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.

 

Lappish delicacies from reindeer meat

As the sun shines from a clear blue sky in March you may wonder what on earth is hanging on the balconies or from the ceilings of the verandas of houses in Rovaniemi and also on other places in Lapland!? It is an old Lappish tradition to dry reindeer meat in the sun in the beginning of spring. The Lappish people love dried reindeer meat; especially people in the country side are used from  home to dry meat and they have also taken the tradition with them to the city..

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Meat is traditionally dried in the late winter-early spring. The March wind and the strong variations in day and night temperatures dry out the meat quickly. The meat is hung to dry in an airy place until it is ready. When the meat is ready, it is no longer red inside. It should be dark, almost black through and through. The speed at which it dries depends on the weather. It is not wise to leave the meat hanging for too long because over-dried meat is tough to cut. You can dry all parts of a reindeer carcass; usually meat on the ribs, fore loin and shoulder are used for this.

People in Lapland use the dried meat for a snack. They carve dried boneless meat into thin slices and eat them as they are. But you can also prepare a dried reindeer meat soup with potatoes and milk. It is not easy to buy this meat, but in spring time the dried meat is sold in vacuum packages on some places in Lapland.

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What you traditionally can order in any restaurant in Rovaniemi made from reindeer is the sautéed reindeer and mashed potato. To prepare that by yourself at home you need:

1 kg meat for sautéed reindeer, 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, 1 dl water, 2 teaspoons of salt.

poronkäristysPut the meat into a pot with melted butter or margarine and brown the meat. When all the meat has thawed and browned, add the water and salt. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer under the lid for 10-30 min. Serve with the buttered mashed potatoes and some lingon berries. This is absolutely my favorite reindeer food!

 

The sautéed reindeer meat you can buy from the deep freezer of any Supermarket in Lapland all year around. It can be used in many ways, even as filling on a reindeer pizza. Minced reindeer meat is also sold as deep frozen products but also tinned, which is easy to transport and store. You can i.e. prepare a warm soup from tinned reindeer meat.

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How to keep warm when ice-fishing

January changed to February and in Lapland that means the daylight increases every day with several minutes. Now the daylight lasts for approx. 8 hours already. To think, just one and a half months ago there were practically no daylights at all and now it is already 8 hours! Moving towards the midnight sun….

This is the time of the year when ice-fishing season starts. You can read my post about ice-fishing for beginners here. The most interested fishermen have of course been ice-fishing already for a couple of months, but because of the lack of daylight but also because of the cold period we have had, with temperatures around -20 degrees Celsius, the experience of an ice-fishing day would not have been all pleasant.

IMG_0549Even if the outdoor temperature is around 0 degrees, spending several hours outdoors, mostly sitting without moving, requires warm clothes. Best chances not to be cold you have wearing not only one warm cloth, but several layers, so to say. I use even up to 7 layers on my upper body and about 4 layers on my legs to keep me warm for several hours ice-fishing. I would definitely not enjoy ice-fishing if I had to be freezing all the time!

Starting with underwear in natural material, such as cotton. Then something woolen like very fine woolen underwear, i.e.Ruskovilla, Merinovilla or TAM-SILK wears. Then some colleges; both sweater and trousers. On these, a waistcoat or a sweater, or both in fleece material and a windproof jacket. On top of everything I use a very warm overall. The overall should be both windproof and waterproof. It is very easy to undress the overall in case the sun would shine and you feel you just have too much on. It is really easier to undress than to put more on, which you do not want to carry with you.

You find more of my stories about ice-fishing expeditions here.

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IMG_4235The hands and feet are important to keep warm, but at the same time you should be able to do quick movements when you have a catch. They should also be easy to take off quickly when needed to get the line and the fish up on the ice. One way to keep them warm is to buy hand and feet warmers from fishing equipment shops or from Motonet. But those I use only in extreme conditions. They keep your hands and feet warm for about 6 hours.

But also warm leather gloves with sheep wool lining would do. On your feet you should use rubber boots with woolen lining. The boots should be big enough to fit two pairs of woolen socks. Rubber boots could be needed on the ice when there is water coming up from the holes. The circumstances on the ice could also suddenly change from snow to quite deep water (without jeopardizing the safety on the ice, I ensure you. I will tell you more about that in another post.)

But definitely big rubber boots, especially in spring time.

The stool you are sitting on could be of the model you buy from a fishing equipment store, or you could make one yourself, from Styrox, which is a warming material and very light also to carry.

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If you are lucky and get a lot of catches, you probably do not need to think about the cold, but if the fish is lazy and the waiting time is long, you probably also want to get up and move a little. One thing is of course to make more holes, because that warms you up, really. Both a hand worked auger and a power auger requires some muscle exercises, that would get you warm. Another thing to do when feeling cold, is to take a break and move towards a “laavu”, lit the fire by the fireplace and enjoy a nice cup of some warm drink. Some people call the laavu a hootchie in English.

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In some places in Lapland, on some lakes, but also in the coastal area of northern Sweden, there is a habit to build like small houses on skids to transport with you behind the snowmobile when you go ice-fishing. These sheds keep you from the freezing cold winds that could disturb an otherwise well planned ice-fishing expedition. The sheds have no floor inside, so you can drill holes in the ice and sit inside the shelters ice-fishing. Inside the sheds there could also be warming equipment working with gas or other kinds of heating systems. In case you have such a shed to use, you could go for longer ice-fishing expeditions without “laavus” nearby. You could fry your sausages and warm your drinks inside the shed. I will explain more about these sheds in another post.

 

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Ranua zoo in winter

On a sunny day in winter a visit to Ranua zoo is really worth the effort. There are active arctic animals playing in the snow, not the least the polar bears, the wolverines, the wild boars, the wolves and the lynxes, which all are active winter animals. The snow makes it easy to find the animals; they have fewer possibilities to hide in a white surrounding. They seem to enjoy the sun in winter as much as we do.

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The brown bears are having their hibernating period and are sleeping. About two years ago there was a warm and sunny spring and the brown bears woke up on March 1st and started to play in the snow. Usually they wake up in the end of March. There is still snow on the ground in the end of March. This year I am very excited waiting for news about whether the brown bear Malla has given birth during the winter hibernation. The zoo is keeping an eye on the den where the brown bears are sleeping. Small brown bear cubs would really be a reason to visit the zoo again.

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The zoo has plans to put together the two polar bear adults again if there could be more polar bear cubs. The very popular polar bear cub Ranzo, born in December 2011, is already a grown up and will probably be moved to another zoo in the near future. Ranua zoo simply does not have fences enough for many adult polar bears. Wild animals, like bears, are not very satisfied to share fences with others. There have been some disputes between bears in the earlier years, which have led to even one of the bear’s death, and this the zoo definitively does not want to happen.

You can get a whole new viewpoint to the animals by participating in the animal feeding shows, such as, by watching carnivores being fed. If you are lucky, you might get to feed animals yourself, instructed and monitored by the animal keepers. During the winter, between 17.2.2014 -9.3.2014 and 18.4.2014 – 21.4.2014, animal feeding shows are arranged daily. Check out the times on the home page. I do hope they will soon update it with this year’s dates….

There is also possible to stay overnight near the zoo, in the holiday village Gulo Gulo or at the caravan area. Check the homepage for more information.

In Finland there are three zoos open during winter time; Ranua zoo, Ähtäri zoo in the middle of Finland and Korkeasaari zoo in Helsinki.

 

The end of the Polar night and Travel Fair 2014

Today, on January 17th, the Polar night or Kaamos is over in Finland for this time. In the northernmost village of Finland, in Nuorgam, the sun rose above the horizon today for about one minute at 12.04, local time. The temperature in Nuorgam is at the moment -33 C; you could say the sun is not yet warming up at all….

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In Rovaniemi we have -23 C and I just returned from a nice, refreshing walk in the snowy environment with a clear sky full of stars above our heads. No sights of northern lights, though.

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At the same time Finland is planning for the next tourist season, spring and summer 2014. The travel fair Matka 2014 in Fair Center in Helsinki on 17-19.1.2014, is the biggest travel fair in Northern Europe. In the domestic part of the fair the local places to visit are represented, but there is also a part of the fair for foreign targets. With exhibitors from over 80 countries there is a lot to see! You can also vote for the best excursion place of 2014. You can of course choose between several places in Lapland, too. To vote, go to the site: www.goexpo.fi.

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VisitRovaniemi, the tourist board of Rovaniemi, takes of course part in the fair as usual. You could visit the stand number 7K51 and learn about the new plans for the coming seasons. SantaPark and Joulukka are of course also represented there and they also want to present their new spa and sauna facilities, Metsäkyly, where you can get experiences from original Finnish sauna, get treatments, jump into an ice-cold lake and learn all about sauna traditions in Finland. Check out the homepage to learn more.

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Go skiing in Rovaniemi

There is still the Polar night or kaamos in Lapland, but since December 21st the days are getting longer and longer; today more than 3 hours between sunrise and sunset already. You can check the length of the day on the weather forecast page.

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As the days are getting longer it means you can stay longer outdoors and for example go skiing. In Rovaniemi there are lighted ski tracks for cross-country skiing for those who do not have time to go skiing in daytime, but want to do it after work in the evenings. Here you can check where there are lighted tracks and also the conditions of the tracks before you leave for a ski tour. The page is only in Finnish, but you can see there are a lot of tracks all over Rovaniemi city and the best color is green. At the moment there are no green tracks, because of the last weeks’ warm weather and the fact there has not been so much snow lately. But the color yellow is acceptable, too.

I went for a tour on the ice of a lake the other day. There was not much snow either, but enough for an enjoyable tour and I did not need any tracks at all. As my work is very hard for my arms at the moment I need to get some exercises to lose up my muscles in my upper-arms and that was exactly what a ski tour made for me! I felt like a new woman after that.

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In Rovaniemi there is also the down-hill skiing and snowboarding possibilities at Ounasvaara hiihtokeskus with ski lifts and the ski jumping also for more experienced ski-jumpers. On the page you can check the conditions of the lifts and the slopes. There are also 45 km tracks for cross-country skiing on Ounasvaara hill.

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At Ounasvaara hiihtokeskus there is also a ski rental, so you do not even need to have your own skiing equipment to go skiing. The selection of the rental equipment is wide and it is being regularly renewed, therefore there is always an excellent and modern ski equipment available. The selection has downhill -, cross-country – and Telemark skis, snowboards, snowshoes and sportswear.

 

It is also possible to check the Ounasvaara hiihtokeskus, the slopes and the view from the ski-jump tower over Rovaniemi from the web camera.

 

Snow and ice design and architecture

The surroundings of snow and ice for approx. 7 months a year in Lapland has inspired the Lappish people to create ways and methods to take advantage of that fact. There are several occasions during winter that are related to snow or ice, like art exhibitions, buildings and happenings.

Snow and ice buildings and happenings related to snow are of course depending on the weather conditions, but with many years of experiences there have not been great problems so far. The winter is cold and snowy in Lapland.

A building that this year raises for the 19th time is the SnowCastle in the town of Kemi, about 100 km from Rovaniemi by the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. The SnowCastle is already under construction and will be opened on January 25th 2014. The SnowCastle has different themes and both contents and architecture vary every year. Inside the castle there are light-effects on the ice-sculptures and the constructions. The SnowCastle will be open daily until the season ends on April 6th. This date could change depending on the weather conditions. Reservations can be done for the restaurant and for the chapel. Many couples get married here during the season. These pictures are from the SnowCastle in 2007.

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The snow-building is also represented at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi. Every year there is something made of snow and ice. Even a whole log house made of only ice with an ice bar was built there in winter 2008-2009. 

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The Arctice Winter Wonderland with long snow slopes and a playground for children at the Arctic Circle is very popular. This year they have expanded with a building containing ice bar, art gallery and ice hotel.

In SantaPark you can visit the ice gallery. There are sculptures of wild animals living in the arctic regions. Last year’s visitor was Sid from the Ice Age movies. This year Niko the reindeer is visiting the Ice Gallery of SantaPark. There you can also meet the Ice Princess, try to sit on her throne and have a cold drink in glasses made from ice.

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At the Lapland University there is a Snow Design Project running under the Faculty of Art and Design and the University has the knowledge of snow design that it wants to export to other parts of the world.

Earlier projects of snow design in Rovaniemi are such as these:

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Many hotels around Lapland offer the customers possibilities to sleep in an igloo in combination to a hotel room. The night in an igloo is an extraordinary experience where you also get a certificate. You are provided with warm clothes and sleeping bags, the beds are comfortable and you always have the possibility to return into your hotel room if you find the igloo night too challenging.

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At the Arctic Circle outside Rovaniemi, near the house of Santa Claus a new world, Arctice Winter World, has opened its doors this winter. You enter the world through the wooden house and for an entrance fee you can visit the ice bar with spectacular ice sculptures and the igloo hotel, everything made of just snow and ice. Outside the igloos there is a huge icy slope for downhill tobogganing.

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The Arctice Winter world opened on December 5th, 2013 and is planned to keep open until the end of March this year. I was amazed by the igloo hotel. There were several rooms of different size and all with its special ice decorations on the walls. The beds looked tempting with comfortable madrasses. You can book a room on the home page and you get a sleeping bag to use. The walls in the hall are also decorated with outstanding sculptures.

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All over the Arctice Winter world there were special colored lights. After the entrance you enter into the ice bar and café. On real reindeer hides the whole family can enjoy non-alcoholic or alcoholic warm or cold drinks. Cold drinks can also be served in real ice glasses.

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Santa Claus

As it is Christmas time I want to share some links with you, from where you can check out what Santa Claus is doing these days.

This camera is from inside Santa Claus office at the Arctic Circle. Santa is there every day of the year, even in summer, from 9-17 in Finnish time.

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/santaclauslive-inside-cam

Jessi och Dagny hos tomten våren 2008

This video was taken yesterday on December 23rd, 2013, as Santa was taking off from Arctic Circle to visit all children all over the world and give presents:

http://bambuser.com/v/4208020

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And here are more info about Santa Claus’ office at the Arctic Circle. You should visit it some time!

https://shop.santaclauslive.com/santa_purchase/special_order_video/1

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You can also read more about the Arctic Circle and Santa Claus village here.

And you have three more weeks time to visit SantaPark also.

With these links I wish you all a Very, Merry Christmas and thank you all more than 8,000 visitors I have had on my blog since April 2013 when I started. Se you soon!

 

Warm drinks for cold days

Today, as the temperature outside shows around -25 degrees Celsius, I want to tell you about some drinks that will warm you up..

Finland is one of the world’s biggest coffee consumers. In 2011 the consumption of coffee per capita was about 9,7 kg/year. But I will not tell you about coffee now…

One drink very popular in the Arctic regions in winter time, but especially around Christmas is the Glögi. In Sweden they call it Glögg. It has been introduced to Finland in the beginning of the 19th century as a warming drink on cold winter days. It is a heated, sweet berry juice with a lot of spices, like cinnamon, cardamom, bitter orange shell, ginger, clove and nutmeg. It is also called Mulled wine and in Germany they have a similar drink called Gluhwine, but that is not as sweet as Glögi.

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Glögi can be made from berries picked in the nature of Lapland, like lingonberry or cranberry, but also from black or red currant. You can buy a special spice mix called Glögimauste, which you add into the heated juice and let it stew for about 5 minutes. After that sift the spices and your drink is ready.

 

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Glögi can also be made of concentrate, which you can buy in any grocery store before Christmas. You mix the concentrate with hot water according to what is said on the package. There are also ready-to-use made Glögi in the stores, which you just heat up to drink. The stores offer you a big amount of glögi trade marks to choose between.

 

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Preferably Glögi is enjoyed with raisins and almonds in it. It is also very popular to add some alcoholic into the Glögi to get a little more adult touch. In Finland the popular alcohol is Koskenkorva; 38 % alcohol made in Finland. Also Vodka can be used, but all kinds of red wines or rum are suitable, too. Never boil the drink with alcohol in it. The alcohol should be added after heating up the juice.

Glögi is often served outdoors after a snowmobile safari at the fire-place, or in the evenings after work. You also find it, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic, in the Gingerbread Bakery of SantaPark, where you can enjoy it together with your own decorated gingerbread.

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Me and my ice-fishing friends use to enjoy a special tea by the fire-place during ice-fishing season. That is black tea with some cognac and (much) sugar. That is easy to prepare outdoors, because you only have to heat the water by the fire-place and then use teabags. Plastic bottles of cognac is easy to transport and do not need any cautions not to break.

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 Also a very sweet warming drink is in Finland called Minttukaakao; mint cocoa. That is a cup of warm cocoa with added 2 cl pepper mint liqueur.

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Maybe the Snowman’s soup (Lumiukkosoppa) would be something for you? You need a hot cocoa drink, two Christmas chocolates, three marshmallows and a candy stick. Recommended specially for kids and other childish people 😉

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Do you know what an Advent Calendar is?

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days to Christmas. Children of Germany, Finland and Sweden have their own advent calendars to count the days to Christmas. When they open a window they are one day closer to Christmas Eve. The days often overlap with the Christian season of Advent. Despite the name, most commercially available Advent calendars begin on December 1 with door number 1, regardless of when Advent begins, which can be as early as November 27 and as late as December 3. This year, 2013, you can begin opening door number 1 on your advent calendar on December 1st, which happens to be the first Advent Sunday. Door number 24 is to be opened on the morning of Christmas Eve on December 24th. .

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This is the calendar I got, as a subscriber, from my daily paper, Lapin Kansa, the northern most daily newspaper. Their Alexander have pictures for all 24 days of Advent, but also a lottery number, and there are numbers that win something every day until Christmas. The numbers are published in the same day’s paper.

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The origins of the Advent calendar come from German Lutherans who, at least as early as the beginning of the 19th century, would count down the first 24 days of December physically. Often this meant simply drawing a chalk line on the door each day, beginning on December 1.

The first known Advent calendar was handmade in 1851. According to the Lower Austrian Landesmuseum, the first printed Advent calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1902 by a protestant bookshop. Other authorities state that a Swabian parishioner, Gerhard Lang, was responsible for the first printed calendar, in 1908.

Lang was certainly the progenitor of today’s calendar. He was a printer in the firm Reichhold & Lang of Munich who, in 1908, made 24 little colored pictures that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard. Several years later, he introduced a calendar with 24 little doors. He created and marketed at least 30 designs before his firm went out of business in the 1930s.

The practice disappeared during World War II, apparently to save paper. After the war, Richard Sellmer of Stuttgart resurrected the commercial Advent calendar and is responsible for its widespread popularity.

Many of the advent calendar take the form of a large rectangular card with “doors” of which there are usually 24: one for each day of December leading up to Christmas Eve on December 24th, where the 24th door often holds an extra surprise like an extra large picture. One is opened every day. The calendar doors open to reveal an image, poem, a portion of a story or a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item.

Advent calendars can also consist of cloth sheets with small pockets to be filled with candy or other small gift items. Many calendars have been adapted by merchandisers and manufacturers to include a piece of chocolate or other confectionery behind each compartment.

The Advent calendar is normally shaped like a large greeting card, but it can be found in other shapes, such as a three-dimensional model of a house or church.IMG_8505

Today you can also find Advent Calendars on Internet. Rovaniemi city has its own Calendar on the Facebook site of Visit Rovaniemi, on the address:  https://www.facebook.com/VisitRovaniemi.fi you find a new picture and a message every day until Christmas.

Another nice Advent Calendar on Internet is this: http://www.positiivarit.fi/Christmas-Calendar . Here you can listen to Christmas music and read Christmas thoughts and poems everyday until Christmas.

 

Would you send your Teddy on its own to visit Santa?

In Lapland and in Rovaniemi, the home town of Santa Claus, we just love all kinds of animals and characters symbolizing Lapland and Santa’s world. We have Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer, Nico the adorable reindeer and his little brother Jonni, Vaino the lynx, Jonne the polar bear among others.

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väinö the lynx

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That is one reason we also want your teddies to come and experience the world of Santa Claus and Lapland and meet with Rudolf and the other animals. A company, Teddy Tours Lapland, makes that possible. Take a look at what they can offer your Teddy on a trip to Santa Claus’ home town Rovaniemi. That will be an unforgettable adventure for your Teddy. I have learned these kinds of trips are also arranged in other parts of the world, i.e. in Japan. TeddyTours Lapland offers four different packages for your Teddy’s trip to Lapland and Teddy always return home with photos or even videos of the visit to Lapland and specially the meeting with Santa himself.

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The most popular animal of Ranua Zoo, Väinö the lynx

The reader of my blog might have noticed I am specially found of the polar bear cub Ranzo in the Wildlife Park Ranua Zoo. I try to visit Ranua Zoo several times a year to check out arctic animals. During a visit there in winter time you will notice many of the animals are more active than what they are in summer time, when they mostly are sleeping in the sun. (This is not of course the fact about brown bears, because they are having their hibernation period.)

The Wildlife Park Ranua Zoo is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and that caused them to arrange a voting for the most popular animal of the park during the 30 year period. The winner was Väinö the lynx. Cause of the huge interest the ice bear cub Ranzo has caused the last two years, you could think he would win the vote, but Väinö the lynx has apparently made a greater impact on visitors. The competition was tight, with polar bear Ranzo coming a close second.

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So who was Väinö the lynx? Väinö the lynx appeared in the Finnish film “Tommy and the Wildcat”, know to the Finnish people as “Poika ja ilves”. The film was cast in Ranua and in Korouoma canyon in the year 1998 and was very popular to the audience and received many prices also in international Film Festivals. Director of the film is Raimo O Niemi.

Väinö the lynx was born in 1996 and died in May 1998 in an accident as he tried to climb a fence and fell down. He was used to people from the age of a little cub. Väinö was brought to the Wildlife Park Ranua Zoo as he had been abandoned by his mother and he was adopted by the park keepers and they begun to feed him with a nursing bottle. He used to spend time in the ticket office of Ranua Zoo and visitors could often see him sleeping on a shelf there, as they entered the park.

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During the autumn shooting, Väinö remained the only wildcat on the set, but for the winter scenes they began looking for “stand – by” wildcats for Väinö’s stunts at an early stage. Fortunately, a pair of twin wildcats, Isa and Bella, were born at Parken Zoo in Sweden in summer 1997. They shared the same fate as Väinö and were abandoned by their mother. Animal trainer Elisabet Jonsson, who had a wide range of experience in training animals, reared the wildcats. She had, for instance, trained tigers, leopards and other wildcats. Hence, we hired Elisabet to train Isa and Bella for Väinö’s winter stunt scenes.

The film “Tommy and the Wildcat” tells about how 12-year-old Tommy reluctantly moves with his father from the big city to a small Lapp village – the childhood home of his mother, who has recently died. The village is close to the northernmost wildlife reserve in the world, where Tommy’s father will be working on a project to release a captive lynx into the wild. The boy gradually falls under the spell of his new surroundings, and discovers that his mother was involved in protecting the local lynx, and, when his father’s project fails, and the lynx is about to be sold, he decides to set it free himself. A dramatic series of events ensues, and Tommy, through his brave actions, regains the trust and respect of his family and the village.

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During the shooting of the film the film team soon learnt that they were not dealing with “Lassie” or “Rintintin” in front of the camera. Anyone who has any knowledge of cats knows that you cannot order them around.

Konsta Hietanen played the main part in the film. Väinö and Konsta got along famously from the start. Konsta soon learnt to trust that Väinö didn’t regard him as a potential snack. However, Konsta was reminded that you can never fully trust a wild animal.

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For the shooting, Väinö had to become accustomed to noise and a lot of people around him, not to mention riding in a car  –  or on a snow mobile! The director’s order for silence during the shooting was diligently obeyed: since the wildcat was usually able to concentrate for only about half an hour at a time, the film crew had to be particularly efficient when the wildcat was in a cooperative mood. The crew was kept to a minimum while shooting the wildcat, because Väinö always had to sniff everyone around him to learn that they were friendly.

The first thing to keep in mind was that you can’t give orders to a wildcat or force it to do what people want, but through games and playing you could achieve what was desired. Most probably the film’s wildcats had a great time during the shooting of the film: they got to play all kinds of games, the people around them were calm and the wildcats received lots and lots of attention  –  which is, after all, what all cats thrive on. One might even write in the end titles of the film that “The wildcats appearing in Tommy and the Wildcat had heaps of fun.” In first, the most difficult thing was to make the wildcats look dangerous or aggressive. Under no circumstances did we want to arouse the wildcats’ wilder instincts.

The producer Hannu Tuomainen tells that as the film had been completed they could proudly state that the scenes with animals in them were for real, they have not been created with computer animations.

Specially one scene, “Chicken the Brave” was challenging. They made use of Väinö’s apparent interest towards the larger fowl in the wildlife park when the wildcat’s interest in acting flopped. The scene was a source of amazement for Väinö. However, Väinö’s hunting skills remained dormant: while filming in the studio Väinö and the chicken suddenly disappeared while everyone’s attention was elsewhere. Our first thought was that Väinö had eaten “Chicken the Brave”. However, after a while, they were found behind a cupboard sitting side by side. They were just taking a break and having a “chat”.

Finally, some facts about the animal lynx:

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Lynx (Lynx lynx)

  • Classification: mammals
  • Division: predators
  • Species: cats
  • Length: 70 – 140 cm, tail 15 – 25 cm
  • Weight: 8 – 26 kg, male larger than female
  • Life expectancy: 14 – 17 years
  • Under Threat: rare species, to be monitored
  • Population in Finland: about 750

 

More places for dining in Rovaniemi

In my post from October 19th I mentioned some of the restaurants where to have a good meal in Rovaniemi. Of course those were not all; there are many more restaurants also worth mentioning. That is why I continue my restaurant grand tour here.

The cozy restaurant of City hotel; MonteRosa, is one of my favorite restaurants in the city center of Rovaniemi, on Pekankatu 9. The City hotel is a 4-star hotel with 90 rooms. On the first floor you find the atmosphere-rich MonteRosa restaurant, where the friendly staff prepares and serves a variety of local but also international culinary delights. (Some of them look a bit suspicious….though, as on the picture below… but very tasty, indeed)

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Outside the restaurant, on the pedestrian street, there is a special waiting pole for reindeer, where the sami can leave his reindeer while he is inside dining.

 

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Also worth mentioning is that you can always book your adventure safaris in the hotel receptions of Rovaniemi. If you want to go for a reindeer or husky safari or on a snowmobile safari you just contact the hotel reception. All transportation, warm clothes and other equipment will be taken care of for you. You just have to show up in the lobby in time to be picked up.

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The restaurant Fransmanni in Rovaniemi belongs to a chain of restaurants all over Finland and the menu is very long….with both meat and fish courses and many delicious desserts (not very locally inspired in my point of view: ice creams and Crème Brûlées, but very tasty, indeed. Last time I visited I had the fish course Grilled salmon from the north of Lapland. Delicious!

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Hotel Santa Claus with the restaurant Gaissa  does not provide menus in English, so I do not feel like mentioning it here. Bar & Grill ZoomUp in the Santa Claus hotel serves a delicious lunch buffet every week day.

The unique atmosphere of the Restaurant Santamus at the Arctic Circle offers its visitors several unforgettable experiences. During the visit all your five senses will get tempted. Santamus is a restaurant of sensations with delicious local food and an atmosphere unlike anywhere else. Many visitors have experienced an unforgettable evening here during the years. The restaurant takes up to 150 guests. The only sad thing is that you have to be part of a group to book a dinner at Santamus. It is only a so-called special orders’ restaurant. But – during a few weeks just before Christmas they arrange dinners to which you can book places for one, two or more persons. They call them public nights and they serve a Get together-menu at those nights. If you want to experience an unforgettable dinner at Santamus you should check out the dates for these special public nights in the calendar on their home page.

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Finally, I want to mention the DVD with Santa Claus’ secrets. You can buy it online from Santa’s shop or from the shops on the Arctic Circle during your visit in Rovaniemi. The DVD reveals many secrets of Santa that you so far never even heard of. On the DVD there are options for at least 8 languages.

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Where to eat a good meal in Rovaniemi

During a stay in the heart of Lapland, Rovaniemi, you will probably get hungry eventually, and why not then try some local Lappish food. But where could you find just that special Lappish, delicious meal?

The typical Lappish restaurant Nili downtown Rovaniemi is definitely worth a visit if you are out for the special atmosphere and local food. The restaurant is not big, but very cosy inside and while waiting for your ordered meals, you could admire all the typical Lappish decorations and items on the walls inside the restaurant. It is always good to make a booking before going there because the restaurant is popular and not really big. Check also out the opening hours. A visit to restaurant Nili is a combination of tastes, scents and atmosphere. In the restaurant you can watch the chefs preparing your meal through the open kitchen shutters.

The tasty portions will not leave you hungry. On the menu you will always find for instance fish caught in the pure Lappish lakes or reindeer, bear and berries. If you feel a little unsure what to eat, there are menusuggestions on the home page of Nili. You will definitely get an interesting eating experience there. It is not a low-budget restaurant, but I think the food and the atmosphere are worth the price. Actually, here I saw some years ago, for the first time, people taking photographs of the meals. Two Chinese girls took pictures before they started eating, and I found it kind of amusing at that time. Nowadays I myself, and many others, use to take pictures all the time of nicely served dinners.

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The word Nili is a Finnish word for a little building where people used to store their food out of reach for animals in former days in Finland.

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In the year 2011 Nili restaurant was voted the 37th best restaurant in Finland and the same year the Lapland hotel Sky Ounasvaara restaurant in Rovaniemi was voted the 34th best restaurant in Finland. This is a Chaîne de Rôtisseurs-awarded panoramic restaurant.

In the restaurant on top of the Ounasvaara fell near the city center of Rovaniemi you can admire the stunning natural scenery in front of you while enjoying a perfect meal. Here you can get the “Rovaniemi menu”, meaning it is food prepared according to Lapland’s own cooking traditions. Clean, pure taste experiences and delectable raw materials which vary according to the season are dynamically served here.

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If you want to have a meal with traditional sautéed reindeer, you should stop by at Reindeer Cafe Restaurant Sirmakko at the Arctic circle. It is open in winter- and summer seasons. They serve well done tasty reindeer meat from their own farm near by. You can also get french fries and burgers here, but I suggest you to taste reindeer with mashed potatoes. Absolutely delicious! I eat sautéed reindeer always when possible. In Lapland you can be sure you get a tender, well prepared reindeer.

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Sirmakko is the Lappish word for a reindeer calf, who is more cheery than other calves in the herd.

During Christmas time there are special Christmas menus in the restaurants in Rovaniemi. One of the most popular Christmas buffets is served at the legendary Pohjanhovi Hotel by the Lumberjack bridge in Rovaniemi. The buffet consists of up to 60 different traditional Finnish Christmas dishes. You can check out the different dishes here. (I hope they will update the page soon). The varieties of fish prepared in different ways are very popular, especially jellied salmon. The baked, salted ham is the crown of the Finnish Christmas meal and it is eaten with oven baked potato and swede casseroles. The Christmas buffet is served from mid-November to mid-December. Check out the opening hours. There are 500 places in this restaurant.

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Pohjanhovi Hotel opened on September 12th in 1936 and its nationally famous restaurant has already celebrated its 70th anniversary. The original Pohjanhovi was an impressive building but is was destroyed in the WW II as many of the buildings in Rovaniemi. A new one rose from the ashes to reopen in 1947. This legendary place fills up in January every year for the Arctic Lapland Rally.

 

 

Nice souvenirs to bring home from Lapland, part 2

The tourists visiting Rovaniemi want to buy something unique from Lapland and Rovaniemi to take home with them. I listed some of the most popular products earlier in my blog. In this post I want to continue listing interesting Lappish souvenirs.

IMG_2755One local trade mark with good quality and products made of traditional materials is Lauri Tuotteet. You can find them in any souvenir shop in the city and also in Santa Claus village at the Arctic circle, but you can also visit the old Lauri shop on Pohjolankatu in Rovaniemi. The Talisman jewellery you can also find in the Rovaniemi Tourist Information and in the Culture house Korundi or buy them from the Rovaniemi web shop. I like the Lauri products very much and I have bought many of them for Christmas gifts to my family members over the years. Kitchen wares with handles made of reindeer antler are very beautiful.

The history of Lauri Tuotteet begins with the goldsmith Johannes Lauri. He came to Rovaniemi from Southern Ostrobothnia (about 600 km south of Rovaniemi) in the 1920’s.  In 1924 he started up a knife factory on Pohjolankatu in Rovaniemi, where you can visit Lauri Tuotteet Oy also today. The production and sales of handcrafts that Johannes Lauri established in Rovaniemi nearly 90 years ago continues onward. Lauri’s business history is unique and the longest of its kind in Lapland. Lauri Tuotteet Oy manufactures traditional Lappish handicrafts. The main raw materials are reindeer antler and goat willow’s root. Those are also the materials for the knife handles. All knives are handmade. Individual Lauri-knives are desired for collections and highly valued gifts and they are absolutely beautiful with the combination of reindeer antler and wood.

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About twenty people worked in the Lauri factory during the busiest years. The factory was unfortunately destroyed during the Lapland war in 1945.
Immediately after the war, the manufacturing of the knives and other reindeer antler products started again. Along the years, new products has been designed. For example products made of curly birch. Also new knife and jewelry designs were introduced after the war. Objects made of reindeer antler are decorated with pictures of genuine sámi art.

Other Lauri products are the felt boots and the reindeer leather mittenstossut_sin_final_thtossut_sin_yla_th tossut_valk_huopa_th

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If you want some sweet tastes Annelin yrtit ja karkit (Anneli’s herbs and sweets) can offer you nice marmalade made of the Lappish cloudberries, cranberries and blueberries. They manufacture also teas, syrups and spices. These products are easy to take home with you and very tasty, too!

 

 

 

 

The legend of Saana and Malla fells in Kilpisjarvi

In the upper north-west of Finland the country is like an “arm” between the Swedish and the Norwegian border. This area is where the highest fells of Finland are situated. On the Swedish and the Norwegian sides of the border are even higher fells and this area is amazingly beautiful all year around. Every season has its charm and beauty here. I use to go ice-fishing in this area in spring time.

As it has snowed the past week in Lapland for the first time this autumn, I think it is suitable to show you some winter pictures now in the beginning of winter. You can check out the snow situation in Kilpisjarvi here.

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If you visit the little village of Kilpisjarvi in Finland you are just 7 km from the crossing of the border to Norway. Kilpisjarvi is a very small village, and its known history is young. The first permanent inhabitants came to the village as late as 1915. Anyway, nothing remains from those years, since it all was demolished in the Lapland War 1944-1945. In the end of WW 2 Finland had to drive the former allies, the German forces, away. The Germans retreated towards north and then to Norway. German forces burnt everything behind them. This retreat and burning of structures left behind is called Lapland War. The road to and from Kilpisjarvi was much improved during the war because during the WW 1 (1914-1918) large amounts of war materials were transported through Kilpisjarvi to vicinity of Tornio. All this material was meant for the Russian front. At the most, between 1915-1916, 1400 horses were in duty to transport military materials on this road. This road, the Northern light road, is the only road in this area, so the Swedes and the Norwegians also use this road for transports to their fells. Kilpisjarvi is a very popular village to Norwegians and they spend holidays here both in summer and in winter time.

Treriksröset (in Swedish), Treriksrøysa (in Norwegian), Kolmen valtakunnan rajapyykki (in Finnish) is the special point at which the borders of Sweden, Norway and Finland meet.

TreriksThe name can be translated into English as “Three-Country Cairn”, and is named for the monument of stones erected in 1897 by the governments of Norway and Russia (which was administering Finland at that time). The Swedish could not agree on a boundary commission with the Norwegians and did not bring their stone until 1901. This is Sweden’s most northerly point and it is the westernmost point of the Finnish mainland.

The location of Treriksröset

It is reached by walking 11 kilometres from Kilpisjarvi on a public road. In summertime it can be reached by boat from Kilpisjarvi plus a 3 kilometres walk.

IMG_3698To drive from Rovaniemi to Kilpisjarvi by car takes about 5-6 hours. You drive along the Northern Light route and before you end up in Kilpisjarvi you will pass by a place called Muotkatakka. This is where the highest situated road in Finland is. It is on 565,6 meter above the sea level. On this place, Muotkatakka, you can also find a monument that tells you this is the place where the last cannon shots against the retreating German forces were shot in the Lapland War in 27.4.1945.

After you have been on the highest place of the road, the road starts to go down again and finally you will see a silhouette of a fell that is nothing like the surrounding fells at all. This is the fell Saana and the little Kilpisjarvi village is situated at the foot of Saana fell by the Kilpisjarvi lake. On the opposite shore of Kilpisjarvi lake is the border to Sweden. .

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Saana has received its name from the word of Saami language meaning a certain mushroom. From one angle the fell does look like a mushroom. Some people think it looks like an overturned boat with a keel. For the Saami people it is a sacred mountain. Fires were burned to the God of Thunder on top of it. The peak is 1029 meters above sea level and 556 meters up from the Kilpisjarvi lake’s surface. Saana is the 25th tallest fell in Finland, but second most known because of its impressive shape.

According to the legend – long ago Kilpisjarvi area was inhabited by giants. Sullen Saana (the fell) got a crush on lovely Malla (the fell next to Saana). On the wedding day Pältsä (that is a fell on the Swedish side of the border) wanted to stop the wedding ceremony. He had found out he was also in love with Malla. The wedding ceremony would have been held by Paras (a fell on the Norwegian side of the border), and he was known as the magician. But Pältsä had called the evil elderly women of Lapland to come to Kilpisjarvi. All of a sudden a fierce northern wind wiped all the celebrants with ice-cold wind. Very soon the area was frozen and filled with ice. At the last moment, Saana pushed the lovely Malla over to her mother’s, Big Malla’s arms. (There are two Malla fells just near one another). At that moment the freezing cold took away all life in the area. Malla cried, and from her tears Kilpisjarvi – the lake was formed. The lake is situated in between Saana and Malla fells.

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Read more about the area around Saana fell here.

 

 

An autumn day with experiences for body and soul in Pyytöuoma Nature Park

After a warm and exceptional long summer time this year in Finnish Lapland the autumn now announces its arrival with lower outdoor temperatures and the leaves falling off the trees.

Still you can enjoy fantastic and fabulous hiking day trips all over Lapland on the large amount of suitable hiking paths in the forests or on the fells. One of the most beautiful hiking paths for a day trip  in the forest is the path of Pyytöuoma in Posio in the east of Lapland near the Russian border. This is not far away from Korouoma canyon, where I have hiked before.

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IMG_9264Some people like to hike in the open areas on top of fells, but I like it very much to walk through forests and learn about the wild life and the nature of the Lappish forest. The environment is also changing all the time; sometimes you cross a little river and sometimes you have to climb up along a wall of the cliffs a bit and many times the path goes over swamps on duckboards, And almost certainly you find a fire-place where you can stop for a while and just sit down and enjoy your picnic and the surrounding views.

IMG_2628To find this Pyytöuoma, you drive by car along road nr 81 from Rovaniemi towards Posio. About 37 kms before Posio you turn left on to a sandy road leading you about 8 kms to a parking area where you can leave your car. From here the 3,7 km long nature path starts. The path circles in a beautiful scenery along the Pyytöuoma riverbed and cliffs. There are some steep places where you go down to the bottom of the canyon and also places where you approach up from the canyon again, but the path is very well suitable even for family day trips.

Pyytötuoma area is protected and almost in its natural state. There are rare species of flora and fauna living in the ancient forests of Pyytöuoma. If you are interested, along the path there are 12 info signs about the nature and forest management of the area.

IMG_0111After a while, almost halfway, you are walking on the bottom of the canyon and you cross a little river. In case you have your fishing equipment with you, you can always try to catch the rare river trout (brown trout), which lives in these kinds of small rivers in the Lappish forests. But from here the path starts rising again up on the other side of the riverbed. This is the most trying part of the path but once you end up on top of the cliff  you will get your reward. The view is just astonishing and there is also a beautiful fire-place waiting for you. The picnic you brought with you should be enjoyed here by the fire. There is a sign also telling that there is a well here near by, but I did not manage to find it, but I probably did not try hard enough.

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After a deserved pause the hike can continue. Now the path leads you through the forest and the information signs tell you about the work in the forest and how the Finnish Forest and Park Service has planned to keep the natural state of Pyytöuoma with as little incite in the nature as possible.

IMG_9271After a walk along a duck board you see a small “lake” or just a body of water in the middle of the swamp. The water is clear and it tempts you to taste it. I found out by tasting that it is clear and ice-cold and also good tasting.

Finally in the end of the path we end up at a “laavu” or a covered fire-place. This was a day trip for us, but if you choose to make a several days stay in the forest, this laavu could be the place to stay over night at this time of the year. You could keep yourself warm at the fire-place and in case of rain you would stay dry.

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This was a very interesting and enjoyable day trip for me both because of the exercise my body got by climbing and walking and the soul could just rest in the beauty of the nature of this canyon and the surrounding nature. In the evening the temperature lowered to nearly 0 degrees and you could see a thin ice coat on the surface of a lake near by.

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The Lapish Shaman’s drum

Many tourists visiting Lapland meet with a shaman during their guided trip. Not all of them get the meaning of this visit clear to them. A visible sign after a visit to a shaman’s tepee are the marks in front of your head made by the shaman with some soot from the fireplace. As many of my readers are interested to know more about the shaman traditions in Lapland I will try to explain a little more.

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To start with, I want to explain to you what a shaman is. A shaman is a person regarded as a messenger between the human world and the spirit world. The shaman typically even enters into trance state during a ritual where he drums on his magical drum. The shaman communicates with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. The shaman communicates with both living and dead to reduce unrest, unsettled issues, and to deliver gifts to the spirits.

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shamandrummingShamans have various strengths. Shamans have the knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides, who often guide and direct the shaman in his travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman though others only meet them when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling him to enter the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning ‘lost’ parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone.

There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world, but several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Common beliefs are the following:

  • Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.
  • The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.
  • Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent.
  • The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits.
  • The shaman can use trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests.
  • The shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
  • The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
  • The shaman can tell the future, throw bones and do other varied forms of divination

Sami shamanism is shamanism as practiced by the Sami people in Lapland. Though they varied considerably from region to region traditional Sámi beliefs consist of three intertwining elements: animism, shamanism and polytheism. Just like the beliefs of many other indigenous people all over the world.

Living of the nature has formed the original conceptions of the world among Sámi; the world view was animistic by nature, with shamanistic features. They believe that all objects in the nature have a soul. Therefore, everybody is expected to move quietly in the wilderness; shouting and making disturbance is not allowed. The marks on the forehead of the tourists after visiting a shaman mean they have been in contact with a reindeer’s soul and are called to return to Lapland in shape of a reindeer.after their death.

The shaman has often a ceremonial drum known as goavddis in Northern Sami and gievrie in Southern Sami, but he does not have a ceremonial dress. He is probably also yoiking in the important ceremonies. The drum has been referred to as a magic drum or fortune-telling drum by the Sami’s neighbors, and the shaman is considered to be a “magician”.

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The drum was originally an instrument for the shaman when he was going into trance. The monotone drumming helped him to reach the trance. That was very much condemned by the community and judges gave various punishments: fines, imprisonment, flogging and even death if the shaman did not stop using drum ceremonies. The Sami tried to defend themselves by stating that the drum was used as a `compass’, and even as a `calendar’, but the judges were not convinced. A larger number of drums were burned during the 17th and 18th centuries, although some 70 are still preserved. Nowadays drums are manufactured again.

The ceremonial drum, linked to the shaman, has paintings on the membrane. The fortune-telling drum has a wealth of pictures, which are a source of inspiration for Sami artists, but which are difficult to interpret.

Some of the most common pictures on the drums are The sun (Beaivvás), The moon (Mámmu), The salmon (Guolli), The reindeer (Boazu), The Goddess of fertility (Varalden), The God of hunting (Leibolmmái), The Shaman drum (Goavddis) and The God of thunder (Diermmes). Taigakoru in Lapland manufactures silver jewelry with symbols from the shaman drum.

The sunThe moonsalmon The reindeerThe godess of fertility  God of hunting shaman drum the god of thunder

 

 

Vibrant autumnal period (Ruska)

In autumn in Lapland the days get shorter, rain raises the water levels of rivers, lakes and swamps, and the cooling weather helps to form a misty cloud cover over the waterways. The vibrant autumnal shades of the ruska period is a sign of nature making its preparations for the coming winter.

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In Lapland the period in early autumn when all the leaves of plants and trees turn into a yellow, red and orange colour they call Ruska.

 

Ruska intensifies day by day in early September as the nights get cooler from swamps to fell highlands. The colourful splendour is at its most spectacular around the middle of September, and sometimes at the end of the month.

TIMG_1055his phenomenon starts when the daylight hours decrease and the weather gets colder. Plants start to prepare for the long winter, the chlorophyll starts to move from the leaves into the branches, trunk and roots and this makes the colour cells in the leaves glow. The more the night-time temperatures fall below zero and the drier the weather, the more vibrant the array of colour. The birch turns a gentle shade of yellow, aspen turns red, and the leaves of blueberry and bog bilberry shrubs turn bright red.

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Many people like to come to Lapland from i.e. the south of Finland to admire the ruska by hiking in the forests and on the fells. Here you find information of how to join a ruska-trip to Lapland. And here is another travel agency’s offer. 

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Some of our birds migrate to warmer climates when autumn comes, but the local birds have to survive the cold of winter. During the autumn, squirrels store pine cones in the ground safely out of the reach of woodpeckers. The stoat and fox are also very good at hiding things.

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Some animals take a winter rest, hibernation and wake up again in the spring when the sun once again provides warmth and nutrition becomes available. The bear, badger and raccoon dog hibernate during the winter. During the autumn, these animals accumulate a layer of fat under their skins that their bodies use for nutrition through the long winter.

I am excited waiting for what the winter brings regarding the brown bears in Ranua zoo. See my earlier post.
The northern lights have already been seen in the sky above Lapland this autumn. They expect a very active northern light winter this year, so I suppose the tourists interested in the phenomenon will hurry to Lapland within the next months. Especially the Japanese are very interested in seeing northern lights.
IMG_4623In the autumn in Lapland you can fish in fluvial waters, lakes and marine areas. The provincial fish, the salmon may still be fished from the lakes. Before departing on a fishing trip you should check legal matters and statutes from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry website Lure fishing may be practiced on state-owned lure and recreational fishing regions. You can fish on private waterways without needing to pay the provincial lure fishing fee, but you must receive permission to fish the waters from the owner of the waterway. Private, joint permit region waterways like these are, for instance located on the Tornionjoki, Ounasjoki and Lower Kemijoki rivers. You need a permit to practice lure fishing.
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Reindeer herding in Lapland is based on year’s cycle that nature determines. The heat or mating season is in October. The male reindeer gather then a herd of female reindeer or does around him and at this time of the year there are large herds of reindeer also moving around on the roads. So there is a reason to be careful when driving. The female reindeer then carries the calf until the late spring. The calves are born in May and start to walk already a couple of hours after they are born.