“How many reindeer do you have?” asked the unsuspecting Dutch guy in our group. Mika looked up towards the smoke-filled top of the Kuta and, after much deliberation, said, “All on this side of the forest, and all on the other …” We looked at him in dismay before Matti, our snowmobile instructor and infallible guide, explained that asking a reindeer farmer how many reindeer he has, is similar to asking an English person how much they earn – it’s just not done.
And so we were slowly introduced to the many fascinating and and diverse customs of the charming Finnish people .
The Snowmobile Adventure was organised by hotel and arranged by The Mighty Fine Company, who had booked my holiday. There are plenty of different trips to choose, but zooming along on a snowmobile was a real favourite … and I discovered my inner racing demon along the way. What an exhilarating experience, driving through unspoilt Finnish wilderness, passing pine trees slumping drunkenly laden with snow, across shallow frozen lakes and past a very few people skiing, walking or sledging through this magical landscape. One Mum was pulling two kiddies wrapped up snuggly on a brightly coloured wooden sledge … They waved and smiled shyly as we slowed to pass them. Then it was a twist of the accelerator and we were off again on through open fields in the bright winter sunshine.
On arrival at the Reindeer Farm, owner Miki showed us how he marks the reindeer, a system going back centuries, then we fed them moss whilst trying to avoid those very pointy antlers. Contrasting with the man-made va-va-voom of the Polaris Snowmobiles, we were then introduced to our racing reindeer. Having been assured it was going to be great fun, I settled into the little wooden sleigh. Mine was a racing champion and hurtled round at a great speed – the Red Rum of the reindeer world!
Mika told us that the government limits the number of reindeer allowed, that Finish people still really enjoy eating the strong meat (tastes a bit like venison I think) and that wolves and bears are a danger in this area. Controlled hunting goes on to ensure environmental concerns are considered.
The visit ended with coffee & pulla in a traditional Kota or Lavvu, a Finnish Teepee that the reindeer herders live in as they follow their herds across country and through thickly-wooded forests. The Finns LOVE their coffee and drink many cups a day. Ours was poured from old kettles heating on the flickering pine fire, with pulla, soft cinnamon buns, heated on an intriguing metal contraption above.
Getting back on the snowmobiles to return to warm hospitality of the Hotel Iso-Syote, I felt we had glimpsed a piece of life that goes on adapting to meet modern needs whilst ensuring that what’s important to tradition is retained as much as possible.
I stayed at the stunningly situated Hotel Iso-Syote at the top of Lapland’s most southern fjell in the heart of Finland. This welcoming hotel has a unique combination of accommodation: comfortable rooms, log cabins, traditional kelo cottages and even an igloo for the more adventurous to stay in. Other days out included an exhilarating Husky Safari and the Snow-Shoe shuffle through the snowy depths. I had my meals in the excellent Panorama Restaurant with its spectacular views of endless snowscapes unfolding across the valley.
With grateful thanks to The Mighty Fine Travel Company for organising this magical trip.