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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Far north in Finnish Lapland hunting the Northern Lights

Whenever there is a slight chance to see the Northern Lights, I am in. I joined my cousin for a few days to go to Kittilä / Levi, even more north than the Arctic Circle. We had a cosy little apartment, small sauna included. The couch I crashed on overnight was not the biggest one, but fairly big and comfortable enough. When done with some grocery shopping, the sauna needed to be heated up. Test run! And found to be good!

To cool down again, you always come up with stupid ideas if a couple of shots are involved, we decided to go downhill sledding, Of course we had no sledges at all, even nothing similar. We found some paper boxes, unfolded them and used those likewise. Lying down on the back was working surprisingly well. We speeded up that much we totally lost control over the self-made sledge and mostly crashed heavily.

A road trip was planned on the next day. We passed Husky and reindeer farms and stayed for quite some time at the snow village. Although I would not spend those prices to sleep in beds made of snow at temperatures far below 0°C it’s always impressive to look at those icy art sculptures and buildings.

The formerly village Sirkka is now known as Levi, named after the mountain which you can ski downhill in almost every direction. Since Finland has never been the cheapest country and skiing isn’t a low budget activity anywhere in the world, prices were as high as expected. But it’s still fun, we have rented stuff for 3 hours and rode maybe almost every slope. I could already feel my old bones after that, needing a little rest and warm up in the sauna.

After dinner, we finally would be able to hunt some Northern Lights. The weather forecast was predicting clear sky for the night in the north east of Finland. Although it was still snowing, we decided to go towards Inari. After a while, the snow stopped and the sky really got clear, with a heavy temperature drop to minimum -28°C!!! A few stops later the lights were revealing themselves, in different colours, moving around at the entire sky. A fantastic thing to see.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

All the way from Fort Saskatchewan to Brooks

Everything needed to be real quick once again. Booking a flight, getting everything done, running through 6 different safety courses in form of webbased trainings. One of them took me several hours, and it happened to be finished on Saturday evening before taking the flight on Sunday morning. No access to the Converter Stations granted if I do not have them.

I had stopovers in Frankfurt and Toronto from where another 4 1/2 hours flight took me Edmonton. Travelling in Business Class was making up for this. It helped a lot to kill some time, but you just can't spend all of it on watching movies. When leaving the aiport, it was much warmer than expected, temperatures over plus were making me checking if I have been travelling to the right destination.

But obviously I had been right as my colleague drove by to pick me up. Since it has been 9 pm already (6 am the next morning in Germany) we paid no attention to Edmonton and went straight to the hotel in Fort Saskatchewan.

Winter was back the next morning. The last days’ rain froze overnight, not visually at first glance (a thin snow cover made it not easy to detect), but noticeable when walking to the car and suddenly slipping. I had absolute no control over both feet, but somehow managed not to trip and fall.

After finishing the work at the first station, we had a little car ride ahead of us. We tried to start as early as possible to travel while it’s still bright. It didn’t go that well. On the way south I notice once again the remarkable street architecture. All streets are manufactured in perfect order – in a rectangular way (1 mile east to west orientation, 3 miles north to south orientation). That means when travelling towards, in my case, south direction, it’s just a few right and left turns before going straight for the other 4 ½ hours. Despite some bison the ride was quite monotonous and not much happened.

Brooks itself had not much to offer either. The only thing worth mentioning is the hotel. I have made a single room booking and got a single room. So far, so good. The first hotel in Fort Saskatchewan had two double bed in it, the one this time had three. Three king size double bed. I didn’t really get that but didn’t ask for details either.
On Thursday the job was done, too late to take a detour through Calgary. Damn it! I had to skip that also. Maybe next time. But at least one highlight was still awaiting me. The flight was following the route north and when looking out of the window, the northern lights could be discovered almost permanently during the night.