Reindeer and Snow Castles

Trip Start Jan 19, 2013
Trip End Jan 26, 2013

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Flag of Finland  , Lapland,
Monday, January 21, 2013

We meet our great guide, Dirk, this morning at breakfast, and he prepares us for the adventures ahead. The sunlight is evident by 9am, and sunrise around 10am when we leave the hotel to visit a nearby farm to learn about reindeer, feed them and actually have a short ride in a sleigh drawn by one. The farm is run by a woman who clings to the old traditions, and is quite famous for her weavings. There is one building which is a museum of clothing and tools and other traditional things. Then we tour the woman's home to see a traditional farmhouse. Half of it is converted into an inn for guests, although she is no longer up to running a business due to her age. We feel fortunate to have experienced this bit of history!

We drive for about an hour to our ice hotel, making a quick stop at a souvenir shop along the way. The hotel is stunning, and we first enjoy a guided tour of the property – peeking into the suites and other rooms, but mostly marveling at the artistry that went into all the carvings and illumination. Four Chinese artists from the famous ice sculpture city of Harbin came to create the sculptures this year, and there is a definite Asian slant to the art. But it is magical, and the various dining rooms at the ice restaurant, and the elaborate ice bar are most impressive. There is also an ice chapel where it is possible to get married. Dinner is wonderful, and the reindeer fillet is remarkable. My appetizer includes rainbow Carpaccio and a taste of reindeer tongue!

After dinner we cavort around the hotel, sliding down the ice slide and taking photographs of the beautiful decorations. Then we don all our heavy gear and head outdoors to hike down to a frozen lake where we will be in a clear area with the best chance to view the Aurora Borealis. The sky is clear, the stars brilliant, and the moon waxing to about full. Unfortunately, no sign of the Northern Lights tonight. One of us has paid to have automatic text message updates to his cell phone, so we will be alerted throughout the night if the Northern Lights become visible.

We return to the "warm room" to chat before turning in for a night in our ice rooms or suites. Each of us is issued a thermal liner and an arctic sleeping bag that is mummy style. There is a soft mattress on the block of ice, and once zipped into the bag it is toasty warm and most comfortable. I have a really great night’s sleep, glad for the experience!
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