Thursday, 3 April 2014

A Big Chunk of Finland & A Tiny Bit of Sweden

4th of January this year, I went on an amazing trip with my family to Northern Europe, Finland (7 days) and Sweden (4 days). Eleven days was ABSOLUTELY without a doubt too short; we knew this earlier on when we were planning the trip but we still went with it because eleven days was all that we had (as I mentioned earlier, it's really hard to get matching holidays with my family given that I have work now). Most of the time spent in Finland was wasted on travelling from A to B, B to C , C to D and etc. The main purpose of our trip was to experience Aurora Lights with our naked eye and to capture some breathtaking landscape views. As we have all heard, 'experiencing the Northern Lights is an experience of life'.

But to our disappointment, we couldn't see any. I knew they were there, just hiding behind those thick sheets of clouds. We even booked a tour driving snowmobiles to hunt for them lights. We did manage to find small openings to the starry sky but the openings was too small. (let's not continue with the small openings...)  

The weather was cloudy everyday for the entire time we were there. It was snowing and snowing and snowing. We were shivering. It's not that we didn't wear enough, we did, but the cold was unbearable with the strong wind. 

Our Route (7 days in Finland and 4 days in Stockholm):

Hong Kong -> Helsinki (via plane)
Helsinki -> Rovaniemi (via plane)
Rovaniemi -> Ivalo (Hired a Car and drove)
Ivalo -> Inari (via bus)
Inari -> Ivalo (via taxi)
Ivalo ->Helsinki (via plane)
Helsinki->Stockholm (via plane)
Stockholm -> Hong Kong (via plane)

There were only 6 hours of sunlight, from around 8 am - 2 pm. My body clock and my mind were a mess on the first few days. It was quite hard to adjust to the time difference. But all in all, I enjoyed this trip so much, one that I will never forget. I love the feeling of just simply exploring a completely foreign place. It is incredibly exciting and terrifying at the same time. 'Life is so full of unpredictable beauty and strange surprises.' If I had the time and the money, I would just travel for life. YOLO. 

For me the truth is, in the past, when I had time, I didn't have money. At the moment, I still don't have enough money and I lost my time. I guess that's why most of us travel when we retire because hopefully by then we would have both time and money! Of course, there are those many lucky exceptions out there. ME SO JELLY.    

The highlight of our trip was unfortunately not the Aurora lights (sorry!) but there were other extremely unique and unexpected highlights :)

1. Standing right on the Arctic Circle line (I mean how lucky am I, a girl from HK standing on the Arctic Circle)

2. Visiting the Santa Claus at Rovaniemi Santa Claus Village (I really thought he was the real deal. I pulled his white long beard, it was real, shiny and smooth, how can he not be legit.)
3.Writing and sending out post cards to my friends and family from the Santa's Post Office which stood on the Arctic Circle.
4. Riding a Husky Sleigh (I would have never bought the tickets if I knew those poor huskies were all locked up and treated like slaves)
5. Driving and walking pass wild reindeers
6. Staying overnight in a transparent glass igloo
7. Driving a snowmobile for 5 km to search for imaginary Aurora lights
8. Laying in the snowy forest at night, looking up into the cloudy sky and enjoying the silence and smell of nature
9. Staying at a traditional cottage (this was because all hotels in the city were booked out and also the reason we had to rent a car to drive to the cottage outside of Rovaniemi)
10. Grilled Salmon was amazing
11. Visiting the ice hotel; the rooms were literally made of ice; there were no doors to any of the rooms and there was only a piece of furry reindeer skin on the ice cold bed; Ice bar; Ice cups; Ice restaurant; Ice chapel
12. Walking on Frozen Lake Inari
13. Driving a car on snow for the first time in my life
14. Greeted with 'hey hey!'
15. No wifi for four nights
16. Shopping in Stockholm (SALE)
17. Going on the Ericssion globe in Stockholm
18. Visiting the Vasa museum
19. Walking on brand new snow
20. Visiting the Royal Palace in Stockholm and witnessing the change of guards
21. Visiting the Stockholm public Library
22. Exploring the colourful and narrow streets of Gamla Stan Old Town in Stockholm
23. Breathtaking view at the Stockholm city hall
24. Skansen Open Air Museum

Below are some visual highlights of my trip:


Arctic Circle at Santa Claus Village

The blue line is exactly where the Arctic Circle lies

Ice Hotel near Rovaniemi

Ice Hotel corridors
Ice Chapel- You can get married here if your friends and family are willing to join the chilled wedding

Glass Igloo Hotel just for the Northern Lights but there were no activity........

Bed is adjustable, perfect for viewing the Northern Lights
Needed a sleigh to push our luggage to our igloo 

Cottage: Dobix


VASA Museum

The Famous Gamla Stan

If you have a chance, visit the cafe behind me CHOKLADKOPPEN, they have the best hot chocolate ever.

Change of Guards at the palace happens at 12:15pm on certain days of the week
Sweden's famous meatballs
A very old lift at Queen's Hotel where we stayed (Cheap and Cosy)
Ericsson Globe to see the spectacular view of Stockholm
Central Station

The public Library

Skansan Open-Air Museum
A goat peeing and a cow mooing
Mr Rudolph
Quacks Chilling
Cow's butt
What is this little boy doing? He was pulling ice sticks off and eating it.

Hope you guys enjoyed it!  
It was an unforgettable experience. I will definitely be going back to the Northern parts of Europe for those Aurora lights, might look for them in Iceland or Norway. I heard they are more active around those areas.

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