Living in harmony with nature… and reindeer
It’s been snowing heavily for the past few days around Hillágurra, a small village on the Karasjohka river in northern Norway, on the border with Finland. From here we set out on foot, trekking across ground covered in freshly fallen snow. We’re planning to meet with Lars Mathis and his daughter Anne-Margrete, a traditional Sami family. We can see their tent in the distance, standing lonely among a knot of skeletal trees. One of the members of the Porsche Travel Experience group, who have made their way here in a convoy, soon learns just how difficult conditions are out here. He sinks thigh deep into the thick snow, almost swallowing him up whole. Finally we reach the lavvu, the name given to the traditional yurt of the Sami. Anne-Margrete pulls back the tent flaps with a flourish and a broad grin. We are received with a warmth and kindness that seems almost permanently lost in these fast-moving times.
Warmth from the wind and from the hosts
We enjoy the cosy homeliness for a moment, the crackling of the tent fire a comfort from the biting wind that howls outside. Everything that seemed so important is suddenly forgotten. Over coffee and reindeer stew, Anne-Margrete and Lars tell us about the traditions of their people, who have lived for centuries from reindeer herding. About 80,000 Sami live here in the extreme north of Europe. About half live in Norway, the other half are spread between Sweden, Finland and Russia. But wherever they are located, the Sami are in complete harmony with their unique surroundings.
“Reindeer are very important to us,” explains 65-year-old Lars. His face tells the story of a hard life in the wilderness and endless dark winter days. But when he talks about his animals, his features fill with warmth. “Spirituality,” his daughter says in explanation, reaching for some reindeer skin, needle and thread. Their ancestors taught them to venture out and learn from the reindeer. And they in turn teach people everything there is to know. The Sami seem to know intuitively that they have to use every bit of the reindeer – not just the meat. One of these things is the skin. In the light of the tent fire, participants on the Porsche Travel Experience observe the precision and love with which Anne-Margrete scrapes the back of the reindeer skin, making it smooth. She explains that the making of these thick, fur-covered, beaked-toe shoes has always been seen more as women’s work. “The traditional crafts of my people are close to my heart,” she says.
Porsche Travel Experience: where stories are heard
Over another cup of coffee, Lars tells us about another Sami handicraft – duodji. Here, everyday items are decorated with artistic design elements, from clothing to kitchen utensils to tools. Take the Sami knife, for example, the universal tool used by the indigenous people of Lapland. They do pretty much everything with it. Anne-Margrete, for example, skilfully lifts the hot pot off the fire with it, its ornate handle shimmering in the glow of the fire. The simple meal we later share with our Sami family, where we hear more stories of traditional customs and encounter their warm hospitality to the fullest, are things we won’t forget for a long time.