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Hidden away at the top end of Europe lies an unspoilt, magical winter wonderland where daylight is scarce for part of the year and reindeer outnumber people five to one. Santa Claus takes residence here, enjoying some of the cleanest air that Europe has to offer. Winter days are filled with snowy adventures and stunning scenery, whilst the icy nights provide a backdrop of a million stars against the ethereal display of the Aurora Borealis. This is true Lapland.

A trip to this part of the world has been the top of many people’s bucket list and is becoming more popular due to the craving for snow many Brits can’t quench at home. Although many websites can provide you with tips on the best places to stay, cheap flights and thrill-seeker excursions, there seems to be a lack of personal ‘tricks of the trade’ tips from someone who has spent considerable time in Lapland. So, after spending the last six months working as an Outdoor Instructor for Transun’s supplier, I have put together my top five tips for a trip to Lapland. 

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The Sami heritage is rich and colourful, and the traditions of today’s Sami have their roots in the customs of ancestors past. Here, expert Alice Hicklin of the University of Cambridge, gives a brief introduction to the ancient Sami…

Although there were references to ancestors if the Sami people in the works of Tacitus in the first century AD, it is not until the year 555 AD that the first reference is made to the ‘Skridfinns’, the people from whom today’s Sami are traditionally descended. During the Viking age, the Skirdfinns made the northern part of Scandinavia their home. These early Sami groups settled in territories which were divided into social and economic units. By the turn of the millennium, contact between groups had led to a more ‘pan-Sami’ culture, evidenced by the similarities in artefacts and religious practices.

Although the Viking believed the Sami to be in inferior to them, they nevertheless greatly respected them for their magic and healing powers. Norse and Sami religions overlapped somewhat in their use of ‘seior’ (divination) and belief in magical clothing and weapons. In the Icelandic Sagas of the twelfth century the Sami often took on roles such as shamans, healers or spiritual advisors in their stories.

At this time, there were clear divisions between the Nordic and Sami peoples, though there were little hostility between the two. The two societies lived in a kind of symbiosis, and there are even records of marriages between Norwegians kings and Sami women.

Sami also played an important role in the economy of the Viking age, trading in high status objects such as falcons, luxurious furs and walrus tusks; they also developed a sophisticated monetary system and created their own currency called the ‘tjoervie’.

One of the most frequent descriptions of the medieval Sami is their great talent for skiing. A description given to the court of King Alfred in England referred to the ‘Skridfinns’, which translates into ‘skiing Sami.’ Adam of Bremen, writing in the 11th century, mentioned that the Skirdfinns moved around on skiis in the area between Swedes and Norwegians. The Sami also crafted and traded in skiis with Nordic people, and their prowess in this area was attested from the ninth to the nineteenth century.

According to genetic DNA research, the Sami have a different genetic disposition to other peoples in Europe, which might suggest they emanate from a much older western European population.

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With the two giant heavyweights, Australia and New Zealand, facing off against each other tomorrow in the Rugby World Cup final, most people don’t even realise that Finland have a rugby team. They are 93rd in the world rankings out of a possible 102 nations.

Finland was the last of the major Nordic countries to take up rugby. Both Denmark and Sweden started playing in the 20th century and more recently Norway in the 1980’s. Finnish rugby started to grow during the 1990’s and there are now 577 players registered with the Suomen Rugbylitto.

Finland played their first ever rugby international in 1982 against Switzerland, which they lost. Finland went onto win their first international in 1991, defeating Norway 18 points to 3. Finland's attempt to qualify for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France began in Round 1 of the European tournaments. They faced Bulgaria in a 2 match series, but lost both by a large margin seeing them knocked out of the tournament.

In 2000, Helsinki RFC made Finnish rugby history, when they beat a team from HMS Sheffield, a vessel in the British Royal Navy.

They also have a women’s 7’s team which has grown in the last 3 years considerably which has seen them rise up the divisions In 2015 the team went above the self-set expectations by finishing in 2nd place at the Division A tournament held in Kaunas. 

Stephen Whittaker, the men’s national team manager was quoted in saying “A lot of expats play, but now a lot of Finns play. There are a lot of French, Australians, Kiwis, English and Irish. When I started playing there were probably 90% expats and 10% Finns; I’d say it’s probably the other way around now," showing that this is a growing sport in the country and may even give England a run for their money…

Finland may not be as spoilt for choice as other Northern and Southern hemisphere countries in regards to home-grown talent but they obviously face a challenge with the climate and landscape of the country. Their season is very short between June and September so they have to cram in as many games as possible to make it worthwhile before it can drop to temperatures of -30 degrees! The phrase ‘sisu’ describes the people of Finland andcan’t be translated directly into any other language but roughly translates as possessing relentless willpower to overcome any obstacle, to endure and to succeed so hopefully they can withstand these harsh conditions and continue to grow.

Our breaks operate to North Finland during the winter nights, so why not switch rugby balls for snowballs in a magical place where you can traverse the Arctic landscape via snowmobile, husky and reindeer! Take a look at our Northern Lights packages and book now. View our Arctic Spirit brochure here.

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