View Full Version : Reepham Visit to Mala, Lapland

04-06-04, 00:30
Although, the following account of several people from my local town (Reepham, Norfolk, England)'s visit to Mala is not actually Finland, I thought it might be of interest to Finlanders. It appeared in our local Church magazine this month and I have obtained the permission of Sylvia Rayfield (the writer and a friend) to reproduce it here. I have edited it, as it would have exceeded the word space allowed.


Michael Paddison, our Rector, through a contact Priest, Christer Svensson in Mala (pronounced "Marlow") Northern Sweden had arranged for a group of us to visit his Parish. There were eight of us in all. The weather was brilliantly sunny and it was interesting looking out of the plane window at the landscape below. Forests of pine and birch trees with vast open flat areas of snow covering frozen lakes and rivers. There were hardly any signs of habitation until we approached Lycksele where the occasional wooden house stood out brightly coloured against the snow in ochre yellow or soft red. On arriving at the little airport we walked across the open runway to a small airport building with a blazing wood burning stove and a stuffed wolf in the doorway.

Our hostess met us, Karin Naslund. She spoke excellent English and was an expert, confident driver as she sped us away over the deserted road, covered with hard-packed snow to Mala.

It was a magical moment when we pulled into a forest clearing to see the sun reflecting off huge heaps of snow with reindeer nearby. The indigenous people of the area are called the Sami, but we know them as "Laps" and there was a friendly group to greet us. Amongst them a young couple who we chatted to about the wildlife and birds. Some of the species were familiar to us and they produced a bird book to help us identify the birds. Reindeer meat was hanging up under the eaves to dry, protected with polythene as jays tended to steal it. The Sami people allowed us to feed the reindeer with lichen and moss which they had to gather from under the snow and they also showed us photos of wildlife including pictures of a bear cub seen unusually near their home. Bears are quite rare in this region, although we later heard that a bear had taken 5 sheep in the area, so maybe they are increasing.

I walked about on the sparkling snow, once stepping to the side and finding myself up to my thighs in dry, powdery snow. We all individually had rides on a sledge pulled by a reindeer. We were then invited into their traditional shelter called a kata that was partially under the snow. We went down steps into it, but once inside it was cosy and warm with an open fire in the middle. It was very smoky until we sat down on a wooden floor covered with reindeer skins that were wonderfully warm. We were told about their traditional way of life that included keeping the reindeer for their meat and skins. Snow remains on the ground in this area from late September to the end of May with only about 3 months of milder weather. We were invited into another kata, this time more like a traditional wigwam, again with a bright fire burning in the middle. We were offered coffee from a blackened pot on the fire. We also had sandwiches of beautiful fresh white bread with smoked reindeer meat that was unexepectedly tender and delicious.

Karin then took us back in the car to Mala, a small town of about 3,000 people. There was only time to get unpacked and have a quick drink and chat before we left for our evening meal. All our main meals were to be taken at the Parish Church, where we were welcomed by a group of church members whose excellent English and friendliness made for an easy and relaxed atmosphere.

We had a drink together then we all sat down to eat in a comfortable dining room. We could help ourselves from a platter of meat which looked like lean roast beef, but which was in fact elk, a bowl of salad and a tasy potato bake. After the first course we went upstairs and were treated to glasses of sherry, chocolates and a dessert of cloudberries - a soft fruit which grows in the wild, rather like a bilberry, and ice cream. Some of the company played music on guitars and accordians and we had a very jolly evening - but it did not end there. At about 10 pm Christer announced we would all use kick-sleds to go down to the frozen river. These sleds are used by young and old to get around safely. You use it like a scooter and from time to time can slide along with both feet on the runners. It was a clear starlit night and it was quite an amazing experience sliding along, some of us quicker than others! We were given a cup of mulled wine while we took in the atmosphere, then back to our respective hosts for a good night.

(To be continued).


P.S. (From Gwenda). I forgot to ask Sylvia, the author of the above, whether she will be putting the rest of the story into the next Church magazine, but I assume that by "To Be Continued" she means that she will be. If so, it will be continued on this thread when it appears.

Apology from Gwenda. Sorry, I did not include the "umlauts -umlats?" in the appropriate places. I now have the Finnish and Swedish alphabets on my keyboard, but forgot to switch over in my haste to get this on line. :o

03-07-04, 00:55
As promised, this is the second and final part of the story. Sorry it has taken so long, but the Parish magazine is only published once a month.

The next morning, after a traditional Swedish breakfast of crisp bread, ham, cheese, slices of tomato and red and orange peppers and coffee, we went by car to Church. The Parish Church of Mala, built in 1850, made a beautiful vista with its wooden construction, tall tower and spire reaching up into the sky, the surrounding birch trees tracing delicate patterns in the sky among the swirling snow. It was warm and bright inside, pews of a soft green painted wood and terracotta flooring, the building lit by beautiful chandeliers. Every effort was made to incorporate the English language into the Service, including a hymn sung in English "I, the Lord of Sea and Sky". As we sang the line "I the Lord of Snow and Rain", we glanced out of the window to see that it indeed was snowing hard!

We walked back after the Service to lunch at the Parish House on Swedish dumplings filled with meat, followed by homemade cake. Christer had arranged an afternoon trip for us and a minibus was waiting soon after the meal. Off we sped in the swirling blizzard-like conditions to a little mining town some 10 miles away called Kristineberg where we were to be shown round the mine and visit the underground church of Sankta Anna. The mine was the site of an amazing occurrence that was recounted to us by the Guide. In 1946 a miner, Johan Olafsson was loading ore when just before midnight he ended his shift with a blast. The following morning Albert Jonsson began his shift. When he entered the area where the blast had taken place, he was surprised at the sight of Christ, a figure more than two metres tall on the wall of rock. Many people came to see the mysterious figure but because of safety issues the Mining Company had to fill in the area. A replica was created and a small underground Church formed out of the rock. About every three months a service takes place there and this happened to coincide with our visit.

We were whisked back to Mala for our evening meal, this time a Swedish speciality called Janssons` Frestelse (translated - Janssons` Temptation). This was a dish made from herring fillets, spices, potatoes, onions and cream and was truly a delicious "temptation".

The following day we visited a mini ski resort and a tour of the Geo-Museum where we learnt that the area has been prospected and mined for ore, oil, gas and coal since the community was formed in 1770. It was again snowing quite hard as we piled into a trailer-like vehicle to be pulled to the top of the mountain. After enjoying the fantastic views over the ridges of hills and frozen snow-covered lakes and river, we went into a traditional building used as an indoor barbeque and cafe. A welcoming fire greeted us and a wonderful lunch of freshly prepared reindeer meat burgers, drinks and homemade cake.

Our last evening was a great celebration with many people bringing various dishes for a buffet meal. We were entertained by some Sami people in their colourful costumes. A talk was given about their dress and way of life, followed by a demonstration of national Sami dancing.

The next day was our return to Reepham. The sun was again sparkling on the snow and we were sad to leave but our Group felt very privileged to have shared such an interesting time with our Swedish friends. We are looking forward to welcoming a group back to stay with us in Reepham maybe next year.

Sylvia Rayfield

12-06-05, 16:46
Just thought I would let you all know that the Mala people are at present on a return visit to Reepham. I hope they enjoy our little town, though there won't be the skiing and snow activities for them to take part in. We do have some good touristy sites (sights) around the area though.