Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Blinded by the Light

(Photo Credit: Moose; a clever guy's solution to the problem of the mid-summer Arctic sun, rolling through Finland, 6/29/08)

Post Card from Scandinavia (#1)

Dear Roxie and Legions of Loyal Fans,

I'm sorry I've been such a poor correspondent on this trip. We were pretty busy with the conference in Oulu, and we've spent a fair amount of time in various stages and types of transit (a couple of six-hour train rides and a bus trip that lasted, um, 432 years in dog years, I think, but we had lots of fun and a good bit of wine along the way), which has limited access to the internets and time for blogging. We are in Stockholm now, though, and will explore this lovely city for a couple of days before another long train ride to Oslo on Thursday to rendezvous with our dear friend Janne and her family. We are eagerly, even wildly, anticipating our reunion with Janne. Aside from the delight of seeing her for the first time in four years, we look forward to the comforts of Janne's several homes (the house in town, the cabin on the North Sea, and the hut in the mountains!), as well as home-cooked food. I have promised to prepare a beer-can chicken for the Norwegians, who are amazed by the ingenious American knack for finding clever things to do with beer cans and chicken bottoms.

Here are a couple of pics from our long day's journey into not-night earlier this week, which took us -- hooray! -- inside the Arctic Circle, which, it turns out, does not have polar bears or icebergs or special lanes for dog sleds on the highways. Who knew? We learned in the course of our long, long day (we left Oulu at 9:30 a.m. and returned at nearly 4 the next morning) several other important facts, including, let's see, that actual reindeer are not nearly as cute as cartoon reindeer and they do not have red noses:

We learned that a girl can get by with a sleeveless top on certain days of the Arctic summer, but if she tries it she'd better have nuclear-powered mosquito repellent. Here we are with a couple of our travel buds, whom we might call Papa Bear and Baby Bear or the Urbane Champaignians, though we know several of those at this point. Anyway, don't forget the bug spray if you're headed to the Arctic, kids. They've got mosquitoes up there that make our Washington critters look as harmless as Obama at a FISA debate.

Oh, and just because I could, I got all goofy and fierce-looking straddling the boundary of the Arctic Circle at Santa's village. Note to children: Santa lives in Finland, not the North Pole. Please direct your pathetic pleas for more crap you don't need or deserve to the proper address. Here's me:

And here's Santa's address:

And here's a pretty lake in Oulanka National Park, where we took a 3-mile hike during our long, long day:

And here's a pretty church in Helsinki, the name and denomination of which I failed to note:

And here are a couple of pretty shots of the old town and harbor in Stockholm, just to prove to you that we are actually here:

It's 2 a.m. in Stockholm, kids. Time to go to bed! We're far enough south now that it actually gets dark for a few hours. You'd think that would help us get back to some kind of normal sleep schedule, but that doesn't seem to have happened. What the heck -- We can sleep when we're dead, right?

Peace and love to all and thanks to Roxie for letting me borrow her humble little corner of the blogosphere for self-indulgent trip pics and commentary again. Oh, and apologies to the Pretty Boys for the lack of mouth-watering descriptions of meals in this post, but, hey, we've been in Finland. If it costs less than 7 trillion dollars, I don't want to write about it, and you don't want to read about it.

Much love,

P.S. Apologies also for the lack of links in this post. I had a clever one on the Obama allusion, but Blogger isn't cooperating. I'll update later if I can.

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