Alexey Moskvin

Baltic Exchange and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘rovaniemi

Rovaniemi to Gällivare

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Lingonberry shower gel, lingonberry shampoo, now I smell like some lingonberry. 5 miles to the Santa’s office with my shirt flopping around – it’s way too hot, even for 8-something in the morning . Some Russian family having breakfast at one of the tables at the roadside. I am looking at the Arctic circle sign when a man approaches me ‘Hello friend, where did you come from?’ ‘London’ I say and switch to Russian. ‘I have a meeting with Santa, have you met him yet?’ ‘Yes, I’ve seen him twice. They do a video recording and photos there. I was quite shy at first so didn’t like how it looked, so didn’t buy it. But on the second time I was playing for the public a little, it’s much better. So, just relax.’

I am thrilled to bits, like a kid. Santa is exactly like in pictures, I always knew he was real! Warm handshake and nice voice. ‘We were worried about you.’ His gift is a wrapped so I can’t see what it is. A small cube packet tied with a ribbon. ‘ A piece of the Arctic’ he says. I’m very grateful to Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd for organising this.

Skinny dipping again on my way to Sweden.

The rain is ahead of me… A few times it looks like rain passed just before I get there leaving for me only the smell of wet pine and fresh tarmac.

The Torne river between Finland and Sweden. Pello. A police car is passing back and forth across the border. I know, I do look suspicious, can’t help it. Really. But I ought to walk to the middle of the bridge to look around. A small canoe is floating about.

Swampy landscape. I am so tired and stop to walk around what looks like clearing in the woods with a river going through it but I see my shoes are being sucked into the wet moss and brown water as I approach it. Cloudberries and greenery. Not a chance to sit somewhere here, even if looks inviting.

I walk back to the rocks and branches and find a spot. Sit down. Then stretch on the ground for a snooze, ignoring the horse flies and ants.

Hostel has a kitchen but I can’t be bothered to cook. It looks like there are a few people just living here. The owner switches to Swedish between every three words and apologises for it every time. I think I can just about catch what she’s trying to say. Her English is good but I don’t know a word of Swedish. ‘That will be 300 kronors’ she says as we pass through a bunch of young guys in the kitchen to my room ‘I don’t have cash – just crossed the border a couple of hours ago’ ‘There’s cash machine up the road, just leave them in the drawer as you leave tomorrow. Put the key there as well, just remember that you’re locked out when you do that’.

Gällivare on saturday evening is totally empty, maybe I’m just spoilt by London and other towns. I walk around town but cannot find anything better than a hotel next door for a beer and some dinner.
The guy at the next table is talking on the phone with a proper Essex accent. Smoked through laugh. Is he really discussing me eating my hamburger or am I getting paranoid?

The time seems appropriate, so I set off to the top of the Dundret mountain. It’s 9th of July, the midsummer ends on 12th, I’m just in time. It’s cloudy so I’m not expecting to see the sun but at least I know it will be there. Running low on fuel but it should be enough to go there and I’ll just coast most of the way back. The road is narrow but the tarmac is good. Light is sensational, blue and eerie, not entirely dark but doesn’t feel like any time of the day. Evening? Night? Early morning? I could’ve never guessed the hour. I got there just as a large bus of tourists is unloading, it’s windy and people walk on rocky path looking around and holding their hats. Swedish I think. Lights and water far away.

Telegraph poles propped by big rocks like they grew out of the ground, pushing them away, making a space for themselves. Imagine the new sprouts of a pole getting out of the ground with fresh drops of tar on it’s stem before it gains strength, developing the wire buds that grow and pop releasing strings that will link the stem with the other poles nearby. At least, that’s what would’ve happened in Narnia.

Anyway. The lights in the cafe are on, I look inside. It’s run by a few local teenagers and they are open till 1am. ‘I heard a lot about your waffles’ ‘Only good things I hope’ ‘Certainly. With cloudberry jam. And a coffee please.’


Oulu to Rovaniemi

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Tar ice cream? Smoked raindeer? I love this town. Burnt down a few times but still standing strong Oulu has a lot to offer. Kaisu and Karoliina pick me up at the hotel at 9am and we are setting off for the town to walk about and say hello to the Botero-like policeman in the middle of a square – another symbol of the Arctic Gateway, made by Kaarlo Mikkonen. Oulu has the sea, beautiful waterfront and free wi fi on the streets (up yours BT), what else would one need? I feel welcome, I feel at home.

Market supplies us with coffee and fresh salmon sandwiches with rieska. I hope that guy with the mobile phone is not going to step on the little boy. Shame if the bright future was knocked off the edge because of some dude too busy chatting to look around. Finland is getting more land every year because the earth is rising after being pushed down by the masses of ice from the ice age. I wonder if it will ever join with Sweden. ‘Again’ says Kaisu and smiles. A bit more of sightseeing and then we meet Suvi, who gives me a bag with a t-shirt and other bits.

I set off for Rovaniemi. Breaking off from the sea, to conquer the Arctic circle which sounds quite glorious but it’s still around 30C, so doesn’t feel arctic at all.

The road is following a river, on one side first then on the other. It does feel like a break now, so I take a random turn to get closer to water and come across the dam. The landscape turns for being rocky, really does look like the ice’s been there. Using the absence of people and unwillingness to carry on with wet towel and swimming gear, in we go as we were born. The current is very strong that I’d rather not swim further than a few metres away from the shore – it would’ve been funny to get carried away all the way back to the sea and discovered somewhere in Sweden.

Further down the river Rovaniemi appears. It’s a great sight when approaching from behind the hills, crossing the Jätkänkynttilä bridge (try saying that a few times) to get into town. It’s a quiet evening. Very hot.

The hotel is very pleasant, sauna in on the 4th floor. I unpack, shower (as, of course, is tradition) then stroll around town, along the embarkment, suburbs, people doing barbeques, a street theatre with a couple of actors at the back looking bored and I’m almost tempted to approach them but then chicken out. Oh well, there’s plenty of bored actors in the world, I guess. It’s time for the sauna anyway.

Just as I’m walking up holding my towel I meet Petri, a Swede visiting his mum but choosing to stay at the hotel. We chat in and out of the heat, he’s got some beers that he shares with me. Taking out a round box. ‘What’s that?’ ‘Snus. Have you tried?’ I open it and sniff – it looks disgusting. Minced tobacco. ‘Never seen it before’ ‘Goes underneath your lip’ ‘Oh, ok’ ‘Pure nicotine, but healthier – no smoke’. He is a great company so we decide to meet at the bar for another beer afterwards. I think that’s going to be my dinner tonight. After another beer curiousity takes over and I take a small ball of snus. It starts burning straight away but bearable. After a few minutes I start feeling the effect of Mr N. If I remember rightly that’s how a cigarette feels… but stronger. ‘How long do I need to keep it for?’ ‘One can do for about 45 minutes but for a start don’t hold too long. When the juices start making their way into your stomach you can throw up, you’re not used to it.’ He laughs. I’m feeling woozy already. Time to give up, spit the thing out and splash my face with water. And get another beer. And then a pint of Synebrychoff cocktail. What were we talking about? I can’t remember the details. The age must be creeping up.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

21 July 2011 at 01:49