Northern Lights and

Icy Days

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Who's on first?

The map of Scandinavia is one of the most confusing you might ever see. Depending on a lot of stuff no one understands it can have between 3 and 7 counties that are considered part of Scandinavia.

What's called The Nordic Region consists of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, as well as the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland.

Then there's Scandinavia - a subregion in Northern Europe, with strong ties between its peoples. In English usage, Scandinavia most commonly refers to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. But, it can sometimes also refer more narrowly to the Scandinavian Peninsula (which excludes Denmark but includes part of Finland), or more broadly to include all of Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. Or who knows?

Officially Finland is generally not considered part of Scandinavia. Some say it should for geologic and

economic reasons, so some maps put them in.

So, we'll stick with Scandinavia being Norway,

Sweden, and Denmark and Norden will be

Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Or we can just lay this all aside and move on.

Good idea.

Sometimes it gets rainy or hot and humid and you need a break. Say, somewhere around zero degrees and people...like it.

Harold Fujii, our retired Hawaiian Airlines Captain who still has the need to travel, took off to Scandinavia to chase the Northern Lights.

The land of  frolicking in the snow and swimming in the icy water.

Let's tag along.

One thing they seem to like to do in these countries is jump into cold water in the winter. It's supposed to be good for you.

Here's a short walk into the Arctic Ocean above the Arctic Circle.

According to the weather reports the ocean water at this area was 33 degrees.

Talk about a Polar Bear plunge - sooo cold it was painful.

Joined by my wife Lorenne and RHS'69 alumni Nellis Kunieda, we hooked up with a tour headed northeast to Scandinavia. As explained above, Scandinavia can be a lot of different places so let's just leave it as cold, beautiful and lots of fun.

We're having such a wonderful time.

So far we have been to Denmark and Norway and experienced many epic things. You see that icy thing? That's an Ice Hotel and everything is built from ice blocks. Epic!

Come summer it all melts and they have to rebuild it each year when it gets cold again.The rooms you stay in are cold (!) and you sleep on an ice bed wrapped in a special sleeping bag. There's no shower or toilet because how's that going to work? So there's special warm rooms down each hall where they handle that stuff.

No worries about your drinks getting warm in the bar.

Then we toured the Royal Palace of Denmark - kinda reminded me of touring the Iolani Palace.

Amalienborg is the official residence for the Danish royal family in Copenhagen. Queen Margrethe ll lives there during winter and autumn.

I have no idea where they go the rest of the time.

A basic King Crab safari. These things grow big in cold water.

Another area of big crabs is the Bering Sea off Alaska.

We look like astronauts.

Today we went husky dog sledding - was good fun but too short.

If it sounds familiar it's the same as the Alaska Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, more commonly known as The Iditarod.

At 900-miles it's a whole lot longer then our sled ride was.

The Arctic Circle Santa Claus Village, an UN sanctioned Santa Village, now surrounds the cabin and hundreds of thousands of visitors a year visit.

The line to sit with Santa was an hour long so no one from our group was able to see him

The Arctic Circle passes through the Village so we took a picture with Lorenne on one side and me on the other side of the Arctic Circle.

Also Nellis and I had our picture taken at a Roosevelt cottage.

Santa Claus Village, located on the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, is one of the main tourist destinations in that part of the world.

At the center of the village is a tiny, unique cabin containing an exhibition on the history of tourism on the Arctic Circle.

It's a fascinating story on how a small cabin in the woods by the Arctic Circle was named for a U.S. president and his wife.

The city of Rovaniemi was destroyed during World War II. The United Nations funded for its reconstruction.

The city was burned almost to the ground by the retreating German army. Over 90% of the buildings were destroyed, and the city and its surrounding region were littered with landmines as the Germans fled.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of president Franklin D. Roosevelt, decided to visit Rovaniemi in the summer of 1950, so she could monitor the progress of the post-war reconstruction first-hand. The First Lady also said she wanted to cross the Arctic Circle while there.

The word of her coming reached Rovaniemi only two weeks before her arrival. There was nothing there. It was all empty marsh land. They got to work...

The government pulled in a hotel company that agreed to construct a cabin at the Arctic Circle for Roosevelt’s welcoming ceremony. By-the-way, the Arctic Circle cabin had to be erected and finished in less than two weeks.

It was designed overnight by a local architect. The project then passed on to an experienced construction crew.

The logs for the building were pulled straight out of the Ounasjoki river only eight days before her arrival. To keep it simple the instructions simply said:  the number of logs needed be “enough to build a house that can host a bus load of people.”

The cabin is built in only a week.

Its doors were installed as Roosevelt's plane was landing at the airport.

On Sunday, June 11th, 1950, the people of Rovaniemi welcomed the First Lady with the local choir, Lapin Lauluveikot, and a warm atmosphere for this historic day. We dub thee the Roosevelt Cabin.

Santa Claus Village grows up around the Roosevelt cottage.

In addition to bringing hope for a better tomorrow to the people of Lapland, Mrs. Roosevelt’s visit was also of paramount importance for local tourism.  The Roosevelt cabin marked the first effort to attract a growing number of visitors to stop at the Arctic Circle, enjoy a cup of coffee, buy souvenirs and send a postcard home bearing the special Arctic Circle postmark.

When she was done, Mrs. Roosevelt walked over and crossed the line into the Arctic Circle.

And the highlight of the trip is right here. Hot off the camera and even more spectacular in person.

I like this map. It shows in our world of trains and boats and planes it's still can be crazy to get where you're going.

Lots of plane rides, many days of long bus rides and several overnights on a ferry or cruise ship.

And here we are. It was all worth it.

When we're doing a group thing, this is how they haul us around. Fun. Cold.

We're on an ice breaker plowing our way to wherever.

And when it stops the crew makes a swimming hole, we get dressed up and jump in.

I'm now an aquanaut.

This is what happens after lunch when you tell them, "Oops, I left my wallet in the hotel."

It's not exactly lazing by the river on a summer afternoon - but fishin' is fishin'.

Great fun with a raindeer sliegh ride.

We checked - no red noses.

Harold's friend from the Black Lagoon.

Here we are in Iceland. Breathtaking, isn't it?

This is one of the 25 Wonders of the modern world - the Blue Lagoon resort and spa. Drawing visitor's from all over the wrold, it's the most popular attraction in Iceland.

Just thought I'd mention it is a requirement to shower naked in public before entering the lagoon, to ensure that the highest hygiene standards are maintained.

We ate Minsk whale meat, elk, lots of reindeer and fish dishes including eating shark.

We toured each country’s major city.

The “Little Mermaid” in Copenhagen Denmark, Helsinki’s famous Cathedral, Stockholm’s gold gilded walls reception hall where those that win the Nobel Award are honored, to Iceland’s famous Gullfoss Waterfall and Geyser National Park.

In Helsinki, Finland is the Sibelius Monument, dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibeliu.

It consists of series of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern. Like a pipe organ, the wind passes through the pipes and make "music".

Art is in the ear of the beholder.

It was a marvelous, fun filled trip, full of life long memories.

We recommend this Air and Sea tour to everyone - such a bucket list trip.

Having said that, I still don’t understand how people live in such frigid places.

I mean we had 3+ layers on the bottom and 4+ layers on the top and we still froze our buns off.

Lucky we live Hawaii - Land of the “Endless Summer”