Friday 3rd January 2020
Before checking out of our hotel we decided to go for a walk around Rovaniemi. However, rain overnight and an unseasonably warm spell had resulted in a thaw and re-freeze which made the pavements truly treacherous whilst the snow sculpture from yesterday’s Selfie of the day had completely collapsed. [Robert had a heavy fall last night, made worse by his successful attempt to save the late night chips].
We walked very carefully down to the Jätkänkynttilä Bridge. This was the winning entry in a competition held in 1982/3 and as the design is intended to pay homage to the city’s logging heritage, it is also known as the Lumberjack Candle Bridge.
According to Matilda’s research a lumberjack candle is a popular form of outdoor lighting/heating made by repeatedly sawing partway down a log to create equal sized triangular segments. You can use the wood shavings this creates, or other combustible material, to light a fire in the central channel which will apparently burn for sometime providing light and heat to cook by.
A total of 36 sodium fluorescent lights burn night and day at the top of the two main columns on the Jätkänkynttilä Bridge.
The Jätkänkynttilä is the first cable-stayed road bridge in Finland and spans 320 meters across the Kemijoki river.
We continued [some more gingerly than others (Robert’s fall number two compounded his back issues)] along the banks of the Kemijoki to Rovaniemi Church, which was designed by the architect Bertil Liljequist and completed in 1950.
The imposing fresco behind the altar is called the Source of Life.
We then collected our luggage and travelled by taxi to the Apukka Resort where our accommodation was a cabin with a heated viewing window so that even on a clear night you can lie in bed and look at the stars. . .
. . . and where the hot chocolate is served in traditionally carved wooden kuksa which look just like Baby Yoda cups. . .
. . . and where the Restaurant Aitta has suitably low-level lighting to avoid too much light pollution. While we were sitting there sipping our hot beverages we saw an arctic owl flying past.
Several months ago we had pre-booked an Aurora Husky Tour which included the use of suitable winter clothing, husky and puppy petting as well as cooking sausages around a fire and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights, weather conditions permitting.
The clothing provided meant that some of us had overestimated the number of our own layers we needed.
We were given a lesson in driving a husky team and as we were receiving our instructions we could hear the dog teams yelping with excitement at the prospect of running.
Then the four pairs on the adventure was allocated to a sledge and team which had obviously been planned to suit the age and combined weight of each individual couple. Some, it transpired, had more dogs in their team than others.
Looking at photos and videos after the event, we were all amused to find that the only one amongst us who currently has points on their driving licence for speeding was the one telling her sister to slow down – the audio is well worth a listen on this one.
We would all really recommend an Aurora Husky Tour experience if you ever get the chance, whether the Northern Lights put in an appearance or not.
During the course of the tour, Robert and Matilda were informed that their huskies were five members of one of the guide’s twelve strong middle distance competition team. The dogs were particularly eager and whenever we stopped they bounced and jumped in their harnesses in their excitement to be running.
Drivers however could not show their excitement in quite the same way as the braking system depends on them using their physical weight to stop the team.
The dogs were Siberian Huskies which we were told are smaller but faster than the similar Alaskan malamute. These breeds have a double coat with a short thick undercoat for warmth and a longer water resistant top coat. They can withstand temperatures of – 40ºC. When we stopped from time to time, several dogs would roll in the snow. We thought they were playing but the guides told us they were trying to cool down as the weather, at about freezing point, was really too warm for them.
The dogs were sociable and friendly and even in the brief time we spent with them, some of their characters seemed to shine through.
As well as giving our teams a fuss we were allowed to meet a litter of four month old Siberian Husky puppies who were predominantly named after Siberia rivers. Although breed notes say that huskies are not “one man dogs” there did seem to be a strong link between one of the puppies and our main guide.
We then cooked our own sausages round a fire in a lavuu – a teepee-like tent commonly built by Finland’s indigenous people, the Sami – and listened to anecdotes. We were also served a warm berry drink and cinnamon biscuits.
In December 2018 we travelled to Iceland hoping to see the Northern Lights but were sadly unsuccessful. One of the reasons for this was cloud cover. Even if the sun’s solar particles are hitting the earth’s atmosphere (attracted to the magnetism of the North Pole) you still need a clear sky to see the display. So the main reason we came to Lapland is because we missed out last time and a bit of subsequent research suggested that this would be a good location to see them.
Using Apps on our phones and checking the weather in the run-up to the trip we became a bit disheartened to see that there was going to be little chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis this time too.
As the forecast had not been good Robert had already started researching a trip to the island of Svalbard for next year.
Our weather Apps said cloudy. In fact it was snowing for much of the day.
Thanks to a young boy on the tour, who ran into the tent while we were enjoying our sausages, and commented on the colours in the sky, we did catch a brief glimpse of the Aurora through the trees.
Even though our guide said that this was the best he had seen them this season, we were hoping for a clearer view, which the next night’s Aurora Snowmobile Tour might provide but the forecast is not promising.