and other stars. When ready she put the blanket up in the roof of the goahti so she could see the stars twinkling in the dark sky. The next morning Náinnas did not want to get up. He stayed in the bed looking at the stars and he never understood, that it was time for him to go and play with his brothers in his old home.

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Niekija got up early and went out but she forgot to close the door behind her. At that moment Beaivvás, the Sun, rises early behind the mountains; red with flames. The Sun’s rays finally reached the open door of the goahti and woke up Náinnas with his golden eyes. Náinnas wakes up and realize it is already morning. He could see the Bear was already pulling the Sun along the sky path. The story goes that the Sun is pulled by the Bear in the morning. In the middle of the day a Hirvas, male reindeer, is pulling him and in the evening a Vaadin, female reindeer, is pulling the Sun along the path of the sky. (Ursa major=the big bear)

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Náinnas wants to run away to his brothers to tell them it is time to return home already, but the Sun is waiting for him and presses him to the earth with his burning rays. Niekija throw herself upon Náinnas to prevent the Sun to manage to keep Náinnas down. And now Náinnas manages to escape from the rays of the Sun. But the Sun grabs the hair of Niekija and held her captive. After that the Sun calls for Peivalken, his son. But Niekija started to scream she hated Peivalken. She also screams to the Sun: “You may kill me if you wish, but I will never be the wife of Peivalken!” This got the Sun really furious and so he banished Niekija back to Mánnu, the Moon, her mother. Mánnu took Niekija into her arms and protected her. Niekija stayed with her mother, Mánnu. Niekija continues to watch the sky and the Northern Lights for ever; she never more takes her eyes from Náinnas. Here ends the story.

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Wir waren Freunde – exhibition at Arktikum museum

In the autumn of 1940, soldiers speaking foreign languages began to be seen at railway stations in Lapland and along the highway leading north to the Arctic Ocean. The local people looked in wonder at handsome German soldiers who appeared in their home regions and gradually began to take buildings and sport grounds into use. This marked the beginning of a four-year period of coexistence between Finns and Germans, which ended dramatically with the destruction of Lapland in the autumn of 1944 when the Germans withdraw from Finland and burned almost all buildings in Lapland behind them.

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This year Finland and especially Lapland celebrates 70 years since the Lapland War ended and the museum Arktikum has put together a nice little exhibition about the Germans in Lapland between 1940-1944. The exhibition is on show at Arktikum until January 10, 2016.

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From the day I came to Rovaniemi I have always heard about the Germans and their impact on Rovaniemi and Lapland because they almost completely burned Rovaniemi down when they left. I never found “the old Rovaniemi” as you usually find in every town. That is because there is no old Rovaniemi; the buildings are all built after 1945.

I little by little learned the history of how the Finns were forced to drive the Germans out of Finland by order from the Soviet Union. This was one of the conditions there would finally be peace between Finland and the Soviet Union after WWII. This started the Lapland War between Finland and Germany. I understood the Finns actually did not want to fight the Germans and the operation did take longer than Soviet Union had demanded, but Finland got the peace. But Lapland was to pay the price as the angry leaving Germans lit everything on fire. The Lapland War lasted between September 28, 1944 and April 27, 1945.

There were some 220 000 Germans in Lapland, about 6 000 of them in Rovaniemi area between 1940 and 1944. That is almost as many as the local population of Lapland in those days. (Today we say there are 200 000 people and 200 000 reindeer in Lapland). The amount of Germans were divided into 4 000 officers, 22 000 non-commissioned officers, 113 000 army soldiers, 21 000 SS soldiers and 30 000 air force soldiers.

As I visited the exhibition I finally got the answer why the Germans were here in the first place, which my history lessons at school had forgotten to mention….

In September 1940, Finland and Sweden signed transit agreements with Germany permitting troops and material required by the Germans occupying Northern

Norway to pass through their territory. As a result, the railways and roads of the north were filled with German troops and munitions in growing numbers. A wide range of active contacts that last for several years evolved in the region between the Finns and the Germans.

The second Wold War (WWII) was going on in Europe. Finnish-German military cooperation made North Finland a war zone for Germany troops from 1941 to 1944, but Finnish Lapland was not occupied by the Germans.

Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Three days later, Finnish towns were bombed by Soviet aircraft, and Finland now considered itself to be in the Continuation War against Soviet Union, fighting alongside Germany. The headquarters of the Finnish Army, under Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim gave the war zone of North Finland over to the Germans, with the Sixth Division of the Finnish Army under German command. There were two German army corps in Finnish territory; one in Petsamo and the other in the Salla region. Their supreme command was originally in Oslo in Norway, but the headquarters of the 20th Gebirgsarmee founded in January 1942, was located in Rovaniemi. The army’s task was to defend North Finland, attack Murmansk and cut off the railway leading south from Murmansk.

The Finns in Lapland considered the Germans to be handsome, had good bearing and sang cheerfully. In Rovaniemi the soldiers were enthusiastic to look after their appearance and one reason for that, was that barbers in Finland were women, unlike back home in Germany, where the barbers were only men.

By the autumn of 1941, there were over 630  German accommodation- and storehouse barracks in the Rovaniemi area. The various services of German information and cultural institutions such as theater, bookstore, artists’ residence and radio station in Rovaniemi were also enjoyed by local residents. In particular, the cultural facility know as “Haus der Kameradschaft”, completed in 1943, was an impressive building with 350 seats and a large stage. Finnish and German entertainers performed there, and the most popular events were screenings of films and concerts. The Germans would often give free tickets to their Finnish neighbors and friends.

 

The Germans in Lapland provided work for the Finns, too. Approximately 12 000 Finns were employed in the Province of Lapland by the Germans by February 1944. It also turned out that the Germans paid considerably higher wages than Finnish employers and many workers moved from one work site to another in search of better pay. Women were offered employment working as nurses, clerical staff, washerwoman, cleaners and casual laborers. Young people also had an opportunity to earn good wages at German work sites.

The Germans had a lot of professional skills that were not to be found in the outlying regions of Lapland. There were doctors, dentists or veterinarians among the Germans. I have read the interesting book in Finnish written by doctor Emil Conzelmann about his work in Rovaniemi during these years (Tohtori Conzelmannin sotavuodet Lapissa). The Germans also carried out a great deal of electrical and repair work for local people. (Which however they destroyed as they left Rovaniemi.)

Any Finn with the slightest knowledge of German was asked to be an interpreter.

The arrival of the German troops marked the beginning of a boom period for retailers in Lapland. Shops in Finland offered goods that were not easily found in Germany in those days, such as radio receivers, fur coats, women’s underwear and wristwatches. You can easily understand there was a boom in business as the amount of inhabitants grew by 100%. The Germans had Finnish money and they bought a lot of things.

Finnish women and German soldiers could come into contact with each other in many different situations. German soldiers on leave held small soireés and parties in their barracks. During the war, these were of course a welcome change and entertainment for everyone. According to newspapers, some thirty Finnish-German weddings took place between 1940 and 1944. According to estimates, some 250 Finnish women followed their German loved ones to their new country in the last stages of the war and afterwards. A sad story is about the woman, who had to return back to Finland again, after she was not found suitable to marry a German. She did not have the Arian look, that was considered ideal at that time in Germany.

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The exhibition tells about love stories between German men and Finnish women. You can spend a long time there reading love letters. In a chest there is something connected to the German period in every drawer for you to find out. There is also a desk with interesting documents and newspapers from the period.

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It is estimated that there are less than a thousand people in Finland who were born out-of-wedlock to Germans. Between 1943 and 1945, 264 children were born out of marriage in the township of Rovaniemi The children of Germans were a banned subject of conversation for many years, and even the mothers did not want to tell their children of what had happened.

 

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The Germans were friendly to children in Rovaniemi and could often give them sweets, chocolate and bread. As the soldiers had to spend a long time in a foreign country away from home they missed their families and children. The Germans also held Christmas parties and gave Christmas presents for young Finnish children. In smaller villages all the children and their mothers were invited, while in larger communities only poor families were invited.

Finns showed their hospitality by inviting Germans to the sauna, and it was impolite to turn down such an invitation. The Germans gradually learned that the sauna was not a health risk and they began to enjoy it. For Germans, the first time in the sauna was often a memorable event. They even started to call themselves “Saunisten”.

There are many stories about Generaloberst Dietl, the commander of the 20th Mountain Army during the invasion of Norway. He was regarded as pleasant and also described as a friend of Finland with a sense of humor. He required his troops to be friendly to Finns and also set a good example in this respect.

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After 1945 bitterness among the Finns against the former “comrades-in-arms” that was caused by the Lapland War led to decades of suspicion of all German things. Returning soldiers, who came to visit their brides and children left in Finland, were victims of repeated vandalism and German tourists would hear catcalls.

In Norvajärvi in Rovaniemi German organizations financed the building of a mausoleum in 1963 at the cemetery for the German war dead. On the opening day of the cemetery, local communists staged a demonstration with over 300 participants. Public opinion, however, seemed to take the view that the last resting place of the dead must be respected: “You can’t hate dead bodies”.

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If you visit this exhibition you will also learn there is an app you can get from AppStore or GooglePlay called “Kuvat eläväksi”. If you download that (it is for free; found under “Lapin maakuntamuseo”) to your iPad or IPhone you can, by pointing the camera function on the device towards the pictures marked with a red ring, get the picture alive and the person on the picture starts to tell you a story based on memories and stories from that time. Unfortunately only in Finnish for now. But it was quite surprising to see the people in the picture start moving. There are three such pictures in the exhibition. Ask the staff for help, if you do not get it to work.

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Sami traditional joiking and the story of Akanidi, the daughter of the sun

joik (also spelled yoik), is a traditional Sami form of song. Originally, joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. According to music researchers, joik is one of the longest living music traditions in Europe, and is the folk music of the Sami people. Joiking is the Sami way of singing. The Samis call the western way of singing lavlodh. Here is a link where you can find a lot of interesting information about Samis and joiks among other things. 

Here a map illustrating the Sami areas in the Nordic countries. There are Samis in both Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. They all feel related, even if they speak different Sami languages, and they have never consider borders to be anything more than some lines drawn on paper.

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The sound of a joik is comparable to the traditional chanting of some Native American cultures. With the Christianization of the Sami, joiking was condemned as sinful. Today joiking is still alive and is also used as a source of inspiration and an element in contemporary Sami music. Joik is traditionally chanted a cappella, but joiks today may be accompanied by a drum (though not a Sami drum which is used for ceremonial purposes only!) or other musical instruments. 

Joiking has not always been appreciated as a form of music, however. At one time it was not even called music. As early as 1609, the king of Denmark and Norway, Christian IV, announced that anyone practising Sami witchcraft would be sentenced to death. The Church viewed joiking as witchcraft, right up until recently. There are still people living who consider that you should not chant a joik in a church. 

The Sami world view is based on shamanism. The joik creates an emotional bond between people, animals and nature. The Samis explain: “We don’t joik about something, as you do when you sing. We say that we joik something. Then we become a part of what we are joiking.” 

Inga-MaaritNowadays the Sami joik is not condemned anymore by the royalties of Norway and Sweden. A young musician, Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso even got an invitation to perform joiks on the National Day celebration of Sweden in Stockholm this year 2014 on June 6th. That was a great honor to Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso, but also a way for the royalties to show their approval of Sami joiks these days. You can look at her performance together with the Swedish singer Loreen here. Loreen, the dark-haired Swedish singer was the winner of European Song Contest in 2013. Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso was born in Enontekiö, Lapland. Her mother comes from Kautokeino in Norway and her father from Enontekiö in Finland. Inga-Maarit has performed joiks to the royalties of Norway and Monaco some years ago during their visits to Lapland, Finland. 

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was a well-known modern Sami writer, poet, musician, and artist using joik in his work. He performed at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

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Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was born in Enontekiö in Finnish Lapland and he died in 2001. Valkeapää was born to a family of traditional reindeer herders, but was trained as a school teacher. He lived at the Finnish border to Norway in the upper-North of Finland. 

The story of Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun

Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun flew through the skies and watched the Earth from above. There was a warm sunbeam coming from her to reindeer on the pastures, to the animals in the deep forests and to the fish in the seas and oceans. Akanidi understood all the animals, but she was not acquainted with people yet. She just observed the people; that they sometimes were really happy, but sometimes they looked so unhappy. And sometimes people were really nasty to each other. Akanidi was wondering how the humans could become happy all the time.

As Akanidi went home to have a good night’s sleep she asked her mother, the Sun, for permission to go down to earth and live among people. But the Sun said; “Don’t you have enough space here? What would there be to see down there? Here you have the clouds to play among and you can dance with the sunbeams and  you are even allowed to sing beautiful melodies together with the winds.” Akanidi answered, she was tired of living up in the skies and now she wanted to move down to Earth.

The next morning Akanidi was sent to live on the Earth in a hut together with an old man and his wife. The Sun had sent her daughter to an isolated little island. Akanidi could not see anything but the old man and his wife and their modest hut. The old couple did not have any children of their own.

Times went by and Akanidi grew up to a young woman. Her parents gave her beautiful clothes to wear. When Akanidi looked at herself in the mirror, she started to sing happily. Akanidi just danced and sang happily. The old couple listened to her song and watched her dancing and their hearts were filled with great love.

One day the white-haired parents of Akanidi said to her: “Your time has come, my child. You have to go and live together with other people. Let your heart be helpful and loving, let it warm other people’s hearts.”

And the old man took Akanidi with him and travelled to the nearest Sami village and left her in the first hut. Akanidi entered the hut and the people immediately paid attention to her coming. Everyone was drawn to Akanidi.

Akanidi spent some time with the people in this village and she taught people of the village to decorate their clothes with pearls, interesting colors and spectacular patterns. Akanidi showed them the pictures of stars, circles, birds’ footsteps and beautiful stones sparkling in the sun. She moved from hut to hut singing and dancing and telling stories. She taught the people of the village to sing hunting-joiks, sea songs and sun melodies.

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But there was also envy among the people of the village. Everyone did not like happiness to spread among the people of the village. And they wanted to get rid of Akanidi, but the Sun was all the time watching over her daughter protecting her.

Some elderly people thought that they could get rid of Akanidi by throwing a big stone on her. So one day as Akanidi was sitting in a hut teaching the children how to make buttons from seashells, the envious people came suddenly in to the hut and threw a big stone on Akanidi. Akanidi took a deep last breath and sang the last lines from her favourite joik. When she had stopped joiking she disappeared with the smoke from the fire through the hole in the hut up to the skies. And she never returned back to Earth. But her joiks, dances and spectacular pictures are still in the minds of people. People are still teaching the skills of Akanidi to their children. When doing this their hearts melt and they find happiness.

This story is true. Everything happened when the people of the North met Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun, for the first time.

 

The wolf is an endangered animal in Lapland

In Finland there are four large carnivores; bear, lynx, wolverine and wolf. I have written posts about bears, lynxes and wolverines here in my blog earlier. Now I want to tell you about the wolf in Finland and specially in Lapland. The wolf is the second largest carnivore after the bear in Finland.

The wolves (Canis lupus) are social members of the dog family and live many together in packs. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell, and can communicate using posture, facial expressions, scent and a variety of barking and howling calls. The howling call of a wolf in the night is impressive and is started by a single wolf, who may then be joined by a chorus. Wolves howl to communicate with each other and to define their territories. The chances to hear wolves howling in Lapland are really small. As you enter the cave and walk your way down to SantaPark you can hear wolves howling from the loudspeakers….

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Twolfwalkhey mainly move around during the twilight hours and they can move over distances of tens of kilometers in a single day. An old traditional story tells that a wolf could move over nine treeless bogs (valleys) in one night. In a pack only the dominant alpha pair actually breed, but the pack help to raise the cubs. Three to six cubs are born to a pack each year. Females become sexually mature at the age of about two years, while males typically mature a year later. Wolves mate in February or March, and their cubs are born a couple of months later. Cubs usually leave the pack at the age of 1-2 years. They go far away from their birthplace searching for a mate and a territory of their own.

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In Finland there is approx. 140-155 wolves at the moment. They were counted in February 2014. Most of the wolves live in the eastern parts of Finland. About 5-10 wolves were found in the Lappish area; that is a few more than last year. The wolf is an endangered species in Finland and hunting is prohibited since 1973. Hunting is a subject to licence only.

Wolf is the largest member of the dog family living in wilderness. The length of the body is 100-140 cm, the tail is 35-50 cm. Weight is usually 20-50 kg, but there has been found also bigger individuals. The male wolf is lager than the female.

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susi_kayntijaljetThe coat is mainly yellowish-grey, but there are variations. People often mistake big dogs for wolves, and wolves can be most easily distinguished from wolf-like dogs by their slanting eyes – if you come so near you can see the eyes – and the way they hold their tails at a downward angle. Their tracks are very hard to tell apart from dogs’ tracks. Wolves often walk straight, while dogs tend to wander more. The wolves’ footprints are often larger than the footprint of dogs.

Wolves hunt deer and elk and in Lapland reindeer. They hunt in packs. They kill and eat almost every part of the kill; they even biting larger bones into pieces and all that is left could be a few scraps of the skin. They sometimes hide their kill.

susi ulvooIn Finland you can see wolves in Ranua zoo and in Ähtäri zoo. To keep wolves in a zoo there need to be a large area for the wolves to move around in. In Ranua zoo there are three wolves at the moment. They were all born in the zoo in 2009. The parents, the alpha pair, were Leena ja Ville. They were brought to Ranua from Sweden in 2006 and 2007. Their first brood – in 2008- were four cubs; Halla, Huurre, Kuura ja Halti. Their second brood, in 2009, were also four cubs. At the moment there are three wolves in Ranua zoo. I have to find out their names.

The wolf has never been really wanted in Finland. In the Sami language the wolf is gumpe. The Sami people were afraid of the wolf and still are, due to that the wolves kill their reindeer. The ancient story about wolves tells that the wolves had the magic skills to make people sleepy. The Sami people use to yoik as they are watching the reindeer. Their yoiks are about the nature, people and animals. The wolves are frightened as they come near the people and the reindeer, when they hear the yoik. But soon they get used to the yoik and the Sami has to sing a new yoik. They have to come up with new yoiks all the time to keep the wolves away from the reindeer.

A long time ago the wolf was also a valued animal. There is an old yoik about the wolf Suologievra. The name means “the strong on the island”. In the ancient days people used to think the world was like an island in a big sea.

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Once upon a time Stuorra-Jownna, or Jouni the Great from Utsjoki in the North of Lapland wanted to become a wolf. The witches had told that, if you go around a curved tree counterclockwise several times you finally become a wolf. So did Jouni. He walked around the tree until he was changed into a wolf. Then he run around in the shape of a wolf and he visited many reindeer ranges. He could stay as a wolf for two weeks at a time. One day he noticed his time was ending; actually on the same night, and he still had nine valleys ahead to run. If he could not make it to the tree in time, he would be doomed to stay as a wolf for the rest of his life. There is an old saying: “The wolf always finds his way”. And that night he run over nine valleys and reached the tree, where he had changed into a wolf, in time. This time he run around the tree clockwise and during the run he little by little changed back into a human being.

 

What’s up in Lapland during the summer?

I have had technical problems with my blog the last two weeks, so there have not been any updates lately. I had to contact my web host for at least 3 times to get it run smoothly again. But the best information I found from a forum on Internet, where you could discuss the problem with other users. I found out my problems were the same as many other users’ and so I could solve the problem myself, and now the blog is working fine again.

Well, the spring has finally arrived to Lapland, although I last week read in the paper about a snowmobile accident in the upper north of Finland. They are still driving around with snowmobiles over there. There is still snow on Saana fell in Kilpisjärvi village and every year they arrange a skiing competition on Midsummer, that is June 20 at 5 pm this year. The track is about 250 m long. Registration between 3-4 pm on June 20 in Kilpisjärven retkeilykeskus. You can rent equipment, like skis, in the same place. What an adventure to go skiing in the Midnight sun on Jun 20!

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An other certain sign of spring time are the cloudberry flowers. Hopefully there will not be cold nights in the nearest future. That would destroy the cloudberry flowers and the result of that is no cloudberries this summer.

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I just love the flower Trollius europaeus known as Kullero in Lapland. It has yellow flowers and the flowers look like small suns shining along the roads or near rivers. They like shady and wet places. 

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Now is also the time when you can go  catching the river trout in the small rivers of Lapland again. I just love the quietness when you walk along these rivers. Of course, the annoying thing this time of the year are the mosquitoes. But there are ways to get rid of them. One is named Off.

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So what’s up with Santa Claus? Well, he is preparing to open his cave SantaPark again on June 23! The elves are so excited to meet all the children again. They are just jumping up and down in excitement!

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You can read about what Santa is doing in the summer here.

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The fascinating Sámi dresses

The national dresses of Sámi people are brightly colored traditional clothing. The tradition has started already in the 16th and 17th century. The dress shows the ethnic belonging for these folks. Some, but not all, Sámi wear the traditional dress on special occasions, like weddings, funerals and official meetings when they want to show the best they have to wear. Among the older Sámi people the dresses are worn also on normal weekdays. Here in Rovaniemi you usually see Sámi people dressed in national dresses during the Sámi Parliament´s, Samediggi, meetings 4-5 time a year.

The dresses are nowadays made of mostly blue wool or felt and the ornaments are distinctive bands of bright red and yellow patterns. These bands are decorations on men´s tunics, gaktison women´s skirts and on hats for both men and women. You can tell from the special ornaments and the form of the men´s hats from which region of Lapland they come. Every region has their special hat, some are cone-shaped and others have four corners, known as pointed hats or the Four winds hats. You can even tell the marital status, unmarried men wear round buttons in their belts, and from which family he/she comes from the ornaments on the dresses. A Sámi dress consists of many parts from shoes to belts to hats.

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In the Finnish Lapland there are five areas with their own dresses: The Teno river/Utsjoki area, Enontekio-Kautokeino, Sodankyla/Vuotso, Inari and the Skolts´dresses.You can see the differences between dresses if you click on the link. There are also different dresses for winter and summer. 

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Today many Sámi use their traditional dresses in tourism services. It is stipulated by the Sámi Parliament that it is not recommended for other people but the Sámi to wear the traditional dresses. Many souvenir shops sell copies of the pointed hats to tourists and I think these hat copies are quite commonly used by others than the Sámi.

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There is a traditional story about the pointed had, that I want to share with you:

“A long, long time ago, perhaps thousands of years ago, or maybe a little longer, man could not live in Lapland. Do you know why? That was because all the four winds used to blow just how they wanted. One morning the world could be green and warm, the flowers were blooming and the sun was shining. But the next morning there could be cold and snowy outside as the winds were blowing hard from the north. Sometimes, all the four winds blew, all at the same time.

Then one day a man came to the north, a shaman. He built his tent and moved to Lapland, ignoring the four winds. But he was lonely: no wife, no kids, no friends. Then the shaman lit the fire in his hut, and began to yoik and play his drum as accompaniment. With his amazing yoiks the Shaman called the four winds to come and see him in his hut. The shaman and the winds sat down by the fire, the hut was warm and the four winds fell all asleep. But the Shaman did not sleep, he put some more logs on the fire, and in the warm temperature the four winds began to shrink and shrink. Eventually they were so small that he could hold them in his hand. The shaman took off his hat, which at the time was shaped round like a normal hat. The shaman took the winds one at a time, put them in his hat, and then he tied the winds inside his hat.

Next morning the four winds woke up, got annoyed and tried really hard to get out of the hat. They blew hard in all directions, but they did not manage to come out. Do you know why? Well, they were tied to the hat. The winds inside the hat shouted “Let us out, let us out!” And the shaman said, “I will relieve you on one condition only; you have to promise that you all agree on when you will blow, one at the time, and the others will be waiting for their turn.” And the winds promised and agreed to that in the future the north wind blew only in winter time, the east wind blew in the spring, the south wind would blow warmly in the summer evenings in Lapland and in September the wind would shift to blow winds of fall.” As a reminder of this promise from now on all the men in Lapland wear a four winds hat,” said the Shaman to the four winds and waved his hat, which no longer looked the same after the capture of the four winds, it was now a pointed hat.”

Here you find a lot of more pictures of Sámi dresses. 

 

 

 

 

 

Seidas – where Sámis used to offer sacrifices

Seidas are holy places (Bálvvosbáiki) related to ancient Sámi culture. There are mentions in writing about the Sámi people worshipping trees and rocks dates back to the 16th century. Seida worship became less and less important and were even destroyed when Christianity spread in the 17th and 18th centuries. These places of worship were believed to be the home of Gods, spirits and elf folk. Seidas were often made of wood or stone. Seida rocks are typically individual, unusually shaped or coloured natural rocks. Most seida rocks in Lapland are noticeable landmarks and clearly stand out in their environment. They are found on shores of rivers, on the slopes of the fells and near paths where Sámis used to walk with their reindeer. In lake Inari there is an island, Ukko, which is also a seida for sami.

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Old Sámi religion was based on an animistic ideology, according to which everything in the nature has a spirit. In the hopes of favourable conditions, people offered sacrifices to the nature-dwelling spirits. The most important deity was Ukko, Äijih. The Finnish word Ukko derives from the word referring to thunder, ukkonen (like Torus, Thor). Ukko’s wife was Akka (Ákku or grandmother in Sámi). Other important Gods included the sun, i.e., Päivä (“Day”), as well as the moon, wind and water Gods. In pre-Christian Sámi culture, there was no term referring to religion. The seidas, deities and their worship were a natural part of people’s everyday life.

People used to visit seidas to honor the nature, but specially if health difficulties or other problems occurred.

puuseitaWooden seidas have appeared mostly in wooded areas, on the shores of good fishing waters. They have often been shaped by cutting the lower branches of trees or lifting a block of wood or a tree stump into an imposing position. At times, people carved features of human faces or figures in the wooden seidas.

Also fells, hills, steep cliffs, unusual gorges and saivo lakes could have served as holy places. There are many place names in the North referring to the holiness of the place and its possible use as a place of worship. Fishing seidas were usually located by waterways, sometimes even in the water. The seidas located on fells and hills have been used by deer hunters and reindeer owners.

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Every village (siida) in Lapland and several families also had their own seidas. A seida dedicated to the God Ukko stood behind many Lapp “kota” huts. The most important sacrificial ceremonies were related to turning points in the annual cycle. like midsummer or autumn, as well as the traditional rites in people´s lives, such as childbirth.

When a man set out to go deer hunting or fishing, he promised a share of his catch to the seida to ensure hunting and fishing luck. When he returned to the seida he offered the best parts as thanks; like bones, horns, fish or pieces of fish. The offerings were also meant to keep the seida in good mood. Sometimes the seida was even given spirits, tobacco, iron or money.

puuseita 2Some Sámi people think you should be ware of seidas and other sacred places, because of the curse, illness and enchantment that could be transported over to visiting people. Seidas also demand gifts from the visitors and you should not go near the place if you do not bring what the seida wants.

Many seidas have been forgotten over time, but several holy places have become important attractions of cultural and historical significance, and their history is kept alive in stories and legends.

Here you find information about a few seidas and mysterious Saivo lakes in Lapland, if you dare to visit them.

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Ice-fishing expedition to the Upper-North of Lapland, in 2014

Yesterday I returned from my yearly ice-fishing expedition to the North. This expedition has been the final of my ice-fishing season for many years. This year the expedition did not differ a lot from last year’s. We visited the same backwater on the same river as last year. You can take part in my story from last year’s expedition here.

We had beautiful spring weather all the time, a bit windy a couple of days, but sunshine every day. We spent 5 days ice-fishing. Thank to Protection 50+ my skin is not as tanned as it was last year. Thank to eye-drops my eyes did not ace in the evenings as much as last year, either. So, overall a very good expedition. We did not get so much fish, though. After five days of fishing we ended up with 50 fishes to bring home. We had greyling, whitefish and pikes. Even if we promised each other not to bring any pikes home this year, we ended up with 3 quite small and good-looking pikes. I remember last year’s 3 kilo pike we left on the ice in the evening for the foxes to take care of.

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I always have a little problem to see the difference between a smaller greyling and a smaller whitefish the first day, because this is the only days during the year I can fish greyling and I use to forget how it looks like. The biggest difference is in the fin on the back. The back-fin on a greyling is much bigger than on a whitefish. As the fish are bigger the problem disappear and you can easily see the difference. The upper fish is a whitefish and the other is a greyling.

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We stayed the nights as usual in the adorable cottage village of Ropinpirtti. Always friendly Terttu has always the small, unpretentious cabins in perfect condition. It is always a pleasure to return there to the cottages situated in between many fells of Lapland. We always laugh at the boot up in the tree….It has been there for at least 7 years now.

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We never spend much time inside the cabins because we are out ice-fishing 9-12 hours per day and only return in the evenings to fix something to eat and go to sleep. So we did this year, too. There was daylight for 15 hours already up in the north, and one night at 22:30 o’clock I caught this amazing sunset on picture.

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The snow and ice conditions in the “arm” of Finland were hard this year. The snow was about 70 cm thick and the ice 90 cm. But on the ice there were hardly no snow. From where we park our car we went about half a kilometer down to the river by skis and we could go above all the snow because of the hard crusty snow, but the sticks could go through the snow occasionally and the fact occurred to you; it was really deep snow. My ring on the stick broke one day and I was able to measure the depth of the snow that way. It was over half of the length of the stick…The power auger was a must to make holes in the ice. The 110 cm long auger barely could make the holes.

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But after the first day’s opening of the holes it did not really freeze during the nights, because the temperature was above 0 almost all the time.

Suddenly some reindeer occurred on the ice and went over the border to Sweden. The river Könkämäeno is marking the border between Finland and Sweden and we also crossed the border many, many times. After a while three Sámi people on snowmobiles turned up and asked if we had seen any reindeer, and so they went after the reindeer. I could not help wondering how valuable the reindeer were, as I saw the three rapid, modern snowmobiles they used to go after just three small reindeer…

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I did not catch fish all the time out there on the ice. Sometimes I watched the fish through the holes, as I also did last year. And sometimes I walked around on the river and I also watched the rapids which are on both sides of the backwater. This year the rapids were more ice-free as they were the same time last year. I saw a couple of the nice little black and white dipper (Cinclus cinclus) and also some mallards (Anas platyrhynchos).

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I did get some very nice fish, though. Just to mention some; the biggest whitefish was 890 g and I also got three pikes.

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The fish is most active in the morning and in the evening and at those times they are easiest to catch, but there are also active, shorter times in between when you also get some fish. But there will always be some dead time when it is suitable to have a break and fry some sausages by the fire. One of our expedition days we always visit the village of Kilpisjärvi near by and go and eat some delicious food at Kilpisjärven Retkeilykeskus’ buffet table. This year we went there out of curiosity to see how it looked like a year like this when there has been more snow than usual. Yes, there was still much snow, even if the roads were snow-free. From the daily paper I could also read there was still 146 cm of snow and 93 cm of ice during Easter last week in Kilpisjärvi. Kilpisjärvi is the last outpost of Finland just before the Norwegian border. You can also read about Kilpisjärvi in one of my earlier posts.

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So, after five successful days we put all the stuff into the car and headed towards Rovaniemi again along the Northern Lights Route, 450 km.

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Ice – an unpredictable element

This year’s (2014) spring has arrived earlier than usual to Lapland. As I last year in May could go ice-fishing around Rovaniemi, this year the ices are not all reliable and safe any more here in the south of Lapland. A warning is actual for entering ices, especially on the rivers where there is streaming water. Easter has for many years been the season when the outdoor temperatures allow you to really enjoy ice-fishing in the sun without getting cold. This year’s Easter was late (April 18-21) and due to the small amount of snow still on the ground the week before Easter here in the Rovaniemi region, the sun melted the snow on the lakes already before Easter. It became slippery to move on the ice and snowmobiles had difficulties to get the grip to move forward. The ground and ices are almost snow free now. But still, I plan an ice-fishing expedition to the upper-North this week, to get the last big portion of ice-fishing this winter.The ices up north are still nearly 90 cm thick. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.

In the newspapers these last weeks you could have read about accidents with snowmobiles that have sunk through the ice with drivers and passengers. You should definitely equip yourself with ice-peaks now, as you do in the autumn in the beginning of winter. With them you could have a fair chance to get up onto the ice again if you sink through the ice. These are mine.

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If the ice is thick enough for a man, but not for a snowmobile, one way of moving on the ice is to go by skis. In Lapland the lakes could have fairly thick ice even if there is no snow on the ground anymore. Skis also give you possibilities to enter even thinner ice than it would be possible for you to do by foot, because your weight is spread all over the skis, so every inch is lighter when you go on your skis. You should always test the thickness of the ice with your sticks to be sure the ice is durable enough. If you still are uncertain you should stop now and then and drill a hole in the ice to measure the thickness.

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In early spring time it is a profitable time to ice-fish trout and white fish in the lakes. This year so far I did not get much white fish, but I expect more of them in the north. Winter net-fishing period is over now due to the unpredictable ices, but as the trout swim in low waters in the spring the time to catch trout is most profitable at this time of the year. Just before we ended the net-fishing we managed to get a nice 2 kilo trout in the net.

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The red-eyed roach is easy to catch in the spring when ice-fishing, but you really do not eat them. There are a lot of them so they are popular for children to catch. The children will not get bored when ice-fishing.

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The nature wakes up in April-May and emigrating birds return to Lapland and the fells. The trees also wake up and you can read about how you can take advantage of the trees in the spring time in my post Lapland – the land of eight seasons. 

The dried reindeer meat is also ready to eat by now, as the days have been sunny for a while already.

As the ices melt the seabirds arrive in Lapland. First arriving are usually the swans. They really do not need much of open water to settle down. After that they spend the days searching for something to eat from the bottom or just relax on the ice.

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I suffer from sea-sickness if I go fishing in the open sea, therefore ice-fishing is suitable for me, as I love fishing. During the summer I have to figure out something else to do as I do no fishing then. Picking berries or taking care of my garden are hobbies for me in the summer time.

Shamanic drum therapy and drum building

As many of my readers have searched for articles about shamanism and the shamanic drums, I have decided to write this post about shamanic drum therapy. The other day I heard about a friend who visits a therapist and get drum therapy. She finds the effects from the therapy really healing and energizing and who knows, I might try it myself one day.

Drum therapy is an ancient method that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. From the shamans of Mongolia to the Minianka healers of West Africa as well as among the shamans of the Sámi people of Finland, Scandinavia and Russia, therapeutic rhythm techniques have been used for thousands of years to create and keep up physical, mental, and spiritual health. Still today drum therapy is used in Lapland by several therapists to cure different emotional problems and decreases.

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Current research is now verifying the therapeutic effects of ancient rhythm techniques. Recent research reviews show that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self. The therapy session lasts for about 1,5 hour. This is not something you just run away on your lunch break and do. It requires you to really get the drumming into your systems to have the desired effect.

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Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of drumming on Alzheimer’s patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, recovering addicts, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations. Study results prove that drumming is a valuable treatment for stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, paralysis, emotional disorders, and a lot of physical disabilities.

Drumming induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Stress according to current medical research contributes to nearly all disease and is a primary cause of such life-threatening illnesses as heart attacks, strokes and immune system breakdowns.

Chronic pain has a progressively draining effect on the quality of life. Researchers suggest that drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief. Moreover, drumming promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, the bodies own morphine-like painkillers, and can thereby help in the control of pain.

The therapist Markku Backman in Finland has developed a shamanic energy treatment, which he calls Whizhealer therapy. Whizhealer therapy has influences from methods used by ancient shamanic and other nature people using the shamanic drum in treatment. Whizhealer treatment takes about 1,5 hours and is followed by a discussion for approx. 10-30 minutes. Markku Backman tells the therapy should be taken on three different sessions to have the best effect. As your energies start to flow they open obstructions and open your existing locks of emotions.

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If you want to have a drum of your own you can take part in a drum building course and make your own shaman drum from reindeer skin and stick from antlers. You can also add important symbols to the skin. The link for drum making courses is unfortunately only in Finnish, but you can look at the pictures and get the idea how to make a drum of your own and take a look at the drum video to get an idea of how the drumming goes. I have also written about the symbols in my post http://grandma-in-lapland.com/the-lapish-shamans-drum. You can read more there.

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If you decide to buy a drum or make one of your own the drum is never a shamanic drum before you have performed the inauguration ritual in the nature somewhere on a hill or fell. You lit four fire places around the area in all four directions, to the south, to the north, to the east and to the west, and walk slowly around the fire places and ask for the spirits to bless your drum. This ritual is thoroughly described on Thuleia’s home page. Unfortunately only in Finnish, so far.

The shaman drum and their symbols are often used in manufacturing of souvenirs from Lapland. For example this bath towel I have bought from the Arctic circle. I love the colors and the symbols on it!

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Snowmobiles and their history

In ancient times hunters and reindeer herders used to move around on the fells on skis or dog-sleds in winter time. This was of course hard to do in deep snow and reindeer herders had to move around with their homes when they were out guarding the reindeer and could not return home every night because of the hard conditions. In the early twentieth century there were some inventors trying to invent a vehicle for snow conditions, but it was not until in 1954 as the American Polaris company presented the first snowmobile that the manufacturing of snowmobiles started. And that has change the life of reindeer herders; now the reindeer herders can return home every evening after checking on the reindeer. The invention of snowmobiles changed the lives in Lapland and it has also saved the reindeer husbandry until these days, because the younger generation is more interested in continuing as the conditions are not as hard as they used to be.

The first snowmobiles were large, multipassenger vehicles designed to help people get around during the long winter months. These snowmobiles made in the early 1950s were soon followed by the ones manufactured by the Canadian Joseph Armand Bombardier in 1959. Bombardier wanted to develop a fast, lightweight snowmobile that could carry one or two people. After many years of development and several prototypes of the lightweight snowmobile the first Bombardier snowmobile went on sale in 1959 and the first snowmobiles were actually brought to the north of Finland in 1962. Fifteen snowmobiles were brought to Inari in Lapland; one for the postman, one to a fisherman and the rest to some reindeer herders. From here the snowmobiles’ use spread also to other parts of Finland where there were needs to move easier on snow.

The Ski-Doo snowmobile was originally called the “Ski-Dog” because Bombardier meant it to be a practical vehicle to replace the dogsled for hunters and trappers in Canada. By an accident, a painter misinterpreted the name and painted “Ski-Doo” on the first prototype and Bombardier thought this would be a suitable name for the vehicle. Bombardier is considered the father of snowmobiling who began commercial production.
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The public soon discovered that those speedy vehicles that could zoom over snow were a lot of fun. Suddenly a new winter sport was born, centred in Quebec. In the first year, Bombardier sold 225 Ski-Doos; four years later, 8,210 were sold.

After the first snowmobile came to Finland in 19621 from Canada the popularity grew and the snowmobiles became a normal sight in the North of Finland on the fells. In these days you can see snowmobiles in wintertime parked on almost every property of Lapland; both in cities as in the countryside. This lead later to the need to pass laws that stipulated how to move with this vehicle on the roads. You are not allowed to drive the snowmobile on car roads; only on marked snowmobile ways and in the forest owned by the state of Finland or on lakes and rivers in Lapland. You are not allowed without permission to drive on private estate with snowmobile.

Just eight years after Joseph Armand Bombardier began to mass-produce Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Velsa Oy began manufacturing Lynx snowmobiles in Kurikka in Finland; in 1987 his business was acquired by the company and moved to Rovaniemi in Lapland and is still working here. See the home page of the factory BRD Finland.

After Joseph-Armand Bombardier’s initial successful tests of the Ski-Dog, it soon proved that this new snowmobile made riding fun. Individual snowmobiles gave people of isolated communities the opportunities of a new form of outdoor recreation. People that once sat dormant throughout winter were now given the opportunity in more outdoor activities.The snowmobile helped people come to embrace the winter. And today it is a great tourist attraction for all ages to come to Lapland and go on snowmobile excursions. There are even small snowmobiles for kids to drive in the Santa Claus Village in Napapiirin moottorikelkkapuisto.

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This winter, in February 7th, 2014, the exhibition of snowmobile history was opened at Santa Claus Village by the Arctic Circle outside Rovaniemi in Santa’s House of Snowmobiles. The exhibition offers the visitor information on snowmobiles and their technological development during these five decades beginning in the 1960s. The snowmobiles on show in the exhibition are all private property borrowed from owners all over Finland and the exhibition will change in May 1915. This first exhibition about snowmobiles is called “The stories of classic snowmobiles” and it is open every day of the year as well as all the other places at the Santa Claus Village.

In the exhibition you can see snowmobiles from five decades and you will be amazed about the development that have happened in the snowmobiles. The exhibition offers something for the whole family with even a snowmobile racing computer game for younger visitors.

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An odd version of snowmobile is the Swedish Larven, made by the Lenko Company of Östersund, from the 1960s until the end of the 1980s. It was a very small and basic design, with just an engine in the rear and a track. The driver sat on it and steered using skis on his feet.

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On my visit to the north of Russia in 2008 I could see these snowmobiles of old models from 1960s still in use for transactions of goods in the streets in the village I visited.

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Here is an example of a snowmobile of latest model from BRD Finland. There has been a development of technology here.

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The contemporary types of recreational riding forms are known as snowcross/racing, trail riding, freestyle, mountain climbing, boondocking, carving, ditchbanging and grass drags.

On March 29-30, 2014 there is a Snow star competition in Rovaniemi on the Mäntyvaara trotting arena with snowmobiles. The newest models from BRD are also on show there to lay your eyes on. The Snow star home page is unfortunately only in Finnish at the moment.

 

Winter swimming

These days, on March 20-23, the Winter Swimming World Championship is held in Rovaniemi with 1,244 swimmers from 34 countries. There has been huge preparations on the shore of river Kemijoki in the city center of Rovaniemi for several weeks already. The Finns are keen on winter swimming, so this event suits very well to take part in Finland this year.

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In the ice on river Kemijoki there has been made a hole, 25 meters long with 9 lanes. The last few nights have been really cold with temperatures around -22 degrees Celsius (-7,6 F), and to keep the hole from freezing there have been pumps working days and nights. Around the “swimming stadium” pupils from the University of Lapland, the Faculty of Art and Design, have created sculptures fitting into the atmosphere of the Championships.

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This snowman was constantly surrounded by excited visitors of the games, who wanted photos taken together with him for memories to bring home with them. It was hard to get a picture of him without any people. The mascot of Ranua zoo, Jonne the Polar bear, was of course also visiting this event and anyone, who wanted a hug from him, got one.

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To get from the city center to the “swim stadium” you have to either walk the 850 meters along the Lumberjack Candle bridge, or take the snowmobile taxi arranged by Lapland safaris, that was driving non-stop between the city center and the stadium.

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Today on the first day of the competitions the Endurance swim 450 meters for men and women took place. Here are the starting lists for those, who are interested. The swimmers were aged 50-69 years. A lot of brave people, if you ask me! To go into the ice-cold water with only your swimsuit on and then swim 450 meters is really an effort and it tests your body’s tolerance to 100 %. Except for the swimsuit swimmers must wear something on their head, either a swimming cap or a woolen or other warm hat.

The competitors undressed by the pool and climbed into the water. Diving was prohibited.

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During the first run one of the competitors had a heart attack and divers had to bring him up from the water and they gave him first aid and an ambulance took him to the hospital for a check up. After this dramatic start the competition went on smoothly and swimmers who felt they wanted to end their run because they were not feeling well, were greeted by the audience and thanked with applauds for they braveness. No-one had to feel like a looser if he or she could not finish the run. All competitors are really experienced winter swimmers and all are winners and we all have our better or worse days.

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After the race the swimmers could immediately go into the sauna or to the hot tubs near the pool. There were a lot of staff helping the swimmers to get a warm blanket and their shoes on. Many of the competitors really did not matter about the cold outside, even though the audience were trying to keep warm by jumping up and down. This day’s amazing sun-shine did help the audience to keep warm, though.

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The area around the stadium has activities, product presentations and shopping possibilities as well as restaurant services and tourist information. The competitions continue tomorrow. The weather forecast are unfortunately not as good as they were today. Anyway, I think the arrangements around the IX Winter Swimming World Championship are really successful so far.

 

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Detailed 5 day forecast

Nature paths in winter time

Before I arrived in Lapland I thought of nature paths as something you do in summer time or at least during snow-free times. But that thinking I had to change as I have found the nature paths near Rovaniemi also accessible in winter time, preferably maybe in early spring, when there still is a lot of snow, but the sun is shining from a clear-blue sky. The period of daylight is too short in midwinter to do any longer hiking tours in the nature.

People in Rovaniemi use to walk nature paths during winter, so the duckboard way is easy to find, but on the other hand, if the ground is frozen, you do not even have to walk along the duckboards, because the risk of stepping into water is non-existent. If you go walking outside the paths you could preferably use snowshoes, which is very popular, too.

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My favorite area of nature paths near Rovaniemi is the Arctic Circle hiking area, the Vaattunkiköngäs-Vikajärvi area. These paths I use to hike in summer as well as in winter time. To sit by the log fire enjoying your picnic and fry your sausages together with friends or alone surrounded by white nature and possibly in early spring you could hear some birds voices. The winter time in the forest of Lapland is otherwise a silent period. But in early spring the first migratory birds return again after they have spent the coldest period of winter in some warmer climates. I like this early spring period because it is easy to separate a bird’s song from others. Later in spring the forest is so full of voices, so you hardly could separate one bird from another. Just take your time and let the sun warm up your frozen face and open your ears to all the fantastic voices of spring! I also use to admire the different formations from the snow you can find if they are untouched. There is always the possibility to stop by a lake and do some ice-fishing during your hike if you have the equipment with  you in your backpacker. At the Arctic Circle area I on the other hand would not recommend any ice-fishing, because there is no lake, but a river with rapids and that is never safe to enter in spring time.  .

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strömstareInstead you could try to get a glimpse of the cute little bird, the White-throated Dipper, that lives by the rapids in Lapland and even goes diving into the open rapid water in winter time. In spring time you can possibly also listen to its drilling song if you manage to separate it from the voice of the rapid, of course.

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At the Korouoma canyon area people use to walk the paths often also during winter because of the possibilities to do ice-climbing on the frozen waterfalls. The frozen waterfalls in Korouoma are the biggest in Finland. Ice climbing possibilities in Posio are provided by Stella Polaris Lapland and Bliss Adventure. Trained professional guides make sure that your ice climbing experience is safe, fun and unforgettable! Please note that you are not supposed to try to go climbing the frozen waterfalls on your own, if you don’t have the special equipment and experience required for individual climbing. But, anyway, you can always admire the huge frozen waterfalls, and I must say, that is enough for me.

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The Saariselkä area in the north-east of Lapland is also a popular resort for hikers that offers excellent possibilities for day-trips throughout the year. During summer visitors can hike along hiking trails and nature trail of varying demand or even cycle. In winter the area boasts 250 km of maintained ski trails and such as nature trails are excellent places for trekking in snow shoes. A vast variety of services can be found at the Saariselkä tourist resort during all seasons.

 

Snow and ice and how to enjoy them

In northern Finland we have snow for almost half of the year. Snow plays a big role in the life of the Finns living in Lapland. This fact has led to development of many different ways to move around on the snow or to take advantage of the snow and ice elements as much as possible.

Skis were invented already by our ancestors to help people to move on snow. Skiing is faster than walking. In those days the skis were used for necessary movements, but today to go skiing is a popular way of getting exercise. Downhill skiing in its various forms is the choice for many people. In Rovaniemi you can go cross-country skiing and downhill skiing on Ounasvaara fell.

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Sledging is another way to move around on snow. The sledge was developed especially for sledging downhill, but you can also use it to transport goods.

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People have used kicksleds for a hundred year to get to school, to the church or to visit each other. The look of the kicksled has been the same for many decades, with a seat and handles, but in recent years a more sporty model has been developed to use even in competitions in Finland and all over the world.

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Snowshoes look like tennis rackets fastened to your feet and they make walking in the snow a lot easier. In old days they were made of natural material, but nowadays they are made from different kind of plastic, You do not sink into the snow, but you stay walking on top of the snow.

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From time immemorial huskies have pulled sleds in the Arctic regions. They have been reliable and reach their destination in even the hardest conditions. The husky was born to pull sleds and it is really happy when working. Today many tourists go for safaris with huskies and enjoy the speed of around 17 km/h. You can choose longer or shorter safaris with huskies from husky farms in Lapland.

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The reindeer have also been used for centuries in Lapland to pull sleds. Their hooves enable them to move in the snow. At first glance, the reindeer seem very slow and lazy, but they can also race in competitions. Reindeer safaris are arranged all over Lapland during winter.

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Along with the development of technology the snowmobile was invented. Reindeer herders use snowmobiles, but the snowmobiles are also used for tourist safaris. There are several safari companies offering snowmobile safaris during winter; both for beginners and more adventures tourists.

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Many ways have been developed to get around during the long-lasting period of ice on lakes and rivers. Figure skates, hockey skates and Nordic skates are different forms of skates. The Finnish national team sport is of course played on hockey skates and Nordic skates are for long journeys. In Rovaniemi there are several arenas for hockey and figure skating. You do not even have to bring your own skates, because you can rent skates and get instructions how to go skating if it is your first time. First timers have lots of fun just trying to stay on their feet.

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In summer time you can play golf in Rovaniemi, at Arctic golf course, on the shore of river Kemijoki, but as the summer is so short, they have taken advantage of the snow element and invented ice golf and winter golf. On the frozen river Kemijoki you have been able to play ice golf for several winters already and on the golf course of Ounasvaara, Santa’s own golf course Arctic golf course, you find probably the world’s best winter golf course. It opens in the end of February-the beginning of March, depending on the snow situation. It was opened for the first winter season in 2011 and so far the seasons have offered good opportunities to enjoy golf, with 9-holes, also in winter time. The home page of the course is unfortunately not translated into English concerning the winter course. You can rent golf clubs from the course, you do not have to bring your own. Just remember to use colored balls, orange is the best color. A white ball is of course impossible to see in the snow.

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winter golf

Some people also use to go swimming in the river Kemijoki during the winter period; the winter-swimmers! A hole is sawed into the ice and the winter-swimmers take a dip in the chilly water. All you need is a swimming costume, a woolen hat and a pair of slippers and a big bath sheet. The winter swim gives you an extraordinary experience and is told to have many healthy effects, too. This year the Winter Swimming World Championship is arranged in Rovaniemi; on March 20-23, 2014. Check out the program! There is something for everybody, and you do not have to practice winter-swimming to take part in the big event.

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It happens a lot in Ranua zoo in winter time

News about a new-born brown bear cub was told from Ranua zoo in the beginning of March. As predicted last spring, the brown bear Malla gave birth on January 8th, 2014. She stayed in her den for the hibernation period and breast-feeding the new-born female cub until March 31st, when the door was opened for her to come out. The zoo had put up cameras in the den so the birth late in the evening of January 8th could be seen by the staff in the next morning. This video is shown to all visitors to Ranua zoo as they arrive in the ticket office these days.

On March 31st Malla and the cub came out through the door and the cub met the world outside the den for the first time. The surrounding was all snow and the cub seemed a little anxious and it made a lot of voices. The video of the little cub can be seen here. Malla and her cub were kept in a smaller fence while the male bears Jehu and Palle-Jooseppi were out in a bigger fence. Malla also wanted out to the bigger fence and as she was let out there it happened she was stressed of the situation and abandoned her cub and run out and did not show any interest towards the cub any more. She acted even aggressively towards her cub and the staff at the zoo found it best to take the cub from her, for the safety of the cub. So at the moment the cub is fed by the staff of the zoo and will not be brought back to the mum any more. The mother will not recognize her own cub anymore and she will act aggressively towards a stranger. A name competition will be arranged on the home page of Ranua wildlife park to find a name for the little female bear. If everything works out fine, the cub can probably be seen in the zoo in the beginning of summer. These abandoning behaviors happened either because Malla was an unexperienced mother or due to other stress factors. In the nature she could even kill her cub, but that is now prevented by the decision to take the cub from her. Let us see how this will work out.

The father Jehu has woken up from the hibernation already and was anxiously waiting outside the den for Malla and the cub to come out to him***.

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It is amazing how tiny a brown bear cub is at birth. You may think a big bear could give birth to a much bigger cub, but the newborn is really tiny and spends many weeks on mummy’s stomach, where it gets breast-fed, and kept warm in the warm fur of mummy. In the blog from Ranua zoo you can see for yourself the amazing video from the birth of the brown bear cub and also how it has grown during the first month. It is impossible to decide the sex of the cub until it comes out from the den.

In the wolverine fence you also find only the father Rasputin running around. The female wolverine Batsi has actually also given birth to two tiny wolverine cubs and is spending time with them inside an underground den breast-feeding. The wolverine cubs were born during the weekend on March 8-9 and were caught by a camera. The cubs weight around 100 g each. In the nature the wolverine gives birth inside a cavern made of snow. Last time there were wolverine cubs in Ranua was over 10 years ago, in 2003, so this is a very special moment and predicts a busy summer with a lot of interested visitors for the wildlife park.

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Another thing that happens in the near future at Ranua zoo is that the two years old polar bear Ranzo is going to leave the zoo and move to the zoo Schönbrunn in Vienna, Austria, in the beginning of May. In the zoo Schönbrunn they are building a new Polar bear world, Franz Josef Land, which will open in April. Ranzo will meet an adorable Polar bear girl, Lynn, also 2 years old, and they will hopefully be parents next year. Ranzo’s move to Vienna is quite natural, as his grandmother, Vienna, was born there. So he returns to his roots, so to say. Still Ranzo is happily unknown of his coming destiny playing with his toys in Ranua zoo.

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This picture is of Ranzo and his mother last spring. IMG_1828

At the moment Ranzo is alone in his fence, while his mother Venus has moved over to his father Manasse’s fence and they are enjoying each others’ company at the moment. New polar bear cubs are of course expected next winter from these meetings. You can look at a video from their meetings also from the blog.

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*** Unfortunately the brown bear Jehu found a way out from his fence to the freedom in the end of April 2014. The staff of the zoo has a special security plan for incidences like this regarding brown bears’, polar bears’ and muskoxes’ escapes and the only thing was to shoot the Jehu bear, to avoid danger to people outside the zoo. The brown bear Jehu never met the new cub.