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Published: August 1st 2014
Rovaniemi just south of Arctic Circle in Finland/Lapland 27 July 2014
We arrived in Rovaniemi at 7.30pm after driving almost 700kms which was the biggest drive in one day for us since being in Europe this year. It was actually 8.30pm because Finland is in a different time zone to Sweden.
We hadn't had dinner, so after booking into the camp site which was just over the other side of the city, we found a restaurant just up the road, which had some entertainment. We enjoyed our dinner - Tom had salmon and I had sauté reindeer. The reindeer was like a strong flavoured beef.
When we were driving towards Rovaniemi, we saw a sizeable electrical storm in the distance. When we got into the city, the ground was wet. We had missed it completely, fortunately, because we found out that they had hail storm which were half the size of a golf ball, and 3 houses were hit by lightning and burned down. We were pleased we missed it. The sun was shining when we got there.
The next morning, initially the sun was shining, then it became overcast and by the time we drove 8
kilometers north to the Arctic Circle, it was brilliant sunshine again.
Directly over the computed line of the Arctic Circle, is built the Santa Claus Village, where we met with Santa himself. Apart from meeting the man, there were also other attractions like small-scale sledding hills for kids, Santa Claus post office with nice special stamp, souvenir shops, restaurants etc. It certainly was touristy, but the idea of the village on that spot, was a good one. We noticed that there were several new accommodation buildings being built, so obviously the village is continuing to expand.
We then drove back into Rovaniemi to visit the Arktikum which is one of the best museums and science centers in Finland, focusing on life in Lapland and arctic region through the ages. There was also an image of the northern light where you could lie on your back and look up at the ceiling where the northern light images were projected. They had a lot of information on global warming as well, and its effects on the north pole ice sheet and other glaciers.
Pilke Science Centre was next door to Arktikum, which had exhibition which tells about sustainable use
of northern forests and about the forests' diverse yields, products and commodities.
After doing some food shopping, we headed north.
You may be interested to know that Rovaniemi has been the business centre of Finnish Lapland since the 19th century. It was razed to the ground by the Germans in the final days of World War II, with only a handful of buildings left standing. The rebuilding after the war and the economic development in the ensuing decades have left much of the city a featureless expanse of concrete blocks. Officially Rovaniemi became a city in 1960, and in 2006 it merged with the surrounding rural municipality of Rovaniemi.
Because of its central location and status, Rovaniemi has become a center of education in Finnish Lapland. There are as many as 10 000 university and university of applied sciences level students living in Rovaniemi. Compared to the number of inhabitants living in the old city area (pre-2006), as many as one in three or four people are students. During summers this shows as a large drop in the number of people vacating the city.
The river Kemijoki, notable for being the longest river in Finland, runs
next to the city center. This was where the camp site where we stayed.
We then drove about 200kms further north, to Sodankyla for our overnight stop at Camping Nilimella.
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