3000 km on the road, a bus with about 30 other students, and about 30 hours spend sitting. That is the result of a trip North, a trip to Lapland or to be more precise to Vasatokka, a little tiny village with a youth center, a lake and nothing else, really.
On Monday night the first torture of this ‘vacation’ trip started. We left Helsinki at about 9 pm to get in one go (of course we did bathroom breaks) to Kemi (about 788 km). Kemi is home to the biggest snow castle hotel in the world. Every year with the start of the winter season keen elves build the snow castle, after it melted in the summer time. This years topic is Sports. In the two restaurant rooms the walls are covered with the symbols for the different disciplines of the summer and winter sports. Of course, everything is made of ice in the snowcastle: the bedstead, the tables, the bar, the stools and chairs and sometimes even glasses. Guests don’t have to sleep on the ice beds just in their jumpers but get a real arctic proven sleeping bag and fur. Still, I wouldn’t be sure whether I want to sleep amongst ice blocks.
As this is a very unusual hotel, the service is very different. The 4 course menu just takes about 30 min because the food is served from aluminium boxes which are just carried fast into the restaurants and the guests feet get quite cold when they are placed directly under a table made of thick ice. No reason to stay and take another drink in the cold.
But the Kemi Snowcastle was just one stop on our way to Vasatokka. Like it is tradition at Christmas we went to see Santa Clause in his very own village.
Unlike common understanding, he does not live at the North Pole but just outside Rovaniemi in his Santa Clause village. From every speaker you hear Christmas carols, which is kind of disturbing when Christmas is just over and one is not even thinking about this years. But it is not all about Santa, the most important task for me was crossing the Arctic Circle. I never in my life imagined, that I would travel that far north to be able to step over the Arctic Circle. Well, it was not that epic, but it felt good anyway. Surely I gave some postcards to the Christmas elves to send them back home; when do you ever receive a card from Santa’s post office?
After dropping off a large amount of students in Saariselkä, we approached our last stop, the quite village of Vasatokka. Little tip for the people running the place: You need more than 2 hot plates and 3 pots to enable 16 students to cook, and you should think about a couple more showers and toilets. To summarize our accommodation in few words: youth hostel. Whoever has been in one of those, knows what I am talking about. Well,we weren’t there to sleep and stay in but to get into the nature and catch some Northern Lights.
The program for the next day indicated a survival tour. Therefore we learned to use GPS and snowshoes to find our way to 9 little boxes hidden in the woods surrounding the hostel, we tried to catch some fish at a frozen lake and I, at least, did my first rather successful steps on cross-county skis. The funniest part of this first day was the trip to the reindeer farm. Janne and his family run the reindeer farm and gave each of us the opportunity to join in on feeding the reindeer (they are kind of scary with their antlers) and taking a sleigh ride with them (just scary when the reindeer that should be behind you, is suddenly next to your head).
The second day was brought about in a bus again. It was the trip to Norway that lasted about 9 hours and 480 km. The highlights of this tour was definitely the run/swim/dive into the Arctic Ocean. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The wired thing with those experiences, they pass so quickly that you cannot really realize or enjoy them in this moment. It just sinks in later, at least that what happens to me. Especially in bathing suit, -15° temperature and water that is just warm enough not to freeze, the enjoyment comes the moment one is in the warm sauna and starts feeling their toes again. Afterwards we had warm drinks and salmon sandwiches in the local restaurant before we went back into the bus to return to Finland and Vasatokka.
Friday was then packed with action. The itinerary announced an hour of snowmobile driving, one of hour husky sleigh ride and a trip to the ice karting track. Although nothing of this was free, the experience was priceless. Driving up a hill with 35 mi/h (56 km/h) or being alone in the woods with 6 huskies pulling a sleigh at probably the same speed gives you a rush but is so exhausting at the same time.
As you can guess the bus ride back, because everyone single was sleeping deeply like a little baby, but that’s no wonder after this action program and the negative temperatures.
How did you spend your holidays? Did you went skiing as well, or did you stay in Helsinki? Or have you been one of the really unfortunate ones who had to work? Share your ski holiday experience with us!