Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Visit To Lapland!

Snow, Snow And More Snow…Truly Magical!

By Sharmila Chand

They made me an angel in the snow. I got peacefully buried, resting under cold white icy layer. While naughty Ronaldo, our friend from Brazil, was busy making me a white mummy, I found myself sitting in the lap of Santa. Was it day dreaming? No, it actually happened at the Arctic Circle in Lapland, the northernmost province of Finland.From the moment we touched down Rovaniemi airport from Helsinki, I was spell bound. What a wonderful sight – snow gently showering over us, white sparkling trees all around, and above all, our smiling good looking host, Jari receiving us with amazing warmth and care.

Stepping into the Lapland, I am all set to enjoy the charms of the place where history, art & culture, mysterious legends, Santa, make it rich and interesting. Located almost wholly within the Arctic Circle, the weather is pretty cool year round. It attracts artists, students, and the searching souls of tourists for its natural beauty and of course, the very famous Northern Lights.The scenery is breathtaking, my group leader, Jari is fantastic and full of enthusiasm and all the activities have been very well organised. These include Skidoo rides, husky sledges, reindeer sleighs, pony traps, skiing, ice fishing and lots and lots of tobogganing and snowball fights. I get into my special gear ie boots and oversuit with gloves, hat and a woolen scarf.
I look forward to my favourite of all adventures and that is meeting smart dogs called huskys. They are all set to take me on a sleigh ride in the snow forest. I did fall off quite a few times but Marek would hold me tight and keep me safe. Little did he know I was falling for him…..!!!

Then Reindeer Safari was as royal as it could be. I just sat back and relaxed while the quiet, almost dumb reindeers pulled my sleigh. I had no idea why they were running so fast and did not know how to slow them down. But soon they reached their spot and came to a halt much to my relief. I was shocked at their robot style functioning, one word from their master and they run mad, no matter if dainty things are screeching away.
Ice Fishing comes next in my itinerary. Snowmobile pulled sleigh ride took us to the frozen river. With very interesting equipments and a trainer, I soon found myself busy drilling a hole through the thick layers of ice. This is a wonderful arctic past time as you sit on the reindeer skins on the frozen ice with your fishing net in the hole and enjoying a hot drink.

Snowmobile to Amethyst Mine. I came back very rich from Lapland. Reason: I got to dig some real gem from the Amethyst Mine. The journey by pendolino, a snowcat pulled tram was great fun and exciting. The presentation was interesting and interactive covering many truths, myths and legends behind this violet gem stone before getting lost in the mine in search of the lucky stone.SnowShoe Hiking took larger part of the day. With nice fitting snow shoes, all walk lovers set out to walk in the snow. The campfire at the end provided the balm to our cold feet. I looked all around, the terrifying beauty of Nature was awesome.
Then came the much awaited visit to Santa Claus village. A few miles outside of Rovaniemi, Santa Claus actually lives here. Seeing thousands of letters being received in Santa’s post office assured me like everybody else, it’s the real home of Santa Claus. I chatted with him and pinched him to believe my tryst with Santa was not imaginary. And yes, he liked me and allowed me to sit in his lap. What a moment!!! Took hours to recover….
Should you travel to Lapland just before December, you will get the chance to experience the kaamos, or period of no sun. While the sunlight is minimal at best during these months, they are in turn a great time to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.
For wildlife lovers and bird watchers, Lapland Finland holds enormous opportunity. Some 300 species of birds either nest or stop in Lapland during migratory periods, so you will definitely want to bring your binoculars when the weather warms up. Bears, wolverines, foxes, wolves, and other animals inhabit the terrain in Lapland Finland, so you may spot some of them as well, and you will surely see some reindeer during your trip. The native Sami People, who have lived in Lapland for centuries on end, subsist almost entirely on reindeer herding, and according to statistics, there are more than 300 reindeer in the region.As night descends, there is plenty to do, since Lapland is known to truly live during the hours of darkness with its abundance of dance clubs, restaurants and pubs. Feast on a selection of local produce cooked on the BBQ including smoked reindeer roll and salmon. There is also the famous local beer and vodka for the spirited ones.

Beneath the mysterious Northern Lights, this beautiful region of Finland can be the ultimate winter destination. From fun-filled day trips, daring activities to longer stays in cosmopolitan Rovaniemi, traditional Yllas or scenic Levi; from dashing across the snow by reindeer sleigh to meeting the real Santa; Lapland is indeed a wonderland.
Think of snow and embark on a dreamer’s vacation to a region where charm, warmth and nature pave the way to escape. Think of Speed, excitement, adrenalin and for sure, you are in Lapland!As our flight took off from Rovaniemi, I craned my neck – one last glimpse of the wonderland. As the landscape started to fade and the mountains with the snow-capped peaks looked so ethereal, I wondered were they pretty fairies. Perplexed, I murmured … Oh I just touched the Heavens……..

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