Personal Journeys

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

April 17, 2005|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Visit to Lapland fulfills an old dream

By Barbara Gaddis

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My early memory of Lapland was renewed in September, when I toured northern Lapland in Finland and Norway.

Many years ago in my third-grade geography book, in a little school in Western Maryland, I studied about Lapland and the Lapps, who are now referred to as Samis.

I was fascinated by the land of the midnight sun, the aurora borealis, reindeer and the life of the people. It took more than 50 years to make the trip to the northern European land I yearned to see.

The beautiful woodlands of white birches and the yellows and reds of Lapland's glorious autumn set the tone for how peaceful the region seemed. I was invigorated by the purity of the air and landscape.

My trip coincided with large herds of reindeer returning from their grazing meadows. Reindeer populate Finnish Lapland to the same degree as people. Snowmobiles, instead of dog sleds, are now used by the Samis to round up reindeer, and there is a market for reindeer meat outside Lapland.

The Samis are said to be one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world. About 7,500 Samis live in Finland's Lapland. There are three distinct Sami nations, distinguished by three languages and their own national dress. The hospitality of the Samis with whom I interacted was heart-warming. They were happy to share their culture.

There is a rise in tourism in Lapland. In summer, when the sun remains above the horizon for two months, there are innumerable opportunities for outdoor activities such as canoe and fishing trips, mountain biking, wilderness trekking or bird-watching.

In Saariselka, the best-known tourist center in Finish Lapland, I was entertained by a Sami family wearing their national dress. They escorted me from the hotel to their log house at the end of a long dirt road. I was able to feed some of their reindeer and caress their velvety antlers.

A blazing open fire in the center of the huge cabin room was used for cooking. Candle light -- and no electricity -- illuminated the cozy room as the family served a Sami dinner of reindeer soup, smoked reindeer steak, boiled potatoes, salad, root vegetables and cloudberry dessert.

From Saariselka, we traveled a narrow, empty road to the Norwegian Lapland. Crossing the border in Norway brought a change in topography.

There were huge, stark boulders and little vegetation. But there were also beautiful, sparkling rivers full of salmon. Our destination was Kirkenes, Norway, an interesting town of 8,000 near the Russian border. In Kirkenes we boarded a ship to journey via scenic fjords to Bergen.

My trip filled a treasure chest of memories. Lapland claimed my affection, which was sparked so many years ago.

Barbara Gaddis lives in Timonium.

My Best Shot

Bob Miller, Millington, Md.

The beach master speaks his mind

As I peered through the camera on its tripod, my wife, Dawn, stood by with fingers crossed. We had come here to photograph nature, and this looked like the right place. The huge sea lion a few yards away would be a photo to make our trip. The roaring beach master was letting us know that he owned the beach. He was right. We were the visitors, and this was his place. We were on the Galapagos Islands!

Readers Recommend

Isle of Capri, Italy

Joan Crawford, Timonium

The Isle of Capri has fantastic views in all directions, if you can tear yourself away from the shopping. This picture was taken last May from the Caesar Augustus garden, looking out to the sea.

Lescun, France

Peter M. Semel, Baltimore

You get a panoramic view (shown) looking southwest from the exquisite mountain village of Lescun in southwest France near the Spanish border. The snow-capped mountains and the green fields combine to make a pleasing sight. One can see vistas like this from any vantage point in Lescun. If you are going to Pamplona, Spain, detour off the main road to Lescun for coffee or lunch. You can also buy delicious local cheese from the residents, who will invite you into their home fromageries.

We Want To Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

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Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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