Monday, October 19, 2015

A Cabin in the Woods of Lapland

After hanging out with Santa in his 'hood for the day we headed back to the train station, retrieved our luggage, and caught the bus to Äkäslompolo, in Lapland Finland. It was a 2 1/2 drive north in the dark (even though it was only 3pm if I remember). We had the bus drop us off at the tiny airport and from there grabbed a cab which took us the rest of the way to the village itself. It was a dark and very foggy drive through the ski resorts. Some of the big pine trees flanking the road were beautifully lit up, creating a nice series of tree lampposts if you will.

As we entered the village our taxi had to slow down because reindeer were walking in the middle of the road in front of our car. We all started to "ooh" and "ahh" while our driver shrugged and proclaimed "ah, Lapland!"

We found our rental, the Aurora Cabin, and could not have been more charmed. A small log cabin, in a little subdivision, right on the edge of the forest. We had both a front porch, complete with plastic toboggans, as well as a back porch that looked out to the woods. Inside the upstairs had a big loft and bathroom, while downstairs had two bedrooms flanking the kitchen and living room. The living room had a sweet little fireplace and the cabin was stocked with small round, birch logs which smelled great when we burned them. And the bathroom had a sauna which seated 4!

The next morning Forest and I headed to the store to stock up for the upcoming five days. We realized as we saw others walking to the main area of town that people used their toboggans to transport their groceries. We hadn't brought ours but passed a sledding area with some semi-busted up ones that looked abandoned so we borrowed a couple.

We absolutely loved our cabin in the woods! We spent the days going on walks, playing in the snow, reading by the fire, sweating in our sauna, and playing games. Total relaxation.

Of course we had a very busy New Years Eve!

We booked a few other excursions as well. On our first full day, after our friends Matthieu and Violaine arrived, we went night snowshoeing through the national forest with a private guide. We all had hoped to see the Northern Lights but it was cloudy (our entire time in Lapland) and actively snowing that night. It was still a great hike though, about 2 1/2 hours total in really deep snow! We had a rest stop halfway at a little shelter that hikers use. There is a fire pit as well as kettles and pans that people are allowed to use, and expected to clean and leave for the next. Our guide made us coffee (which we spiked) and served us pulla, which are traditional Finnish sweet rolls. 

Another day we arranged for a trip out to a Husky Farm which was a big highlight for us all. Again each couple was given their own sled and dog team to drive. We headed 5k to the Ice Village and Hotel through lovely scenery- with dogs barking their heads off!!
We took about an hour and explored the Ice Hotel, including its chapel and bar (which sadly wasn't open yet). Then warmed up with some salmon soup before getting back to our dog team and heading home.

On our last day in the village we rented a traditional wood heated sauna in a private cabin that sat on the frozen lake.

For 60 Euro we had it to ourselves for an hour. The main room had a fireplace, a picnic table to eat and drink at, and hooks for our clothes. Once you stripped down (to swimsuits in our case) you could enter the huge and HOT sauna. This thing was heated to 194F. There was a hose that came in directly from the lake and filled a large barrel which you could douse yourself with to cool off a bit.

Or you could jump in the lake, which some did. I did not.

You just can't get more Finnish than all of that!

We had some tasty meals in Äkäslompolo also. There was a pizza place in town that served really interesting pies with ingredients like salmon, smoked reindeer, and bear. We went more than once over 5 days as the pizza was really good. And yes, I did try bear pizza!

One night we went to dinner at Poro Restaurant which was located pretty much directly behind our cabin and across a field. The building boasted Santa's Workshop upstairs and a chance to meet him, which we all did. As we went to leave for the dining room we were all informed that we owed 6 Euro each for the visit. Naughty Santa.

Although the service was quite slow our dinners were all very good downstairs. The menu was heavy on reindeer and the decor inside resembled a traditional lodge of sorts.
We also had dinner at the casual pub style place call Julli's  which was fun and and easy to walk to. For our last dinner in town we went to Rouhe which we took a cab to and from as it was a bit farther. Food, atmosphere, and service here were all excellent!

And a lot of time we just cooked in our little cabin in the woods.

Photos from Akaslompolo here

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