While living in Helsinki, I sometimes tend to forget just how vast Finland really is, and how many different places and experiences it offers. One of them, is beautiful, enchanting Lapland. Visiting Lapland is a definite must for both tourists and Finns alike. And what better time to visit it than in January, in the heart of winter…right?
My friend and I flew from Helsinki to Kittilä, a town in the Lapland region within the Arctic Circle. From there, we took a bus to Levi, the largest ski resort in Finland and part of the Kittilä municipality. The bus ride lasted only 15 minutes but already then we were immersed in the Lappish magic: on either sides of the road were tall, white pillars, which in reality were trees buried in piles and piles of snow. These silent sentinels made the place look like a dreamy alternative reality…and this impression was further intensified by the fact that it was very, very cold (average temperature in Kittilä in January is -15 degrees Celsius!).
In fact, we almost got stranded outside in the snow as we forgot to get off at the right bus stop and our hotel, Levi Panorama, was at the top of the ski slope. Thankfully, the bus driver was kind enough to give us a ride to the hotel nevertheless, and so we avoided hiking up the steep hill in arctic temperatures or, even worse, taking the dreaded (for me) ski lift from the center of Levi…!
I already had developed a kind of obsession with getting to hotel Levi Panorama from the beginning: I was tempted by the promise of the wonderful view and the panoramic sauna on the top floor of the hotel. However, the hotel was fully booked for the dates of our stay… So, imagine my delight when roughly two weeks before our trip I found out that there would be room at the hotel for us, after all! And so we had a perfect place to escape the cold which ended up to be a very challenging part of the trip…
It turned out, in fact, that despite wearing two pairs of stockings underneath my actual jeans, two pairs of gloves and a very warm jacket purchased just for this trip was not enough to protect us from the stinging cold. It was very windy up on the hill, you see, and the -15 temperatures compared to the biting wind made it impossible to be outside for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. Thank God for the sauna! During that trip I fully and wholly comprehended that it fulfills a very important purpose – namely, not dying from cold! And as a bonus, the panoramic sauna of the hotel was not only kind to the body, but to the mind as well: imagine sitting on the pleasantly warm wooden seat of the sauna, and looking out of the window to the clearest night sky possible – filled with stars and a moon so striking, it seemed like it was shining like a precious jewel.
As for activities…well, I must admit I have never really dared to try out downhill skying, and given the weather conditions and the rather inappropriate clothing, that was not the right time to try. Hats off to those (and there were many of them!) that for seemingly hours on end were working that ski hill like there is nothing to it. In fact, January is off the skiing season meaning that the best is yet to come; in the early spring the whole of Levi is filled with hundred of skiers which create a very merry ski atmosphere!
However, Levi (and Lapland altogether) is not only a ski destination: we enjoyed walks in the nature (as long as we could feel our toes, that is!) and we met Santa’s little helpers, the very endearing reindeers. Also, we visited the UNESCO Samiland exhibition, housed at the premises of the Levi Panorama hotel where we got to know more about the Samis, the reindeer-herding indigenous people of the North. And did you know – those keen on super cool cars and extreme speed can have a very special adventure driving the ultimate fast car as part of the Porche Winter Experience, in collaboration with the hotel Levi Panorama. I namely spent some time admiring the Porche cars surrounded by ice, stark white trees and piles of snow; a huge contrast, but it works!
But the highlight of the trip for me was not one moment, it was a state of mind which I could achieve only in Lapland. We live in a continuously accelerating world. We are caught up in vortices of information and constantly bombarded by stimuli. Even unconsciously, we fight a restless, endless battle to keep sane among this pandemonium of people, voices, images. Expectations are high and they are ruthless; we are tormented by never-ending thoughts. I often struggle with the messy whirlwind that my mind has become. But in Levi, all this seemed so far away. Surrounded by crispy white snow as far as the eye can see, among the dozing trees and with the best of company, I was there, I felt at peace. I was graced with the most precious gift of all: a beautiful, all-powerful Silence.
– Anna Maria