The very first and obvious question I asked on my visit to a reindeer farm near Iso-Syöte in Finland, was if any of the reindeer were named Rudolph.
Reindeer farmer and guide Juha Virkkunen, who also moonlights as an eccentric teacher and musician chuckles. It’s not the first time he’s been asked this question. “Yes, several of them are named Rudolph.” It turns out that it is a very good thing to be named Rudolph since those are his favorite reindeer which will be spared from slaughter.
Juha introduces us to some of his favorites as they all come in for a bit of reindeer chow that he is offering up. He speaks softly to them, stroking the heads of the Rudolphs in the group. He is passionate about his reindeer rounding them up every fall from the forest before winter hits. Herding up reindeer often involves navigating through deep snow on a snowmobile, which is a popular way for Finns to travel in winter. It sounds like quite the job – and one that you would have to be passionate about.
Juha also offers reindeer rides for children. I tell him I’m a kid at heart, but he doesn’t bite. No reindeer ride for me.
In addition to the reindeer, Juha also offers us some…rather unique Finnish cooking tips, ranging from how to prepare reindeer hearts to how to make butter milk using frogs. After meeting the Rudolphs of the group I pass on the reindeer hearts, although I will confess to eating reindeer meat several days later when I was pretending to be a Finn for a Day. I felt a mix of guilt and Wow, this tastes really good! The Finns are on to something.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to a reindeer farm in Finland. Reindeer play an important role in many Finns lives, similar to what cattle play in my family of cattle ranchers.
Visiting a reindeer farm gives you a better understanding of Finnish culture.
And for the record (since I know you wanted to ask) none of the Rudolph’s I met had a red nose!
Thank you to GoArctic! for making my visit possible. As always all opinions expressed are my own.