Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sodankylä, Lapland in Summer

I live in a small town called Sodankylä, its the central municipality of the County of Sodankylä, which itself is in the Region of Lapland. It is about an hour and a half drive from the Arctic Circle, which is marked on the roadway at Rovaniemi.

Sodankylä's motto, as shown on the town website is, "Under The Lucky Stars". The total county area is 12,439km, of which there is just 0.8 people per km2! Lapland is home to only 3.6% of the actual Finnish population and is the least densely populated area in the country! There are definitely more Reindeer here than people! :D Which, for my part, I am quite happy about! It was one of the reasons why we chose to move here.. more space and more peace and quiet!

Reindeer herding is a way of life here.. there are many people employed in agriculture and forestry too. There are several preserved nature areas and way more trees than you could ever count! It's a very relaxed, unassuming place and beautiful, especially in the Winter...with its long dark nights and oodles of snow. (Spring is short and just like the Winter in my view - just with more light!)

The Summer starts off much later than it does for most countries around the world... as the ice and snow is here with us until April / May time at least.. and then the ground lays bear or brown for some while before it grows back lush, green and verdant.

This happens pretty quickly though. Due to our location on the planet the sun plays a huge part in the rapid growth of berries, plants and grasses. First hovering around and then gradually rising above the horizon it stays light here for 24 hours a day for several months. Between the 30th May to 15th July each year, Lapland sees what is known as the Midnight Sun. This is when the sun reaches its zenith and whilst not as high above the head as many expect.. it is well above the horizon and glows a beautiful colour of firey orangey red!

So during the whole of Summer you don't see a dark night and that takes some getting used to! It never fails to play havoc with my sleep routine and many nights I do not go to bed at all! It's weird - but part of the uniqueness of this place for me. It's like your internal body clock just doesn't get switched over to sleep mode. I must say that I have no problem actually going to sleep - once I am there... it's getting there that is the problem - I just forget what the time is!

Fortunately the homes here are organised for both seasons. We have wooden homes, automatic triple glazing, saunas as standard equipment in 99.9% of homes, little vent windows with mesh for keeping out the clouds of mosquitoes in the Summer, and blinds that work between the window panes, so that come Summer you can darken the room more, as well as using your curtains.

Many visitors come to Sodankylä to witness this phenomenon, much like they do during the winter for the Aurora Borealis. They stay up all night long and wonder why they don't feel sleepy! :D Fortunately, whilst it is fairly quiet the rest of the time.. Sodankylä also has attractions to keep tourists busy at that time. There is the famed Midnight film festival, for one.. which is held just five minutes from my home.

Over a long weekend.. they show films non stop - all through the night! Held in a large tent, similar to a circus tent and also at the local cinema and an old school building... it's a really large event by Sodankylän standards but in reality is still very quaint to outsiders.

The films can be in many different languages, can be promotional films by new directors, or really old black and white films too. Something for everyone. It grows more popular by the year. You can buy tickets for just one film, a days worth of films or for the whole weekend.

All you need is the glass/es of compulsory "Lapinkulta" (Laplands Gold) beer and some "OFF!" the Finnish brand of mosquito repellent.. as they, sadly, also love a Lapland Summer!

The special signpost by the Sodankylä Midnight Film Festival Tent

Up close.. the same signpost

Sodankylä's small cinema the Lapinsuu (Lapland's Mouth)

Looking across the Kitinen River - one of two rivers flowing through Sodankylä

A stunningly beautiful view, up the Kitinen River

Photos by -Georg- @flicker.

Here is a photo that I took of my husband and sons during our first ever midnight sun experience Summer Solstice of 2004. Double click the picture and you will see that in close up, the watch reads twenty minutes past midnight! We were literally sat in the middle of the Luosto road at the time...really peaceful apart from the mosquitoes coming off of the swamp!

And the sun image that I took at that time... it reminds me of a mother and baby!