Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kalevala Day!

There are flags out because it is Kalevala Day. I have posted about the Kalevala before, but it is such an important piece of literature that you cannot say too much about it. My limited knowledge of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic poem, comes from the paintings of Akseli Gallen-Kallela and from the Canine Kalevala by Mauri Kunnas. Luckily, Sophia knows a lot more about the Kalevala!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What we saw on our last morning in Lapland!

On our last morning in Saariselkä we decided to head to the sledding hill again before checking out of the hotel. We were the first to arrive and found some not too damaged sleds abandoned at the base. As we started to climb to the top of the mountain we realized we were following a group of about 5 reindeer. It was a magical experience to walk behind them up the slope and stop when they stopped. Once at the summit we went our separate ways. The reindeer went to forage and we sledded down.

At the base we found some residents of Saariselkä who had set up an ice cafe for sledding children with hot juice and sausages and pulla. One woman was impressed with Chris' command of Finnish and told us her mother had lived in Fitchberg MA until 13 when she returned to Finland. But on her death bed, her mother spoke in English.

The two gentlemen in one picture are carving a bear out of snow. They carved a bevy of bears outside our hotel as well. Our Finnish friend told us that people decorate their yards with snow sculptures and fill large garbage bags with snow overnight so that they can have Moomi in their yards.

Skiing in Saariselkä, where we kept expecting to see Joe Ayotte!

After checking out of our hotel, we had time before our evening flight home. We rented cross country skis and headed toward the national forest that abuts Saariselkä.

Saariselkä is known for the ski trails. We headed off in the direction of a hut. Sophia and I skied 10k and Chris went further and did 12k. It was beautiful. We kept expecting to see Joe rounding the corner with a smile on his face. The trails were beautifully groomed. Even the sledding hill was beautifully groomed!

The second photo from the bottom is Sophia in front of our hotel and then Sophia in her souvenir hat!

Inari and Siida

We were staying in Saariselkä, the most northerly ski resort in the world. We had read about Siida, a museum in Inari devoted to the Sami culture and also to the natural history of the region. The buses were going to Saariselkä from Inari were tricky, but on Wednesdays the museum runs a return bus to Saariselkä.

We caught the bus to Ivalo and had an hour wait there for the bus to Inari. There is not much in Ivalo, but we wandered into a clothing store that looked like a thrift shop, though all the merchandise was new. It was a store frozen in time. Chris had a successful Finnish conversation with the elderly couple in the store and we bought a Jussi sweater for him. Chris is wearing his new Jussi sweater in the top picture.

The bus from Ivalo to Inari was also the postal truck. The driver had perfect aim as he leaned over from the steering wheel to throw packages of mail into yellow boxes along the road. All the tourists got off the bus at Siida and the bus rumbled on heading farther north.

Siida is a large museum on Inari Lake and is the site of the oldest archeological finds in Lapland. We toured the exhibits in the museum. I have linked to the museum web site to give you some idea of what we saw. You can see here that the main part of the museum is one large hall with information about the plants and animals of Lapland around the outer circuit of the hall and information about the Sami on the interior of the exhibition.

Sophia did some sketches of the exhibits and I took some notes. One explorer of Lapland was Aubry de la Motraye who wrote about Lapland for George I in 1723. The illustrations reminded me of Le Page du Pratz and his book about the Natchez.

This part of Finland looks like a wonderful place to visit during the summer, but I did carefully read about the Räkkä season. The räkkä season is the blood sucking insect season and is apparently quite fierce.

I was also interested in reading about angelica, the wonder herb of Lapland. It was used as a tranquilizer and to prevent scurvy and treat other ailments.

We ate lunch at the museum, delicious reindeer soup with root vegetables. We also explored the outside area that is not open in the winter and bought some gifts before hopping on the small bus for the wild ride back to Saariselkä.

Reindeer Safari!

We arrived at Saariselkä on Monday. Tuesday morning we arranged a reindeer safari for that night. At 7 pm our guide ( I never did learn his name) picked us up at the hotel. We were dressed in all our layers as though we going to ski the shady side of Cannon Mountain. Our guide immediately had us don another layer on top of all our outerwear.

We then drove a little way out of Saariselkä and got into sleighs. We were with a French couple. Sophia and I shared a sleigh. I was glad of all the layers as we were pulled in the dark through the woods by our reindeer. The video doesn't show much, but you will hear the sound of a wooden sled pulled across snow.

Toward the end of the ride we stopped for sausage and coffee and biscuits. As always with food eaten outside in the cold, the sausage was the best thing going! When we returned to the reindeer compound we all went into the corral while our guide fed the reindeer some pellet food. When he first put down some food, the antlers started flying. You got an idea that the reindeer that pulled our sleigh was at the very bottom of the pecking order since we watched him follow our guide around with the food bag.

We had hoped for a chance to see the aurora borealis. Maybe next time!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scenes from the longest sledding run in the world!

We are in Saariselkä, but the internet connection is quite slow so I might not post any more pictures until we are back home in Turku.

This morning we headed out in search of the ski slope and found the base of what we have been told is the longest tobogganing run in the world. There were abandoned sleds at the base, so we grabbed 3 and hiked to the top...twice! It was quite a wild ride down.

The landscape is beautiful. There was a rainbow all morning. I love the snow covered trees. Tonight we have our reindeer safari.

Monday, February 22, 2010

We made it! Lapland!

Up at the crack of dawn for the 7 AM bus to the airport and we are finally here in Ivalo in our room. Sophia has headed to the swimming pool because we are staying in a Holiday Spa Hotel with a lovely pool and I must run to catch up with her.

The closest we might come to reindeer today is the cheese and smoked reindeer soup we had for lunch. I did see some out of the bus window from the airport to Saariselkä.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blogging during Lent

One draw back to blogging is that while you share your activities, astute readers can deduce what you are not doing! I heard that the lack of any post about church has caused some worry for my soul! Well, to alleviate concern, Sophia and I decided that we would observe Lent by attending church.

I went to the web site of the cathedral to check on services. The cathedral in Turku is at the top of my list of world's most beautiful buildings. I love looking at it. I have taken many pictures of it. I love the brick with the stone and mortar and the nooks and the tower.

The cathedral, or tuomiokirkko, is the mother church of Finland. It is 700 years old and is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Henry, the first Bishop of Finland.

While searching the web site, I found that English language services take place every Sunday at 4:00 pm and rotate between Anglican and Lutheran services. Turku is a small town. We walked into the service and found we already had friends in the congregation. Sophia's fame precedes her. She is known as "Big Sophia" to a cluster of younger anglophones to distinguish her from a younger Sofia. Her presence in the congregation was noticed by her younger friends.

So, we have found a home away from home and intend to go to services there while we live in Finland. Fear not for our souls!


I bought this yarn at Kerttu three weeks ago. It is 75% wool, 25% nylon hand-dyed by Lai-la-lai Yarnz. Using the excel spreadsheet I found on Knitty, I knit these socks. I will wear them tomorrow as we head north, north, north to Lapland! And, yes, one sock is longer than the other. That's how it goes sometimes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Finnish Design pt. 3 Glass!

The best known Finnish vase must be the Alvar Aalto vase that he called the Eskimo Woman's Trousers according to Ulla Seppälä-Kaven. It has been in production for 70 years! Seppälä-Kaven said that every Finnish home contains this vase. Indeed, Tatu and Patu use it as a sauna bucket in their book on Finland!

Ulla Seppälä-Kaven showed some slides of other glassware. I especially liked the Chanterelle vase, Kantarelli designed in 1946 by Tapio Wirkkala. I hope we get to go mushrooming while we are here.

Alvar Aalto's wife, Aino Aalto also designed glassware. The stripes in the glassware are decorative, but also allowed the use of less perfect glass for the production.

The Orchid Vase designed in 1954 by Timo Sarpaneva received international acclaim.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Modern Finnish Design Pt. 2: Textles

Ulla Seppälä-Kaven also spoke about textile design in Finland. She said the RYIJY (a type of hand-tied rug) is a very important craft in Finland. We have seen Ryijy at the Turku castle and in Lieto. There are many designers who have updated Ryijy. I have attached a picture of a ryijy with lighted fibers.

No discussion of Finnish design would be complete without a discussion of Marimekko (mekko means dress). The designer of the Poppy fabric was Marja Isola. She spent time in Africa and designed bold bright patterns that remain popular today. They are still in production and her daughter is choosing the color combinations.

Another important Marimekko designer is Annika Rimala. Seppälä-Kevan referred to Rimala as the inventor of stripes. I proudly sport a striped Marimekko coat around Turku!

Seppälä-Kevan also mentioned some young designers in Turku:

Kas! Design who does these fantastical gloves.
Kui Design with this fabric design of the Aura River.
and Klo Design