Rovaniemi, Geocaching and Artikum

So here I am, once more back in Starbucks with my mint hot chocolate (non-alcoholic version!) and there’s Christmas music playing this time πŸ™‚

..back to Rovaniemi memories…

Leaving Santa Village, we headed into town for some lunch. Being the business capital of Lapland, the ‘big city’ I was interested to see what it would be like. Only a few buildings were left standing when Germans attacked during World War II so there is not the historic architecture that I’m used to seeing in England; it’s actually quite concrete looking in the centre with the impression that it’s in need of a facelift. I think it’s only natural to relate anywhere new to ‘home’ not to compare which is ‘better’ or ‘preferable’ but because everything is relative so there has to be a base point. I love Oulanka and the Ruka area so I like seeing more of what Finland has to offer to see whether it is those regions in particular or whether it’s the whole country. It also feels so much like home and I have the ‘could i live here’ thought going through my head alot so that may be more the reason I go a bit deep with my thinking…

Anyway, I’ve digressed..again πŸ™‚

As we arrived in town and headed towards a car park, we passed a McDonalds and i had to laugh – they get everywhere don’t they and it’s like a game when travelling; how long until you see the golden arches :D. It is also a very good benchmark when comparing the cost of living in a country..as is the Starbucks test! The answer on the later is not as much different to the UK as you’d think. Interestingly there was no Starbucks in Rovaniemi; not only because they also get everywhere but the Finns seem to love their coffee. Maybe there’s a considered effort not to open one…I shall google later. By way of other recognisable names, there was a Subway, H&M, Body Shop, Intersport (still going over there, where did they go in the UK?) and a Clas Olsen. I mention Clas Olsen because I’ve noticed (since I’ve been back) that a few stores of sprung up over here – it was like going into the part of Ikea (can I get away with mentioning that or are all Finns reading this now frowning..) where the useful smaller items are and also coming out with something you didn’t know you needed.

A few small arcades of shops including a couple of department stores, we wandered in and out – for once i didn’t buy any clothes (spent enough in Clas Olsen πŸ˜‰ ). It occurred to me how indoctrinated you get without realising it; in the UK I can list the quality shops and the cheaper shops (all IMHO of course) but without those names on the high street or recognisable brands on sale, I can’t gauge ‘fashions’ or the quality of clothing. I’d be left going on price, layout of the store, appearance of the staff – all reliable instincts but ones overlooked, or maybe subconsciously noted, when in familiar territory. I found it fascinating just to wander and look around. I concluded if I lived there I’d save alot of money on clothes but would have plenty of useful gadgets and storage boxes.

Last stop was for food and drink for that evening and breakfast. This was when I was introduced to the traditional Karelian Pies – I didn’t take a photo so here is a screen shot from good old Wikipedia –

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they look like a pasty with the crinkled edge and that ‘base’ is made from dark rye flour which is then filled with a rice pudding mixture. They are warmed up and spread with a mix of butter and boiled egg. You could put anything on them, ham or cheese, it’s different to anything we have here but very nice and I now have all the ingredients to try making some myself…which’ll be interesting! Maybe I’ll try it and do a blog on my attempts at Finnish cooking..

The next day we headed off for a bit of walking at the top of the hills overlooking the town. The ski jumps and chair lifts are all still there on Ounasvaara, to the west of the city, and provide extra height to some great vantage points and views across Rovaniemi.

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I was pleased to discover that geocaching is popular in Finland so we looked at the geocaching app on my phone to see if there were any nearby..and then spent a good hour or so geocaching whilst looking at the views and heading making our way back to the car. A couple of the caches were easy to find but i had to log a couple as not found – as you’ll see from the photo below, there are plenty in the area.

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There are also a surprising number to be found in the area around Basecamp Oulanka..although I struggled to find a few of them in the time allowed by a combination of myself and my phone’s battery life.

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For anyone who is yet to try geocaching, it is like a treasure hunt but using GPS and is a great way of exploring an area especially if you have children with you or want to provide different interest to an otherwise familiar area. Many cache’s have been set as part of a series which offer a pre-planned walking route with guidance on time and distance detailed. For more information or to get started, visit http://www.geocaching.com.

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This is my travel bug which I had taken with me to Finland so that I could drop it into a cache somewhere close to Basecamp Oulanka. The aim of my bug is to travel as much as possible and find its way around the world eventually. Everytime it’s logged I receive an email to let me know and I can look up where it is – my bug has passed through a few hands since I left it and is currently in a cache in the south of Finland πŸ™‚

The last part of our trip to Rovaniemi was a visit to Artikum, located on the edge of the Ounasjoki river. Museum’s aren’t top of my list of places to visit but this is said to be one of the best museums and science centres in Finland and I was interested to learn more about life in Lapland through the ages. I wasn’t disappointed, actually I was pleasantly surprised. For €12 there is alot to see – lots of displays, a number of them interactive, and all different in how they present the information. There’s even one where you can recline in darkness and watch an animation about the aurora borealis, that was almost too comfortable πŸ™‚ I thoroughly recommend a visit if you’re in the area as it has plenty to keep adults and children engaged. http://www.artikum.fi/EN should take you to the english translation of the site for more information.

Next up on the blog is my experience of the Finnish smoke sauna πŸ™‚

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