Christmas is just around the corner and we always get a bit giddy around this time of the year, not just because of the presents and cheeriness in the air but Christian and I ACTUALLY visited Santa’s house in the North Pole. No really! One of the highlights of our time in Finland was visiting the Arctic Circle with Christian’s brother and we took part in a slew of wintry activities near Rovaniemi, waaaaay up in Northern Finland. About a 12 hour train ride from where we were living in Lappeenranta, Rovaniemi is right where the Arctic Circle begins in Finland.
For 5 days, we bundled up to prepare for -30 degrees exploring the Arctic Circle (thanks mom and pops for those Columbia boots!) and prepared for one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had. We first walked around Santa Claus village, visiting all of the little houses (i.e. Santa’s desk where he makes his ‘list’ and where Mrs. Claus does all of her baking) surrounded by giant snowmen and lots of Christmas cheer, even though it was only February. Christian’s brother, Maurice, made an awesome schedule complete with a visit to the Poro Cup (that means Reindeer Cup to all you non-Finns!), snowmobiling and dog-sledding! Yep I said it...DOG-SLEDDING! Coming from California, I thought dog-sledding was only seen in movies and even when I was sitting in the sleigh watching those cute lil pups whisk us off through the woods, I was in AWE with the biggest smile on my face and laughter bellowing from all parts of me. After 1-2 hours of dog-sledding and thinking ‘I-can-seriously-never-explain-this-to-anyone-ever!’, we finished the experience at a husky farm in the woods. They had some hot drinks to warm us up in a cozy little cottage but I couldn't help but walk around and give some cuddles to every husky in sight! Huskies of all ages have their own cozy wooden dog houses spread out between the trees and quite a few of them were happily rolling in the snow. Snowy conditions are most certainly the preferred environments for huskies and their thick fur...and they can’t get enough of diving face first into a mound of fresh powder.
Like dog-sledding, snowmobiling was absolutely incredible. We each had our own snowmobile and a very thick-accented Finn guided us over ice-covered lakes (more like hauled-ass over those lakes!) with views of a snow covered tundra all-around and ice fisherman tents illuminated on the far side of the lake awaiting their catch. Before I knew it, we ventured through the woods, up hills, down hills and through trees while powdery snow was tossed in all directions. It was exhilarating but my heart really got pumping when I tipped mine over and went sprawling over the snow...oops :). There is something really magical about being in what looks like uncharted forest covered in snow. Unfortunately we had to return the snowmobiles, but we did a little walk in the woods before we boarded our overnight train back to the South and took in the beauty and the silence...but not too far out, Siberia couldn’t be too far away!
Ready to take off for the race. Yep those are Finns harnessed to reindeers!!