As you might have noticed from my lack of posting or tweeting, I was on vacation!
My boyfriend and I spent 3 full days in Northern Finland/Finnish Lapland near Saariselkä, a rather popular skiing resort. We didn't go skiing however, since it's super expensive, but we did a bunch of other things and I had a really good time.
We had to get up at 5am in the morning on the day of our departure, and then spend a lot of time wiating on the airport in Helsinki for our connection flight to Ivalo. But when we finally arrived there, I was completely taken aback by the sheer beauty of the scenery. I wish I had better words to describe what I saw, but I really can't. It was different from any place I'd been before, vast, impressive, empty and yet so very full of impressions that I felt completely overwhelmed.
We took a shuttle bus to our hotel, and after roughly 10 minutes had our first encounter with the local wild life, as a reindeer stepped out of the woods to cross the street, and the bus driver, knowing he wouldn't be able to stop in time, sped up to scare it away, accompanied by the nervous shrieking of the bus passengers, haha.
The hotel itself was very cozy and nice - we stayed at a place called Laanihovi near Saariselkä, and on the first day we took a long walk into the little town. Saariselkä is a rather... unspectacular place, but it's really cute how they build a skiing resort when the only "mountains" they have are like 500m :D But I guess skiing there would also be nice - but that's something I can do at home too, so why bother?
There are tons of interesting things to do, but unfortunately they're all rather expensive. We booked a Husky Safari for the next day nonetheless... and despite us being the typical "cat person" and me being actually quite afraid of most dogs. But it was definitely worth it.
The sled dogs were not the typical Siberian Husky that most people know (and we also kinda expected). Instead they looked a lot more like "normal" dogs. One of the guides later explained the difference between Siberian Huskys and their dogs, which are Alaskan Huskys, a mixture of Huskies and different other dogs, to make them most efficient at puling a sled. And fast and efficient they were indeed!
There are 6 dogs per sled, the front pair being the Leaders, who are the most intelligent and focused dogs of the pack. They are responsible for leading the way. In our case, this meant following the trail and the sled going in front of us. The middle pair and the pair closest to the sled are more responsible for pulling and steering the sled, and especially the two last dogs are very strong and do most of the physical work.
We took turns in driving the sled, after a short introduction on safety and driving. It's not that difficult anyway, because all we had to do was pull the brakes in time. My boyfriend started out as the driver and I was the passenger, and had lot of time to enjoy the scenery we were driving through. After about 5km we took turns and I was driving. Though I was nervous at first, it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it a lot. I would definitely do it again!
It wasn't even that cold actually, it had about -5°C but with all that wind during driving my eyes started to tear a lot and my face flushed. My skin is totally messed up now, we didn't even have any kind of cream or anything for protection against cold...
We gave some of our dogs nicknames, haha :D The brown one of the front pair would always lower its head a bit when running, so we called it "Tank" because it looked like it would waltz over any obstacle. It would sometimes "cuddle" up to its partner in the pair while running, and after the tour they would also sit and rest cuddled closely together.
After the 10km tour, we took a break in a little gut were hot berry juice was served to warm up a little bit, while one of the guides told us a lot about the dogs and the life and work at the Husky farm itself. While at first it might seem cruel to make the dogs run and pull the sled, this is something they actually need to be happy. "It's in their genes. As soon as they start running, they know it is right". And this is what you actually also saw and felt while driving the sled. The dogs were pulling all the time. Just stepping off of the brake would make them run again, feeling that the force holding them back would dwindle. When there is a longer break, when we had to wait for the others to catch up for example, they would start barking excitedly, just as they did before the departure, as if to say "Come on now, we don't need a break, we can still go!"
Well, I think for a person who was terrified of dogs as a child I was doing pretty well. I am still not too comfortable around them, because to me, dogs are an unpredictable mystery, in contrast to cats, whom I feel a much stronger "connection" too. Still, the dogs at the farm were very cute and also quite well behaved.
After the tour we were also allowed to go and meet the Husky puppies, I didn't take any photos of them while they were out of their kennel, because they were running around so quickly it was impossible to take a photo, haha!
This dog is a Malamute that did not belong to the farm but one of the visitors who brought it along. It was so peaceful and calm that even I felt encouraged to pet it. I had never before seen such a beautiful dog. And it was also really cute and fluffy :3
Well, apart from the Husky Safari, we did not do anything really exciting. We went cross country skiing the other day, and I had never tried it before so it was quite a challenge. It really is something different to have those super thin cross country skis than the usual downhill carving skis I have at home. Going slightly downhill without crashing down was a challenge at first, as was moving smoothly on plain ground. But after a while I figured it out somehow, and I kinda liked it. My boyfriend was not so enthusiastic about it though, so we quit after a while and went back to the hotel.
In the end, it was over much to quickly. With the cold and the walks to town through the snow we were worn out quite a bit in the evenings, and decided to have dinner at our hotel (where the food was the most delicious I had since Christmas at home). Most unfortunately is probably the fact that it was snowing every day and through the nights too, so we didn't get a clear view on the night sky to catch a glimpse of the Nothern Lights.
As it has been my dream to see Northern Lights for so many years now, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed about not seeing any. Up until the very last moment I hoped that I would get a chance to see them, but even when we left our hotel at 6.30am in the morning to go back to the airport, it was still snowing...
Yet, I treasure every moment I had there, and if anything, I take this as an incentive to go there again one day. When I left, I left a bit of my heart at this place, because I fell in love with it even more than I had expected before I went there, and though there are many other places in the world I also want to see, I really hope that I get a chance to go back there soon ♥