We bid farewell to Norway today, driving through the last of the Finnmark region via the E6 and crossing through to Finland. It’s a grey drizzly day, which is just as well as we spend most of it on the road.
We’re so close here to all the borders, Sweden, Finland, Russia. It never ceases to amaze me how close the European countries are and how clearly they influence each other’s food and language near their edges.
This last stretch of road in Norway, for all the beauty the country has delivered, is unremarkable, broken up only by the occasional reindeer sightings. They are keeping a much lower profile today – not too fond of getting rained on perhaps.
I’m really sorry to be leaving Norway; I’ve fallen completely under its spell and grandeur. In the world of sightseeing and natural beauty, Norway is the supermodel. Impossibly perfect, photographs impeccably and just a little out of reach.
We cross though to Finland in the early afternoon. The border is on the Tana river and there is virtually no crossing control bar a declaration via lane choice – something to declare, or not. We have nothing to declare and zoom through without being stopped. We’re in!
The northern part of Finland is Lappland. It sounds like the name of a place in a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Lappland is also home to the traditional Sami people, only 6,000 of whom remain in the northern parts of Scandinavia fiercely protecting what’s left of their language and culture.
On crossing, we’re on the E75 south, bound for Inari. Now I’m pretty sure that nature pays no heed to borders, but astoundingly, Finland is almost immediately different to Norway. The most immediate change is the road, dead straight, a roller coaster of ups and downs. Not that there are mountains here – the highest elevations are mere babies, bordering in between 300 – 500 metres. The forest is also different. Endless pine with only a smattering of silver birch in small sections and no spruce. But none of these are what catch my eye.
It’s mushrooms that stop me in my tracks.
Endless mushrooms of all types, colours, sizes and shapes line the sides of the road, many larger than my handspan. They’re fascinating. Chris eventually gives in to pleading and pulls over so I can photograph a few, the most beautiful of which are bright red ones, dotted with white specks.
The only thing missing is a fairy perched on top. Or perhaps hiding from the rain beneath. Google tells me that 2,000 varieties of mushrooms grow in Finland, but only 200 are edible. I’m sure I recognise many edible varieties but I dare not risk it.
We see reindeer – the whole of Lapp land is a reindeer rich area, some of which are herded by the Sami, others run wild. We won’t make Inari tonight, it’s too far. We do make it about half way and settle for the night. Lots to explore tomorrow.