Sunday, August 07, 2005

DAY 12 - a different country, a different time zone and a very different language

quote of the day: "me and my glasses, we feel rather dirty!" (sepp, not me!!) not that that set the mood for the day or anything. it doesn't seem to be as nice a day as the previous one, and though there are still lots of things to do around tromsø and a hundred hikes we have not done, we decide to leave. i am not feeling too great either, so we don't even do the short hike we had considered doing, instead we leave the beautiful area and drive towards finland. we have to drive all the way back to nordkjosbotn, then north towards skibotn where we stop for a little bit to stretch our legs and say goodbye to the sea. then we head inland to the finnish border via beautiful and very lonely skibotndalen.

sepp at skibotn

another new country! and not just any country! no, it's finland!

Finland, Finland, Finland.
The country where I quite want to be,
Your mountains so lofty,
Your treetops so tall,
Finland, Finland, Finland. Finland has it all.
as monty python's michael palin so aptly put it.

it's the first time in finland for sepp, i have been to finland before - tornedalen and helsinki. but this here is outback finland. and finland, well, finland is different. i noticed it back in october 1998 when crossing the swedish/finnish border at haparanda and waiting for a train in little kemi. i thought i'd gone back in time, and landed in russia in the 1970s! (to be fair, helsinki was NOT like that!)

funny thing is that this time, sepp says the same thing. something is different once you have crossed the border and come to finland. take the campground / fjäll station in kilpisjärvi. lovely, no doubt, and like other campgrounds too - in most things. but then you enter the kitchen: unlike kitchens at other campsites, this one has compartments - which, when you think about it, is rather clever; mini-kitchenettes for 6 or 8 people. but the gas stoves! the little gas stoves with two burners! i wish now that i had taken a photo. the first time i see them, i honestly think there's a 50:50 chance that the whole thing will explode. or make that 60:40. they truly look like something you might see in a movie about russia in the 1960s. however, nothing explodes, and the things heat everything up really fast, so there. :)

or take the supermarket. it doesn't really look like a supermarket of the western european kind. they sell pretty much everything - and they seem to have put it wherever there was some space. so junk and sausages and birthday cards and t-shirts and sanitary products co-exist happily in this shop with its low ceiling and the rather dark corners. and then there's a power failure. lights out and everything. the weird thing is - nobody really says anything, neither the customers nor the employees or management. people just go on shopping in semi-darkness, and the women at check-out take out pens and paper and start doing their sums like back in the old, pre-cash-register days. i actually expect someone to make a comment like "oh, it's the 3:45 power failure! i didn't quite realise that was the time!" eventually the lights come back on, and that's that.

but take it from us, the atmosphere is different. you go to an out-of-the-way place in norway or sweden, and you go to just such a place in finland, and you'll see. like two different worlds.

and you also see it in the people. i mean, you don't get grown men in floral-print shirts (shirts! not t-shirts!), wearing their trousers at half-mast, socks, sandals, and a jacket in an indefinable shade of ochre, where i come from. and i am talking about ONE guy here, and he was wearing all that at the same time. ask sepp. i was not hallucinating. not this time.

but, back to chronological order. we cross the border just a few kilometers from kilpisjärvi. we decide to stay there and do some hiking the next day. we set up our tent, drive to the supermarket (yes, that supermarket!) and the nice tourist information centre where a very friendly and competent lady tells me about possible hikes. there is more to do here than just climb saana, the sacred mountain of the sami people, and so we are spoilt for choice.

there's one short hike the lady suggests which we can do straight away. fortunately she writes down the name of the road and the name of the hill, or we would still be looking for it.

finnish, as you probably know, is not a very accessible language. it's not a language that has any relation to anything, well, except hungarian and some other obscure languages of the finno-ugric langugage group. and, well, it's not like everybody is familiar with those! apart from the words that have been finnicized (did i just invent a word?) by adding an -i (kioski, hotelli, etc), you're completely lost. i remember fondly the dilemma i faced at kemi station in 1998 when i needed to go to the toilet. that's why symbols were invented - only kemi didn't have them! granted, you get words that are difficult to pronounce in most languages; but a whole language that is unpronounceable is quite a different matter. it's completely uneconomical. i mean, why say henkilöllisyystodistus when you can say ID card or Ausweis? the finnish must be smart, and i am not surprised they get such good results in the PISA-study. people who can remember such monstrosities of words and master such a language cannot have problems with anything else.

so anyway, we are off down the road leading to a carpark where we can leave our faithful WUZ while we conquer salmivaara, a hill rather than a mountain, but nonetheless, it's a nice walk up there, less than an hour to the top. it's rather windy up there, but the view is just wonderful. you can of course see saana, the dominant feature in the area, but also the lake, and malla national park. greens, and blues, and the treeless mountains all around.

michi on salmivaara, with saana in the background

back to the campsite after our daily hike, we have dinner, check our email too, at the retkeilykeskus, the hiking centre. and then we have to rest, because we have a long hike planned for the next day.

day 12 photos

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