Rovaniemi, Finland is more than a 50 degree drop from where we come from, the sunny Singapore. The coldest place I’ve ever been prior to Lapland was standing for 30 seconds in a -20 degree fish freezer in Jurong for one of my projects/clients and all it did me was stink of fish all day. Other than that, it’s always been sun and rain for me, with the occasional fog during trips to the mountain (in Davao).
I don’t think I will ever be in a place THIS cold ever again. But I am glad that I get to experience it.
As a person living in a tropical country, I have always dreamed of experiencing snow and having a white Christmas. My first snow was sometime February of 2013 in Chester, England. The snow fall was quickly followed by rain so the snow all ended up to be slush and I ended up horribly shivering in cold – not exactly the ‘snow of my dreams’. Yes, I get to experience snow during our #ScandiChristmas14 trip and it was more than I could have hoped for.
So what about the SNOW?
The snow in Rovaniemi is dry, fine and powdery – so much so that it’s nearly impossible to build a snowman or roll a snowball, but best for snow angels. 🙂 I don’t think it snowed during our 4-day stay in the town but I always see a huge fresh pile of snow by the wayside everyday.
It is strange being that cold. As soon as you step out of the building and breathe in the fresh, frozen air, you can’t help but cough it all out. Probably because of the ice particles going into your lungs? Maybe. At nighttime, you can see the floating ‘crystals’ in the air making everything around you twinkle – it all looks and feels magical.
It’s magical not because of Santa’s Village nearby (yes, I did get to meet the ‘real’ Santa which was a fun affair but… read my review on TripAdvisor which I will be posting soon or the snippet below). The entire town is enveloped in snow, with the twinkling fairy lights and lit up candles by the window wonderfully reflecting in the white snow. Everything is picturesque and the place looks like an image from a Hallmark card. This is how I envisioned Christmas and a Christmasy place to be.
“Something short and sweet about Santa’s Village. Actually, not ‘sweet’. Santa was adorable when we sat beside him for a short talk. The whole village is pretty in the snow. But with the deluge of ‘tourists’, the setup of the village can’t seem to handle the busloads of people coming in. There was only one person manning the ‘Arctic Circle Passport stamping counter and it’s the same person in charge of information. There were only 3 people at the post office counter giving out stamps yet the queues are horrendously long even made more horrible by these people who do not have the patience to queue.”
In all fairness, walking outside is a difficult feat not just because of the cold but because of the slippery ice. I fell down on my bum twice with a threat of 5 more! I also don’t feel comfortable wearing all those layers and it was such a burden off me (literally and figuratively) when I go indoors and take off the layers one by one – heavy coat, thick jacket, lumpy sweater, shirt top and be left with just my tank top under the duvet or by the heater (it would have been lovelier to have a fireplace in the house!).
Apart from the cold, there is THE Darkness that you have to deal with. Being in the Arctic Circle, you only have a few hours of sunlight at this time of the year! It messes with your brain, sleeping pattern and routine. Am I supposed to have my dinner now that it’s already dark – at 2pm?! It’s light outside, must be time to wake up – and it’s 11am! It’s gonna be dark in a couple of hours so we need to get the most out of the daylight – at 12nn. I now understand why the bears hibernate – which is what we were doing most of the time during the holiday! It’s too damn cold and dark outside to even bother waking up and getting out of bed. But hey, we need to make the most out of the trip so a trip outdoors is a must.
Ah, the LIGHTS…
A trip to Rovaniemi is a waste without attempting to see the Northern Lights. You can also see it in other parts of northern Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Alaska, Canada and northern part of Russia. There’s also the Aurora Australis of course which is in the south… Anyway, I have been looking forward to this and prepared for it by downloading an app which predicts Northern Lights activity. When we left Singapore, the app says that on the day of our scheduled trip, the 23rd, magnetic activity is low = less chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis. That made me cry. Or maybe tear up. Might as well just go back and cancel the trip, yeah, if I won’t be able to see it, right? But being a big girl that I am, I had to put the drama queen aside, put on a brave face and got myself excited to go on the ‘safari trip’ because of the promise of sausages and open fire – just like how the Samis do it – even without the lights.
And, yes, the Northern Lights did make its appearance during our visit (Praise the Lord!). It initially appeared as a dull streak across the sky as soon as we got off the bus (imagine a grey smoke emanating from a campfire, only its floating horizontally) and revealed its full glory after a while for about 20 minutes. Three hours in the cold, dark countryside vs. 20 hrs of amazeballs = yeah, worth it of course.
Words could not describe how otherworldly Aurora Borealis is. It’s a party in heaven complete with fireworks. It’s an explosion of light. It’s Harry’s and Voldemort’s Avada Kedavras converging in the sky… According to the Finnish folklore, the lights is made by the tail of the magical arctic fox running in the north and touching the mountains with its fur while the Alaskan Inuits believed it to be spirits of the animals they killed (remember the movie called Brother Bear?). For me, it looks like as if it’s a giant burning phoenix flying up in the sky (see video) and at one moment it feels like it’s going to swoop down on me!
Hope you enjoyed the videos. lol
Oh yeah, and we get to walk on (top of the) river. Yes, river on ice. 🙂 The trip was all worth the $$$ and the brrrr. I can die a happy J now. No, not really.
The #ScandiChristmas14 trip was first thought of early 2014 – something for Babs and I to look forward to since there would be no opportunity for us to go on a 3-month backpacking trip again. Not bad for a plan hey? The main goal of the #ScandiChristmas14 is of course to see the northern lights, other side trips are a plus.