An “outpost of civilization”. That is how the town of Muonio is described in a German travel guide. There actually are only about 2000 people living in Muonio permanently, but a beautiful nature and various activities attract many hundreds of tourists every year, which is why tourism business is one of the major revenue sources in Lappland. In my four weeks of internship at Harriniva, a middle-sized hotel also offering safaris, in summer of 2012, I got the chance to gain insight into tourism industry. The hotel is situated at Muonionjoki, the boundary river between Finland and Sweden. Because of that, the most popular summer activities that are offered at Harriniva, are river rafting, canoeing and fishing. There are also guided hiking trips and quad safaris available. Furthermore, a restaurant belongs as well to Harriniva as a pub. Another attraction is the arctic sled dog centre, in which are living more than 400 huskies.
Without exception, all members of staff were extremely friendly and helpful, which made it very easy for me to integrate. My work was quite diversified: I did everything from helping in the restaurant, washing cars, painting and general repair works to chopping wood, cutting down trees and helping with river rafting groups, which included sorting out the equipments, cooking over open fire and the actual guiding of the boats. As I wasn’t the only non-Finish team member, language of communication was mostly English, sometimes –depending on the tourist groups- also French, German or Finish. In spite of my broken Finnish, there were only little communication problems at the beginning of my internship. With a little skill, many customers didn’t even notice me not being Finnish.
My cousin Timo, whom I was staying with, and his friends, that mostly worked for Harriniva, as it is by far the largest employer in Muonio, made it possible for me to experience a lot of things in my free time. We played mini golf at the hotel as well as visiting the huskies and of course- going fishing. When I arrived there was “Muonion Lohiviikot” (Salmon week of Muonio) going on, a salmon rowing competition nearly the whole town was taking part in. At the price giving the winner fish, which weighed nearly 20 (!) kg was shown. I started out a little easier, when some of my workmates took me out on the river with a boat and taught me how to fly fish. As a matter of fact, we caught some greylings that night, but none of them was larger than 30 cm, which made it illegal to kill them, so we had to throw them back into the water. Some other nights the fortune seemed to be with us and we could enjoy some tasty fish, that couldn’t be any fresher, grilled right at a fireplace next to the river. Another delicacy in Lapland is reindeer meet, which is very aromatic itself, so only a little salt is needed with it. Once we even cooked it the traditional Sami way, by digging a hole in the ground and lighting a fire above it, leaving it in there the whole night. Unlike the reindeers, that aren’t shy at all and running around even on the roads, elks are barely seen animals in Finland. However I was lucky enough to see two of them. In Muonio there doesn’t exist a sports club, but still, at some days the locals are meeting to play different kinds of sports. I had the chance to join them a few times to play badminton and pesäpallo, a Finnish kind of baseball with different, quite strange rules, that not even they themselves seemed to understand completely..It was still fun playing. We also made a short trip to Pallas Yllästunturi national park and even went to Skibotn, Norway for one day, to admire the beautiful fjords. It was also pretty interesting to see the scenery change the further you get north. From mixed birch and conifer forests to only birch forests and bleak fells (tunturit) , as the timberline up there is at only about 500 metres of altitude, and then, in Norway a vegetation with lots of pine trees, as you would expect to find them in the South of Europe. Another thing that is inseparable linked to Finland is sauna. However for the Finnish people is not only the actual going to sauna important, but also before and afterwards sitting at the fire, talking and having something to drink, which I also enjoyed a lot. Especially I also liked going rafting with my workmates. We were then able to skip the first part of the tour and only raft the four rapids. Then I was also able to swim Äijäkoski , the strongest rapid. At one of the last evenings, I tried to show the Lappish people some Bavarian culture and made a “Schweinsbraten” for them, which they liked a lot.
All things considered, the four weeks of internship in Finland were absolutely great! I learned much, experienced a lot of unforgettable things and met many nice people. The only thing I didn’t experience much was sleeping…but why sleep when it’s not getting dark??