Welcome to Lapland (1.)

About this serial

Finally, I decided to start writing everything in English and then translate it back to Czech. It is easier and consume it less time. In English I am not using that much word as in Czech and even the language is much easier in English. In my mother language, I am thinking in unnecessarily complicated ways. And, of course, google translator doesn’t work very well and correcting needs lot of time and sometimes is stressful (and if I am writing directly in English, my language skills are going to be better, so in Czech when I am writing it in Czech).

This serial will be about our week in Lapland. It is mentioned to be mostly photos and not that much text (probably a huge number of people would like it). All this started only because we had free week and my boyfriend wanted to visit me. And I decided I need to see the Lapland.

My friend told me we probably didn’t meet anybody. And as a reward for that we will have totally “nice” weather like cold, rain, wind and cold, rain and rain and wind…and maybe some snow. Only partially true. We had cold (well, not cold at all, we had unbelievably warm weather), rain (if you count drizzling, I don’t), snow (only a little, less than 1 cm) and wind. Yes, wind was specific. In the forests, more like “forests”, it didn’t blow, but on the hills, it was usually (not every time!) windy. And usually very cold (because of the wind). Was it worth it? Yes, it was. Totally. I need to go back again. And now, you can read how it all was. (Note for my mum: please, be calm. Everything was totally okay and we are okay. Nothing happened.)

My backpack, before I had backpack.


At the beginning

Before we started our journey to Lapland, we had lot of time. I headed to the Helsinki day earlier to make a total confusion and chaos as is usual for me. But everything ended well and I had borrowed backpack and sleeping bag for cold weather. Just in case we will need to sleep outside in the wilderness. In my sleeping bag, it is not safe, it has comfort to the +/- 10°C and night temperature outside was “something below zero” (I thing not less than -5°C). We had a lot of warm clothes, because everything can happen. Even the first aid kit (I usually want to take it to every trip to the nature).

The next day (Sunday) I made few confusing mistakes and hardened my boyfriend’s way to me. He was little bit angry…I think he was very angry. But we met. Before that, I went to take something to eat (almost noon) to the fast food. One of the first things I heard was: “Rusky?”. I still don’t know what made that man think I am Russian. Maybe because lot of tourists in Helsinki are Russians. Obviously, I didn’t look like a Finn (it was for the first time, usually people think I am the Finn).

I answered in English, that I don’t speak Russian, but he still can try to speak it and maybe I will understand at least something (my ability to understand Russian improved a lot, I never learned that language). Usual question followed. “Where are you from?” Why to lie? I said I am from the Czech Republic and his answer little bit offended me. “Almost neighbors!” and he started to laugh. Okay, Russia is huge, about 1300 km and two states difference is obviously nothing. At least, after some time I saw a person who is smiling with just no reason to everyone around, was loud and unreasonably happy…and in almost every way totally different than a Finns are. In some ways, I liked it.

Army sweater is useful, but it has a flag on it.


Meeting my boyfriend and waiting

After food, I finally met my boyfriend and we had a lot of time just being together in a shopping center, bored and waiting for our bus. We didn’t want to go anywhere with our badly heavy backpacks (we had about 1/3 of our own weight). Our bus was leaving at 23:59 and we had a lot of time for wait. After some time, I just took book about how to learn Finnish and started to read and made few exercises. I don’t know why, but all the time I was forgetting verb in a question.

Finally, our “time has come” and we went to the bus. I wanted to sleep. We were told, that the bus is not any luxury bus and there is not enough space for sleeping. Well…I don’t know, but it was normally sized bus with enough space for almost anything, double decker. After all, most of the people got out in Jyväskylä. After that moment, we had plenty of space and I had both seats (next to each other) only for myself. At 11:30 we arrived to the Rovaniemi. And here comes the part which my mum can just skip. Only for her own safety. Maybe just skip to the next article. We arrived safely. Or don’t read this serial at all.

Santa’s village and cold

As we were recommended, we went about five kilometers to the “arctic circle” out of the city to find some place for hitch-hiking. After one hour (we started to feel cold and I started to freeze) one guy stopped us and told us: “Hey, I can take you only about two kilometers, but for much better place to the Santa’s village. You even can go inside and warm up.” We were glad and of course, when we were there, we went to the Santa’s village. I never planned to stop there, because I don’t like this kind of touristic attractions, but there was warm.

They even had there some kind of fast food/restaurant with some normal prices (I was surprised). We went around there, visited the shops and caressed reindeer fur. For lunch, we had reindeer kebab with French fries (I think there was more spices than meat) – nothing bad nor tasty. But we were freezing and hungry. Some tea was perfect too. For my own good feeling, I ordered in Finnish. Totally have no idea how, but the seller doesn’t suspect me and talked to me in Finnish; and I answered. I am not exactly sure, what he was telling, but I think my ability to read body language improved a lot.

In the restaurant in Helsinki I had it same. I was just lazy to say my order in English, I said it in Finnish and at that moment the waitress just became very happy (in a Finnish way, of course) and asked me if I can speak Finnish (or something like that…). After my “no”, she was visibly disappointed.

When we started to feel perfectly okay and satisfied, we left and started to hitch-hike in “our” new spot. We waited next hour. Another guy stopped and took us. In past, he was a bassist in a punk band. Interesting guy and funny one. And surprisingly talky one. After about 30 km we had new position. He gave us his phone number, just in case we couldn’t hitch-hike to our place so we can call him next morning. He was willing to take us further.

Even like this, the reindeer can look like.

Afternoon with hitch-hiking

At our new spot, we were waiting next hour. I had much more clothes on me (at Santa’s village I took more warm layers) and it started to be fun for me. We were about 30 km to north from the arctic circle. Temperature was around zero and it started to snow. That wet rain-snow, immediately melting on the ground. My feet started to be almost frozen and at that moment another guy stopped us. Quiet one. Only asked about few things (from which country we are and so on…) and after that, silence, only with a music I dislike. Was it worth it? Totally. After 40 kilometers, my feet started to be warm again. And I started to fall asleep. I considered it as an unpolite thing, so I stayed awake. This man took us to the Sodankylä, half way to the Saariselkä.

My boyfriend told me, in a next car I need to be sitting on a front seat, because I am much more communicative than he is. We considered silence as a weird thing, because most of those people pick us up only to disrupt the silence in their cars and not to be bored, to have some company. And we were silent…

This silent guy offered us room in his house to stay overnight. We refused. At least he showed us one hostel next to the road. Just in case we will need some place to stay at night.

n a Sodankylä we’ve been lucky. We waited only about 20 minutes and after that one father with two small kids and small car stopped. We had two huge backpacks. I don’t know how, but the huge one went to that small trunk filled with stuffs and mine was laying on our laps. My boyfriend didn’t see anything. I had it much better. This man was driving from Tampere the whole day (uhh!). He is from Inari and his wife from Spain. And two small kids speaking Spanish and Finnish. Little girl was playing with ukulele but it was okay. Much better than most kids do. It wasn’t just noise.

We couldn’t talk much. When I am sitting on the back seats, I usually have trouble to hear what is told in front of the car. And when it is in English, it is even harder (still, I can understand even to a person with a toothbrush in their mouth – mostly).

Only 230 km left.

Meeting the reindeers…again

On our way, we’ve met reindeers. In my angle of view they looked like a grass and shrubs (it was snowing…a lot, not heavily). And obviously even the road was little bit slippery. The driver started to brake and the car started to drift, little bit. Because the driver didn’t want to hit any of those reindeers and damage the car, we ended on the other side of the road. We stopped safely. And the reindeers only turned their heads wondering why is here now so much light. And continued calmly in their way. After few seconds, we could continue too.

They interesting T-shirts in Santa’s village.

Local pub

To the Saariselkä we arrived around the midnight the same day, Sunday. What to do? Going to the night and start hiking? For me it wasn’t very good idea, but I didn’t see any other option. Still, there were one pub open. What you can expect from a pub named “Local pub”? Everything.

Looking to the map in a snow or looking to the map in a warm place? A chose the warm. We went there. Only few people sitting there and loudly talking (for a Finnish way, not for a Czech way). After few moments one guy noticed, that strangers with huge backpacks arrived and he was honestly interested. Started to ask about a lot of things. As he heard we are from the Czech Republic, he started to ask us about the beer. How it is in Czech R. and how we feel about Finnish beer. I am usually honest (usually that much honest, that people consider it as rudeness), so I said, that the Finnish beer is not very good and I told him I tried Karhu and Karjala (I heard these are not bad, but there are better; the shitty ones I don’t want to write here). So, he invited us to the some more local beer. I don’t know which one, because for some reason, I usually remember only names of the bad beer and names of a good beer I forgot – I only remember the taste or feeling and the place where I had it. And this one was quite good. It has two names and I think of one them started with a letter “L” (so if you have an idea, write it – I absolutely want to try it next time). This one has probably the fullest taste from all and didn’t taste like a water with something as most of the Finnish beer (don’t feel offended, that is just true).

He was obviously satisfied we like this one beer. And started to talk. A lot. One of the first things we heard was “this is not typical for Finns”. I don’t know exactly what. Maybe he didn’t want to make a bad impression, because they all were little bit drunk (some of them more). But I noticed, after not that much alcohol, Finnish people begin to be social, more loud and talky. Like a normal people. To me he didn’t make any bad impression. I am used to a variable way how the people act when they are drunk. Usually, I am the first drunk (for me is enough to have one or two beers) and the last sober (most of the times, I end with those maximally two beers), so I have lot of time to observe how the drunken people acts. I don’t need to be drunk to act same as they do. I am just crazy enough to do that things totally sober (if I have good company).

Close to arctic circle, close to Rovaniemi.


Talking and drinking

I was glad that I learned some basics from Finnish, because his (that drunken guy) English wasn’t brilliant (he tried a lot) and all the time, he wanted to know how the word are in Czech and somehow, he thought that Czech and Russian language are almost same (well…no, Russian and Czech are not same or almost same languages) so he was telling lot things in Russian. I think this was much better for my boyfriend to understand, then for me (my boyfriend lived whole life about 3 km from Polish borders and can understand Polish very well, so different varieties of the same words are for him obviously normal – I am not saying that Polish and Russian are same languages). And I understood when that guy was telling some words in Finnish (maybe I learned more than only 50 words). So, we translated and talked.

We had two or three rounds of Terva (I don’t remember exactly, I started to be drunk after that) and I was surprised. As I read (few weeks ago – only little mention in Czech) what it is, it doesn’t sound really tasty (terva = tar). But this one was good one. Little bit sweet, with an amazing woody smell (not a spruce wood smell, but that usual smell here like pine and little bit of birch) and soft woody aftertaste. Soft one and good one. And if you know where to get good Terva, let me know. That one from Alko shop is bad with and ethanol after taste, not sweet at all, without that strong nice smell and so on.

And we had it with a smoked fish. It was delicious, I find fish as the best meat ever (and in the aquariums, they look gorgeous – live fish, of course).

My breakfast in a bus.

More drinking and stories

I started to be tired and drunk and was in a phase I am starting to have troubles with understanding Czech and having unbelievably huge problem to understand English. But one lady wanted to talk (that guy was talking with my boyfriend) about her life, how it is going here on north. And that she doesn’t live here in Saariselkä but somewhere in the woods about 40 km from here. She was anthropologist, teaching on the university but because of some reasons, she had to leave (it made her to tears) and go back to family, to reindeer hoarding. I don’t remember why she had to leave (as I wrote, it was hard for me to follow) but she was sure, she can’t go back. And those stories we had for a long time.

When we were there only with a small group of the people, we finally began to think, where we spend night. I wasn’t in a state to walk over 10 kilometers (not because I was little bit drunk, but because I was tired and we didn’t know the way exactly). When the people there knew our plans, they almost prohibited us to go somewhere in the night. And started to tell us how dangerous it is, and the terrains is not easy and so on. But, after all, they recommended us one day hut just next to Saariselkä, about one kilometer of walking.

For me it was big relief, I didn’t want to go somewhere to the cold night. So, the we spend our first night in some cabin, next to the village. Hut with a fireplace, table and some benches. Probably the coldest night we had there. Inside maybe minus something in the night.

P.S.: We saw a fox and for the first time, I thought it is a cat. I saw foxes lot of time, but only in a daytime. Not in the night when you see only two “lights” looking on you. And I saw them much more close (just before they realized, I am moving much faster than they expected).


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