What happens when you put a Dutch, a Hungarian, a Scott, a Belgium and an American in a Volkswagon Golf? A 14 hour car ride extravaganza of the sorts, I tell you what.
This past weekend I got to go on my first trip of the semester. I traveled with 4 friends (also exchange students) in a rental car to Levi, Finland. Levi is in the northern most part of Finland in a region known as the Lapland. It is literally like a Christmas snow globe. Santa Claus lives in the Lapland in a city called Rovaniemi, so obviously we had to make a stop to make sure we were all on the nice list for this Christmas. We also go to see some reindeer and husky dogs among other things.
The Lapland is also known for the Aurora Borealis. Unfortunately it was extremely cloudy every day we were there and we were unable to see them. I know I was pretty bummed but I’m pretty dead set that I’m not leaving Finland without seeing them (and photo evidence).
Anyways, back to the trip. During our extremely long car ride that seemed like forever, we did a lot of singing to try and detract from the pain and numbness we started to feel in our butts from sitting for so long. Eventually we made it to Levi just around 11 pm. We struggled to find our lodge but after a short trek through the snow, we found our quaint little cottage to live in for the weekend.
Friday morning, first on the agenda was heading to Yllas ski resort. I for one had never touched a pair of skis or snowboard so it ended up being quite the experience. Rachael (Scottish) and I both being inexperienced decided to experience it together. We were able to rent a snowboard, boots and a helmet for 35 euro for two days which is far cheaper than any ski slopes in the States. Krisztain (Hungarian) and Romain (Belgium) both had been before so they got the pleasure of attempting to teach us the basics. The first time down the slope we mostly just tumbled/rolled to the bottom. The boys stuck with us the whole time though helping us get up and trying to explain how we were doing it all wrong (language barriers suck in situations like this). After a few struggling attempts down the mountain, we got the hang of things and are now self proclaimed professionals and are now training for the Winter Olympics. Place your bets now on the US and UK taking the gold and silver.
After a windy, cold morning on the slopes, the lifts were closed for the day so we had to find some other way to spend our time. We coincidentally were staying less than 100 yards from a snowmobile shop. We went in to check out their safaris and they were pretty pricey and we couldn’t go during any of the scheduled times. Fortunately we were able to get some cheap prices and our own private little safari…… Must have been my American charm or something. Anyways, we had an hour or so to eat quick and get back to the shop before our little trip. Rachael and I shared a snowmobile while the boys rode alone. We definitely had more fun together but caused more problems. I may have flipped the snowmobile on its side a couple of times and the tour guide may have said he wasn’t surprised but hey, it was all in good fun. It led to lots of laughs, mostly at us and not with us but if you can’t laugh at yourself, then you’re not really living life. Friday also was Rachael’s birthday so we bought a case of beer and had a few drinks to celebrate.
On Saturday morning, we once again headed back to the slopes since, you know, we’re professionals now. We stayed on the mountain into the afternoon and then headed home for some food. Our next stop was an ice bar. It wasn’t nearly what we expected and actually turned out to be more of a museum/ice castle. We may have brought our own supply of alcohol in to make it really an ice bar….. Oops. It was pretty cool though. There were etchings in the walls and an ice hotel. The owners claimed they’re booked every night but there’s no way I could sleep in a building made entirely of ice. I’m too big of a pansy. I need heat. After the ice castle we tried to look up some husky and reindeer farms to visit. Well….. long story short they were all closed and we thought we would take a shortcut back home and we got lost on a road that didn’t exist on googlemaps and couldn’t turn around because it was a one-way road and the snow drifts were a solid foot high on either side of the road. So that was the fun we had on Saturday night.
Sunday morning we slept in awhile and left for Pori around 11 am. We had to try once more to see some reindeer so we went to a farm that (of course) was closed. Don’t worry though, I used that good ‘ol American charm I talked about before and the owner let us feed the reindeer for free. It was pretty cool. Reindeer are beautiful creatures. And of course since we saw Rudolph, we had to go see Santa Claus. So we hopped in the car and drove two hours to Rovaniemi to get a picture with the fat man himself (picture to come soon). That was the last official stop on our trip.
Although I didn’t get any new stamps in my passport from this trip, it was more fun than I could have expected. My advice: take a quick weekend trip with your friends, or even with people you aren’t really friends with. You will have the time of your life, I promise. Even if you’re a poor college kid like me. It will be worth it.