Not only a continuation of Christmas, but the location of where I stood and watched the Northern lights!
An annual ski trip became a regular feature of my life, pretty much as of January 2004 onwards, and leafing through ski brochures drew my attention to Levi
, a compact and mysterious-looking ski resort in the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. I figured that on this particular occasion, I would have to brave the cold more than I have ever had to at any one point in the past, so with my thermals at the ready, I checked in at the Crazy Reindeer hotel in Levi, and the Lappish adventure began to unfold. The hotel was nicely located in an area not too far from the slopes, and one or two nearby shopping options, and since the hours of daylight in the region in January were short, I was relying on illuminated pistes, as well as a sense of orientation which would allow me to make a hasty retreat should darkness descend quickly (as was the case!) when I was too far from the main slopes.
Intricate ice chandelier at the end of the entrance corridor of Sweden's Ice Hotel
Skiing across the Tundra was, in general terms, a truly surreal and invigorating experience, and the vast realm of emptiness and scenery which confronted me was nothing short of a truly world-class travel experience in every sense of the word. I encountered easily the most uncrowded slopes I have ever skied on to date, and my attempt at capturing the ski terrain and action on film with a camcorder produced some commendable effects which I am still somewhat proud of even today - that's to say, bare-handed filming with barely a hint of shakey camera syndrome to spoil it! An evening out with two Lappish entertainers, accompanied by a Lappish buffet at a local venue was magical, especially when all the guests rushed out at one point having been alerted by their childrens' cries that they could see the Northern Lights, a wondrous sight which is still etched on my mind to this day! The excursion highlight of the entire trip came, however, when I set off by coach to see the Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland, a 4-hour drive away, and a guided tour of the Ice Chapel before a buffet lunch, mainly consisting of reindeer and mash, constituted the first part of the plan.
One of the Ice hotel's many rooms, replete with reindeer skin bed cover
The next section of the day trip involved yet another priceless piece of video footage, and something which to this day will never escape my soul, nor indeed thaw out like the Ice Hotel, only to be reconstructed again at a later stage. I moved from room to room marvelling at the icy decor of the work-of-art sculpting which constitued each room's own style, and I felt truly awestruck by the time I had reached the Ice Theatre at the back of the hotel proper, which looked half completed, but I was told was due to start putting on shows the following evening(!) With the temperature plummeting down to minus 26 degrees on my final day in Levi, I could barely hold my ski poles straight, but it all ceased to matter since the mystique of the entire region had already radiated enough warm-spiritedness to see me through the chilly climate, and yet again, I departed out of Kittila
airport with a lucky-to-be-alive sensation which I usually associate with a like-minded invigorating travel experience.
The Ice Bar at Sweden's pioneering Ice Hotel