It has been a very long time since we had a winter vacation. Oh we are very fond of escaping to warmer climes during Europe’s long, dark winters, but a trip where winter itself is part of the destination has not happened for a long time.
Our friend, Janiza, had a terrific idea to plan a trip to show us Lapland in the very north of her home country of Finland. Near the town of Ivalo, well above the Arctic Circle, we would enjoy winter sports by day while relaxing around the fireplace or in the sauna in an idyllic villa on a snow-swept hillside by night.
She planned this for 2020.
Then the weirds happened and we pushed it off to 2021. And the weirds were still with us. It got to the point where this trip became an academic theory rather than a reality for me. It was only the Friday afternoon before we were supposed to depart that I realized, ”oh yeah, I am actually going on vacation, maybe I should tell some colleagues and hand some stuff over.”
So it was exciting and somewhat surreal when we finally landed in Ivalo on over a meter of freshly-fallen snow. Janiza had everything planned out perfectly for us, not only taking care of accommodations, but also transportation, entertainment, and all of our activities. Oh, and ordering enough food to supply what I assumed was the army barracks just behind our villa.
We enjoyed snowshoeing through frozen forests. We delighted in a dogsled safari with huskies across frozen lakes and under vast, blue skies. We relaxed around the crackling fire or in the sauna in the evenings before enjoying amazing meals of local fish and game. And we marveled at the northern lights dancing across the endless skies at night.
Oh. And we went snowmobiling.
We crossed what seemed to be endless miles of silent, snow-covered countryside late one afternoon. The sights of wintry nature were beautiful to behold, but I would have just preferred to have enjoyed it on my own two feet rather than on a two-cycled, treaded ice-rocket of death. We were surrounded by vast expanses of unspoilt winter wonder and were passing through with all of the subtlety and finesse of someone riding a dirtbike through a monestary while juggling chainsaws.
Not my style.
But we ended up at a Sami hut in the middle of a national park and enjoyed a traditional dinner and were entertained by traditional and modern songs sung by a Sami woman with an incredible voice. It made the drive worthwhile to say the least.
So thank you very much for the wonderful trip, Janiza. It was worth the wait.