Finland Trip - Day 2: Kemi, Rovaniemi, Saariselka

We sat on a bus for about 11 hours until we reached Kemi for a break. It was not an entirely enjoyable ride, with the constant changes of extreme temperatures. One minute everyone would wake up drenched in sweat, ripping all their clothes off with no shame, and the next we were pulling our coats over us to stop from shivering… Our bus driver also did not seem to know much English other than: “20 minutes. Break. Back on bus. 20 minutes.”

But we all managed to survive, thanks to many digestive crackers, and our first stop of the trip was at the Kemi Snowcastle. It is basically the biggest and baddest snow fort ever, which gets rebuilt each season as something else. There were slides made of ice, as well as cozy bedrooms, a chapel, and a sort of dining room. It was so impressive and ridiculously fun.

A few more hours later it was time to see where the “Big Guy” hangs out. We passed over the line of the Arctic Circle and pulled into the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi where we sent letters home from Santa Claus’s Post Office and met the man of the hour for a photo. After being impressed with (most of) his knowledge about where each of us comes from, we were shocked (but not really) to find out that he was the “fake” Santa, and the real one was in another building… but the massive lineup and staggering price kept us from meeting him. I guess it will always remain a mystery…

We continued onto Saariselka and spent the whole ride looking at the sky. The best time to catch a sight of the Northern Lights is on a clear, dark night, so we were hoping we would get lucky on night 1. Once arriving at our adorable cottages, we unloaded things at lightning speed. Our bus started to slide away down the road, and it was almost a terrible disaster, but our heroic driver managed to get onto the runaway bus and save the day. So with that crisis averted, we ran into our humble abode, screamed a little bit a lot about how nice it was, then screamed more when we were told we were the only cottage with free wifi. Unreal. 

The snowpants were on in a matter of minutes, we grabbed tripods and cameras and set out for a long night of waiting for the Northern Lights. So, we waited. And waited. Someone saw a cloud move and we got really excited, but then I decided it was nothing. Because, you know, I’m an expert on the Aurora Borealis… All of us were starving so we decided to take a break and get warmed up. Quickly, word spread that we had in fact seen the Lights (that strange, grey-green blob in the distance) and they were stronger now. In a panic we rushed back out and there they were.¬†

A streak of green light shot straight up from behind the trees, then it seemed to spread out and fade. Then another streak. I fumbled with my tripod but took a moment to just look and enjoy this sight I had never seen before. I was happy to get a couple decent shots, and we ran back up the hill to find a better view. We didn’t know if it would last 10 seconds or 10 minutes, so I was beyond thrilled that I was able to take it all in for almost 2 hours. The really intense light didn’t last long, but the green colour continued to spread across the sky and it was beautiful to photograph. A friend and I walked into this big open space to get some nice shots with trees in the foreground. The snow was up to our hips in some spots! We sat quietly doing our thing in the silence of the night for a long time, and I will never forget that. Just me, my camera and a beautiful starry sky. We were so lucky to have seen the Lights on our first night and I was excited to have been able to capture them myself. A check off the Bucket List, for sure.