Finland – Lapland

First at all, sorry for all the mistakes writing in English!

[December 2018] Is there something better than travelling to a Scandinavian Country in winter? We wanted to enjoy the real winter, so we decided to go to northern Lapland in December!

Wednesday 5: The travel started in Helsinki. In the central railway station there are lockers big enough for leaving huge suitcases and enjoy the city. We both have already been to Helsinki, so we didn’t go to Suomenlinna. In case you haven’t been there and have some free time in Helsinki, for me it is the best part in the city.
The best part of travel in december is that the Christmas market is already there. Finns are obsessed with saunas, they even have one in the market! Also, they are so prepared to the cold, that all the shopping centers near the station are communicated without going out to the street.

We made our trip to Lapland by bus, with timetravels, who takes care of everything. There was a long time since the last travel by bus, but it wasn’t so hard as I thought. All the people in the bus was young, many eramus, but also people traveling by themselves.

Thursday 6: It’s finnish independence day, but in turistic spots didn’t care at all. Out first stop was in Ranua Zoo. It’s some kind of natural reserve. The animals are still in cages, but at least they are all artic animals. It’s amazing to see a polar bear playing with a piece of ice or a wolf running 2 meters away from you. 

From there, we went to Rovaniemi, known as Santa’s Village. It’s a thematic winter resort, where they do the same activities than in the rest of Lapland: Husky sledges, reindeer sledges, snowmobiles, ski… One of the cottages in the resort is Santa’s house, where you can take a photo with him. The rest, are shops, coffee shops and hotels. The particular thing in Rovaniemi is that is already in the polar circle. There it’s more common to see people dressed in heavy winter clothed instead of mere jeans. As if they were going to go skiing at anytime!

After another 3h by bus in the snow (literally, they don’t have problems with driving like this) we arrived to Saariselkä. They organized ourselves in cottages, sharing with people from the bus. We had the luck of sharing with 2 german girls and 2 australians, who made our trip even better!

As I have already say before, they have a real obsession with saunas. We also had one in our cottage! (How can you get your mind off cottages & saunas from Korpiklaani like this?).

At out first night there, we had dinner all together, with our future one-week-cottage-mates. After the dinner and with the sky totally covered, we went aurora hunting. I guess it was luck, perhaps having scratch Santa’s beard for aurora luck or the karma owing one from Iceland, but the sky suddenly got totally clear and we were able to see the northern lights in the first 5 minutes. It’s so amazing that maybe you are at -15º laying on the snow, you don’t have cold.

Friday 7: Today is the first “day” of polar night. The sun will not totally rise up tin he sky. From the ignorance, I thought that polar night means real night, but no. It’s like a foggy day. There’s light for several hours and the sunset last more than 4h.

We took the day off, because we haven’t booked any activities in order to have some rest after the trip.
We took advantage of the sauna at home, trying what you feel making angels in the snow just with your underwear.
Saariselka is some kind of winter “Benidorm”. All the bussiness are turism oriented: Souvenirs shops, bars, restaurants, activities…

Today, the sky is so covered that the possibilities to see auroras is almost null. So, we made some finn life, beer&sauna.

Saturday 8:  When we go out home, it’s still night. Today, there are two of the most expected activities. We are going to a husky farm to ride sledges! It may seem animal cruelty, but they really enjoy running in the snow and we you go up, you have to help them.
In our sledge, there’s a dog like mine. We runs where he want, stop when he want… It’s so fucking amazing to drive a sledge while you see all the dogs running happily.

While the second group is running, we wait inside a cabin where they had fire to warm up a berry juice (another finn thing…) and they left us play with a puppy. It’s more difficult to go out from there than from IKEA…

On the afternoon, we had the snowmobiles activity. At first, I wasn’t sure to book it, because it was the most expensive one, but thanks to my brother insistence, we booked it. It will be better if you can go wherever you want, but even going all together in line is really cool. But, driving and controlling the direction is not so easy at it’s look. Half way, we stopped in a tent, made fire, warmed up the juice and take a rest.

Today, it’s also impossible to see the auroras. It hasn’t stop snowing…

Sunday 9: Today we are going to the Artic sea in Norway! Out first stop is in Näätamö, just before the border. We started the day as real finns, having ribs and beers for breakfast. We are so north that at 10am is not day at all.

As we cross the border, we stopped to see the small waterfalls in the river Neiden. All the zone is beautiful, with a lot of frozen lakes.
In matter of population, the distances between villages are huge and the services are not so much. In all Inari region lives about 6k people.

When we arrive to Bugoynes, we stopped to take photos and to see the sights of the “edge of the world” because everywhing beside there is ocean.

The sights are great, but the cold is horrible. With this cold, you have to think that you are about to swim in the ocean…
Before going to the ocean, we went to eat in a local restaurant. The owner told us his life there during the meal. It’s curious that at 12:30 is already at night.
The sauna where we are going, obviously there’s a sauna for swimming in the artic ocean, is in the beach. It’s with real fire and not electric, which is a plus. The first feeling when you change to your swimsuit is an horrible cold, but 15min after sauna you are ready for the ocean. This is an strange feeling, because the snow gets into your flipflops. The water is not so cold as it’s look like. You skin is so hot that you even feel liberated.

When we ended with out night dipping, we go back to Inari. It’s a city, but for us is just a small village…

When we arrive to the cottage, we took our tobogans and went enjoy the snow like childs. After a little bit more of sauna, we went aurora hunting. We dind’t have luck that night, but it’s also funny being taking photos with snow till your knees while singing “we are here to drink your beer!“.

Monday 10: Today, out artic adventure is arriving to its end. We had to leave the cottage soon and leave the luggage in the bus. We use our free time to hike in Urho national park. To say goodbye to Saariselkä, we went taste the reindeer meat. The stew is not bad, but it has a really strong flavour. In steak its flavour is exceptional.

After 15h of bus, we arrived to Helsinki, after a few stops where we were able to say goodbye to our australians friends who travel till Oulu.

Tuesday 11: Some people from the bus is still in Helsinki. We went to have breakfast together and to the sauna. Also, to swim in a pool in Helsinki’s harbour. After having lunch together and spend a while in the ice skating place, they start to go to the airport.

But, we still had a night there, so we decided to discover the metal panorama in Helsinki. With the recomendation “Helsinki for headbangers” we went first to Praha. For me, it’s a total disappointing. There are so many finnish metal band and there they play hard rock… Ok, let’s go to the next one. We went to Bäkkäri. It doesn’t seem to be a metal pub… A local girl recommends us to go to Riff, which owner is the 69 eyes’s drummer. I have seen elevators with more ambiance than the “best metal pub in Helsinki”. And this one is not even opened…. I’ve arrived to the conclusion that the bands are so good because instead of going out to party, they keep practising at home…

Finland is so fucking amazing. And travel with erasmus again too. They said that once erasmus, always erasmus. It’s true. It’s a feeling that only former erasmus can understand. Thank you all for having made my trip awesome. Hope to see you again, maybe in Australia, in Germany, Spain or wherever.

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