A Travellerspoint blog

Rovaniemi and Jyvaskyla

Reporting from Helsinki

sunny 18 °C
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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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
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'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!
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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...
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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
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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.

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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.
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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!
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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.

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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.

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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...

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

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

For the First Time in Forever...

Reporting from Bergen

sunny 14 °C
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Now, if you have an eight year old daughter, like we do, you would know that the title of this blog post comes from the Disney movie, Frozen.

So for the first time in forever, we are the furthest north we have ever been - we are 60 degrees north, and this is much further north than Harbin, China which was only 45 degrees north, almost level with Paris! We are even further north than the top of the United Kingdom!

But also for the first time in forever, Disney, when making Frozen, which is a computer generated movie, set what is otherwise a generic fairy tale (based on The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Anderson) in Norway. The developers visited Norway and drew inspiration for many parts of the movie from genuine Norwegian towns, costumes and forests.

When we were in the Historical Museum in Oslo, we came across a model of a Stave Church, which was not too far off the route we were heading along to get to Bergen... so we thought we'd stop by to have a look... And in the first time in forever, the Borgund Stave Church we visited was the inspiration for the castle in Arendelle...
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For the first time in forever, we drove along through the stunning fjords, which were also inspiration in the movie, and at one point, Elsa freezes them all! And saw snow capped mountains
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For the first time in forever, we drove through the world's longest tunnel - the Laerdel Tunnel - 24.51km long. It has 3 caves hollowed out along its length to give drivers a break from the claustrophobic feel of the tunnel, and you are allowed to stop in them! We didn't, but they are illuminated with blue lights and also give something to look forward to!
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For the first time in forever, we got to Bergen, which is a UNESCO Listed Heritage Site, and was originally one of the Hanseatic Trading Ports, and so like in the movie becoming trading partners would have been desirable. The wharf area of Bryggen (where we had lunch and dinner!) is just gorgeous, with brightly coloured timber buildings, just like the township of Arendelle...
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For the first time in forever, the whole family went on a hike! We got the venicular railway up to a view point to see a stunning view of Bergen, and then we started following a nature trail, complete with trolls, and streams and then realised that we could walk back to our AirBNB apartment... so we did...
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and had a beer in the sun in the front garden.
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Posted by aboo10 14:13 Archived in Norway Tagged landscapes mountains buildings children history norway ecotourism family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (2)

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