A Travellerspoint blog

Back to Helsinki

... and home

snow -2 °C

11 March 2018

I woke to see heavy snow falling, with a temperature of -2C. I watched the daily clearing of the snow in the hotel carpark.

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My snowy journey was coming to an end as I caught the airport bus at 9.35am. Rovaniemi airport has a Santa theme.

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The flight from Rovaniemi was interesting- it's the first time I've seen the wings sprayed with a de-icing liquid. And we flew through clouds so thick they seemed solid, flying through the clouds certainly caused some turbulence. I'm glad the pilot knew what he was doing because you couldn't see the runway until we touched down! I was back in Helsinki just after 12pm.

12 - 14 March 2018

I had the whole day to fill in before a late night departure and originally I had planned to spend some time in the city. I checked for things to do in Helsinki but there was nothing that inspired me enough to want to go back into the city. So I spent the day relaxing at the hotel, reading, watching TV and I even used the hotel gym. I'd booked an extra night at the hotel even though I won't be staying for the night - I had wondered whether it was worth the extra expense but it was definitely worth it.

I departed Helsinki at 11.55pm on 12 March and the following twenty four hours was spent in the air or sitting around airports. I arrived home around 10.30am on 14 March. It's so good to be home and to feel the warmth of the sun again.

I can highly recommend Aurora Holidays for anyone that wants to see the Northern Lights, or anyone that wants to explore the most northerly part of Finland. This area would also be a great place for hiking in the warmer weather.

The second part of my Finland holiday was a self-tour planned and booked by Authentic Scandinavia: they booked accommodation, train tickets and the Sampo icebreaker experience but I was on my own to make sure I was in the right place at the right time. I could have booked these things myself but I honestly didn't know what I wanted to do in Finland so I chose one of the Authentic Scandinavia options.

I did struggle with the extreme cold during this trip and it's not something I would repeat in a hurry. But I survived the cold and there were huge rewards for travelling at this time of year. The dream was to see the Aurora Borealis and I can't believe I got to see the lights on two nights: I'm still in awe of the incredible beauty of the lights. I also experienced snowshoeing, a husky sled ride, a cruise on an icebreaker ship, plus the excitement of getting off the ship to walk on the thick layer of ice. Despite complaining about the cold I was able to appreciate the beauty of a snow covered landscape and to experience the joy of walking on fresh snow with snowflakes drifting down.

Thank you to everyone that's been reading my ramblings and leaving comments. I originally started writing the blog for myself but it's nice to know that I can share my journeys with other people.

Posted by MissWalker 00:28 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Rovaniemi: Day 2

A day of non-stop snow

snow -5 °C

It was snowing last night and must have continued all night. This was the view from my hotel window this morning. At least the temperature is much milder when it's snowing: -5C this morning and should rise to -1C during the day.

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I didn't have anything planned for the day. Maybe I booked one day too many in Rovaniemi. Most tourists would spend some time in Santa's Village but that doesn't really interest me. Yes, I'm a bad tourist ... who wouldn't want to visit Santa and have a photo taken with him for only 25 Euros?

Around 11am I put on my gear and headed out for a walk. Steady snow was falling and it was very pleasant. I walked down the pedestrian area between the shops until I reached the frozen river. I walked for an hour and a half, and although it was still -4C I got quite warm.

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During the afternoon the snow became heavier so I went out for another walk to try and photograph the falling snow. I tried different shutter speeds but was unsuccessful; there was nothing dark enough to contrast the falling snow.

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I'll be leaving Rovaniemi tomorrow so I decided to have one last push into the cold to have a look at the lights.

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Posted by MissWalker 09:52 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Rovaniemi: Day 1

Ranua Wildlife Park

snow -10 °C

I have to admit that I've had enough ice, snow and cold weather to last me a lifetime. It's 26C at home today and I'm longing to be there.

This is not my typical overseas trip where I go to a new place and wander aimlessly for hours, exploring whatever I come across. This time I've had to spend a lot more time indoors. It takes a while to prepare for the cold outside: I've been wearing two pairs of wool socks and snow boots, two layers of pants (wool and fleece) plus snow pants, two layers of tops (wool and fleece) plus a big snow jacket, a beanie, a buff and scarf, a pair of glove liners and a pair of mittens. When I have all those clothes on I can hardly move!

I wrote the above this morning when I didn't want to go out in the cold. Then I put on all my layers and went outside anyway. This afternoon I spent a few hours at the Ranua Wildlife Park: the park houses arctic species of birds and animals and has the only polar bears in Finland.This is a place I knew I wanted to visit but I had trouble booking online. There were some options but they were all for two or more people and they would not take a booking for one person. Just before I left home I came across an option on Viator, an expensive option, that would take a single booking.

I was picked up at 12pm and found out that I'm the only person doing the Ranua trip today. I had a guide and driver and all five seats in the luxury Mercedes van to myself. Ranua is about 80km south of Rovaniemi and it took about an hour to get there. My guide bought my ticket and gave me the choice of following the walkway by myself or going with him. I was happy to go by myself because it meant I could go at my own pace and stop to take as many photos as I like.

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The snowy owl blends in well with his surroundings

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Golden Eagle

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I spent a long time watching the polar bears. The young bear was rolling around and playing with sticks.

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I loved the polar bears but my favourite animal was the wolverine. He was ripping apart a piece of meat.

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It took me almost two hours to walk around the snow covered walkway. There were signs warning that the path was slippery and it certainly was on the slopes. The temperature was around -7C and light snow was falling but I found it quite pleasant while I kept moving. I really enjoyed my visit to the wildlife park.

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Posted by MissWalker 10:19 Archived in Finland Comments (1)

Kemi to Rovaniemi

A slow day in the land of snow

snow -9 °C

I had the morning to fill in before catching my train to Rovaniemi but there really isn't much to do in Kemi. I'd seen some snowmen when I arrived on the train so I headed to the train station to find them. I only ventured out for about an hour because walking on snow and ice is really difficult.

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I was at the train station over an hour before departure. I was out on the platform when an announcement said that my train would be departing from platform 2 - it would have been great if the announcement came well before departure time. I didn't even know there was another platform! I had to walk very quickly to the end of the platform, cross two train tracks and walk back on platform 2. I made it just as the train arrived.

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The train journey took just over an hour and I arrived in Rovaniemi around 2.45pm. I had planned to walk to my hotel and noted down the route but when I saw the amount of snow in Rovaniemi I quickly decided that a 10 euro taxi ride was good value. Rovaniemi sits on the Arctic Circle and is the capital of the Lapland area of Finland.

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Posted by MissWalker 09:11 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Kemi

Ice breaker

semi-overcast -15 °C

I had a restless night in my little train bed. I was awake early and watched the snowy scenery pass by. I worked out how to change my bathroom into a shower room by pulling a lever and swinging across part of the wall ... who comes up with these brilliant ideas? I've been loving the heated bathroom floors in Finland - didn't expect the bathroom on a train to have a heated floor, but it did!

I arrived in Kemi around 9.30am and stepped onto a very snowy and almost deserted platform. I followed the instructions and found my hotel after a bit of wandering around. Despite the early hour my room was ready and I was able to check in. I went to the supermarket in Kemi and saw something unexpected and really quite bizarre ... along the wall outside the checkouts there was a row of poker machines (slot machines) and people were feeding money into them after buying their groceries!

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So why have I come to Kemi? Because there is a unique tourist attraction. The 1960s icebreaker Sampo was replaced by bigger, better, newer icebreakers but instead of selling the Sampo for scrap the ship takes tourists out for a couple of hours of ice crushing fun. The Sampo operates on the frozen Gulf of Bothnia.

I was picked up from my hotel and after a 15 minute drive I checked in and boarded for the 1pm departure. We were put into small groups for a guided tour of the ship and after that lunch was supplied. For a while the ship followed a path that was already broken up and then started breaking a channel through the fresh ice.

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Buoyant survival suits were provided for those that wanted to float in the icy water. That didn't interest me but I did enjoy walking out onto the frozen water.

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The Sampo experience finished at 5pm and I was returned to my warm hotel room to thaw out. Yes, it was very cold out on the water but it was an incredible experience. Today was definitely not another boring day!

Posted by MissWalker 12:30 Archived in Finland Comments (1)

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