Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Rovaniemi and Oulu, Finland, 3.-6.5.2013

One of the cool things about being with someone from a different country is that you get the perfect excuse to travel within your own country. Even if I've been to A LOT of different places all over the world, I'm a bit ashamed to say that I haven't seen that much of Finland. It seems that when I was 10 years old, my family and I have done some minor travelling here but other than that, I've mostly spent my time in Tampere and around Helsinki. So, in May, J and I decided to go up to Lapland to see what's there. I'd been to Rovaniemi once before (and yes, I was 10 years old, and I ended up getting glasses after that trip as my mum noticed I couldn't see any of the traffic signs warning about reindeer wandering around) but I had zero recollections of the place. So, I took an unpaid day off work and we caught the night train to Lapland.

As you can see, it's a long trip of 11 hours, and we chose to be cheapskates and not have a cabin on the train, either. This means we spent the night sleeping in our seats, which went surprisingly well, I have to say.

We had booked a room for two at a lovely little place called Matkustajakoti Outa. I really recommend the guesthouse - it has a central location, the prices are alright and it's clean and quiet.

Unfortunately, I didn't really take any notes during the trip so I have to rely on my pictures to write about what we were up to. After arriving early in the morning and checking in, we decided to go to Arktikum, a museum dedicated to exhibitions related to Lapland's history and culture, among other things. Unlike J, I'm not a huge museum goer, but Arktikum was well worth the price as it wasn't about paintings but instead you got to read about arctic animals, the Sami culture and Northern Lights.

Our next destination was the downtown area and Lordin aukio, which is mainly a square with a statue where you have the handprints of the band Lordi's members. They're from Rovaniemi and got this square named after them when they won the Eurovision Song Contest for Finland in 2006. Our first and last victory in that contest, heh.

And since we were in Rovaniemi, we obviously had to go and meet up with Santa Claus, in Finnish joulupukki, at the Santa Claus Village, as well as stand on the Arctic Circle, which can be found in the same place. To some Santa Claus Village is probably just a hugely commercial shopping mall for Christmas goodies but I actually liked it a lot! Have a look!

The shopping mall bit of the Santa Claus Village.

The Arctic Circle!

Santa Claus's Main Post Office - so gorgeous! The people working there were dressed up in elf costumes, too! I used to work for the Finnish Post so I'm extremely attracted to all things mail-related (plus I'm a crazy penpaller, too).

J writing her Christmas cards :).

Me doing the same :).

I'm demonstrating how you're supposed to sort the cards out :D.

My postcards.

A salmon sandwich.

We met Santa Claus!

Yep, obviously we had to meet Santa Claus, too. He could speak a few words of Hungarian, too :D. It was cool!

Anyway, we also wanted to see the town of Rovaniemi, and I'm afraid that my opinion of its beauty is a bit questionable. Someone has for example let the Finnish architect and designer, Alvar Aalto, loose in Rovaniemi and he has managed to wreck everything with his skills that don't specifically emphasise attractive appearances.

The bridge is called Jätkänkynttilä.


We decided to go into a forest.

I would say that these views are from Ounasvaara but to be honest I'm not sure as we didn't see any signs anywhere :D.

Gorgeous, don't you think? Yep, neither do I. But it was a nice place and I loved our little trip! I managed to get sick somewhere along the way, though, and was feverish at one point. We were originally planning to spend all of our days in Rovaniemi, but after the second day we realised that we had pretty much seen everything we had wanted to see. Unfortunately, we couldn't visit a reindeer farm or go on a husky ride as the season for both activities was already over. So, we decided to take the morning train to Oulu on Monday and do some sightseeing there before returning to Hämeenlinna with yet another lovely night train.

Off to Oulu!

I had never been to Oulu before even if that's where my dad was born, and it was exciting to go there! I didn't know anything about the place at all, but we had done some research and decided that we wanted to spend most of the day in Tietomaa, which is a science centre, and a really good one, too! It was so much fun to get to try out all sorts of different things! My favourite was this thing called X or Y? which defined how feminine or masculine you are when it comes to your skills or natural senses. Pretty cool!

When Tietomaa closed, we did some random wandering around before catching our train back. I knew I wanted to go and see the statue called Toripolliisi, and luckily it was easy to find.

Me and THE statue :D!

It was crazy cold, but despite that I somehow really loved Oulu! It would be nice to go back in the summer as I'm sure it's a nice and cosy summertown with a quirky touch to it.

Anyway, in conclusion, this trip was so much fun that I'm planning to do more travelling within my own country at some point :).

Monday, 17 February 2014

Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland, 12.-14.4.2013

Alright. So. Hi :). I haven't updated this blog for a bit over a year even though I have plenty of trips to write about: Stockholm, Rovaniemi, Brighton, Pärnu, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, London, Hungary, Tallinn...and I'm about to go to Hungary for a week again this coming Saturday. The reason why I've been so quiet is that I'm no longer single (I know, it's a miracle, and this miracle has led to me believing in destiny because things like this just don't happen in real life!) :D. I'M SO HAPPY!! So, the first two trips I'm going to write about are trips I went on with my partner.

We spent a day in Stockholm in April 2013. It was J's first time in Sweden, so we tried to do a little bit of something touristy, too. We ended up going to the Royal Palace and seeing the changing of the guard in freezing weather. Otherwise we just walked around downtown and in the Old Town, after which we headed to Skansen, which is an open-air museum with a zoo of Nordic animals. More in pictures...

The buffet on the ferry.

Our cabin.

The Old Town of Stockholm, Gamla Stan.

The Changing of the Guard.

Us - and probably the first picture of us :).


Stockholm <3.

Back on the ferry.

The following morning, we arrived back in Helsinki, where we spent the day being tourists, too. We started the day with coffee at Fazer, then went to see Helsinki Cathedral and Uspenski Cathedral before heading to Suomenlinna the fortress for some museum time. Suomenlinna is fantastic, especially during the summer, but it was a fun experience even in cold weather like this. We finished the day off with crazy huge 5€ pizza at Barbarossa on Yrjönkatu. Go there, highly recommended!

Soooo, this is it, our first trip together :).

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