A Travellerspoint blog

Helsinki and ferry back to Germany!

Reporting from Düsseldorf

semi-overcast 16 °C
View Midnight Sun Run on aboo10's travel map.

It's a long time ago, but I clearly remember driving into Helsinki, parking the car, checking into the hotel and all of us collapsing on the lush comfortable double beds, and just crashing out for a few hours, weary after so much driving. We had 2 nights in Helsinki, so one full day to sightsee, but to be honest, our sightseeing was done... we were sightseen out, and were ready to go home.

In Helsinki, we stayed in a Radisson Blu Hotel, and while a family room is cozy, it was nice and comfortable for our last stop on our Midnight Sun Run trip. We arrived in Helsinki in the early afternoon, and collapsed with all the mod-cons of a hotel room, such as TV, big comfy beds and the knowledge that we had finished the driving (almost). So we relaxed and had a lazy afternoon in the hotel, only setting out to find somewhere for dinner. However that somewhere was close to the centre of town, so even after lazing about we still walked a decent distance to get into the town proper for dinner.

Dinner didn't disappoint. We went to a quaint restaurant on the main street with a long history. Kamp Brasserie has been operating for over 100 years, and part of stepping into the covered terrace was like taking a step back in time. The tableware was elegant, and glasses beautiful. The service was attentive, and they did a roaring tourist trade... two tables around us also had Aussies at it, but many well heeled locals too! Going inside the building proper, was breathtaking - enormous chandeliers and plush velvet upholstery was a sight to behold. The dinner was delicious and we went all out and shared an entree and dessert, as well as a delicious main. Jie Jie's dessert was elegance in ice cream!

The next day, we were up and at breakfast promptly, to enjoy our full day in Helsinki, and pack it in we did! We started roaming through a flea market... I love looking at antique tableware and being surprised to see pieces of the dinner set that Mum and Dad have at home for sale on many tables! We also went to a design museum, a couple of cathedrals, looked at some shops and wandered around a market area.

Our ferry the next day was basic, and it would take us 28 hours to get to Travemünde, in Germany, so we relaxed wandering around the boat, and having dinner and letting the kids play in the soft play room. And then at about 8pm the following day, we arrived in Germany, we debated whether to find somewhere to stay, but decided it was easier just to drive through the night and get home to Düsseldorf - Home sweet home.... but wow, what an adventure!!

Posted by aboo10 22:54 Archived in Finland Tagged finland ferry family_travel Comments (0)

Rovaniemi and Jyvaskyla

Reporting from Helsinki

sunny 18 °C
View Midnight Sun Run on aboo10's travel map.

I decided not to clog up the Christmas in July post with the other thing we did in Rovaniemi - and we weren't there long really, so went to one museum and for a short walk along the river...

It was a very interesting museum called Arktikum, which showed life in the Arctic Circle, and also had lots of interesting information about animals, trade and history. It was in a building with a long glass arch, and photos of it in winter makes it look like an igloo. In summer however, it is a greenhouse and was stifling hot under the arch.


We had a long drive to get from Rovaniemi to Jyvasklya and so opted to get going early and have breakfast as a stop on the way. Our other reason for getting away early, was that the reason we were stopping overnight at Jyvaskyla on the way to Helsinki was to get to the Alvar Aalto Museum, which we realised was shut on Mondays, so in order to visit, we needed to get there with enough time to enjoy it and it closed at 6pm on Sundays! So with the museum plugged into our GPS, apart from breakfast, we didn't stop. We have hauled the camping stove with us, so were glad to get it out to make coffee at a stop on the side of the road! Cereal and bananas made a perfect break stop!


The museum was really interesting. Alvar Aalto was a furniture designer and architect, renowned for designing Finnish summer homes using natural and environmentally sympathetic materials. He was also an inspiration for many of the stools and chairs in Ikea, such as the common Frosta stool and everyone's favourite the Poang chair. He looked to create furniture from sustainable woods, and pioneered the use of plywood layers and bending wood.


Jyvaskyla was a quick visit, given we arrived at the museum at 4pm and left the following morning after breakfast. But we did sample some local beers and enjoyed a walk around the town, along this gorgeous rainbow road!


Posted by aboo10 03:12 Archived in Finland Tagged children animals museum finland ecotourism family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (0)

Christmas in July

Reporting from Helsinki

overcast 16 °C
View Midnight Sun Run on aboo10's travel map.

'Tis the season to be jolly - as a relocated Australian, I certainly think that the summer season is a perfectly sensible time to be celebrating Christmas, and so as we were in Rovaniemi, which is the official hometown of Santa Claus, THE Santa Claus, the TRUE Santa Claus, we thought we better go and say hi!

It was a bit weird hearing Christmas Carols piped through the music system and seeing Christmas paraphernalia everywhere, but the Christmas decorations don't look tired or like they've just been left up since Christmas, so a lot of attention is obviously given to their maintenance. The shops are glistening, just like the 6 weeks before Christmas in Melbourne or London...

It is also village made for bus loads of tourists and winter, and bus loads of tourists would come, and visit Santa and the shops and then vanish. We were there for a few hours and I suppose because it is not winter, and it is in a good location for a coffee and shop stop, that's what they did... By being made for winter, I mean that all the entries into buildings have grates - to stamp or scrape snow off shoes, double sets of doors - to keep the heat in, and there are loads of hooks and rails - to hang up winter coats.

Santa Claus Village is also right on the arctic circle, but compared to the other spot where we stopped on the 66 degree north latitude, was less of an ordeal to get to it! So no cairns or congratulatory awards!

There were loads of shops including Marimekko and iitalia outlets, and a huge number of shops selling Christmas trinkets, and Lapland or Finland souvenirs. Some stores had specialty items, ranging from handknits, or leather goods, or reindeer antler everything, or silver, but most had mass produced souvenir type objects. Not that these weren't cute to look at too, and of course I didn't leave empty handed!!

We also saw some reindeers, and were able to feed them and pat them. They were much smaller than I expected. The reindeer handler answered Didi's question about flying, with a very clear explanation - they must be harnessed to the sleigh, and the sleigh helps them fly, and Santa has to be there too! Didi and Jie Jie were listening very carefully and appeared to think that the answer was well supported!

There is also a post office, which does issue special stamps and has a special postmark. I particularly loved in the post office, the huge tables with pots of pens at which you can sit and write cards. (Please note - No Christmas in July cards coming! Sorry!) Also the mail that Santa has already received in 2015 has been read and is filed by country of origin here too.

The highlight for sure though was visiting Santa - and we saw some top secret things, like how he has engineered a way to slow down the earth's rotation on Christmas Eve to ensure he can visit everyone! The kids were pretty stoked to meet him, and especially to receive a stuffed husky dog each. The magic of Christmas is certainly alive in Rovaniemi!!

Posted by aboo10 12:54 Archived in Finland Tagged children shopping christmas magic family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (1)

Nord Kapp

Reporting from Jyväskylä

overcast 6 °C
View Midnight Sun Run on aboo10's travel map.

We made it! We reached our destination. The goal for this driving holiday was to reach the most northern point of mainland Europe, and we did it.


Actually we reached the most northern point of Europe which is accessible by car, there is a point which is 1.2km further north, but to reach it you need to do a 7 hour hike - which didn't sound like too much fun when you consider the wind chill factor and our two short people. Nord Kapp was named North Cape by Steven Burrough, a British Explorer in 1553 who was looking for the North East Passage, and later translated into Norwegian. Explorers have been passing by North Cape since then and the Tourist Centre there shows a range of scenes from when people have visited North Cape over the centuries. Due to the harsh conditions, with wild seas, cold temperatures and often ice, it must have been quite a challenge to get there and home again safely. Nord Kapp is on the 71st line of latitude, and is still over 1000km to the North Pole, but there is no land at the north pole.

We saw a number of hikers and cyclists riding along the wind blown highway, struggling against the wind, and with nowhere to really get out of it. The landscape is quite desolate, and there are no trees, so shelter is limited. It was a 2 hour drive from where we were staying in Olderfjord, so still quite a long haul. We were pleased with ourselves for reaching this point, so I can only imagine the sense of achievement of doing it under your own steam. Hope they had somebody picking them up! We stopped by the side of the road for a bit, and here is a picture of the kids being held up by the wind!

We bought a ticket to go into Nord Kapp, and it was valid for 24 hours. There were many campervans parked there, and some facilities. What we didn't realise beforehand is that people will go to Nord Kapp (eg on a tour bus) to be there for the midnight sun, so as we were driving up at 930am we were passing numerous buses returning after taking their tourists up for the night visit. During summer, the whole facility is open 24 hours, restaurants, galleries, and in a way, it has the transient feel of an airport, operating all day, and people doing things at 'funny' times. To do justice to all there is to see and do there, you need 3-4 hours, but because of the midnight sun, you could arrive at 10pm...

There is a lot of information about how life goes on in the Arctic Circle throughout the year. I think I have imagined winter there to have the constant need for safety lines and tying yourself down somewhat like the descriptions of Mawson's exploration of Antarctica, but in reality life goes on, and people are not living in temporary dwellings. If the weather is extreme, precautions are taken, and if not, people still catch buses, drive cars, go to school or work, councils clear the roads and so on.

There was an amazing sculpture that looked like seven coins standing on their sides, and they were the result of seven children coming to Nord Kapp from various places around the world and thinking about peace, and then using clay, created a design on a disc, which were then enlarged and made uniform in bronze. They stand reasonably isolated, and are visible from quite a distance and make quite an impact.


After exploring Nord Kapp, we continued to explore the area, and were taken with Honningsvag, possibly the world's most northern fishing village, and bright and colourful in summer.


Posted by aboo10 00:40 Archived in Norway Tagged adventure camping norway family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (0)

Crossing into the Arctic Circle

Reporting from Rovaniemi

sunny 10 °C
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We are officially in the Arctic Circle! Of course on the road there is a weighpoint where you can pull in and play on the arctic circle line. There were also snow drifts, which have turned to ice and are rapidly melting as summer sets in. People have built cairns using rocks to signify their achievement for making it to the Arctic Circle...


And here is our family cairn... despite not quite spelling our name right, Jie Jie was quite proud of her little plaque!!


Posted by aboo10 21:52 Archived in Norway Comments (2)

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