Monday, July 17, 2017

Chasing the Northern Lights in Finland

In January of 2016, Kyle and I ventured north to the Arctic Circle in Inari, Finland with our friends, Nate and Linda.  We were in search of the Northern Lights, but we did a lot of other fun stuff while we were there!  

Inari, Finland is in an area of Finland called Lapland.  We stayed in a hotel at the edge of the huge (and very frozen) Lake Inari.  I wouldn't really go so far as calling Inari a town.  It consisted of a hotel, a winter sports shop, a grocery store and a handful of other buildings.  Luckily, we weren't there to see a town.  We had a lot on our itinerary!  We got to our hotel very late, after a flight with two layovers.  As you can imagine, it was extremely cold; the kind of cold that takes your breath away.  They were even having a "warm spell" when we first arrived, and each day got a bit colder. The sun never rose above the horizon, but it was actually brighter than I thought it would be. Between about 10:30 am and 3:00 pm, it was bright enough to look like a very gloomy, overcast day.

On our first day in the Arctic circle, we went dog sledding, which was a blast!  The dogs were all husky mixes, but much smaller than you would imagine...probably because they actually get the amount of exercise that they're supposed to.  It was easy to tell that they love running!  The dogs were all hooked up to the sleds when we arrived, and they were ready to go!  After a brief demonstration we were off!  Kyle and I took turns driving the sled.  It was so much fun! 

Linda's photo

When we returned, we helped to unhitch and feed the dogs.  They were fed a big bowl of hot broth.  We had hot punch and a fire waiting for us in a teepee.

Later that night we had a sleigh ride, complete with reindeer and all!  There are a ton of reindeer in Finland.  We each had our own two-seater sleigh that was piled up with fur blankets and pulled by one reindeer.  We didn't catch any northern lights, but it was very peaceful and relaxing.

When we got back to the hotel, we went for a stroll out on the lake.  We thought we saw northern lights, but it turns out they were just light columns; a phenomenon that happens under certain conditions.

Light columns

The next day was pretty laid back.  We went to the Sami museum to learn about the culture of the people native to Finland.  It was a very nice museum considering it's location!  We did a bit of shopping at the one shop in town after the museum.  We bought some very cool knives that all of the Finnish men carried around with them.

That afternoon, we had a little cross country skiing lesson.  Linda and Nate have done some skiing, but it was the first time Kyle and I have ever been on skis.  It was a lot of fun, and a really good work out!!  Kyle didn't lug around his camera with us, so here are just a few cell phone pics:

That night we went snow shoeing in search of the Northern lights.  They escaped us again, but it was still really nice.  It's so calm and quiet trekking through the knee deep snow in the middle of an evergreen forest in the Arctic circle.  We stopped to make a fire and have some hot punch in the forest before heading back to the hotel.  We had our fingers crossed for Northern lights the next night since it would be our last night there!

The next day was our snow mobiling day.  We followed our guide onto the frozen Lake Inari to first visit an island that had been traditionally used as a graveyard by the ancient Sami people.  We spent a few more hours visiting different spots around the area that had cultural significance.

We stopped for lunch over a fire a little over halfway through.  My feet were nothing but big blocks of ice!!  I think I could have stepped on those hot coals without feeling a thing!!

That evening we headed out again on the snow mobiles to search for Northern lights, and we thankfully got to see them!!  We stopped first at a location in the middle of the lake before moving on to a darker spot.  Luckily, we timed our trip to be there during a new moon so that we could see the lights even better.

We went back to a spot where we had been earlier that day to see if we could get some more good views of the sky.  We were not disappointed!  It was so amazing to the green lights shimmer and move across the sky.  For the best viewing, you have to avoid looking at any light for a as long as possible to get your eyes used to the dark.  Even looking at the lights on your camera makes a difference in how well you can see the lights.

The pretty wooden church we saw that afternoon looks very sinister in this shot...

By the time we got to the hotel, I thought that my feet were going to fall off from being so cold (I even had foot warmers in my boots!), but we were absolutely thrilled that we were finally able to see the Northern lights.  It was definitely an item crossed off of the bucket list!

We had such a fun trip to the Arctic circle, and it was made even better by travelling with great friends!  I highly recommend going to Finland for winter adventures that are exciting, and a cheaper option than Norway.  If you ever get the chance to go chase the Aurora Borealis, take it!  It will become a life long memory!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Guynn Christmas in Germany

Last December, the Guynn family met up at our house in Germany to spend Christmas together. Cory, Lynn and our niece, Olive, flew in from London while Kyle's parents, John and Diane, made the long journey from Indianapolis.  While Christmas was pretty warm and definitely not white, Germany is a beautiful place to be around the holidays.  We had a wonderful time together and Kyle and I always love having customers at the Guynn B & B!

Kyle wasn't able to take off tons of time during the visit, so while Kyle was working, we took advantage of the cheerful Christmas markets.  My favorite is the Medieval Christmas market in Esslingen, which we grazed our way around on everyone's first day here.  We also went to the enormous and beautifully decorated market in downtown Stuttgart. 

At the market in Esslingen

A "medieval" ferris wheel in Esslingen

Taking Olive for a ride was a good excuse for Cory to ride the train! 

Kyle was able to take a long weekend off so that we could travel to the quaint town of Garmisch at the foot of the German Alps.  We rented a pretty little apartment and enjoyed the cheerful little town and the beauty of the surrounding nature.  We had wonderful weather for our hike through the awesome Partnachklamm gorge!  Once we made our way through the gorge, we continued up a ways to have lunch on a terrace with beautiful views.  Luckily, we were able to take a cable car down since we were all a bit tired!

Lynn's pic

Lynn's pic

Lynn's pic

We took advantage of the clear skies that evening and headed up via cable car to the Zugspitze; Germany's highest mountain peak. The lighting and views were absolutely gorgeous!

As it just so happens, my cousin and her husband, Christy and Dan, were working in Garmisch when we were there, so we got to meet up with them! They came to our apartment where we enjoyed some cheese and chocolate fondue for dinner.  While the cheese was stinky, it was delicious and it was really fun seeing Christy and Dan!

Garmisch is such a pretty, atmospheric town that is ideal for the holidays!  We spent plenty of time enjoying the colorful painted buildings in the historic town center.

Lynn's pic; Olive loved her German baby from Grandma!

On our way home, we drove right by Germany's most famous castle, Neuschwanstein, so of course we had to stop!  We took a tour of the castle before heading back.

Lynn's pic

We had a nice, relaxing Christmas at home.  I enjoyed doing a lot of cooking, and Olive opened a lot of fun presents from everyone! 

Merry Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa!

I love a good brunch!

The day after Christmas was so warm and sunny, we decided to go to the zoo (along with the rest of Stuttgart)!  While it was difficult finding parking, we had a great time once we got there!  The Stuttgart zoo is a very pretty one!

We took advantage of the sun and did some hiking around our house. I guess if it's not going to be snowy for the holidays, warm and sunny is a good option!

Watching Cory play with his Christmas present...can you find it?

Our last German feast before everyone heads out!

I know I must be forgetting something since I'm so behind on blogging, but we had a great time being together for the holidays!  We really appreciated everyone making the trip to Germany since Kyle couldn't take a lot of time off.  We always love our time when we can all get together in the same country!  This Christmas we are looking forward to having another little Guynn join in the festivities!