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Lapland; seasons of the sun.

Lapland

Seasons of the Sun

As you go north in Finnish Lapland, nature shows its rarest cameos--the plop of a fish, the startling gold-bronze of ruska, the autumn foliage. The bluethroat, finest songbird and virtuoso, sits to compose its lovely melody. In kaamos, Lapland's long winter twilight, the aurora borealis brings coronas of light rays, shimmering streamers of blue, green, and red to form quadrilles in the sky. In that season, darkness is never really total; the sun, glowing softly at the world's edge, never quite reaches it.

If you have flown in on Juhannus, Midsummer's Eve, thousands of bonfires twinkle below, and on the reveling Walpurgis Night that greets summer, rockets stream pillars of wild orange flame down the sky.

Ivalo, Finland, is 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. For two months the sun never sets, seeming to weave around the horizon in a bobbing motion. You disbelieve your own watch and forget to go home, and day ends when human energy is spent.

Out of the white-frosted mountain fells near Ivalo roams a porotokka, a reindeer herd driven with primitive chants of "Joik' and "Juigo' from the brightgarbed Vaino, the herd's owner. Sun dots the tunturi (hills) and clears the mist swirling around the dark gray and creamy white hulks. As they swim the river, only a fantastic maze of antlers shows above water.

Vaino is in work-dress of striking red and blue, ropes over his shoulder cowboy fashion. The suit he will wear later has weaves and embellishments only a Lapp woman can create; high-holiday wear is even more spectacular, his Hat of the Four Winds having sharp corners and multicolored ribbons streaming in the wind.

It is May in Finnish Lapland, the "ultima Thule' of anciently drawn maps, once described as a "forgotten wilderness.' Here live the Lapps, a dying breed. Vaino's family is among the 1,000 or so Lapps who own herds, but most are settled in or near villages, many having modern homes, snowmobiles, television, and Deepfreezes.

Lapps are courteous and helpful, and "kylla' (yes) comes readily with outlanders. Even in the farthest reaches of their land are festivals and solid-comfort safaris to ice-fishing and sking, not to mention the chance to squander markka on handicrafts. Finnair has many Arctic safaris; three this year feature Christmas with the Lapps.

Rovaniemi, less than two hours by air from Helsinki, has fine hotels, a library and a museum, and artsycraftsy shops where you can buy reindeer-skin slippers that make you look like Minnie Mouse; or you can try the Marimekko store at its voguish best. Rovaniemi is frontier with flair; the city was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II and rebuilt by Finland's leading architect.

Inari, farther north, is a must-visit for its Lapp Folk Museum's ancient artifacts and implements and its craft shop. Panning in the Tankavaaro River is no moneymaker but great fun. In Lake Inari is the sacred island of Ukonkivi, to which ancient offerings were brought. After your day-trip and refreshing sauna (sow-nah) you can eat ladled-out reindeer and mushroom stew and cloudberries (boysenberries) with thick frozen cream.

At Tormanen near Ivalo is Father Christmas' home, Korvatunturi, the "Ear Hill' from which he listens to what goes on in the world. Finland's Pikkujoulu (Little Christmas) in early December starts a round of fests lasting to the 26th. On the 24th a "midday' tree is adorned with real candles, silver and gold ribbons, and tiny craft items. Gospel readings start off a dinner of ham, Lapp salmon, vegetables, and rice pudding.

Church services are 6:30 Christmas Day, with the Lapps in their most exotic costumes. The 26th is "Boxing Day': games, sleigh rides, and lasso-throwing.

Despite its seemingly lonely stretches, Lapland is a busy place, and it will be even more so in 1987 during the 70th anniversary of Finland's independence.

Photo: (Above) Winter simplifies the problem of getting about in Lapland. (Right) Lapps, not their reindeer, are an endangered species in the modern world.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Andersson, Mari
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Oct 1, 1986
Words:667
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