From Santa’s Village, we kept heading north, ending up at Inari in the far north east of Finland and well into Lapland, an area which stretches across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and which is home to the Sami, traditionally nomadic reindeer herders.
Inari has a fantastic museum of Sami culture and Arctic wildlife – an almost overwhelming amount of information charting the natural and social history of the region and beautifully displayed with huge photos of the different Arctic seasons. The Sami recognise eight seasons, separating early-, mid- and late-winter for instance.
Every reindeer has cuts made in its ears to identify the owner – community, family and individual. Each person has their own distinctive pattern of cuts, based on the pattern of their parents and grandparents – essential as the reindeer are grazed freely for much of the year and the herding process is based on co-operation. Once all the reindeer have been gathered in one place, they are separated into individual pens based on the ear pattern.
There is also an outdoor section of the museum, with various Sami dwellings from cozy timber cabins to somewhat less cozy looking tents, used during the winter herding season. There was also a pretty gruesome display of the various traps the Sami used for bears, wolves and wolverines – crushing seemed to be a favoured method. One of the best buildings was a tiny courthouse that was in use until the early 1900s, the walls covered in graffiti from prisoners awaiting their sentence – this often involved being taken outside, tied to a handy post on the side of the building and flogged.
The museum also provides parking for those passing by on their snowmobile – Inari is on a 610km snowmobile route. The gate marks the direction of the route – out onto the lake and turn left towards the Russian border!
From Inari, we decided to head across country towards Kittila and on to the Swedish border. There was an interesting road on our map which included a 60km stretch which was unsurfaced – not much by Australian standards, but quite a distance in Europe. The drive summed up everything we love about Lapland;
Beautiful, crystal clear lakes and rivers
Quirky toilet blocks in the middle of nowhere
And long stretches of road with no traffic
OK, so I’m prepared to admit that I may have taken one or two more photos of long stretches of road than is absolutely necessary.