Surviving the Arctic Circle Part 2

After a few days of solo traveling, my roommate Clarisse joined me.  We headed 12 hours north (by train…like in WHITE CHRISTMAS!) to the Arctic Circle to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

We traveled in style: a birth

We traveled in style: a birth…and yes there were renditions of White Christmas’ “Snow”

Once we arrived to our final destination: Rovaniemi, Finland…Home to the biggest Santa Claus village.  From there were traveled another hour or so to our hotel in Luosto, Finland.  It was cold.  It was snowy.  Clarrise was so excited…me not so much.

Luosto, Finland.

Luosto, Finland.

Putting my best smile on while trying not to freeze

Putting my best smile on while trying not to freeze

Luosto is a small little town, that mainly thrives on tourism.  It was literally a winter wonderland…even prettier than MN on a good day:

DSC08462

an igloo church…seriously.  Never thought I would stumble upon this.

an igloo church…seriously. Never thought I would stumble upon this.

The view from our hotel window…people told us they saw wild reindeer RIGHT OUTSIDE THEIR WINDOW!

The view from our hotel window…people told us they saw wild reindeer RIGHT OUTSIDE THEIR WINDOW!

So what does one do in the Arctic Circle over Christmas? Puesssss, muchas cosas!  We did an all day snowmobile trek through the Fells…YES, I said it:  I went snowmobiling.  It took me traveling to Norway to participate in this winter sport.  Did I enjoy it?  I did…but I won’t be taking this sport up anytime soon in MN.  The whole appeal of it was honestly the Fells…who can say they snowmobiled through the Norwegian Fells?

We look much tougher than we really are.

We look much tougher than we really are.

The only time you will see me on a snowmobile.

The only time you will see me on a snowmobile.

The whole crew

The whole crew

WARNING:  LITTLE CHILDREN OR ADULTS WHO STILL BELIEVE IN SANTA SHOULD SKIP THIS PART!  We also got to meet Santa (well…to be honest this was the second and third Santa I met…) and Rudolph!  He came for a visit during our Christmas Eve buffet:

By the way:  I'm freezing my tush off.

By the way: I’m freezing my tush off.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a complete trip to the Arctic Circle without a visit to Santa’s Village:

It was a little overwhelming to meet Santa in his own office.

It was a little overwhelming to meet Santa in his own office.

helping Santa's little elves knit the longest scarf in the world!

helping Santa’s little elves knit the longest scarf in the world!

Santa's legit post office.  This is the number one post office where kids send Santa their wish lists.

Santa’s legit post office. This is the number one post office where kids send Santa their wish lists.

While visiting Santa’s Village we also got to step over the border in to the Arctic Circle!

To say I was a little excited is an understatement.

To say I was a little excited is an understatement.

The light on top shows the border of the Arctic Circle.

The light on top shows the border of the Arctic Circle.

hanging out with a REAL Sammi at Santa's Village…IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE!

hanging out with a REAL Sammi at Santa’s Village…IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE!

Finally…we ate a lot of reindeer (and even some moose!).  Don’t worry, Santa’s little helpers weren’t hurt:

Traditional Finnish meal:  Mash potatoes, Sauteed reindeer, and sweet berries!

Traditional Finnish meal: Mash potatoes, Sauteed reindeer, and sweet berries!

Reindeer and Moose shish kebabs!

Reindeer and Moose shish kebabs!

Once we had gotten our fill of the Arctic Circle, we took the train back to Helsinki…but this time sans the birth.  IT WAS HORRIBLE.  We had decided that once we got back to Helsinki, we would spend a night on the island of Suomenlinna, the old military fortress.  After spending the day on the mainland, trying to stay awake we headed to our hostel…which literally could have been a haunted house.  In my opinion at least.  Anyways, the island is actually made of 6 smaller islands and now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Although it was a military fortress to protect the Finns from the Russians, it is now home for about 900 people.  We decided to spend the day doing a children’s scavenger hunt where we had to find little elves.  It was quite exciting:

These little guys were placed all over the island with little clues about the culture and lifestyle on the island.

These little guys were placed all over the island with little clues about the culture and lifestyle on the island.

Grave of one of the Gustav's

Grave of one of the many Gustav’s

Trying to beat our competition (AKA the group of people behind me)

Trying to beat our competition (AKA the group of people behind me)

After our day trip to the island we headed back to Helsinki for one last night!  The next day we headed back to Madrid to meet up with my brother and his girlfriend, Lauren!  Finland was an adventure for sure, being around snow was comforting.  However, I have come to the conclusion that I am not built for snow or cold.  Also the culture of the Finns is so intertwined with the Swedes that I did feel a bit at home!

Up next:  Adventures with my bro and Lauren!

HASTA LUEGO!

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