Addicted to Sápmi – Lapland Again
People often ask me, what drives me to visit Sápmi (called Lapland by some), in particular the regions North of the Arctic Circle, again and again. I just returned back to Germany after some weeks in Nikkaluokta in the northernmost part of Sweden. And many people again ask me “Why? Why would anyone go there for a vacation?”. Most people seem to associate those regions with snow, extremely low temperature, extreme darkness and total solitude in winter – and with uncomfortable summers where temperatures are still too low to get a proper summer feeling and where you are eaten alive by mosquitos. Comments range from “it must be boring and lonely” to “it must be physically too demanding to enjoy, or even too dangerous”.
To me such comments sound like defining the pleasure of eating a delicious meal by the extreme effort and inhumane hardness of using knife and fork, combined with the exhausting act of chewing the food with your own teeth. And then of course there is the danger of burning your tongue when the food cooked hot. If you had never in your life eaten an nice meal, you would maybe just see the effort, the hardness and the dangers. But once you had a really good meal once, you will want to eat it again and again!
To me, there is a lot of pleasure in being in the far North, even in winter:
- Snow and low temperatures: If you know what to wear and how to behave, then -30 or -40°C are something you can cope with. From day to day you even get used more and more to the climate! And these low temperatures also make everything special and exciting. The snow (and there can be a lot of it) is just dry, snow becomes just beautiful: It will not melt on your skin, it will not melt on your clothes and hence the insulation of your clothing will work perfectly as there is almost no humidity anywhere. Many fabrics based on plastic (such as backpacks) will totally lose their softness and feel like stiff paper and might make crackling noises when bent. You will realize the advantages of many more natural fabrics and materials. All in all: an exciting and fascinating experience.
- Darkness: Yes, in December it can be very dark. But then there is often the moon, and with all the snow around even with little light the world around you can become a glittering wonderland. Not to speak of the Northern Lights, which can be just beautiful and add additional spice to the meal. Later towards February and March, daylight times quickly become longer and longer, quickly exceeding what you get in central Europe the same time of the year.
- Solitude: Yes, thank god, most places in in Northern Scandinavia are not overcrowded and noisy! But you meet people, and often very interesting and nice people, who travel these lands or who live and work there. Also, the less people you meet, the more intense the contact with those few might be.
And then there is so much more, the beautiful and vast landscape, with impressive mountains, glaciers, forests, deep frozen lakes and rivers. And so much you can do in winter: walk on snowshoes, hike for days on skis, or even enjoy long dogsledding tours. Not to forget about the joy of a comforting fireplace in your cabin, or a lengthy stay in the sauna when there is an icy wind blowing outside.
Just today friends told me it is -27°C now with blue sky – and I simply want to be back there immediately.