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How to Feed a Reindeer

15 Dec

Inari was the last stop on our tour of Sami Lapland – it’s the largest municipality in Finland, was founded in 1876 and has a population of around 7000. Roughly a third of these are Sami. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see much of the place, but we saw the most important sites. The most important being the reindeer farm.


Okay, okay it’s touristy and something which I had been complaining about for the whole trip, but I let myself enjoy this aspect of the trip because I love animals and I felt like a kid again with a handful of reindeer pellets. They were beautiful, friendly creatures, but also incredibly powerful and strong. Here’s a video of me feeding one =)

At the reindeer farm we heard some beautiful yoiking from one of the owners. Yoiking is a traditional form of singing from the Sami and it’s incredible, so much so that here is a video of the Sami Grand Prix – a singing competition held by the Sami.

As a reward for not messing up drastically during the week we were given a proper hotel to stay in. No more cabins, no more trekking through the snow for food, and there was a proper, shiny bathroom for the morning. Here we ate the best desert known to man in the restaurant – I wish I had taken a picture, but I was so tired I didn’t even consider it.

After a night in proper beds we felt much better and stumbled out into the cold of the morning to be winked at by the most beautiful sunrise that we had seen in days. It brightened everyone’s mood and there was a great air of playfulness about the group as we walked to our last sightseeing destinations.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFirst we went to the Sami museum ‘Siida’ which was very informative and interesting. There was so much to look at and so many examples of the culture. Our guide was lively and fun and gave us lots of things to hold and touch.


Next we trotted over the see the ‘Sajos’ building, which is a centre for activity in Inari; it has language courses, parliament meetings, music shows and plays. And a library. It was super busy when we were there and everyone kept apologising to us for this, but I loved seeing it in use. It wasn’t exclusive for the Sami culture either – it aimed to create a greater bond between the Sami and other cultures, Finnish and otherwise. It was also heavily into promoting the Sami language and teaching Sami and others how to use it, which I loved.


This concluded our trip to Lapland and we faced another long, eight-hour drive. It was sad to return to Oulu, but it looks like the weather followed us back because we had snow the next day!

Karasjok, Karigasniemi and the Sami Culture

11 Dec

After we visited Kautokeino we took a jaunt through Karajsok to see another side of the Sami culture –  the working culture of the north. We dragged our giant suitcases through the snow and boarded the bus again, escaping the new minus 15 degree temperatures. We passed through the Norwegian mountains – and what I thought was a 11.30am sunrise turned out to be an 11.30am sunset! Pictures are here, it was a stunning morning =)

Once we reached Karasjok we stopped by the NRK Sami Radio station and got a tour from the quirkiest, funniest guy – not what I was expecting, and it really brightened up the trip for me. I was feeling a little tired and sick by this point. The tour really emphasised the importance of radio and media for the Sami culture – for improving communication through different communities and developing the Sami language. They’re really into improving the accessibility to radio and television services for the Sami community, especially children. Their kids’ tv set was the best part and I wouldn’t have stayed there and made glitter animals had I the chance.


After this we went to a completely contrasting place – to a tourist shop full of cheesy Norwegian flags and fridge magnets (okay, I bought a bumper sticker with a moose on it, but that was all!). I’ve really grown to dislike these kinds of shops and tend to just buy something little with the name of the place on it, proof that I’ve been there or something.

Then to contrast again we popped into the Sami parliament building on the way out of town! They were holding an important conference and there were lots of important people walking around. I knew very little about the Sami culture before I arrived in Finland and I really enjoyed seeing the working culture as well as the one which tourism presents – we met many intelligent, active Sami who were incredibly keen to chat to us. We were such a diverse group and I’m sure that they found us as fascinating as we found them!


We didn’t stay in Karasjok for the night but plowed on to Karagasniemi, back in Finland. It was like coming home to see the signs in Finnish again. We got a room in a ten bed cabin with the other girls and I managed to snag a room with one of my friends for a bit of chill time. However, we had just settled down to our essays when our teacher knocked on our door and said that we could go iceskating if we wanted – me and my friend had both recently obtained some iceskates and it was our new obsession. He offered to drive us to the local school to skate, an offer we couldn’t turn down, so we grabbed our skates and set off. Although not the point of the study trip this was probably my favourite part – we had the rink to ourselves and had such a blast. And I didn’t fall!

The next morning I was feeling even worse and nearly skipped the trip to the reindeer farm and the subsequent hike, but I’m glad I didn’t. Although the blood spattered snow from a recent reindeer slaughter made me feel a little queasy the fresh (FRESH) cold air made me feel better and the hike was beautiful. I should say ‘hike’, because the snow was so far up our legs that we managed only twenty minutes or so.

We hiked to see the beautiful Sulaoja fountain that never freezes and it a sacred place for the Sami. Many go there to be baptised and our teacher invited us to drink the water. Usually I have a policy to drink only bottle water when travelling (because I’m a germaphone) but I felt invigorated by the walk and the daredevil in me was awakened by it. It was pretty good water!


Then to Inari we went, the last stop of the trip!


Norwegian Mountains

4 Dec

I thought it was strange that the sun only rising at 11.30am – and then I realised, from the darkening sky, that it was actually sunset!

We were on a narrow road in a big coach so we couldn’t stop for pictures, which is why these are blurry and not the best ever, but it was such a beautiful sight that I couldn’t resist trying to share just a little of the experience.



These were taken on the trip from Kautokeino to Karasjok, and I would recommend making the trip in winter – if your cars and tires are good! There were a couple of super steep slopes  and I have to give a huge kudos to the bus driver for keeping us on the road!



4 Dec

It took around nine hours travelling on a stuffy bus to arrive, but it was worth the wait. The snow was half-way to my knees and the lights of the town twinkled invitingly, like a picture on a Christmas card. We dragged our heavy suitcases through the snow to our cabin and set up camp.

The cabin at the Arctic Motel was adequately sized for the three of us, with a table, a basic cooker and a bathroom. And it was warm, so warm, compared to the minus 7 degrees outside. The big cabin was even better, with couches and a proper kitchen to make dinner.

The next day we visited Juhl’s Silvergallery, started by Regine and Frank Juhl’s in the 50’s, at a a time when there were few roads in the town and all the building materials for their house had to be rowed across a river and carried up the mountain. Even the house is a work of art, it’s construction based on the nature around it. Each room represents a decade of their work, and all of it relates to their lives and their interest in nomadic cultures, not just the Sami. It’s a beautiful place to visit and it’s packed full of things to look at. There are even chickens inside.


After this we took a trip across to the Sami university, Sami Allaskuvla, to meet the students and take a look around. It has something like 200 students there, but the place is modern and well-equipped. We got to talk to some students who were practising duodji (traditional handicrafts) and making shoes for themselves. The library was fantastic, with a great collection of Sami, Norwegian, Swedish and English texts. I even found a copy of Romeo and Juliet. The university also teaches journalism, teacher-training and other courses. Many student study there, but the majority study in their home towns with the use of online lectures and assessment, which is a great way that ensuring that everyone who wants it has access to the education.

sami univerisity library

After this we visited Beaivváš Sámi Theatre and met this brilliant character of a lady, Rawdna Carita Eira, who had just written Silver Lake for the theatre. She showed us around, took us to the costume department and gave us a little presentation on the theatre. The theatre isn’t just based in Norway, but has travelled all over – even to Japan and Nepal.  I would like to catch one of their shows one day. They ‘subtitle’ in English and Norwegian – they incorporate it as part of the set or decorations.

Kautokeino is a beautiful place. The next morning me and a couple of friends took a walk into town while everyone else was still sleeping. It’s a much bigger place than I thought, but very peaceful and quite. Still, there is a lot going on and it’s worth a visit. Just wrap up warm! On the way home my breath was freezing on my scarf and I was very glad to have brought snow trousers with me!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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