By ROBERT HARVIE
TAKE a train from Rova niemi on the Arctic Circle to Oulu on the Gulf of Bottivia, a journey of about 100 miles. Although the journey
will take nearly five hours there are compensations.
The train, which comprises two coaches, smoking and nonsmoking, is fully staffed and over. Apart from the driver there is the guard, a ticket collector, one girl to sell sweets, another to sell soft drinks, all for the benefit of at the most 60 passengers.
The scenery is magnificent, birch and pine forests, dark, still lakes in endless variation. The train stops beside lumber camps and solitary log cabins; one scrambles off at the end feeling rested. Finland seems to be in control of the machine rather than its servant.
The four largest towns, Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Oulu, are spacious. clean, perfectly designed with great individuality. Tampere in particular seems almost to blend with the forest.
The forest seems basic to Finland. It is the economic backbone, the hunting ground, the skiing ground and in wartime the defensive mainstay of Finland.
About a third of the country lies about the Arctic Circle, north of the tree line. This is the home of the Lapps, nomadic herdsmen who follow
the reindeer in their migrations from the valleys to the hills in spring and back to the valleys in autumn.
In autumn some of the reindeer are slaughtered for their meat and hides. The Lapp clan chiefs descend on the towns to spend the proceeds by hiring fleets of taxis to take them on circular processions and consuming as much alcohol as possible. After the binge they return home refreshed until the next autumn.
The Finns are friendly and like to show the visitor their country. English is infrequently spoken and a little German is very useful. However, sign language and goodwill are never wasted.
Motoring is a pleasure; the main roads are good and traffic is light. When the Arctic Highway is completed one will be able to drive on surfaced roads to the North Cape.
Public transport by coach, steamer, air and rail is inexpensive. In the North the best means of transport is by postal motor coach. This costs about 25s. for 160 miles: tickets may he had from post offices. ('onducted tours by lake steamer, rail, air and coach may be booked through travel agencies. The thousands of lakes bordered by birch forests are deliriously beautiful. The town of Kuopis, almost in the centre of the lake district, should not be missed.
Fishing is to be had all over the country and is particularly good in Lapland, where from June to August salmon, sea trout and grayling may be caught. Fox, hare, moose and game birds may be shot in the autumn.
Canoeing, skiing and sailing in the Turku archipelago are favourite sports. There are more than 300 camping sites throughout the country, each with a sauna bath.
A single room in the first class hotel in Helsinki may be between £2 and £4, less outside the capital. A double room in the same hotel will be at least £3 10s.
Meals in a first class restaurant are about £1 for lunch, 28s. for dinner. In less pretentious places meals average at about 8s. Finnish liquers worth sampling are Lakka (cloud berry) and Mesntarja (Arctic bramble). Finnish textiles, jewellery, glass and ceramics make splendid gifts.
Inquiries regarding travel should be accompanied by a stamped, addressed envelope and sent to: "Going Away", Catholic Herald. 67 Fleet Street, London E.C.4,