We arrived at Tornio on a mid-December
Friday, to be greeted by our friend Johanna. Tornio is just a little south
of the Arctic circle and it was the furthest trip north either Rory
or myself has made.
We drove back to her house where we were
greeted by her parents and were given the first of several excellent
meals, most of which included reindeer in some shape or form! It's
actually a lot more commonly eaten in northern Finland than beef or
chicken, although these and other meats are available in the supermarkets.
It's a pretty versatile meat and can be used in everything from soup to
burgers and roasts. The Finns also eat quite a bit of Salmon.
We had our first go at the Finnish language, which to be honest is a bit
tricky as it bears no resemblance to anything else and manages to have
different conjugations of the word "no". We did lean a few words by
the end of the trip, but I'm not sure I'd have a comfortable time trying
to discus Neo-existentialism in Finnish, partly as I didn't really get to
grips with the language but more that I know bugger-all about the subject.
The main noise one hears on the boat are the sound of the Sampo's four engines and the ice being broken by
the ship. The hull is round bottomed rather than the usual pointed shape.
The Sampo pushes over the ice and then crushes it. The ship is very
heavy and the ice breaks. It is actually dangerous for the Sampo to
out in open seas as the boat is unstable in clear water.
The next day we took a trip on the Sampo
ice breaker. It's the only commercial icebreaker to take tourists,
and takes a trip about 20km out into the Gulf of Bothnia. We had a
lunch of reindeer with mashed potato and cranberry sauce on board and then
went outside to take some pictures of the ice. By March the ice can
reach a thickness of 5m (about 15 feet), but we were on the first vovage
of the season and so the ice was only about half a metre thick (18
Here's Rory showing us the ice:
The picture below shows me swimming in
the sea. (This is a rare picture of me on this website so make the most of
it!) In this picture I am wearing an emergency suit - I'm up for a
challenge but I'm not stupid ;) One size fits all over your clothes, which
is pretty funny if you're a bit short (like me), everything flops around a
bit. Mark my words though, those suits really keep out the cold!
Rory also had a go, but this is the clearest picture we got. It was
starting to get a bit dark by the time we swam and the flash on the camera
picked up the reflective tabs more than anything else.
Johanna had a surprise for us - she was
singing in a choir recital at the local church on the Saturday night.
The singing was excellent, and we were quite chuffed that they sang, in
perfect English (well what do you expect from Scandinavians) "Deck the
Halls with Boughs of Holly". The "fa la la la las" were particularly
good! It was interesting that the Finns have a Lutheran style of
church, which was quite bare but very beautiful.
Later that evening (after some more
reindeer) we went clubbing until late and met some really nice people,
some of whom I'm ashamed to say spoke better English than us (hello Nadja
& Heidi) We danced to some pretty strange music but I think that was down
to the drink. Needles to say we all drank a little too much and didn't
really do a lot on Sunday!
On Sunday night we visited Sweden.
The picture just below shows Rory and I on either side of the border. I'm
in Sweden and Rory's in Finland. Just to point out that the only
reason you're getting another picture of me is that I am wearing *so* many
layers that it's impossible to work out where I end and the padding
On Sunday night we also went to watch
the girlfriend of Johanna's brother go swimming. Nothing unusual
there apart from the fact it was -18 degrees Centigrade (I have no idea
what that is in Fahrenheit) and she was swimming outdoors in an ice pool.
She pays 23€ (about £16 or US$24) for the winter season to use a heated
hut for before and after.
Note the large amount of clothing everyone else is
wearing... (that's Johanna on the right and her mum on the left, by the