Napapiiri, which translated to Napa Circuit, is what they call the Arctic Circle up there. And, right on this circle is the capital city of the Santa Claus – Rovaniemie.
Rovaniemi is the administrative capital and commercial center of the Finnish Lapland. The center of the city is about 10 kilometers south of the arctic circle but the municipality covers a total of 8016 square kilometer of area on the both sides of the circle making it the largest city in the whole of the Europe.
For the tourists, the city has three major attractions; the Santa Claus village, the wilderness of Finnish Lapland, and the Aurora Borealis – the northern lights. It was my first and unfortunately unsuccessful attempt to witness the magnificent phenomenon of northern lights, but still the city didn’t disappoint me. While getting on to an overnight train to Rovaniemi from Helsinki, I hadn’t thought of the destination I was heading to. It was a single point agenda, to get to the city, see the aurora borealis at night and leave the next morning. But as I woke up in the morning to see the train rushing through the white plains, I almost forgot about what I was headed there for. Rovaniemi stays covered under the snow for about 6 months a year, as far as eye can see a sparkling white sheet lies on the surface. It was a beauty of a kind I had never witnessed before. But as we reached there, another haunting thought struck me – I had no place to stay!
Nordic countries are one of the most expensive to travel to in Europe and it get even more expensive when you decide to go to the remote north. The cheapest hostel bunk in Rovaniemi was beyond my budget so instead I turned to the Couchsurfing community and asked to help me with a stay overnight. One person had actually responded but hadn’t confirm by the time I reached Rovaniemi. Fortunately for me, when I called her from the railway station telling my ordeal, she agreed to let me crash at her place. While my lovely host wasn’t at home when I reached there was another surfer whom she was hosting, a Spanish gentleman researching on glutton free bread. I had very little time and a lot of ground to cover, so I hit straight out for the Santa Claus village.
Santa Claus village house the post office and the office of the Santa, and guess what? I was in luck; the Santa Claus was in the house. This place is amazing and more amazing is the guest list they flaunt. I also got my ‘I crossed arctic circle here’ certificate from there. After coming back from there I took a nice stroll through the city center. The white city is full of colors when people are out on street, and they shine even brighter on the white canvas. Atktikum House and Jätkänkynttilä bridge are some magnificent landmark of the city and gives a pretty modern look to the city in wilderness.
Finally, when I met my host back at her house for the dinner, I found out she worked at the Santa Claus Village. I guess it would have been a little more convenient had I known that before. From her I also learnt that chances of me witnessing the northern lights were very bleak but I could try going out to the banks of Ounasjoki river and hope to catch a glimpse of the lights over the horizon. Unfortunately, even after spending hours in sub-zero temperature, I didn’t see even a flicker. But, it was not all that disappointing anymore. The city had already given me enough to make it worth the travel. Next morning, I started my journey south towards Stockholm with a promise to come back to the Laplands.
06:52 PM – Helsinki (Finland) – Train 265 to Rovaniemi (Finland) at 07:50 AM