A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about children

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)

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)

On to Oslo

Reporting from Bergen

rain 15 °C
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We arrived fresh and ready to hit Oslo after a night on the Ferry... amazingly smooth journey. We packed up our little cabin, and headed down to the car deck. Once our GPS booted up and realised it had moved to a different country we headed to meet the next key giver of the new AirBNB apartment - a lovely little space, I'm very taken with Scandanavian interiors!!
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Then once we had unloaded the car, we set off in the car - due to the short stay, we have not mastered the public transport system, and instead just visited three museums, all of which we drove to. The first was the Munch Museet. They were having an exhibition of Munch and Van Gogh, cohosted by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It was a terrific exhibition, and showed the parallels between the two artists, who came into painting around the same time, and had similar influences, however interestingly never met! I was fascinated because there were so many paintings by Van Gogh that I had never seen before, this one particularly grabbed me... Two figures in the undergrowth.
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The Munch Museet gave the kids a treasure hunt activity to do, where they had a map of the museum, and stickers with parts of the paintings. They had to match the stickers to the rooms, and (optionally) write the name of the painting and the year it was done. It was a terrific activity and really got the kids engaged with the artworks. Then they got this pack at the end as a reward for getting it all right!
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After the Munch Museet, we headed to the Vikingskipshuset - a fascinating look at 3 Viking Ships which had been used around 900AD as burial tombs for 'important' people. The deceased were interred in a burial chamber on the boat, and surrounded with useful goods which would be beneficial in the afterlife. These ships are the best preserved because they have been buried, however when they were discovered they were treated with a preservative, which stopped the outside of the wood from deteriorating, but sadly are now decomposing from inside, and the museum experts are not sure how best to prevent it continuing.
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Interesting fact for the day... Vikings did not wear helmets with horns!
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A bonus from our ticket to the Vikingskipshuset, was it also gave us entry into the Historical Museum within 48 hours! So on the morning we were leaving Oslo, we had a quick visit to the Historical Museum to get another quick look at Norwegian Viking History and Life in the Arctic Circle!
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We saw a model of a Stave Church in the Historical Museum, and then realised that it was en route to our next stop - Bergen!

Posted by aboo10 13:27 Archived in Norway Tagged children museum norway family_travel midnightsunrun Comments (1)

Next Stop... Copenhagen

Reporting from the Crown Seaways Ferry

sunny 27 °C
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On the way to Copenhagen, we managed to spend an amazing afternoon catching up with old friends from Shanghai. They have a summer house in Hojby, on the coast of Zealand. We got there about 2pm, and had a traditional and yummy late lunch... although the kids preferred to just graze on choc chip muffins....

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We then wandered down to the beach, a dreamy 5 min walk down the road. We caught up about each family's changes since leaving Shanghai. They are in the process of relocating to the Hague - so we'll probably see a bit more of them in the near future!

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We were a bit late getting to Copenhagen, but settled into our next AirBNB apartment, ready to explore Copenhagen the next day. It did not disappoint... we went to Rosenborg - an old Royal Castle built in 1606. We saw the crown jewels and marvelled at the amazing rooms in the castle.

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And then we headed over to see the Little Mermaid, sitting on her rock in Copenhagen Harbour. We had seen her at the Shanghai Expo in 2010, in the Denmark Pavillion, so we knew she was little! But the crowds visiting her, proved her popularity. It was hot, and a long walk, and we found refuge from the heat in the Marmorkirken church, which was beautiful! Didi found it a bit far, and actually fell asleep during a piggy back ride on Mike's back! Although he perked up once we got there and he climbed around on the rocks.

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We continued our walk (wish we'd been wearing a pedometer!) and had dinner in Ny Havn - a fabulous outdoor eating area right on the canal, in front of traditional Danish buildings, all brightly coloured. Loved it! I had a herring platter - delicious!! So good we went again the next night!!
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Something we are still working out how to manage is that it is light until about 10.30pm, although the sun sets just before 10pm, and it makes it tricky for the kids to agree to go to bed! This has resulted in a build up of tiredness, and so after a lazy morning, we headed into town to visit Amalienborg - the palace where Princess Mary lives! It is a large gracious square with 4 (matching) palaces on each corner. One is Queen Margarethe's home, another is a museum (the one we went into) and one is for hosting State Events. The museum showed reconstructed rooms from each palace which were stunning, and as well there was information on the current royal family.

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On our last full day we again headed into the city, this time to visit the HC Andersen Museum. Unfortunately it was part of the usual tourist attraction of Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, although we didn’t have to go into both, but it was a bit more tinny and tacky than I had anticipated. That being said there was a good history of Hans Christian Andersen, and scenes from many of his stories.
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After the HC Andersen Museum, we went to Tivoli. A-may-zing! It’s the most beautiful garden with concert halls and amusement parks altogether. It was lovely to stroll through the gardens, and the day was divine… a bit cooler than our other days, but still sunny and blue. There were surprises at each turn, from the Pirate Ship Frigate to an elaborate Chinese Pagoda, the rides were spectacular - frightening upside down roller coasters and quaint old merry-go-rounds. We didn’t go on any rides, but enjoyed the carnival atmosphere. And we let the kids have a fairy floss EACH!

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Today we had a quiet one, packing up the AirBNB place. We then went to the supermarket to buy lunch, which we had as a picnic in a local park, watching a soccer camp practise. Then we headed to the Ferry Terminal - because tonight we are sleeping on the ferry to Oslo. We have a tiny sea front cabin for four with two bunk beds and a mini bathroom. It’s minimalist to the extreme! The boat is huge. Our car is parked on the decks below and there are about 6 decks of cabins and entertainment… I feel like I might be on a mini-cruise - it’s quite fun! We pre-booked a table for a buffet dinner, and I’m planning on only eating salmon. Maybe a smoked salmon starter and a baked salmon main!

Posted by aboo10 10:51 Archived in Denmark Tagged buildings children flowers norway ferry denmark family_travel Comments (1)

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