A White Christmas in Europe (Part 3: Levi, Lapland)

Levi is the biggest ski and recreational resort in Finland.   Easy or Challenging – Levi has it all with ‘blue’ slopes for beginners, ‘red’ slopes for intermediate and ‘black’ slopes for the experts.   Levi also has an international ski school that offers lessons and courses for all skill levels.   While Andrew and Leanne took to the ski slopes one day, I organised a ski lesson for Mitchell – another fantastic experience for him.  He loved it and now wants to try skiing here in Australia, hmm looks like we could be heading down to the Snowy Mountains this Winter???

On Boxing Day morning we were picked up by our driver and we travelled out to a reindeer farm where we enjoyed a reindeer sleigh ride around on a frozen lake.     We  had 1 reindeer per 2 person sleigh and it was a lovely relaxing ride around on the lake, obviously not as fast paced as the huskies but still a great experience.    After the reindeer ride, we came back to the farm where we warmed up in a Kota with hot tea, hot berry juice and cookies and afterwards we fed the reindeer.

Reindeer are perfectly adapted to the deep cold that sweeps across Lapland in the heart of winter.  One of its most important qualities is its warm fur, that is about 4 centimetres thick and second warmest fur in the world (polar bears have the warmest).   The air inside the hairs are great insulators – in fact, a healthy reindeer can thrive in temperatures as low as -50°C!   Their legs are also incredible; they have strong circulation and special bone marrow that keeps their legs warm while trudging through deep snow. 

Reindeer antlers are the fastest growing bones in the world.  Reindeer’s antlers fall off once a year and and grow back at a rate of 2 cm per day!!  It can take 3 – 5 years to train a reindeer to pull a sleigh.    In the winter, reindeer must dig through the snow to find food. They dig using their antlers and curved hooves and munch on energy-packed lichens called reindeer moss.

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On Friday morning, Andrew and Leanne went on a Snowmobile Safari for a few hours.   Mum, Mitch and I walked into town and wandered through the shops.  We stopped to look at the Christmas Markets stalls and Mitch did some tobogganing.

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Mitchell tobogganing

On Friday afternoon we hopped on a coach tour to the Lainio Snow Village, Lainiotie.  It was about a 45 minute drive from Levi to this unique and magical world made from ice and snow.

Each year, around 20 million kilos of snow and 350 000 kilos of crystal clear natural ice are used to build the spectacular Lapland Hotels Snow Village which changes in shape, size and design to amaze visitors year after year.  The Snow Village includes, for instance, ice sculptures, decorated snow suites, an ice restaurant and an ice bar, as well as an ice chapel for weddings.    This year,  the Snow Village’s theme was  “Arctic Illusions”.    Snow Village took over 15,000 work hours with approx 50 people working on the project to complete .     The sculptures were just incredible.

The Snow Village has 16 rooms, Snow suites for 2–4 persons and 8 cabins for 2–6 persons.    Temperature in the igloo rooms stays between 0 and -5 Celsius degrees, no matter how cold it is outside.

It was pretty cool to sit at the Ice Bar and have some vodka shots from shot glasses made purely out of ice.  I did try to organise a table for dinner in the Ice Restaurant too but it all was booked out.    There was even a room where there was an ice slide so of course we all had a turn walking up the ice steps and sliding down.

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Vodka Shots!!

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As Friday had been a clear day we booked another bus tour for that evening hoping we could see the Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis.  As there were no clouds in the sky, there was a good chance to see them so we were optimistic.

The aurora borealis form when charged particles emitted from the sun during a solar flare penetrate the earth’s magnetic shield and collide with atoms and molecules in our atmosphere. These collisions result in countless little bursts of light, called photons, which make up the aurora.   The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and unfortunately we didn’t see them, no luck on our side tonight.   It was really really cold standing outside too.   The temperature was around -20ºC.   That was the coldest temp we had whilst we were in Lapland.

On Saturday Andrew and Leanne hit the slopes for some skiing whilst I stayed with Mitchell who had his first ever snow skiing lesson.   He loved it and he did really well.  Children make it all look easy don’t they!!

All geared up and ready to go!!

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Mitchell skiing with his Instructor

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There are 43 ski slopes (17 of which are floodlit) and 27 ski lifts in Levi.   Levi is Finland’s only ski resort where there are alpine world cup level slopes.   The alpine world cup races for both men and women are held at Levi every November.

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On our last night in Lapland, we went out for a wonderful dinner to a great restaurant called Ravintola Myllyn Aija.    I really wanted to try Reindeer again so I had a Reindeer Roast Dinner – Wow, it was soooo delicious, yummo!!   We loved all our meals and the service was excellent.

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After dinner we went back to the cabin to do one final Finnish tradition!!!   Yes, time in the sauna and then a roll in the snow outside!!!   Were we crazy!!   Yes, but we couldn’t come to Finland and not try some of their traditions!!!!

Saunas have become part of the Finnish national culture.  It is estimated that there around 2  million saunas in Finland for a population of around 5.5 million.  There are more saunas than cars in Finland.    So the tradition is to sit in a sauna for as long as you can bear and sweat it out.   Then you go outside and jump in a lake or sea or whatever and refresh yourselves in the freezing water – or roll around in the snow instead.    Actually most Finnish will sit in a sauna naked!!!    A plunge in cold water or snow after the sauna can boost circulation and release toxins. So, there are some health benefits to justify this tradition!!!!!!

We had a wooden sauna in our cabin.    Our sauna had a basket of rocks heated by the stove on which we threw water to increase the humidity.  We went in and out of the sauna a few times!!   Wow, it was absolutely freezing yet somehow refreshing in the snow!! LOL

Out of the Sauna and into the Snow!!!!

Out of the sauna and into the snow AGAIN!!  Crazy!!  LOL

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Tobogganing and playing around in the snow near our Cabin

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Christmas Tree in Levi town

When we were driving around the area to our different activities, alot of houses and cabins were all lit up with fairy lights and coloured Christmas lights.  All of Levi town was lit up and there was a huge Christmas Tree there as well.    Everything was just absolutely beautiful and all added to that whole magical feel of a snowy wonderland!!

We had the most amazing week in Lapland.  Our memories of this awesome White Christmas Adventure/Holiday here will last a lifetime!!

      ♥♥♥  We loved Lapland ♥♥♥

 

(26/12/2019 – 29/12/2019)

 

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