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Pole to Pole

Day 20: Karasjok to Ivalo

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe switchback single carriageway is well kept and the time passes lazily as the colour on the lakes turns in the evening light from black to deep green to silver. At Inari, a lakeside town bristling with outboard motors, the intrepid Japanese get off to be replaced by a few locals, including a teenage girl who is on her way to a disco in Ivalo. She says she will have to be back home by ten o'clock this evening. Her English is good, the result, she tells us, of a summer spent in Hastings. Feel embarrassed, as always, at the efforts foreigners make to learn English, compared with the other way round. But by any standards Finnish is a tough language, unlike any other in Europe except Hungarian. Verbs have sixteen cases.

Travel, at its best, is a process of continually conquering disbelief, and to be in a Finnish hotel on the Arctic Highway, with a sign outside my window reading 'Murmansk 313 kilometres' and the sound of a plaintive violin accompanying daylight that refuses to disappear, is, I feel, after a beer or two, the sort of thing that makes life worth living.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 20
  • Country/sea: Finland
  • Place: Ivalo
  • Book page no: 41

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