2013 FINLAND – POLAR LIGHTS

Finland is like a jewel among many great travel destinations, when it comes to the northern countries. For it shows it’s beauty not at first sight, but when taking more time exploring the country, you will be suprised.

Many years ago I was touring the photokina, which is an exhibition for photographers and people interested in photography. While getting interested in polar lights, norther lights, aurora borealis, I was suprised that all tours I was interested in, where already fully booked. Due to my long lasting family friendship to some finish people, I called them up and asked if they could help me in setting up a tour on my own to see polar lights. A few weeks later I was on the plane to Helsinki and onward to Rovaniemi, close to the polar circle. In Rovaniemi I was about to meet two friends with whom I would conquer the nights to shoot polar lights. After staying the night in Rovaniemi, the next day we drove about 2 1/2 hours further north.

IMG_3045 After we reached our destination, close to Äkäslömpolo, I decided to get everything ready for the night. I doubled check my photo-gear, and then decided to check my clothes, as it was getting mighty cold. The temperatures at night drop easily to -32C, which makes photpgraphy out in the wild a real challange. Not only do the batteries take a hit at that temperature, but also any LCD display has a problem with that kind of weather.

Anyhow …. once you are all set, and the clear sky starts to turn green, every hassle is stopped imidiately and your breath is taken away by the beauty of the first polar lights. The magic you explore from the dancing particles that turn redish-green are spectacular.

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The next day we used to explore more of the finish life and habbit, and while touring around we found Rami’s Huskies. Now when aproaching Rami and his huskies, you once see a professional at work. The way he interacts with the dogs and his team, you notice that everybody knows what to do, and when to do it. As a guest you are more than welcome to interact with the dogs, get to know them, but be careful. They all have their character of their own. Gin for example loves to take the mittens off of your hands. Whereas Pepsi is a dog who just wants to play. And some dogs you better leave alone, as they are just waiting for the sign to pull the sledge.

Once you have a seat in the dogsled or have the privilidge to “drive” the sledge, you only have to wait for the signal to let the brake loose. This autumatically that 24 paws start to pull at their best to get the sledge going. And immidiately the barking and growling stops and silence takes over. Once the dogs have reached their average running speed it become very quiet, and you only hear the snow being compressed by the weight of the sledge.This is the first time where you can focus on the beauty of the environment. Peace is a word that comes to your mind and stays there …

Having done a long ride with the dogs you feel that something special has happened, as you enter a little hut to have a freshly brewed coffee and a good, finish sausage with finish, sweet mustard. And as finish people are very practicle, you receive a kuksa. This is a typical mug, made out of wood. Especially when drinking hot juice or coffee from this, you will understand why it is made out of wood.

After so much excitement and sport you want to enjoy what Finland is best know for – sauna. Sauna to Finland is what Chevy is for “the American way of life”. Sauna cannot be described. You have to experience this phenomenon by yourself. There are many different types and way of getting to know what sauna is. So … go out and try it. It does not matter what time of day or what the outside temperature is. Sauna can be done 24/7, no matter what and no excuses taken. Some companies – as I was told – do also have saune within the company for their employees to be used.

The next day started with more excitement to come. Not only did we enjoy another breakfast with the great finish Karjalanpiirakka. This is a typical finish bread which is eaten with a mixture of butter and chopped up boiled eggs. Perfect to start the day with a coffee.

Then it was off for a skidoo tour. The plan was to get to know the area more and our tour guide had planned a 140km tour – only 7 – 9 hours, depending on how “good” we were riding those things. Did we have fun. Once you get used to the steering of skidoos, you get more and more grip on how to ride those mashines. To be honest, riding skidoos for more than 1 – 2 hours will let you feel the next days some kind of muscles you did not know excisted in your body. Yet, the nature we saw was worth every pain. Especially when you end the day with a great traditional salmon soup.

 The impressions we got from Finland were beyond what we had expected. The initial “kick-off” lead to the fact that we now travel to Finland more than 2 -3 times a year, and everytime we book the flights or the ferry to get there the longing for the country and for the people starts all over again. As I stated before … a jewel that needs to be found.