I am writing this article to drag your attention towards this one small city in Finland called Rovaniemi. It might be a small city but it contains worldly happiness and can give you the time of your life. Trust me when I say that, Rovaniemi is the happiest destination of Finland.
From Helsinki to Rovaniemi:
We took a train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. You can select a train time as per your choice as overnight trains are available too. The journey is about 9 hours. There are direct trains and also the ones that you can change from Oulu.
Train Journey Experience:
Nine hours appear to be a huge amount of time but it went by quite fast because of two reasons.
One being Eurail, the most buttery and meticulous train journey I’ve had until now. We had to change our train from Oulu and we had only seven minutes for that act. Unbelievably we accomplished the same in less than four minutes. Europe trains are on the dot. It reaches perfectly even if the time to reach is as imperfect as 16:13. All along I sat with the time-table in my hand hoping for the train to be not a single minute late since changing train in seven minutes already was a panicky moment. However, they were spot on and the deed was done impeccably.
Second reason was the journey itself. The voyage from the south to the north of Finland through the window was utterly picturesque, yet what I relished was observing life and simple human virtues. A girl, who probably came home for vacation, rushing and hugging her little sister; an old lady carrying herself on a wheelchair confidently without anyone’s help from the train to the taxi; a suitcase of a Chinese man slid on its wheels across the aisle of the train making our whole compartment shake with laughter.
Quote by me:
That is what travelling is all about. It is serendipity, an art-form, a skill that makes you humble and liberal.
On Reaching Rovaniemi:
As soon as we reached the station, I don’t know from where the cheerful vibes hit me. I was giggling and jumping, taking pictures, dragging my suitcase, enjoying the drizzle and then the reality struck when I had to figure out how to reach to the Santa Claus Holiday Village. We already had our cottages booked in the village. Consequently, taking a cab was an only option left for us, since it was bit late at night, about quarter past nine. Moreover, the services of the one and only bus no. 8 that runs in Rovaniemi, stops at 5 PM.
Santa Claus Holiday Village:
Rovaniemi is the last small town in the north of Finland before the country enters the Arctic Circle and it is considered to be the official residence of Santa Claus. At the stretch of this town, is located, Santa Claus Holiday Village, where the main post office of Santa is situated and is right in the middle of where the Arctic circle crosses.
“If you think Disneyland is the happiest place in the world, your perception might change after visiting Santa Claus Holiday Village.”
We stayed in the cottage, lit up our very own Christmas tree outside the cottage, met and chatted with Santa and it was Christmas all over again in August for us. It is such a joyful place where everyone greets you with a wide toothy smile and a chirpy face. Somehow, I noticed that everyone working in the village has this gleeful ‘ho ho ho’ type of Santa voice which is effective enough to instantly lift the spirits of the visitors. Everyone is super friendly, funny and marshmallow-y; they make sure that not even a single shred of gloominess enters the site.
There are separate edifices deployed as restaurants, souvenir and clothing stores.
Santa Claus Official Post Office:
Also, in the Official Post Office, one can select Christmas cards from the store and send them to anyone, anywhere in the world by dropping them into either of the yellow and red post-boxes marked as ‘Today’ and ‘Christmas’ respectively.
I thought of surprising my childhood friend in California and wrote her a card wishing Merry Christmas and posted it in the red post box which she received right on the Christmas Eve of that very year, making her overwhelm with astonishment, to my intent.
Night at the Santa Claus Holiday Village:
At night, although the sky never went too dark for a night to happen, the luminous Christmas trees of every occupied cottage and the candle bridge lights visible from the windows gave eggnog warmth to the magical aura. After all, I studied at a Convent school and have always believed in the magic of Christmas.
Huskies and Reindeers:
Huskies and Santa’s dearest Reindeers have a home here. We fed them some broad leaved grass hay and sedges. Reindeers are quite vulnerable during fall as they shed their velvet skin under which a new antler grows every year during this season. On the contrary, they are very active during winter making them a best fit for Santa’s sleigh.
In Finland, hunting and selling reindeer’s hide and meat is legal. Finnish folks blissfully devour on the reindeer meat, the hides become either rugs, jackets or a door curtain of a teepee and the antlers serve as decorations.
Hiking Experience inside the Arctic Circle:
Apart from having a sugarplum time, we also went for a midnight hike inside the Arctic Circle and encountered the ‘Midnight Sun’ of the Finnish Lapland. The walk in the forest was breathtakingly beautiful and I have never felt this closest to the nature ever; a polka dot design made on the ground by mushrooms, the sound of the gushing water, feel of the crispy chill and the whiff of the purest air my lungs have ever experienced.
Types of Berries:
All types of berries grow abundantly in the Scandic regions. Amongst them, we found a lot of blueberries, blackberries and lingonberries’ plants growing wildly here and there. Another type of berry, cloudberry, also known as Lapland’s gold, pops up in July and stays ripe for only three weeks. Alas! We couldn’t get our hold onto those in August. For the reason that, those were, probably, already picked by the locals for their exclusive cloudberries jams, tarts and liqueurs, which are a dominant part of the Finnish cuisine.
We stopped for a break at a camp site, picked fresh and misty blueberries, gnawed on a camp-fire roasted corn-on-the-cob with a glass of lingonberry juice.
Kuksa (The traditional cup of Finland):
Fortunately, we came across a Scandinavian hiker who introduced us to a “Kuksa”. It is a traditional cup made of a birch wood and the tradition says that you either have to carve it one for yourself from a birch gnarl or receive it as a gift from someone else. No people residing in Lapland leaves their house without a Kuksa hanging from their back pack. It can last a lifetime, if cured properly with a brandy, and can withstand the constant fluctuation of hot and cold liquids and temperature.
Finland might only be about Nokia or Helsinki to the utmost, for most people, but to get to the core of the Finnish culture, one must extend their journey towards the Lapland.
Hike into the Arctic Forest:
Furthermore, we continued our hike until midnight, walked on the wooden trail in the middle of the swamps, deeper into the Arctic forest, inhaling in the pine trees aroma and capturing the scenes as much possible into our brains through our eyes, since I had given up on taking pictures at that point of time.
Some awestruck moments are better experienced in tranquil rather than trying to fill it up in a memory card. I fancy infiltrating myself while amidst nature, but the photographer bug in me goes in an opposite direction creating turmoil in my head. Yet, I manage both somehow.
On returning, we took a detour on our way out and came up against a boulder which was said to be a remnant of an ice age. Loitering on the wooden bridges, we halted to notice the water of the stream had a distinctive cola colour. Not quite sure about the reason, but it, may be, due to excessive rock abrasion.
Exiting the hiking area, we drove back towards our cottage. It was almost one in the morning but we still took one last stop at the Pasmajarvi Lake. It was almost impossible to figure out that whether the sun was trying to set or rise. The pine trees reflected on the lake and the sky gave an orange and greyish hue to the lake water. A boat lied in solitude in a corner. The sight was parallel to a dream.
It had been a very chilly night but thanks to the sauna in our cottage that I steamed up my exhaustion and the rest of the night-time went in a restful sleep.
Another morning we decided to check out the city. Hence taking the bus no. 8, we reached at the city centre. We walked around the town, explored bits and parts, shopped at a Finnish famous Marimekko store and ran back to catch the bus because we couldn’t afford to miss it.
Afterwards, collecting our luggage and gloominess, we bid adieu to this wonderful town and flew back to Helsinki.
What Rovaniemi is to me:
To my way of thinking, Rovaniemi crowns it all; where utopia is unwrapped in the form of Santa Claus Holiday Village, soul is soothed within the depth of ethereal nature and minds are widened exponentially with the understanding of culture other than your own.
Hugging my memories and experiences close to my heart, I am now on my way for a new adventure as my globetrotting spirit says that exploration is limitless.
Hope my story of Rovaniemi was an interesting read for you. Show your reactions by clicking on the smiley, share the article and don’t forget to drop a comment below.
Travel often and become a story-teller!