We’re now in Rovaniemi, capital of Finnish Lapland and official residence of Santa himself. And the whole town seems slightly obsessed: there’s a Santa Claus Hotel (and Rudolf Hostel nearby), and even the shopping centre apparently comes recommended by the man in red... so this morning we made the pilgrimage to the Santa Claus Village 5 miles north of town and bang on the Arctic Circle.
Although the bus was full of tourists (some even wearing Santa hats!) it was clear that we’re here out of season when we got to the village: not much was open other than a string of souvenir stalls selling the ugliest tack imaginable (all at typically outrageous Scandinavian prices) – so no Christmas gifts for anyone from there I’m afraid. Still we got our 3 minutes with the man himself who was suitably portly, bearded and charming. No photos though I’m afraid as prices for an image of the moment started at £30...
Other than the-Santa preoccupation, our first impressions of Finland are mainly of trees and lakes. Since leaving the barren Northcape landscape the countryside here has been unremittingly wooded, with a mixture of birch and pine trees, interrupted only by lakes. And after the mountains and fjords of Norway the landscape here seems incredibly flat so none of the stunning views we’d got used to although the woods are still pretty in their own way. It’s just a shame it’s so much colder than we – perhaps naively – expected: the temperature over the last week have stayed firmly in single figures so we’ve been living in fleeces, hats gloves and scarves! With the low temperatures and the leaves turning golden it already feels like Autumn’s on its way.
Between Nordkapp and Rovaniemi we spent a couple of days in Inari: a small village on the shores of the largest lake in Lapland, and the most important Sami (indigenous Laplanders) settlement in Finland, as well as home to the Sami Parliament and a fascinating museum about Sami history and culture.
As well as visiting the museum we walked out to an old wooden church a few miles outside Inari. The walk – inevitably – took us through pretty woodland (apparently with bears, wolves and elks lurking somewhere out of sight!) and past lakes (much too cold for swimming here!) and it was lovely to be able to walk for several hours without having to climb any mountains!