Hi, everyone! I’m enjoying the snowy weather we’re having here in Lyngby, especially because nothing will ever be quite as cold as life in Lapland. Tonight, I’m baking The New York Times chocolate chip cookies, which use dark chocolate instead of chocolate chips (which are an import here!). I’m also excited about having accepted an internship at IBM in Zurich, Switzerland for the summer. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here’s the website for my group:
I wasn’t really expecting to get the internship, because the opportunity was only sent out to graduate students. My boss (Dr. Douglas Dykeman) has been great about moving the application process along for a Swiss work permit, and I’m looking forward to working with such a friendly and intelligent person. I was also accepted into a research position at TU Munich, but IBM is paying for travel and housing on top of the standard salary. That’s hard to beat! Let the adventures in Europe continue!
Immediately after the Danish trip, I took a week-long trip around Lapland, a cultural region (home to the Sami people) which lies mostly above the Arctic Circle and spans Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. Here’s a map:
On the first day, I flew from Copenhagen to Helsinki, and then met up with our group of international students to take a 15-hour bus ride up to Saariselka, where we lived for the week. Eventually we would even take a day-trip even farther north to the Arctic Sea!
Here’s my flight via Finnair:
And Helsinki in the snow:
My companions and I took shelter from the cold in a cafe downtown and slept on the bus. When we woke up, it looked like this:
…and we made our first stop at the Snow Castle! Like the Ice Palace, this building was carved entirely out of snow.
This Snow Castle even had an ice-slide. Afterwards, we made another stop at “Santa’s” house, where you can take a picture with Santa Claus and see reindeer. To Santa’s credit, he really did speak a few words of every language spoken by our international students.. even Catalan and Japanese! However, some of the gift shops at Santa’s house were a little creepy. This was an entire room filled with animal furs… my friend Shawn convinced me to wear one.
Even Santa’s reindeer weren’t spared:
Finally, we arrived at our beautiful mountain villas. There were eight of us in our cabin, and we had great views of the mountains and our own sauna. The Finnish tradition is to stay in the sauna until you can’t take the heat any longer and then jump in the snow three times, so you can be sure that we did it nearly every night.
Every day was a new adventure! The first day after our arrival were dog-sledding and snowmobiling activities. Even though I chose to pay to try snowmobiling instead of dog-sledding (which I’ve technically already done), I jumped on the bus for the husky-farm anyways and got to play with the husky puppies while the other students went dog-sledding! Not much of a loss, is it?
Afterwards, we all got suited up to go snowmobiling. Here’s me driving:
And here’s the total wilderness around us on the excursion:
As soon as I got home, I went straight back outside into the cold to climb up the little mountain behind our villas. Check out the view:
Here’s the ski resort, too. While I never went skiing up there, we did take Europe’s longest tobogganing run down the same mountain! (Mom- this is where your donut postcard came from.)
The next day was the most exciting of all. We jumped back on the bus to go to the Arctic Ocean, where I went swimming, of course.
Take me to the river:
I apologize for the window-shots, but I couldn’t pass up on these awesome mountains:
In this town, we listened to a local Sami woman explain to us why it is our responsibility to prevent global warming. They also served us the most amazing salmon soup I’ve ever had in my life! I went to ask Else for the recipe, but the soup is apparently only made by one man in the village and even SHE can’t get the secret recipe out of him! All she knows is that it’s made entirely from scratch- even the salmon bones go into making the stock. So, if you want the soup, you have to go to Bugoynes yourself!
Even the cats there were bundled-up and friendly:
The reindeer are so numerous that they are allowed to roam freely in herds, branded with the mark of their farm. Once a year, the farmers come out to brand the newly-born baby reindeer. However, reindeer are not allowed to cross country borders (here, between Finland and Norway).
Tobogganing with some Finns:
Of course, we all went straight into the sauna as soon as we were home. And then the snow. And then the sauna. And so on! We were also checking the night sky for the Northern Lights, but to no avail… every night would be either snowy or cloudy until the last night.
We visited a reindeer farm on the last day. Reindeer sleighs are much slower than husky sleds:
Afterwards, everyone except the vegetarians cooked reindeer-sausages over a fire and listened to the Sami reindeer farmer sing a traditional Sami song. The singing style is called “yoiking”, and here’s an example:
This is my Polish friend Tomek enjoying his reindeer and being goofy:
That night we saw the Northern Lights. What an amazing sight! The Lights appear much whiter than they do in photographs. My friend Jas took a truly incredible picture of them as “Santa” went by:
At last, we were back in Helsinki for a day before our flights back to Copenhagen. This time, we had more opportunity to go sightseeing. My group went to four churches, but the most interesting by far was the “Rock Church” at the end.
“The Chapel of Silence”:
And, finally, the Rock Church:
I know that was a lot of pictures again, but it was quite the eventful week! I hope you’re all doing well in the U.S. and eating plenty of bagels for me. More updates are sure to come when I get back from visiting Sandra in Germany! Tschuss for now!