Lapland

Dylan and I have just returned from an incredible trip to Finland. Our good friend Jessica recently finished her stunning documentary about a family of wild reindeer herders (the Aatsinkis) living in Lapland, and she invited us, along with two other friends, to join her on her most recent trip to screen the film for the family. We spent four glorious days in Salla, Finland, which is about 2 hours north of the arctic circle. I am still dreaming of creamy reindeer soup, chopping wood with a dull hatchet, throwing water on the sauna coals, and endless games of spades.

After an overnight train from Helsinki (how I love overnight trains–there's nothing like falling asleep to the sound and motion of a train) we finally cross the arctic circle.

The sauna, wood storage hut, and creepy falling-down building near our cabin. I'm off to collect some wood for a sauna fire.

Our cabin's stove, which was nearly the size of the cabin itself, with a few antlers thrown in for good measure.

The road to our cabin - and if you stay on it for a few more kilometers, you'll hit the Russian border!

There was much hiking. I loved the little wooden platforms laid out across the marshy areas.

Whoa, what's a jCrew model doing, posing in the middle of Lapland? Oh wait, it's just Dylan working his fall wardrobe.

In Lapland, fall color isn't just seen in the trees, it's also on the ground. In Finnish it's called maaruska (maa means earth and ruska is their name for the autumn colors) (also, I lifted that straight from Jessica's site, and her pictures of maaruska from 2011 are much more exuberant than mine.)

One of our hikes led us to a huge fenced-in area containing reindeer. It was like a deer park, except much much bigger, emptier, and nicer for the reindeer.

Handsome.

A reindeer and I having a heart-to-heart. Because it was a park, these reindeer are more comfortable with humans than those in the wild, which is why I could get so close. I actually touched his velvety antlers! It was a thrill. I was pretty sure I was going to be gored, but he didn't seem to mind.

After a nice hike and a long sauna followed by a freezing cold dip in a lake, the Aatsinkis prepared us an incredible traditional feast. We sat in this little hut on piles of reindeer skins. It was windy that night, as you can see.

This is the amazing firepit thing where our meal was cooked. Lasse here is making "pancakes" which were like delicious crepes, into which we spooned reindeer salad. He put the batter on a pan which swung in and out of the fire as needed. It's hard to tell from this picture, but all around the fire there are boards with salmon attached with wooden pegs, which sat there smoking for hours. In the corner of the fireplace is a cast iron kettle, which provided us with hot coffee after the meal was over. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.