I’ve never claimed to be conventional and that tends to go with my summer holidays too. Most people’s idea of “getting away” for the sunny season wouldn’t include travelling North to the Arctic Circle.
My friends Tuomas, Elina and Heikki have been trying to get me to visit Lappland for ages and as luck would have it I had just enough AirMiles for a free return flight from Stockholm. With the temperatures in Southern Sweden touching 35°C at times, I figured going North I might get some relief from the unrelenting heat and began to pack my bag…
Stumbling bleary eyed into Arlanda airport at 8am I was crated aboard a tiny Blue1 plane for Helsinki where I had a 2½ hour stop-over during which I’d planned to meet skdr, one of the old DoD mappers and the guy behind dod_northbound. As (bad) luck would have it our plan fell through and I had to spend the time stuck in the corner of some grotty airport cafe with some grotty airport cafe coffee.
The next leg of the flight was slightly more luxurious aboard an old MD-90 from Helsinki to Rovaniemi where I was met by Tuomas in his clapped-out old VW Jetta and a suprising amount of sunshine and 25°C.*
*Hey, I’m English I’m allowed to talk about the weather!
The first couple of days was spent getting to know Rovaniemi itself with Tuomas and Elina showing me around. Tuomas provided the majority of the commentary and there isn’t much I don’t now know about the place during WWII ;o). We of course took the opportunity to try out a few of the numerous local bars and cheap beer.
Next stop was Pello, Tuomas and Heikki’s hometown sitting on the Eastern side of the river which marks the Swedish/Finnish border. It was a brief stop mainly to stock up on beer and meat before we headed out to Heikki’s cabin for a manly evening of beer, bbq and boiling ourselves alive in the sauna.
I’ve never experienced a real Finnish sauna and I must confess I became quite an addict. I thought I’d wuss out but going from a humid room at 80°C to a lake at 14°C makes you feel suprisingly good. All the tension from the previous weeks just melted away standing up to my neck in a glacial lake 50km inside the Arctic Circle. I highly recommend it. After a night of mosquito bites, it was breakfast of left-over bbq’d meat, beer and one last sauna, then we headed back into Pello and then out to the firing range for a bit of target practice.
The weapon of choice was Tuomas’s .308 SAKO bolt-action rifle which left me with a sore shoulder for a couple of days. :o| We were shooting at 75m using a red-dot non-magnifying sight which caused me some problems as I’d forgotten to take my glasses. To compensate for my bad eyesight I had to squint so hard my eyebrows started to drop in front of my eye and blur my view – that and a red-dot scope tends to cover the entire target at that range so you’re kind of guessing at where you’re shooting. Still, we fired off about 15 rounds each and the results were adequate enough. I was pleased considering its been 16 years since I last shot a proper rifle!
The last few days were spend just taking it easy and enjoying the nightlife of Rovaniemi. As the population tends to be mostly students a lot of the time, theres an abundance of clubs and bars and most have a “Euro” night which thankfully means a bear costs one Euro and not Eurodisco. That said “Doris” tends to look like a Russian meatmarket at times and the music was bloody awful…
So with that my summer holiday drew to a close and a mad dash back to the airport where Finland’s final parting gesture was to have the security guards make me remove my belt so that I had to hobble to the gate with my trousers almost falling around my knees. Bastards…
Anyway, pictures and commentary from my Nordic adventure are available at my Flickr album if your so inclined to take a look.
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