A White Christmas in Europe (Part 2: Levi, Lapland)

Lapland!!  Hmm, where is that?   Well, its situated on the Arctic Circle, in the most northern part of Finland.  The Lapland region makes up about one third of Finland’s total area.   Around 184,000 people call the region home and the number of Reindeer in the region roughly equals that of people.   In  Winter, Lapland has been described as a magical snowy wonderland (and it most certainly is!!!).   It’s also the home of Santa Claus (where we were most fortunate to meet him not once but 3 times!!!).    

In the peak winter months of Lapland, daylight is limited to only a few hours usually between the hours of 10.00 am and 2.00 pm.   The sun actually stays below the horizon however the light reflecting off the snow can make the days seem brighter.

After 3 flights we were finally here.   Oh, how exciting!!!    We arrived at Kittila to darkness and very light snow falling.   Woo Hoo!!   We actually had to walk outside on the snow and then into the terminal!!   This was Mitchell’s first time in seeing and feeling the snow – Awesome!!!

From the airport we travelled by private van transfer (about 20 minutes) to our accommodation in Levi.    Here we met up with Andrew and Leanne’s Aunty and husband who were also holidaying with us for the week.    We stayed in a beautiful cabin which was only a short walking distance from the centre of town.

On Monday morning we all travelled to Tontulla by van to meet with Santa Claus at his cabin and visit the Elves’ Hideaway.   Wow, this was our first real experience in this  snow and it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, you do have to dress right with thermals and layer up on your clothes.   We hired jackets, pants, boots and gloves for the duration of our stay.   We were all very warm and comfortable.  The temperature was around -3ºC.   One issue I did have with the cold weather was that my iphone battery did not last so I had to be quick in taking photos or videos.  Leanne had a little portable battery pack which was brilliant so ended up using that on many occasions.   We spent over 4 hours here just wandering through the wintery forest, spotting reindeer, huskies and horses, having snowball fights, attempting to play snow soccer, tube tobogganing, having lunch, making gingerbread cookies and doing craft.   The highlight of course was meeting Santa Claus!!!

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Welcome to Elves Hideaway

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Outside Santa’s Cabin and his Office

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Snow soccer
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Snow Angel

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Mum and I

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Oops, stacked it
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Tunnel to the Elves Hideaway
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Tunnel to the Elves Hideaway
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Oh No!! Poor Mitch was smashed by a snowball

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Can’t believe I am standing here with Reindeer behind me!!
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Oops, another stack!!
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Craft – making a little elf

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Beautiful Husky

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Gingerbread making

Mitch – Tube tobogganing

Kim – Tube tobogganing

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Mitchell was excited to meet Santa Claus but a little nervous and overwhelmed by it all

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Its Santa!!!!!!  Its really Santa!!!!

We had such a fun day here!  Wow, I can’t believe all the snow,  soft and powdery and so much of it.    Apparently there had been really good snowfall in November and that Lapland residents would enjoy record snow cover this Christmas!!

We were then picked up by our driver and taken back to our cabin.     Leanne and I walked into town to get some groceries and alcohol.   What’s the easiest way to get it all back, throw everything into a couple of toboggans and pull them back to the cabin, of course!!   Loved the convenience of being so close to town!!      Whilst we were in town there was a visit by Santa to our cabin (He was actually booked in to visit us on Christmas Eve!!) so I missed him.

Later that afternoon we were picked up by private van transfer and driven to our Igloos where we had dinner in the Aurora Sky Restaurant and stayed overnight.   Unfortunately  we didn’t see the Northern Lights though as the night was cloudy but still a great experience.

We had a beautiful buffet breakfast the next morning and then we were picked up by our driver who took us out to the Husky Farm for our husky safari.

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Outside the Igloo Reception

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Leanne and Mitchell in the Aurora Sky Restaurant
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Kerry and I

We loved everything we did in Lapland but I have to say the Husky Safari was the most exhilarating!!   What a way to spend Christmas Eve!!!!  We did a 7 km safari with Andrew and I sharing the driving and steering of the huskies on our sled.  Again, as we were all dressed warmly,  we didn’t really feel cold, there was no wind or snow falling – a perfect day!!  I would have loved to have done a much longer safari!!!

A dog sled varies in size and function and is pulled by one or more specially-trained dogs, usually Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes. A team of sled dogs, typically ranging from 3 to 24 dogs, includes wheel dogs, swing dogs, point dogs and lead dogs—all chosen by experienced dog sled drivers, or “mushers”, based on the dogs’ strength, speed and endurance. Careful training and selection of the dogs is crucial, as these hard-working canines can travel up to 130 km in a day and average a speed of 32 km/h for distances up to 40 km.

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Andrew steered the first 3.5 kms
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I steered the last 3.5 kms

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Just magical!!!

After the Husky Safari finished we warmed with up some hot sausages, juice and tea in a Kota (Finnish name for a Lappish Hut) and then we got to meet some dogs in the farm.

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From the Husky Farm we got a private transfer back to our cabin.  We had originally booked Santa Claus to visit us on Christmas Eve, there seemed to be a bit of a mix up in the bookings and he had turned up on Monday but luckily he was able to come back for another visit to meet with us and chat with Mitchell again.

Christmas Day – How amazing to be here on the other side of the world to celebrate a White Christmas (although I have to admit it was a little different to what we are used to with waking up in the morning (7.00 am) and it’s dark with lots and lots of snow outside compared to being back home in Queensland when it would have been light at that time and probably very warm in temperature!!).

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We had a lovely morning opening all our presents and then got ready to go out for lunch.   I had booked a table at Restaurant Panorama.   We walked into town and then we caught a gondola up to the top of the slopes to the restaurant.

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In the Gondola
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At the Restaurant

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There was no “traditional” Christmas menu here as such, the Finnish actually celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and not Christmas Day itself like we do.   Many restaurants in Levi had dinners with full traditional Christmas buffets on Christmas Eve.    There were only a handful of people at this restaurant for Christmas Lunch so it was very quiet but there were some restaurants open for dinner on Christmas night.

In Finland the Christmas dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve.    Families and friends gather to share the evening and enjoy various traditional Christmas dishes and then later in the evening Christmas presents are handed out and opened.  Oven-baked ham, root vegetable casseroles, mixed beetroot salad, liver casserole and pâtés, meat aspics, gravalax, or smoked salmon, fish roe and herring form the basis of a traditional Finnish Christmas dinner.     Christmas Day is usually spent quietly at home and some people might attend Church. 

For entree I had creamy salmon soup (which was delicious) and Andrew has escargots (snails).   They were so yummy, even Mitchell loved them!!    Andrew and I then had Sauteed Reindeer (which was awful).    After lunch we caught the gondola back down and had a walk through town.   We ended up stopping at a British Pub for more drinks.   Here Andrew tried to teach Mitchell how to play pool.  For his first time he did really well and we played a few games of Pool (against some South Africans)  before heading back to our cabin.

 You would think it was night time but its only the afternoon!!

(22/12/2019 – 25/12/2019)

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