Here we are, just drivin' through Finland, when we come to an abrupt halt because we've officially reached reindeer territory. There are loads of them, just milling about on the highway. Here they are, calmly oblivious to the incessant honking directed at them:
We aren't among the annoyed horn blarers, though. We pull over to take pictures, of course.
Right around the time we've gotten used to the idea of seeing reindeer on the highway, we pass a field full of what appears to be… scarecrow zombies? Always up for investigating a roadside oddity, we pull over to have a look.
It's an art exhibit called "The Silent People", created by a man who refuses to state what the significance of the piece is, instead encouraging the viewer to decide upon a personal meaning of their own. Having experienced more than my fair share of art critiques in college, I couldn't care less about its deep, underlying meaning.
What I do find fascinating, is how a few simple, inanimate objects such as two pieces of wood, a hunk of earth, and an old garment, can be assembled in such a way as to leave me with a distinctly creepy and unsettling feeling. Cool!
Apparently, the Silent People are dressed in new outfits twice a year. Hopefully they get warmer stuff than this for the months they get dumped on with Arctic snow!
In the Silent People gift shop, I see this poster and it makes me happy; I really like knowing how to spot local edible foods.
So, it's now about three thirty and we're sitting in the car, parked in a shady spot by a church. Tyler is taking a break to address some work emails. I'm reclined in the driver's seat with my leg hanging out of the window, reading. We will be on our way to some town shortly (I can't recall the name, but it has a lot of 'u's and umlats over a several letters), when this conversation occurs:
Tara What's in this town again?
Tyler *breaks from work to check online* Hmmm, not much. Butttt, in the nearby town of Kusamo, there's… *checks online again* well, also not a lot.
Tara Wait, aren't we in Kusamo?
Tyler No, no, we're still a few kilometers away.
I look at the screen to where Tyler has pulled up a few pages about the town, including it's wikipedia page. I look at the photos, and then I look out the window at the church parking lot.
Tara Yeah, but wait. Isn't that the church right there in the picture?
Tyler looks at the photo on the screen, then cranes his neck to look out the window.
Tyler It looks like the same one. Same spire, same everything. Ha! Well I guess we're in Kusamo then! You wanna take a picture?
Then, we drive out of town, into the countryside. After about two minutes, I see something I do want to take a picture of:
It is getting late when we pull off the highway for a 20 kilometer detour. The road deteriorates slightly. I have our map open on the computer, so I look to see where we're headed. There is a big fat dividing line about ten kilometers east of us. I zoom out. I zoom in. The dark grey marking is the border of Russia! And the road we're on? It dead-ends into no-man's-land. This trip is so unreal at times.
I tell Tyler that we're on our way to Russia. Of course, he insists we drive right to the very edge. Sure enough, the dirt path ends with a barrier. Just a few kilometers past, our first glimpse of Russia!
Before we leave the area, Tyler runs to a nearby cell tower to take pictures. Thanks to these things, even in the most remote of areas, we have an internet connection! Like lakes, it is rare to go very far here without seeing one in the distance. According to Tyler's research, Finland was a pioneer in the cellular world. Nokia is a Finnish company, the first person-to-person text message was sent here, the first ringtones were sold here, etc.
Just before this detour, I spotted a house-less boat-slip off the road. Opting not to camp next to Russia, we head back for another night of lakeside free-camping. It doesn't take long, and we're there:
We park the car and set up the tent. Then we change into our underwear, and start running into the lake for our daily swim. The water is heart-stoppingly cold, and even Tyler doesn't brave a swift leap. So we inch in, pumping our fists and uttering all kinds of incomprehensible one-syllable exclamations. "AHH OOH HUH WAH UH GA FU". This time, I am quicker than Tyler, dunking my head in the water. It is like ripping off a bandaid. I paddle around for a bit, then get back out to dry off and dress as quickly as possible (in order to protect myself from a massive incoming battalion of bloodthirsty mosquitoes).
Tyler stays in the lake for quite a long time, practicing his baseball swing. He reaches in the water for a stone, tosses it in the air, then swings mightily with a large stick from the woods. The rocks whir as they fly, then sometimes bounce along the water as if he were skipping stones. They land in the distance, with a satisfying sploosh.
While Tyler plays baseball, I fish out our mosquito nets for the first time, and realize what a brilliant invention they are. Safe and protected, I make our latest favorite meal: camp-style currywurst. Tyler runs in from the water to join me, and we settle in our tent for another bright night in Finland.