Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Northern Lights and other things

OK, I confess that I've had another holiday, this time to celebrate (albeit a little late) hubby's retirement.  We've just returned from a short break to Finnish Lapland in a little village near the Russian border.  In fact, the road sign at the only major junction in the area pointed towards Murmansk.
Like all good holidays, in my estimation at least, there was some relaxation, some effort and some learning.  Part of the learning was about relations between the neighbouring countries.  World Wars have a nasty habit of ending with as many problems as they started with, and relations between Russia and Finland seem to have been a casualty of the last one, at least so far as people in Lappi are concerned.  The loss of a part of their precious country still hurts and the change to the way of life of the native people of the area is irreparable.  The reindeer herders are now settled in houses, guiding the reindeer to the areas they can reach rather than following the reindeer through the wilderness.   Borders are more rigid than they were 100 years ago, and lifestyles have had to change to suit the lines drawn by politicians.
Interestingly, we were told that the people who have the most difficulty in obtaining visas to cross from Finland into Russia are the British!
More light-hearted learning came when we visited a reindeer herder and saw some of the animals at close quarters.  It turns out that Rudolph is female (or perhaps a castrated male) - Disney eat your heart out.  Those lovely antlers only remain on the females during winter!
Learning to work with a husky team wasn't as easy as it looks, though great fun.  Driving a snow-mobile is hard work and demands concentration and skill.  I know many a Guide leader who'd love to have a supply of bone-dry wood like we had for those few days.  Shave a few bits off, strike a match and behold the fire is blazing!
But the best bit was definitely seeing the Northern Lights, even if we did brave -41 degrees to do it.  Never again will I complain of cold weather here.  Photos don't capture the effect, but here's one anyway.  An almost full moon meant that the landscape showed up well on the photos too.

A magnificent sight, and well worth travelling that distance for.

Now, back to work!

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