Tag Archives: cooking

The Best Holiday Ever

Yes, I know. Not everyone would be thrilled to be going overseas with only 2 days’ notice. But I was. Spending almost 3 weeks in sub-zero temperatures, not seeing the sun for 2 weeks, camping in a tent in the snow, sleeping in the car and even the prospect of travelling so far to see a natural phenomenon without any guarantee of success would not be everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday. Gee, we could have just stayed home and enjoyed (or endured!) a long stretch of 40+C days instead. But I’m so glad we went, and not just because we missed Adelaide’s heat wave.

It was wonderful to revisit places we had seen 6 months ago, in mid-summer. At the time, we wondered what it would be like there in winter …. and now we know. Once we got used to colder weather than either of us had ever experienced, and worked out what to wear, the cold didn’t bother us much. Okay, so I wasn’t brave enough to get out of the warm car when it was -36C, but getting out and about in slightly warmer but still sub-zero temperatures, and even sitting watching for aurora was fine as long as we wore enough clothes. The Norwegians are right – ‘there’s no such thing as cold weather, only inappropriate clothing’.

I had always thought that winter inside the Arctic Circle meant existing in complete darkness, and was very happy to learn and experience that it’s not so. During ‘polar night’, which is the opposite of ‘midnight sun’, it does get light even though the sun doesn’t shine above the horizon. The light is weak, like pre-dawn light here, and it only lasts a few hours. For the first few days, we were looking for dinner at 4pm … well, it had been fully dark for HOURS by then, feeling tired at 5pm and sleeping in until it was light … at around 10am. We never really did wake up early unless we used an alarm, but then we don’t at home either.

We did see the Northern Lights … 3 times. The first 2 nights we were inside the Arctic Circle (the night we slept in the car, and the next night when we camped in the tent), they were there. Not spectacular displays, and if we had realised how elusive they really are, we would have paid more attention and spent more time outside watching them. But because they were just there almost as soon as we arrived to watch them, we figured they would be there all the time and we could see them whenever we looked up at the sky. So, so not true. The third time we saw them was the first night we stayed in the cabin at Birtavarre, but they were mostly hidden by cloud. We could see them through the cloud, but wasn’t a good show.

There are 2 enduring images that I’ll carry with me as memories of our trip, and neither were photographed. The first is the one Greg mentioned, of the couple walking their baby in a pram when it was -36C. The other is of a mother pushing a child on a swing in a playground in Kiruna. It was 4.30pm, -5C and pitch black outside. And it reminded me that wherever we are in the world, kids are kids.

As always, thanks to everyone who has read, commented and sent messages – while we really write and share our photos for our own amusement and to keep a record of our travels, it’s great to know that we entertain other people as well.

Just a few last words … for Greg. Thank you. For planning and organising our amazing holiday; for buying the equipment, warm clothes and other essentials; for doing all the driving, including that long, difficult snowy drive back to Stockholm; and most of all, thank you for your adventurous spirit and for taking me along with you!

Random stuff

When we do road-trips like this one, and the previous one in Scandinavia & Russia, and the one aross the US, we tend not to eat out much, preferring to shop where the locals shop and cook wherever we’re staying.

We’re currently staying in a holiday cottage in Särkijärven. You can see some photos of it and the holiday complex here. Quite a few of the photos on the Booking.com site were taken in ‘our’ cottage. It’s a small place, single storey, sleeps 2 people  and has everything we need in it, including a large clothes-drying cabinet and a stove with an oven. The last apartment we stayed in only had a hotplate, so now I’m having fun using the oven to roast vegetables and do some baking. Yesterday we found a packet of bake-them-yourself croissants in a can – you take the dough out of the can, unroll it,  cut into 6 triangles along the perforated lines, roll into croissants and bake for 15 minutes. We ate them with cloudberry jam and they tasted great.

We’re having a bit of a pancake ‘thing’ at the moment , because they are quick, easy, use just a few  easy-to-get ingredients (eggs, milk, plain flour), and I have never known Greg to decline a pancake, ever. I won’t turn this into a food blog, but 4 eggs, a couple of cups of plain flour and a couple of cups of milk makes a lot of pancakes, and we managed to eat them all, with banana, sugar and cloudberry jam as toppings.

If we are just using our camping stove with its gas cartridge, we’ll have something simple like canned ravioli or burritos made with a packet of vegetarian mince  (just add water, cook for 5 minutes, serve), cheese and pineapple salsa. The Swedes seem to really like Mexican food if shelf-space, range and empty shelves post-New Year are anything to go by. But in Finland, not so much. The only vaguely Mexican thing we’ve found here so far are packets of tortillas, in the snack section. Don’t know what they use them for as we didn’t find any related items like salsa, dips or taco seasoning.

The lights in the cottage window that are in a couple of the photos of the cottage in the Sarkijarven post are a  very common Scandinavian Christmas decoration. Lots of houses have some kind of light in each window, and then they also often put lights on a fir tree in the yard, or strings of fairy lights on buildings, verandahs, trees, bushes …. you get the idea. As there are so many hours of darkness here, the lights look lovely, and many place leave them on day and night. We spotted quite a few decorated Christmas trees on apartment balconies, which seems to be a good use of the space at this cold time of the year … and the apartments are probably too small to be able to comfortably fit a tree inside anyway.

I’m sure the novelty will eventually wear off, but all the houses here look to us like gingerbread houses, with their snowy white roofs and their afore-mentioned lights. On a more practical note, I wonder if the snow on the roof provides some kind of insulation.