There is a saying that every year one should do something new. Today I did three new things, namely, snowshoeing, swimming in a frozen lake, and whipping myself with beech twigs. It’s all been very Scandinavian.
Snowshoeing allows one to have something of the experience of a bear lumbering across the snow, impervious to lumps and hollows thanks to one’s enormous red plastic paws. It is quite tiring, so after two hours we were glad to stop for a snack and a cup of hot chocolate, which I expect bears also enjoy after a spot of lumbering.
The second two items were courtesy of an excursion billed as a “Forest sauna retreat” with sausage, rather than a “Luxury sauna on a frozen lake”, which makes me suspect that oddly, there may be people out there who would prefer a sausage to a swim in a frozen lake. It was magical, deep in the forest as dusk was falling, next to a lake entirely frozen except for our little swimming hole, the sauna right next to the water. It also had the huge benefit of allowing the seven of us who went to become acclimatised to the water in our own way and time. Finally, it had stylish little towelling sauna hats which you could keep on for your swim and in the hot tubs modelled below by me.
I also learnt three new things today, apart from the fact that whipping yourself with birch twigs feels much as you would expect it to. These were all courtesy of the wonderful Arktikum, the museum of the Arctic, and are:
1. Reindeers’ legs and muzzles are only 14°, by contrast with the 38° of the rest of their bodies, to protect them from frostbite. 2. Rovaniemi was burnt to the ground in 1944 by the retreating Germans, 95% of its buildings being destroyed in the conflagration.
3. Smiling was illegal in Lapland until 1957.