img_1846For sure there are even more than a thousand – that’s because we have already seen a thousand, and we have only been here for three days, merely travelling the main tourist routes… Rovaniemi is located just south of the Arctic Circle, and when we left the town towards the north we couldn’t avoid crossing it.

This was done in a typical tourist fashion, namely by visiting the Santa Claus Village and its classic marketing strategy with Santa-themed restaurants and cafes, souvenir shops, a Santa Claus museum, Elves, a post office and the old man himself.

On the way further north we happened to meet Gerhard Bullinger with his tractor and trailer – an article about him was publiced in our local newspaper three weeks ago. When we saw him standing at a rest area in northern Finland, we pulled up, struck up a conversation, and took some photos with him. What an unexpected encounter!

Our next destination was the pride of every crossword puzzle creator: “A lake in Finland with 5 letters”. Or it’s somewhat more demanding version: “The Swedish name of a lake in Finland with 5 letters”. The answer is Inari (Swedish: Enare), and this lake is located in the northeast corner of Finland quite close to the Russian border, and also quite large.

Our accommodation in the village of Inari was actually awesome although it was only love at second sight – rejecting other places for their mass-tourism appeal, we returned to the first place after a good 20 minutes, having changed our minds. Even though the bungalow has been freshly imported from the 60′s and is very basic, it is located directly by the lake. “Directly” as in: 10 steps. Very idyllic and quiet. If the wind would stop howling (and the thermometer rise by about 12 degrees), it would all be perfect – oh, and it needs to get dark at night, of course! Shower and toilet are in the main house (doesn’t bother us), there’s no TV (we have our own mini-TV with us, the Football World Cup is going on after all, and to hear the commentary in Finnish is, um, well, interesting), and no internet (but slow mobile data for emergencies). I don’t need any of this luxury – I’m rather enjoying the nature.

Now that we were so far up north and couldn’t integrate it any other way, we visited Kirkenes via same-day round trip. Kirkenes is located in the northeast corner of Norway, right by the Russian border, and the end (or start) harbor of the ‘Hurtigruten’ to / from Bergen. To get an overview of the town, we drove up to one of the peaks, enjoying the view once the dark clouds had cleared and giving way to a fine view of Kirkenes, the fjords and the Barents Sea. A stroll through the city center was supposed to round off the visit but instead we dashed out (and not only because the rain had started again). To find a restaurant was nearly impossible. Everything was horribly overpriced. How about a nice coffee shop or bistro? Non-existent. But: Russian was prevalent. On the way back to Inari we drove up to the Russian border – located only 15 km south-east of Kirkenes and only a small detour for us. We had inquired about a day visa to Russia but it required submitting the application three days in advance which we didn’t do and therefore we couldn’t get more done than a quick photo. Besides, itt was raining again anyway.

The 200 km drive back to Inari took us the same route back as in the morning, and through a wide variety of landscapes: Forests of all possible kinds (mixed deciduous and coniferous/birch/pine wood), treeless plateaus, rocks covered with lichen, lakes, bogs, rivers, waterfalls and canyons. Never boring. In the heart of Lapland, the road signs are in Finnish and Sami, and if you thought that Finnish is unpronounceable, you should try Sami. Some examples of Sami writing can be found in the gallery.

311 km Rovaniemi – Inari: http://goo.gl/maps/GuP35

450 km Inari – Kirkenes – Inari: http://goo.gl/maps/GZr8V