Wednesday, October 26, 2011



Our goal was to see the Northern Lights.  They can be a bit finicky, so the Wife took a couple of days vacation so we’d have a few nights to try to catch them. Friday we headed up to Northern Finland with crossed fingers and toes. 

We arrived in Rovaniemi in time to go in search of them that evening.  Our guide picked us up at our hotel and we began the drive out to the Artic Circle.  They say the Artic Circle is the border of hastiness where regular time gives way to the magic of elves and reindeer.  Now, we didn’t see any elves and the reindeer weren’t until later in the weekend, but the magic I’m going to attest to.  As we drove across that imaginary parallel line at 66° 33′ 44″ we felt it.  The air felt different, the sky was such a strange color and seriously, the stars seemed to stretch and bend back and forth. It was incredibly eerie and we both kept our eyes glued to the skies as we drove down the dark road. You know, just in case any UFO’s thought about beaming us up.

We arrived at a cabin and got suited up for a dark uphill hike through the frigid night air.  We had only a small flashlight and some ski poles to help us keep our balance up the rocky path.  It was quite a hike and I was almost grateful the other person on our tour was so out of shape the he needed to take multiple breaks.  Not only did it give us a chance to catch our own breath, but it allowed us to stare at the impossible to comprehend sky.  I’ve been to a lot of remote places and seen a lot of impressive skies, but this one, these stars…it was absolutely unbelievable. 

Once we reached the little teepee at the top of the hill, we had an awesome view of the Northern skies.  It was a bit cloudy, but the lights were there, green and glowing, dancing through the night.  One of our guides told us all about the particles coming from the sun hitting the magnetic atmosphere, blah, blah, blah.  I didn’t care, I just wanted to watch them.

After about a million tries it became obvious that no photos were possible that night and I was glad.  It’s nice to just be able to enjoy something instead of trying to capture it from every single angle. 

We ducked into the teepee to warm up by the fire, roast some Finnish sausages and have some hot chocolate.  We went back outside to watch the lights and make wishes on the dozens of shooting stars falling around us. Who wouldn’t believe in magic under these skies?

We eventually made our way back down the hill and headed towards our hotel.  Just before we reached the first road with streetlights we got to see the lights again, waving goodbye as we turned the corner and the artificial light blinded us from their ethereal beauty.  

It was a beautiful, and as hokey as it sounds, truly magical night.

We didn’t get back from our tour until 1am so we slept in on Saturday, skipping breakfast and getting a awesomely late start to the day.  We hadn’t had one of those in a while and we savored the fact that we had nothing to do and nowhere to be. 

Rovaniemi is not only a great place to spot the Northern lights, but also the official home of Santa Claus.  And no, I don’t have a clue as to how they got this status, but they aren’t messing around about it and  as soon as you arrive you see all these  signs all over saying “Official airport of Santa Claus”.

We decided to go to Santa’s village since we booked a tour for Sunday.  It was fairly disappointing, but we did get a jump start on Christmas gifts for two very hard to buy for men in our family. 

Sunday morning we went about an hour outside of Rovaniemi to a reindeer farm owned by an indigenous Sami family.   The sweet wife greeted us as we pulled up and we started off our visit with a little reindeer roping lesson.

I missed. Of course…

DSC_1291                         (that’s my green rope laying beside the reindeer)

But so did Julie…


and so did our guide, but on the second try I got him! 


And of course, so did Julie…


After wrangling our fake reindeer, we went in to feed some real ones…





This one was the prettiest and very attached to Julie, she said it was just the food, but even when I was the only one with anything to give him he followed her around.  The owner didn’t speak any English, but our laughter at Jules’ reindeer boyfriend needed no translation.


We spent the rest of the afternoon inside a traditional Sami house, learning about the Sami culture and feasting on delicious crepes that our host cooked for us over the fire. We were the only people on the tour so we just asked questions and she answered through our guide.  It was such an enjoyable day. Although, by the time we got back home I felt at least 3 of my toes were in danger of falling off from frostbite.

We were in bed fairly early that night to begin our insane trip to China on Monday morning. 

We’re off to Inner Mongolia this weekend to hang out with some Mongolians.  I was pretty worried about the weather, but it is going to be considerably warmer than Northern Finland, so I’m hoping my toes don’t have anything to worry about.

Pictures from the weekend…

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