So that’s why they are called BOREalis (zing!)

Posted: 4th November 2010 by Chuck Flysh in New Horizons

Found this baby left in my drafts, so here goes very VERY belatedly:

Hoo, finally arrived back from an exciting half week in Lapland, and a short trip to Tallinn before that. The latter was my first visit to one of the Baltic states, and I while I can’t speak for the rest of Estonia, Tallinn does indeed have its charms.

10 points, if you can tell me what this statue is all about!

10 points, if you can tell me what this statue is all about!

Especially the Old Town was immensely beautiful and more well kept than you would think of a city with such a war-torn background. Small restaurants with affordable food, art and antique shops, little back alleys with small but comfy cafés, you know the drill. Outside, modern office buildings stay alongside Soviet-era concrete blocks and further outside you can still find some of the old traditional wooden housing. And by “outside” I mean “in walking distance”. But I’m drifting off into architecture blogging again.
Blue... make... happy...

Blue... make... happy...

All in all, I can say the place was worth the 8 hour bus ride and ferry trip. Also the drinks being immensely cheaper on the ferry helped my enjoyment.

Lapland, now that was a trip. From Joensuu, with a short visit to Rovaniemi and it’s famous vaguely known Santa Claus Village, which proved to be as exciting as it sounds (NOTE: If it does sound exciting to you, you’re either four years old, or there’s something wrong with your head; no offence). From there it was another longish drive over the Swedish border to Kiruna, which greeted us all in white. Yup. Knee-deep snow at the end of October. All over the roads north, too, which we proeceeded to take to Abisko national park every night to look for northern lights.

Surprisingly, there WERE people on this road.

Keep on truckin'.

However, out of three nights, we only managed to catch a glimpse of them once. And by “them” I mean a thin greenish sliver, slowly growing and fading across the horizon. Did I mention it was cold? And that the very north of Sweden is mountainy and thinly forrested? With lots of gusty wind? Yea. Good times. But at least those evenings taught me the inherent value of wool socks in a Scandinavian country at the start of winter. And frankly, it was beautiful to watch. Just not for a long time. Oh and don’t even think you can take a picture of these things with a regular run-of-the-mill camera. You need one that can take in a lot of light, has the possibility to crank the shutter time up to 30 minutes and a few kilos worth of exchange batteries. Because, in case I forgot to mention, it’s cold up there.

We finally hit Norway on our second day up and made it to the Lofoten before we lost the last bit of daylight. Have to say, seeing those majestic mountains surround the fjords was the best bit of the trip; but in the black of Norwegian night the way back up OVER these mountains (in a car that had seen better days and popped a front light that very day, through heavy snowfall) was as horrific as it was awesome. Still, don’t ever make me do that again.

Our third day in Kiruna, then, was marked by hellishly expensive, but completely amazing… dog-sledding. It was the beginning of the season so the dogs were hyped beyond anything, dragging us through the icy wastes with nothing able to stop them. Just as well, since we were not the ones to steer them anyway.

in Sweden, no less.

All failsaves are off...

That was about it, except for a long, long, slightly boring drive back south. Frankly, this short update doesn’t give the whole trip due. There was a lot to take in, a huge variety of landscapes and quite a bit of culture shock here and there. And it was hellishly fun. Well, the frozen-over kind of hellish.