Greetings from the North

Norja, Suomi - 17.6.2018 12:14

Our time in the North has been very memorable; we have met with lovely people and seen beautiful scenery. Our batteries have been recharged in the midnight sun – it’s incredible how awake you feel when it’s always bright outside!

Let me tell a couple of stories of our travels above the Arctic Circle after we left Seinäjoki, where we met with the big family from my mum’s side. By the way, it seems like updating the blog is remaining my responsibility, while my wife is editing our video material. You can find the link and password to a nice video of our Scandinavia tour at the end of this post.

So, after a 6 hours train ride from Seinäjoki to Rovaniemi, which Deb used for editing videos, we arrived and, as usual, my grandpa was there to meet us at the train station. It was a joyful reunion, and even though Deb doesn’t speak Finnish and my grandparents don’t speak English they get well along, communicating by expressions and gestures. It’s always a relaxing time when we go to our grandparents. They take such good care making sure we put on at least a couple of kgs before we leave! My grandma had made the delicious cloudberry cake she usually makes when we visit. We told them about our wedding and showed pictures and videos of it. As they couldn’t come to Switzerland, we also showed them videos of our life over there so they could see the environment we have been living in.

Life at grandparents is simple and stressless. My grandpa had lost a tooth so he took his teeth for repair. However, time flew by as he was singing songs to us, without his upper teeth, that he forgot to pick up his teeth from the dentist before they closed. But he just laughed about it and said that “well, I think I will just eat porridge for breakfast tomorrow!”. He’s so funny. They had moved to a new apartment, which was really nice and just around the corner from Eetu and Paula, friends I met while studying in Helsinki. They had since moved to study and work in Rovaniemi, together with their Lapland dog, Milli. We went to visit them and spent a nice evening catching up, eating pizza, and playing board games! It was really nice seeing them again!

Although Rovaniemi is already at the Arctic Circle you can still drive much further north. So we did. Deb’s friend, Lise, from Mercy Ships lives in Hammerfest, so my grandpa offered us his car to drive and visit her in the northernmost town, which was still 650km further north from Rovaniemi. As we didn’t have so much time before going back to Helsinki, and we wanted to still spend more time with my grandparents, we could only spend one night in Hammerfest. But we did it anyway, 9hrs of driving there on Tuesday, and 9hrs of driving back on Wednesday. The good thing is that the sun doesn’t set for couple of months so it’s bright all the time, which makes driving that much less tiring and less dangerous. Those roads in Lapland are great, empty, wide open and straight! The only danger there are reindeer, and the police if they catch you enjoying the empty roads a bit too much. However, we didn’t experience problems with either of them. Hammerfest is the last ice free port on the coast, so they have built a big gas production facility over there. Apparently there are hundreds of kilometers of pipes from the station going to the gas sources in the arctic sea. And the vessel transporting the gas to its destinations is worth millions. We saw the station and the ship, as we hiked up some of the mountains in Hammerfest.

It’s a very barren environment, so far up north that there are no trees growing. So that makes you think it’s cold. A couple of weeks ago it was +25, and when we visited it was a solid +4 degrees. The weather up there is unpredictable; we saw sun, rain, hail, snow, and rainbows all in one hour. It’s quite a harsh environment, but it’s pretty as well. It’s so remote! They have a small airport but it’s not uncommon that flights are cancelled due to difficult weather conditions. Sometimes the only way to escape the island is by boat, as the roads can be blocked by avalanche. Lise has been living there for a couple of years, working in the hospital. Besides the people working at Statoil, the others are mainly the hospital staff, in the town of 10k habitants. If you take into account the number of reindeer living on the island, I think the population may be doubled.

My dare in Hammerfest was to swim in the sea, the ice cold sea. I’ve never seen sea water so clear. It’s not that I was too hot because of the sunshine, but it was just one of those things on the bucket list, ice bucket list.. I did it just in the beginning of our way back to Rovaniemi, so I was definitely awake for the drive! It wasn’t really swimming, it was more like panicking in the water. Also, as my grandpa said, the beaches up there are not so good. So it was basically just a rocky shore and I tried not to hurt myself while dipping into the freezing salt water. My watch showed the water to be +8 degrees, but it still didn’t feel warmer than the air that was a stable +4.

The drive back to Rovaniemi was beautiful. On our way to Hammerfest we drove through Ivalo and saw the big lake Inari. We arrived to the sea sooner and those views were nice, but I still preferred our way back on the west side through Alta and Enontekiö. The scenery changed a lot, we went through plains with no trees, along beautiful rivers, and then reached the tree line but still stayed high up from where we could see the forests and river down in the valley. Then drove in the valley next to beautiful mountain lakes and through narrow gorges. The forest became thicker but remained still very low, as the growth season in the north is short. Gradually the forest became taller and more variable, as we reached the border of Finland again.

For the last couple of days in Lapland we went with my grandparents to their cottage, which is quite remote, in the woods, by a lake. That’s a place where you can hear no sound. It’s quite amazing to be so deep in nature. There we stayed one night, watched the World Cup, piled some wood outside to dry for the next season and filled the shed with firewood for this season, helped my grandparents to put the jetty on the water for swimming, warmed up the sauna and went swimming. Then the next day it was time to say goodbye to my grandparents, as we flew back to Helsinki.

As we arrived in Helsinki, we went to my sister’s place to help her build a sofa bed she had bought. (making good use of her brother being in town..) She made dinner for us so it was a fair trade, hehe! The next day we met with my friends Kalle, Ida, Joonas, and Pauliina at Kippis Festival in Helsinki. It was a beautiful sunny day to enjoy live music, artisanal beers and burgers, and great seeing good friends! From the festival we went to Shotti Baari to play some shot roulette, a game that sounded so fun I had to try it and take others with me to this small and shady bar. We raised the bar, quite literally, and went next to the terrace on top of Torni, from where you have nice views over Helsinki in the sun set. I got to try the world’s best gin, Napue, from Finland. It looked very arctic with ice cubes, rosemary, and cranberries. On the terrace I happened to meet my friend Petri, whom I’ve known the longest, for over 20 years now! So it was a happy coincidence. That whole evening was a very nice ending for our time in Finland.

From this link you can watch the video of our tour in Scandinavia: https://vimeo.com/275492299

Password: 1205

Now, the time has come to move on to the next destination, Belgium, here we come!

 

Our wheels to Rovaniemi With Ukki Cloudberry cake Visiting Eetu, Paula and Milli On the road 18hrs in two days  Norway, baby! With Lise in Hammerfest View of Hammerfest Apero Polar bear beware!Last kiss? Cold cold cold!I am Thor! Back to Finland Ukki can still chop wood in his old days, but we helped him pile them. Nice little activities at the cottage. Wood for the winter With Mummi and Ukki Karelia stew Standing on the successfully installed jetty on the lake  The old poet Our next destination! See you again! My sister's apartment got new furniture! Summer princess At Kippis Festival with Ida, Kalle and Joonas Good times in Helsinki Shot roulette Found this Teddy Bear on top of Helsinki Quality drinks See you next time in Congo?

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