try and picture this ..
It’s -27˚C (that feels like -35˚C)
it’s all fogged up from everyone’s breathing and the smoke from hot glogg and berry juice and huddled around the flickering firelight an enchanting Finnish girl has you mesmerized with folklore and myths about the northern lights ..
stories that range from schools of herring fish reflecting light, to spume of water ejected from whales. to blood of the murdered, to souls of the dead, to estranged lovers communicating across time and space,
to their most favourite one – where it was believed that the lights were caused by the firefox who ran so quickly across the snow that his tail caused sparks to fly into the night sky creating the Aurora. Indeed, the Finnish word for the Northern Lights “revontulet” translates literally as “fire fox”
if I was asked to rate what was my most magical memory (and there were many), this would probably be it.
The unfortunate thing is that when a trip is labeled as ‘chase the northern lights with carlton braganza’ the only question asked, and justifiably so, on getting back is ‘how were the lights? Its on my bucketlist!’
I’m choosing to ignore that question and try and make a point that the lights were (blasphemy of blasphemies) incidental!
So what does one do other than chase the lights!?? well, I’ll tell u how I kept myself entertained!
– drank copious quantities of valhala and mintu and vodka. legend (and logic) has it that the more valhala you drink the more lights you will see
– visited a husky farm, and rode a super spirited 8 husky dogsled! the dogs we were told have a great life, defined working hours and even a retirement plan! and I was thinking maybe acche din is synonymous to dogs life!
– had a fun gig at Olivers, the very popular local watering hole, which happened to be republic day and had people waving the indian tricolor – rovaniemi is a student town and one can pub hop and party all night long and the girls far outnumber the guys! – some places have long queues to enter which is not so fun at 3am when its -20˚C outside
– paid santa a visit. Yes the actual santa. At his official address. Where over 19 million letters have been received from 199 countries. ate his favorite grilled salmon (easily the highpoint of that visit and worth the 40 mins wait), crossed the arctic circle, and paid 45 euros for a pic with him! clearly taking advantage of one’s position comes with the white bearded man territory!
– Snowmobiled on a frozen river. O, but they said its safe. That is If you stay on the charted path and don’t slow down if u see slushy patches.. And if you think -25˚ is an inhuman condition, you should try it at 80kmph!
– Experienced the arctic snow hotel. All my class 5 geography cramming of eskimoes and tundra and igloos came hurtling back. The entire hotel, rooms, chapel (people get married here), bar, beds (and ambitiously spend their wedding night here), tables, chairs and even drinking glasses made of ice, makes u feel like you are the king of the north!
– The finnish sauna (they’re the ones that invented it) is supposed to be meditative and reflective… wasn’t the same with us as we uncouthly violated all rules.
but was quite an intense experience!
10 – 15 mins of sweating profusely depending on how much water you put on those hot stones. Then you run out from +80˚C into – 20˚C and roll around in the snow or jump into a frozen lake and from there immerse yourself into an open-to-sky steaming outdoor Jacuzzi, and you sit there in your swimmers while its snowing all around and onto you!
– Sang and told stories around the fireplace at a kota dinner in a lappish tent in the tundra wilderness. Grilled sausages on an open flame, with a simple dinner of pumpkin soup and reindeer meat and lots of mulled wine and hot berry juice
– Ate everything from elk to reindeer to moose to bear and in these conditions it totally felt so much like Leo in the Revanant!
– Wore more clothes than ive ever worn in my life at a time
– Walked through 2 feet of snow
– made snow angels on a frozen lake
– built a mate for frosty the snowman
– had many a snow fight
– slept on a frozen river and looked up at the stars
– ate fresh snow of a windowsill
– stuck bottles of wine and beer into the snow on the balcony to chill!
– had a jam / gig with a some really hip jazz cats at Storyville, Helsinki (rated by downbeat as one of the 50 coolest jazz venues in the world)
– took a ferry across the frozen Baltic to Tallinn Estonia and spent a day in the old town that could easily be a set straight out of game of thrones
– spent a couple of days in Stockholm with some wonderful people and jammed with some ridiculously talented musicians!
I really could go on and on .. everyday life and even the way they clear snow off the streets i found fascinating! Scandinavia in the winter should be on everyone’s bucket list! I cannot wait to get back
oh, and incidentally, we did get a glimpse of those magical northern lights too!!