Wednesday, 19 December 2012


 There are many reasons to visit the Arctic north in winter. So much to see and do – the Northern   Lights, Husky mushing in Norway, Sweden’s Ice Hotel, Iceland’s volcanoes, cross country skiing in Finland or Greenland’s wildlife.

Lapland has one very special resident though who is a must see for families who want a taste of Christmas Magic. That resident is, of course, Santa and whether the visit lasts one day or is a short break, this will be an amazing experience.  

Santa lives in a small village in Finnish Lapland, with his elves and reindeers. He is always delighted to see his friends, young and old.  Even though Santa is very busy at this time of year but he can always make time for visitors.  If you decide to stay for a few days, you can also partake in many other artic adventures like husky mushing, racing on snow mobiles,  tobogganing, reindeer rides and general fun in the snow. And when night times falls, there is a good chance you will see the best Christmas illuminations in the world, Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas from Lapland and all at Nordic Experience.

Monday, 10 December 2012


 Did you know that Norway is home to a massive and highly impressive outdoor art gallery, which stretches across its coastline and covers 33 of the Norway's 45 municipalities? The magnificent Artscape Nordland is an international project showing 33 works of  artists from 18 countries, including Anish Kapoor and Anthony Gormley.

Alongside these marvellous works of art, there are many natural beauties to enjoy in Norway. From the Northern Lights to the mountains and fjords, there is so much beauty to enchant those who come to explore Norway's amazing scenery. 

Friday, 30 November 2012


 Fancy getting your head truly up in the clouds on your next holiday?  You can do just that at Sweden’s Treehotel. This amazing holiday experience is located in amazing natural surroundings, in the midst of a forest in Harads, about 100 kilometers from Luleå airport.

There are offer five unique tree rooms to stay in and these amazing creations were designed by some of Scandinavia’s leading architects. In addition there is also a tree sauna for up to twelve people. Each room has a totally individual style inside and out and varies in size, with the larger rooms accommodating up to 4 people. The tree rooms are suspended 4-6 metres above ground.  They are designed to have minimal impact on nature and are equipped with environmentally combustion toilets and water efficient sinks.

Which tree room would you pick? There’s the Cabin, a capsule where you can hide away and drink in the incredible vista. 

The Mirror Cube is stunning; it’s mirrored exterior walls camouflaging it in the midst of the treetops.  

Then there is The Bird’s Nest with it’s façade clad with large branches. Could you ever feel more at one with nature than nestling down  in this amazing structure.  

The Blue Cone is simple, easily accessible and actually red!  

The UFO stands out in its surroundings for being exactly that – unidentified forest object!

A new room is due to be completed by the end of this and this is  The Five Leaf Clover, which is around 53 square metres. This takes Treehotel to a new scale and offers 6 beds and conference facilities.  

Sweden is a great place to visit if you want to stay  and experience something  a little unusual. There is also the ICEHOTEL in the heart of Swedish Lapland. Here, not only can you get to sleep in a room carved from snow and sleep under reindeer skins but you can also explore your surroundings on a snow mobile or by husky safari! 

Thursday, 29 November 2012


 By John Bennett

The Northern Lights have always captured man’s imagination and as our last blog depicted, there are many myths and legends surrending them.
As far as science was concerned though, it took a very long time for man to uncover the scientific truth behind the Northern Lights.

Galileo first used the term boreal aurora (later changed to Aurora Borealis) after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn. However it was a Norwegian scientist named Kristian Birkeland who set out to achieve what many before had tried and failed: to solve the mystery of the Northern Lights.  To Birkeland, the Lights represented the threshold between the visible and invisible worlds; the link between the planet and the mysterious forces that shaped the universe.  However in the late 19th Century the prevailing belief was centred on Aristotle’s assertion that there could be no interaction between the heavens and the Earth because the heavens were perfect and unchanging.  This resolute popular conviction created a difficult climate for Birkeland’s propositions.

In the winter of 1899 Birkeland spent five months isolated in a mountain-top observatory at Kaafjord in the far north of Norway, a position known as having the most sightings of the Lights.  Eventually he discovered that the force disturbing the magnetic field came directly from the sun in narrow, high-velocity beams of negatively charged particles (electrons) called cathode rays.  Sometimes these active particles hit the magnetic field of the Earth and followed the field lines down towards the poles, where they struck atoms in the atmosphere.  The energy created by the collisions was emitted as light.  The lights only appeared during magnetic storms because the cathode rays from the sun were moving beams of electrons, creating electric currents that, in turn, made their own magnetic fields.

Birkeland’s conclusions were published in 1901 and Norwegian newspaper headlines trumpeted,  “Riddle of the Aurora solved!”  However the international scientific community was not so impressed.  Britain was the global leader in science and would not shift from her resolute opinion that space was an empty vacuum.  Birkeland’s findings were rejected.  He was bitterly disappointed but even more determined to prove his theory The Norwegian government refused him any more funding, so he had to raise the money himself.  This he did through the invention of a fertiliser (of which there was a chronic global shortage at the time) using electromagnetic furnace technology.  Birkeland continued his fanatical study of the Lights over the following years and in 1908 published his monumental work, “The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition 1902-1903” describing his second, bigger expedition to the far north. But again the scientific community was disparaging of his ideas and he suffered another major blow. 

Gradually over the five years following this second disappointment, his life began to crumble.  His work was overshadowed by other scientific developments at the time, such as Einstein’s theory of relativity and Bohr’s model of the atom.  His obsessional relationship with his work drove his wife to leave him.  He was also growing increasingly dependent on alcohol and the sedative veronal, and his health began to deteriorate.

He spent his final years in Egypt studying the Zodiacal Light. A combination of insomnia, whisky and veronal fuelled chronic paranoia.  He became convinced that with the outbreak of war, one of his inventions, the electromagnetic cannon, placed him in danger.  He kept the copies of his patent in a specially installed safe in his room, bought two guard dogs and three guns and sacked his servants as he was convinced were plotting against him. 

On the 16th June 1919, aged just 49,Kristian Birkeland was found dead in a hotel room. The post-mortem revealed him to have taken 10g of veronal the night of his death, instead of the 0.5g recommended dose.

For 50 years after his death, Birkeland’s reputation sank into oblivion.  In 1970 space satellites found incontrovertible evidence of a flow of electric particles from the sun.  This proved that “empty space” was actually not empty at all, but filled with electrified gas, which then forms “solar wind”, which Birkeland had identified more than 60 years earlier.  Today he is credited as the first scientist to propose an essentially correct explanation of the Aurora Borealis.


 Man has always been fascinated by the natural phenomena that is the Northern Lights and many myths and legends have been passed down to explain the magic of Aurora Borealis. Here are a selection from around the world.


Many Inuit tribes believe that the Northern Lights are spirits of the dead playing ball with a walrus head or skull. The Eskimos of Nunivak Island had the opposite idea, and believe it is walrus spirits playing with a human skull.
In  1862, the Northern Lights made a rare appearance in Virginia, during the Battle of Fredicksburg and the rebel forces took this as a sure sign God was on their side.
The Makah Indians of Washington State thought the lights were fires in the Far North, lit by a tribe of dwarfs, half the size of a canoe paddle, but strong enough to catch whales with their bare hands. Fires were a popular belief. North Dakota Indians regarded the lights as fires over which the great warriors of the north boiled their dead enemies in enormous pots.
The Menominee Indians of Wisconsin thought they were torches used by amiable giants in the north, to spear fish at night.
The Koyukuk Indians in Alaska banged on metal drums to try and attract the Northern Lights to them.The Point Barrow Eskimos, however, believed there was nothing good about the Aurora Borealis, thinking them to be a dreadful, dangerous, terrifying occurrence and carried knives to keep the Lights at bay.
The Algonquin Indians took a softer view of the Lights, believing that when Nanahbohzo the Creator completed making the earth, he travelled to the North and built gigantic fires to remind his people that he continuously loved them.


According to Norse mythology, warlike female figures, the Valkyrie, would charge across the night sky carrying the dead to Valhalla and the red, blue, violet and green Northern Lights were caused by the reflections of these fearsome women’s armour.
In Scotland, the Northern Lights were called the “Mirrie Dancers” or na-far-chills, dancers who would fight each other.  The appearance of the lights was also thought to be a warning for bad weather.
In Old Icelandic folklore it was believed that Northern Lights would ease the pain of childbirth. They also believed that babies born of pregnant women who had looked at the Aurora Borealis would have eye problems.
The Finns named the Lights, Fox Fires and believed foxes made of fire lived in Lapland and the lights were the sparks created by their tails when they flew into their air.
The Sami people of the Northern Arctic thought it was imperative to be quiet and cautious when the Northern Lights were present as the lights were the energies of the souls of the departed. When the fires blazed in the skies, people were to behave solemnly, and children were admonished to be respectful or ill luck would strike anyone and this could cause sickness, even death.
The East Greenland Eskimos claimed that the dancing of the children who had died at birth caused the continually moving streamers and draperies of the aurora.
Scandinavians used to believed the Aurora Borealis was the reflection of huge schools of herring in the sea and they were a sign that fishermen would enjoy good catches of fish
To the ancient Europeans, Northern Lights were the cause of panic and fear as to them it signaled outbreak of death and disease.  In the Middle Ages, Europeans were convinced that If Northern Lights glowed red; this was a sure sign of impending war.

In China, a fire-breathing dragon was believed to be the creator of Aurora Borealis
Both Chinese and Japanese cultures believe that a child conceived under the Northern Lights will be blessed with good fortunes.
The Chuvash people of Siberia thought the lights were their god attempting though help women in childbirth.

What an effect the Northern Lights have had on mankind across continents and through the ages. The best time to see their beauty Is from September to January and to go to Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Sweden or Norway. 

On September 29th 2012, a new art gallery was opened in Oslo. Designed by The Shard architect Renzo Piano, this building bridges a canal in the city’s harbour.  The museum has been given the formal name of  Astrup Fearnley Museet and also bestowed the cheekier title of The Combover.
Divided into two, one half of the gallery will house its permanent collection and the other half will host temporary exhibitions and the café and shop.
Located on a landmark site on the edge of a fjord in the new and exciting district of  Tjuvholmen, the museum  covers an area of over 7000 sq. metres and is surrounded by new restaurants, galleries and a hotel. The museum  is a iconic sculptural build with glass canopies arching like a giant sail over the three wooden buildings beneath.  A sculpture park and a beach bordering the museum, making it an idyllic place for Norwegians, young and old, to relax after taking in some art.

Friday, 26 October 2012

'Slapped ears' - Perfect for an Autumn afternoon

Now if somebody offered you a slapped ear you would most probably reply “No thanks”. Or run a mile. But if you should happen to be in Finland, don’t be rash with your refusal. For in Finland, Slapped Ears (Korvapuustit  in Finnish) are delicious cinnamon buns.

  • 450g  (750ml) plain flour
  • 85g  (100ml) caster sugar
  • 1 and a half  tsp. ground cardamom pods
  • 1 packet of fast-action dried yeast
  • 250 ml lukewarm milk
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 75 g butter, softened

  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 4 Tbsps. caster sugar
  • 2 Tbsps. ground cinnamon

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, cardamom, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk and half of the beaten egg (the rest can be used to glaze the buns).
  2. Knead in the softened butter  and carry on  kneading  until you've got a soft, pliable dough. Cover  with clingfilm or a clean tea towel and leave to prove for about 45-60 minute or until doubled in size. (The  best place to prove should be warm and with draughts – an airing cupboard is a great spot, if you have one).
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured worktop. Knead gently for a couple of minutes. Roll out  into a 30 x  60 cm rectangle. Then  spread  the soft butter over the dough and sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar.  Starting with the long side, roll it up tightly, leaving the join under the roll.
  4. Now use a sharp knife to cut into six buns. The buns should be about 2 cm wide on the narrow end and 5 cm on the wide end. Pop them upright on a baking sheet. Press your thumb into  the middle of each bun
  5. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to raise for another 30 minutes in a warm place. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 225 C/450 F.
  6. Brush with egg wash and pop in the over for 10-15 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown.
  7. Take the baking sheet out of the oven, cover the buns with a kitchen towel and let them cool for as long as you can resist from eating one.
Sit back and enjoy !

If you find that you can't get this recipe quite right, why not try a few nights in Helsinki where the patisseries will happily serve up this delicacy, or for a real treat enjoy one of these served over an open fire after enjoying an Arctic snowmobile or husky safari in Lapland.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Scandinavian Cooking attains Culinary Gold

The IKA World Culinary Olympics 2012  took place this October in Erfurt Germany. It ran for five days and  54 countries competed to make the most  visually appealing, sensationally tasting dishes.  The World Culinary Olympics were first held in 1900 and they are held every four years.

In the hot kitchen competition, team members are watched closely, as they prepare a three-course meal to feed 110 people in five hours. For the cold platter contest, the chefs prepare exquisitely crafted dishes, which are prepared in advance and judged wholly on their presentation.

Scandinavia proved to be the current culinary champions as Sweden won the gold medal and Norway attained silver. The Swedish winning entry included a cauliflower and broccoli terrine, herb-crusted venison with Scvecia (a Swedish semi-hard) cheese, porcini duxelles (finely diced mushrooms) and a dessert of autumn raspberries, yogurt meringue and almond cake.

If you want to explore Scandinavia, taste the fine food, see the beautiful landscapes and not forgetting at this time of year, enjoy the phenomena of the Northern Lights, take a look at our website or give one of our team a call to find out more about Nordic Experience.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Trondheim to Alesund via the Atlantic Coastal Road

The annual Norwegian Workshop presented me with the opportunity to take a short tour before joining the business sessions in Fredrikstad near Oslo.

I chose to go somewhere that I had not been before and met up with a group of fellow travel professionals from around the globe in Trondheim, Norway’s third largest city. Trondheim has managed to preserve the intimacy of a small town with impressive wooden buildings and colourful wharves and has many other options and excursions available.

After checking into our Hotel (Rica Bakklandet) we were whisked off to Norway's National Museum of Rock. Not knowing what to expect we arrived with intrepidation at a large unassuming building, with what looked like a suitcase perched on top - not quite what we were expecting !

The museum is called Rockheim (presumably a pun on Trondheim?) and despite the name is not limited to rock music, but excludes classical, folk and other non mainstream music over the decades from 1950 through to current day.

Rockheim in Trondheim
It's an interactive exhibit and is extremely technologically advanced, using motion sensors to activate the exhibits. For example on the top floor we were presented with a massive curved wall of video screens which we were able to control using hand movements to choose, start and stop music videos by decade.
This is where things became more obvious, in that, unless you are Norwegian you probably don't know any of the music on offer with a couple of notable exceptions. A-ha from the eighties and Elvis from the 50's. Why Elvis ? Apparently there was no "popular" Norweigian music at this time and they needed to shop where all the inspiration came from!

Despite this, you are able to see the changes through the decades as you move through the museum and you learn about Norwegian most famous music exports , other than A-ha : they even have the original drawings from the famous video (if you're old enough to remember).

Apparently Norway is famous for "Black Metal" and they are extremely proud of a band called "Immortal". Certainly not my style of music, and akin to a electric static storm at full volume shouted by a gentleman in black leather trousers & white makeup. Each to their own !!

Interactivity continued with us being able to record a hip hop rapping session, guitar playing in a recording studio, and many other things that we did not have time to experience.

Hunger set in, and we headed back and set out for a lovely fish restaurant just around the corner from the Rica Hotel called Havfruen ( Well worth a visit with fantastic food and a river setting.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Journey to the centre of the Earth

Did you read or watch Journey to the Centre of the Earth when you were younger? It always intrigued me, and now you have the chance to see for yourself this summer in Iceland where they have opened up a new tour "Inside the Volcano".

As the name suggests you can lower yourself into a volcano. Thrihnukagigur is the only place on earth where you can go into a magma chamber of a volcano. Luckily this volcano has been asleep for the last 4,000 years but they still don't guarantee that it won't erupt again. I think it's a fairly safe bet though !!

Currently this is only available for a short 12 week period this summer this is an interesting addition to any visit to Iceland.

Located about 20miles from Reykjavik it is easy to reach and will give you a spectacular insight into the volcanic activity that forms part of Icelandic everyday life. For those that may be claustrophobic, there is no need to worry, the Magma Chamber is (in their word)s 'huge' and could fit the Statue of Liberty inside a number of times over.

More details can be found at Inside the Volcano or you can ask us to add this on to your tour.


Monday, 19 March 2012

Northern Lights in Tromso

Tromso Cathedral
I was recently given the opportunity to fly to Tromso to experience the Northern Lights in Northern Norway. There is never a guarantee that the aurora borealis will play fair and come out to play, but I was hopeful and set out with a DSLR, tripod and the instruction manual for the camera.

The flight to Tromso was with SAS via Oslo departing from Heathrow early in the morning with a quick connection in Oslo (where incidentally it is necessary to collect your luggage and re-checkin for the onward domestic flight) and by lunchtime I was gazing at the beautiful snowy landscape as we were on the final approach into Tromso.

The bus transfer into Tromso cost 90NOK return (about £10) and we were dropped outside the Rica with a short 100m walk to the Hotel With where we were booked into. The Hotel With is not the most attractive building from the outside, but it has an amazing position overlooking the harbour and serves waffles and cream in the afternoon! It also provides a basic evening meal as part of the deal - useful as Norway can be expensive to eat out. This is not meant to be a half board option but an opportunity to ensure that food is available if it is wanted. Odd way of looking at it, but the other hotel guests seemed to be happy enough.

Having been up early in the morning to drive to Heathrow we were not really of the mind to set out searching for the Northern Lights, but as our time was short we duly looked at our pre-booked vouchers and set our for the meeting point to go on a taster dog sledding session whilst peering into the sky for the Northern Lights - or at least that was the idea ! Dog sledding is rather like driving a car on skis, in the you need to pay attention to everything that is going on around you while maintaining your balance (and dignity).

The Northern Lights were spectacular that night (4th March) but it was a shame I couldn't take photos - though as I'd not taken the time to read the manual yet I suspect my photos would have looked very much like some of the others which I saw that night ...... black !!!

Speaking to the more experienced photographers it seems that the tripod is a necessity, with a long exposure (10-30 seconds) and a high ISO. I lost it at the ISO stage but thanked them warmly for their advice.

Husky Mushing in Tromso
The husky mushing was great fun though being a taster session it was soon over and we were back to a Kota (or Lavu) for a basic warm meal before transferring back to Tromso by bus, not before seeing the final dance of the Aurora before the clouds obscured the stars and any further chances of seeing more solar activity.

What would the next day have in store for us ........

Location:Tromso, Norway

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Can your smartphone survive the cold

Having just returned from yet another trip to Northern Finland I experienced a few issues with my iPhone and Android companions which complained against the cold.  Battery life on smartphones is not knonwn to be that good and the cold exasperated the condition.  I often wondered why all the local guides seemed to have "old" Nokia phones in their pockets and this got me wondering which phones were the best for the cold temperature.

A quick Google and I cam up with the following webpage Sub-Zero Weather and Smartphones.  Quite interesting to see which phones fared the best.

If you've got the latest iPhone then perhaps you should keep it warm !!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

ICEHOTEL weekend

What are you doing his weekend ? I'm off to see the 22nd ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, easily reached from the UK in a few hours. I'm leaving at 7am and will be standing at the Absolute bar early afternoon ready for some light refreshment and entertainment.

I'm choosing to stay one night in cool (a.k.a cold) accommodation at a steady -5c on a reindeer skin bed in a (hopefully) warm sleeping bag. The booking instructions say that I need to wear thermal gear and a hat !! Not entirely sure about this, but my mother always told me to try everything at least once, so I'm taking her advice ..... for one night !!!

My second night will be spent in the comfort of a heated hotel room thawing out from the days activities and hopefully taking some photos of the Northern Lights as I've just purchased a new F1.8 50mm lens for my camera. Previous photographic attempts have failed miserably so I'm hoping for better results. As a precaution I've looked at this guide to taking photos of the Northern Lights which I hope will help. Only time will tell and if I get any reasonable shots, I'll post them on our website.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Meet us at Destinations Travel Show London

For those of you who don't know, Destinations Travel Show is one of the largest consumer travel shows in the UK. We will be at Earls Court (stand E112) and look forward to seeing you there from Thursday 2nd Feb through Sunday 5th Feb 2012.

Our experts can guide you through your Scandinavian holiday decision making process and put together a Nordic holiday tailored for you, whether it be a weekend away at the Swedish ICEHOTEL, searching for the Northern Lights in Norway or and Iceland holiday getaway at the Hotel Ranga and beyond. Time is running out for a winter experience this year, but it's never too early to book for 2013 where the Northern lights in Norway are expected to be some of the best of the decade.

If winter is not your thing, then we have some interesting summer experiences to Iceland and Norway to name but a few.

Come and visit us on our stand, or if you can't make it take a look at our Nordic Experience website and give either Francesca or Ian a call on 01206 708888 where we can talk you through your Scandinavian holiday.

Location:Earls Court