Christmas in the real heart of winter

2 Jan

The winter twilight
Its like we’re driving through the heart of winter, where ‘white’ is born. Everything is covered in powder soft snow, even the road, so much so that it’s hard to tell where the side of the road ends and the footpath begins. There is white as far as we can see. In the distance there is a forest of trees and almost every inch of them is covered in pretty snow. Above the trees, we can see a beautiful sunrise – it’s almost midday and this has been coming since 10am when we first saw the light peek out from behind the forest. We’re in the land of the enduring sunrise, or sunset, whichever way you want to view it. We don’t see harsh light, just twilight for a couple of hours where the sky is stained with hues of beautiful red, purple and blue. We are seeing some of the most beautiful sunrises we’ve ever laid eyes on but by three o’clock, it will be gone and we will be in complete darkness.

Imagine living here, in the Arctic Circle, and experiencing months of winter twilight (in summer, it’s called the midnight sun for obvious reasons). At the moment we’re driving from Kiruna in Sweden to Inari, a very small town in northern Finland. We’ve been in Kiruna, in Swedish Lapland, for two days now. Kiruna is an interesting town itself being the location of the largest underground iron ore mine in the world (the town is being relocated due to cracks appearing in the ground as a result of the mine so by 2015, the town will be a little further north). It is also the town where Richard Branson will operate a second Virgin Galactic spaceport where for 200,000 Swedish Krona (£20,000 or $35,000 Aussie) and three days specialist training, you can experience seven minutes of weightlessness in space. While we’ve been here, we’ve seen reindeer – both wild and domesticated, we even ate some – wild Moose, been dog sledding, experienced the ice hotel and had a £10 cocktail in the ice bar. We’ve stayed up late and put our eyes to the sky in search of the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights. No luck as yet. We’ve met the Sami people, the only indigenous people in the whole of Europe, whose lives revolve around the reindeer. We’ve had snow fights and experienced minus 10-15 degree temperatures complete with Arctic winds of snow and ice that feel like pinpricks on our faces (much like walking along the beach on a very windy day!) We’ve snow-mobiled over frozen lakes and walked through knee-deep snow. Tonight we will arrive in Inari, with a population of 7,000 it is quite isolated being in the northern most municipality in Finland. It seems the perfect little town to spend Christmas Day. We feel like we’re in a dream or traveling through a postcard. This place is so incredibly beautiful and remote, we feel privlidged to be here. We’ve got our friends and making new ones on our tour and we’re only half way through. Merry Christmas!

Christmas is made for the snow!
Christmas 2011 is going to be hard to beat. Forever, we will remember the Christmas we spent in Finland, a white winter wonderland, where we experienced the adrenalin of the traditional Finnish sauna. The sauna itself is normal but the act of running outside and jumping into an ice-cold lake is the Finnish (aka, crazy) part. It’s adrenalin pumping in the least and incredibly scary at most. The ice water takes your breath away (literally) and your feet burn from racing through the snow to get back to the warmth of the sauna but I’ve read it can lower your blood pressure, flush toxins from your skin and help you relax… maybe even take some time off your appearance! Back in the sauna, I touched another girls’ shoulder and she flinched at how cold my skin was. We had to psych ourselves up each time we ran back outside. We had to mentally prepare our minds to force our legs to run our bodies to jump back into the dark and icy water. We did it three times. That’s probably enough times to jump into the lake for a beginner of Finnish sauna’s so after a long and warm shower, we put our feet up with a mulled wine back in our accommodation. We were gearing ourselves down for bed and for Christmas Day that was quickly approaching. We had called our families back home for Christmas morning – so nice to hear familiar voices on a very special day in the year – when one of our fellow travellers told us of some lights appearing in the sky. We layered up and went down to the lake where the slightest hint of the northern lights were appearing before us. The lights became stronger and more intense the longer we stayed before dying out again to become almost invisible. The green lights moved across the sky as the wind in the upper layers of the atmosphere manipulated their position. It was weak, but we were witnessing one of the most amazing natural phenomenon there is to witness, and all on Christmas morning. It was 2am before we finally went to bed.

Goodbye Arctic Circle
We’re on the final leg of our tour around Sweden and Finland. We spent Christmas Day cross-country skiing and Arctic fishing through a hole in the ice – nope, we didn’t catch any frozen fish. We also built ourselves a snowman after a HUGE Christmas dinner (it wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t eat and eat until we couldn’t eat any more). At the moment, we’re on our second overnight bus trip on our tour, the first travelling from Stockholm to Kiruna at the start of our trip. Along the way, we witnessed more midday sunrises and we even stopped to visit Santa in his Santa Claus Village (read: Santa’s official home and office) in Rovaniemi in southern Finnish Lapland, just above the Arctic Circle. We met the man himself in his office where there is a massive device that slows down time so Santa can travel around the whole world in one night. Clever, we know. We also drove through Finland’s most coldest city which has an average temperature of minus 30! However we didn’t quite get to experience this extreme cold as the temperatures in Sweden and Finland are much higher than average this winter. The coldest we experienced was around minus 10-15 degrees whereas normal temps at this time in this part of the world are within the vicinity of minus 20-30. Personally, we think we were lucky to experience the ‘mild’ winters of Sweden and Finland! We arrived in a city called Tempare in the morning which is the home of the Lenin and Spy museums. We had “last night of the tour” drinks in our hostel with the good friends we had made before arriving arrived in Helsinki the next day where we spent time walking around the beautiful Finnish capital. Our Lapland Christmas adventure is sadly over but ceratinly is one of the BEST CHRISTMAS’ EVER!


3 Responses to “Christmas in the real heart of winter”

  1. Carol Edwards January 3, 2012 at 2:37 AM #

    Another beautifully written Blog Melinda. You have a wonderful talent of making the items written about so real! Glad you both thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Brenda said she just knew Matt would see the Northern Lights!

    • Grandma January 3, 2012 at 3:17 AM #

      Melinda you make these blogs so real I feel I am watching it with you

  2. mmeblog January 3, 2012 at 7:55 AM #

    Thank you both! It was such an incredible trip – so amazing to be in such a place. We’re going through the thousand-odd photos Matt took and we will be posting them on Facebook soon. Matt got some pics of the northern lights so tell Brenda to keep an eye out! xx

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today was meaningful

a collection of thoughts, life lessons, and days full of meaning.

Liv Hambrett

I write about Germany + Culture + Motherhood + the Meaning of Home

I am the world's oyster

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