WHERE IS LAPLAND
The name ‘Lapland’ immediately brings to mind a land in Northern Europe, perhaps associated with Santa Claus and his reindeer.
Where is Lapland?
What in the original language is called Sápmi and we call Lapland, is more precisely the land inhabited by the Sami People.
Political geography often clashes with one’s own ideas and worldview.
Beyond what is written in books, there are borders defined by geography (especially in the case of certain islands: Sardinia, Corsica, Ireland, Zanzibar, Atlantic and Pacific Islands), by language (the Basque Country in its original language is called Euskal Herria, ‘the people who speak Euskera’, the Basque language) and by history and traditions (e.g. Scotland, Catalonia, Occitania, Patagonia, Palestine, Transnistria etc).
Together with these nations, we can add Sapmi – Lapland.
The land of the Sami is a nation without national borders, spread over the considered northern regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula.
They are Sami and want to be Sami, one people with their own land, history, language, culture, traditions, religion, way of life and social structure.
They have never aspired to independent political status or an independence movement, but they have ‘Sami Parliaments‘ to defend their interests and cultural autonomy, a flag and a national anthem.
Sami have an indisputable human right to live as a people with their own distinct national characteristics and they have also an inalienable historic right to their areas of settlement.
Sami language and culture were seen as inferior, an obstacles to progress and Sami names have very often been Norwegianized, especially on maps and road signs.
From 1850 to about 1960, the Norwegian authorities wanted the Sami to become “Norwegian” and all teaching was conducted in Norwegian only.
The post-war period was marked by the ideal of equality and there should be no differences between Sami and Norwegian.
Norwegianization in the school was abandoned as official policy and now there is Sami cultural and linguistic preservation.
The “Sami problem” can’t be solved by Norwegian political solutions.
The Sami people are at one with the reindeer they breed and from which they obtain food, drink, tools, skins to dress themselves and build their tents.
WHAT TO DO
Just for better understanding, I talk about Sapmi – Lapland as it is currently divided politically:
Sapmi – Lapland in Norwegian territory
About 75% of 50,000 Sami population lives in what is considered Norwegian territory:
we talk about the counties of Trøndelag (capital Trondheim), Nordland (Bodø), Troms og Finnmark (Tromsø ma also famous place like Alta and Nordkapp)
Sapmi – Lapland in Swedish territory
Sami territory in Sweden can be identified in the counties of Norrbotten and Västerbotten.
The first is the largest Swedish county, the northernmost and also the least populated, given the unfavourable location.
Sapmi – Lapland in Finnish territory
Lapland is commonly associated with Santa Claus and Rovaniemi is therefore the town we immediately associate it with.
As with the Swedish territory, Lapland is the largest province in Finland, even larger than Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg combined.
Sapmi – Lapland in Russian territory
About 2,000 Sami live in the Murmansk oblast, the north-western land of Russia including the Kola Peninsula.
WHERE TO SLEEP
On my trip to Norway, iin what is largely Sami land, I have often changed cities and therefore places to stay.
I did a few overnight trips on the Hurtigruten, and with a few tricks it’s a good solution to save a night in a hotel, taking advantage of the transfer.
As for hotels, I have always looked for the best solution in terms of location and price.
Travelling in these areas still means paying more than normal, because everything is proportionate to their salaries.
Trondheim: Singsaker Sommerhotell
One of the largest inhabited wooden buildings in Scandinavia, during the school year it is the city’s university campus while in the summer months it turns into a hotel run since the 1950s directly by the students.
Bodø: Thon Hotel Nordlys
Hotel practically inside the marina, 20 minutes from the Hurtigruten ship embarkations and within walking distance from the airport.
Special comment deserves one of the best breakfasts I have ever seen: extraordinary, wonderful and with an endless choice.
I remember very well, like a dream, the spectacular chocolate fountain that invites you to dive in.
Tromsø: Thon Hotel Polar
Same chain as the previous hotel but breakfast less exceptional, though still very rich.
Still very well located both for getting around the city and for walking to the harbour or taking the bus to the airport.
Honningsvag: Arctic Hotel Nordkapp
In this strategic location for reaching Nordkapp and Knivskjellodden, this hotel is very close to the Hurtigruten docking station, the bus stop to Nordkapp and a rental car office.
The cost is probably a bit excessive, so if you find something better in the same area, don’t overthink it.
Talking about unrecognised nations is easier for those who experience this situation directly, but very difficult to understand for everyone else.
All the islands have an almost equal way of conceiving isolation, but it is more complex to understand which territories are claimed by Peoples who base their rights on the past centuries and millennia.
In this, the Sami people are very close to Mapuche, Maasai, Aboriginal and indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Knowing these peoples, their cultures, traditions and histories, and doing so on their lands, is an improvement for each of us.
Protecting their diversity is everyone’s duty.
Living as they want is an inalienable right.