Monday, December 25, 2017

Travel Experiences in Lapland at Christmas in the Santa Claus Village

I want to tell you about my last trip to Lapland. For some time it was a trip that I wanted to do. But with the cold, the snow, and the distance, there was always an apology to postpone it. Without thinking much and seeing in the calendar four days off, I went to Finland. Santa Claus was waiting for us! The day was clear when I left on this trip to Finnish Lapland during Christmas where I set out in the footsteps of Santa Claus.

After a few kilometers from the capital of Lapland (Rovaniemi), we have been able to talk to Santa Claus, know his history, his Post Office, the town where he works every year to distribute gifts in a reindeer sleigh, the Santa Claus Village or Napapiiri.

In the last hours of the day, we approach the snow-covered village of Rovaniemi with dozens of restaurants, hotels, bars, cafes, and supermarkets and charming places. We booked the hotel on our own with some beautiful wooden cabins at the foot of a ski resort but only four kilometers from the city center. It had fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with sauna and a loft.



Santa Claus Village

From the first hour on the breakfast buffet we have in the panoramic restaurant of the Lapland hotel where we stayed, I had a restless smile. Although I could have gone down in search of the bus to get closer, I decided to take a taxi to arrive almost without people to that desired place! Santa Claus village or the town of Santa Claus in Lapland!

How could it be otherwise without snow in the distant land of the symbol of Christmas? There is no missing ingredient to what we could have imagined. Santa Claus village is a kind of theme park 8 km from Rovaniemi just where the line of the Arctic Circle passes. It includes its workshop, a post office, a shopping center, ice slides, the Snowman or ice bar-restaurant. There are several facilities where you can take a reindeer sleigh ride or hire activities with huskies or snowmobiles. There are restaurants, villas to stay and a Christmas building-house. It is precisely this building-Christmas house that makes the reception and small museum the first one we have entered.

The museum turns out to be rather a simple Christmas exhibition that combines some traditions and explanations of the Sami life. There are nativity scenes or a modern lego. There is a door where Santa Claus lets himself "fall" from time to time. The rest of the building works as a shop and restaurant. It is also access to where one can stay in any of the apartments with the best Christmas atmosphere. The heart of this park whose access is completely free (except for the hiring of activities and the entrance to the Snowman) is the Santa Claus Office or Santa Claus workshop. It can also be visited without paying except the photos.

We are on the coldest day of the trip so far. It seems that tonight the temperature has reached -20.5 ° C although small arctic squirrels seem to adapt perfectly to the environment. After a stop for a short coffee and buns, we approach another jewel in the crown of the place, the main post office of the town of Santa Claus. We are thousands of kilometers away from the big cities of the world but from here leave millions of gifts both by mail and in the sleigh of Santa Claus on Christmas night. Inside is a small shop decorated with much love, with an area to buy parcels and another to sit down to write your own postcards or letters.

Any package, letter or postcard that you send bears the seal of one of the most special places in the world. We were not going to miss the opportunity, of course. This place also receives thousands of letters from all over the world and are piled up waiting to be read by the white-bearded old to prepare their gifts this year. Another interesting thing to know is that you can decide dates between buying stamps from there, sending your postcards, packages or letters.

It is time to continue what else we can visit in this great town of Santa Claus that receives so many visits a day. It is important to know that it is open all year round, not only at Christmas. Although Lapland at Christmas is magical, you will not have any problem at any other time.

We went out again in the cold (although it has stopped snowing) to the Santa Claus Office to the Snowman or ice bar-restaurant. After passing a playground for children, some great snowmen give us access to the bar and restaurant area. It's amazing, even the smallest detail is all decorated. Although perhaps, more than a cold drink, what we want is a hot soup or a good cappuccino? We walked to the top of the Santa Claus village or Santa Claus town and we approached a kind of reindeer farm. We plan to enter it tomorrow in another great activity that we have reserved.

We sit near a fire that they have outside to warm us. Further on there is also an area to book snowmobile rides or huskies sledding. Although I believe that today is not the day for it and I would reserve it for another specific day. We read that in what is called Santa Claus Gift Claus or main shopping center there is a place to put a stamp on the passport!

We are in a large enclosed space full of small shops, restaurants, coffee shops (where we get warm again) and the line that marks the Arctic Circle! Right in this same place, the center of the long covered space is the information point where you can stamp the passport. But what most strikes us is a new activity that allows one to fly over the clouds in a flight in search of the Northern Lights. It's expensive.

We are already entered hungry and near us was a restaurant with a lot of charm on the outside that inside is a little cave. They serve a kind of buffet with beers. It was perfect to regain strength.

Nothing of the previous thing would be complete if it were not because in this town it is Santa Claus! Yes, the true, unique and greatest symbol of Christmas that made this place officially its "office" to listen to the wishes of its visitors since 2010 although it has been doing it for centuries.

Someone tells the story that, after World War II, Finland was destroyed. It was the first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, who decided to hold a ceremony where the Arctic Circle begins and build a small cabin enlarged with time. The history of Napapiiri is born, a town that grew up where in 1985 Santa decided to install his office and workshop to distribute the gifts every year.



As we said before, visiting Santa Claus village is completely free and allows you to enjoy 5 minutes with him. But the condition is not being able to take pictures from the moment we walk through the entrance path behind the door of his workshop. You can buy them when you finish besides a video of your experience. However, today the elves have been magical with us and the blog has served to allow us to enter. We open the door and walk down a path with music and an atmosphere that takes us to a magical world. If it is already exciting, the emotion still rises.

We climb a staircase to the upper floor. Regalitos, strange watches, pendulums, photos of their encounters. Everything leads us to a final door where even an elf offers us a gift that Santa Claus can hide behind his chair to give to the little ones when they enter. An elf receives us at the entrance of his office. Joulupukki (Finnish name of Santa Claus) is already ready to receive us. It is curious to know that in Finland is presented on Christmas Eve to distribute gifts (as he does in the houses year after year). While in the United States it seems that he does it "stealthily" when nobody sees him. And there he is.

It's our desired moment of the day and it finally arrives. We can only say that health was one of the most important issues. The great Joulupukki showed that he is not only a character who creates magic for Christmas but his heart does not fit into that suit. Many keys already have a little detail that that old man with white beard and the red suit had for all of us. I am sure that he will fulfill many wishes of travelers (and those who are not) for the next new year. We say goodbye. After the office, there is a control center where you can record video and photos of your meeting with the most important person of this time of the year.

In the outskirts of the town of Santa Claus, it has already got dark. The building where the illusions of children and adults are fulfilled looks beautiful in colored lights, Christmas trees and the line of the Arctic Circle with its 66º 32 '35 " perfectly marked in blue to the room where it receives us. Every December 24 in this same place, Santa is received by many visitors to greet Christmas and go out on his reindeer sleigh to distribute the gifts that night.

I will never forget the hands of Santa Claus. They were white and the softest I've ever touched. I could not find out where his house is hiding but I'm sure that these days we will find out more clues that will take us their, the cave of her elves or find one of the reindeer that pulls her sleigh every year. Legend has it that the location of Santa's house is one of Lapland's best-kept secrets and only a select few, his elves, are aware of his whereabouts. But, as we always say, this is part of another beautiful story.

The temperatures begin to fall with the darkness and it is a good time to take the bus just in front of the main Gift House and get closer to Rovaniemi. This same bus stops in Santa Park but will also be the subject of another exciting day. It's around 5:30 when we step on Rovaniemi. Almost without realizing we have been almost 9 hours!



Rovaniemi - the capital of Lapland

This small town of 70,000 inhabitants stands out more for being a perfect base for all the activities that can be done than for its tourist attraction. Along the main street, we can find several companies dedicated to organizing sleigh trips, snowmobiles, Aurora Borealis hunting. Logically they did not guarantee anything because they are an unpredictable phenomenon.

The Koskikatu Street is the main street that gives life to Rovaniemi and around which are the shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, and markets. There is another street that extends the offer. I could say that the Lardi square with a large clock that marks the temperature would be the heart of everything. The main purchases that can be made, as it could not be otherwise, are made from reindeer pieces. I believe that Rudolf spent some time here, otherwise it would be impossible to have posters with his picture. We will have to keep looking.

The main attractions are the Presbyterian church, the Jätkänkynttilä bridge over the Kemijoki river that we have seen several times these days. We do the river walk and the Arktikum museums of Sami culture. There are wildlife and attractions to learn while playing or the Pilke Scientific center which is a kind of interactive exhibition quite funny as they say. We dine in a restaurant where we order salmon soup, reindeer stew, and king crab.

Seeing the night clear we took some warm coffee to the car and we went on an adventure in search of the northern lights. We had been told that you could see on one on every three clear nights. We crossed our fingers so that this was one of those nights. We had to get away from the lights of the city, so we started to drive north, along a lonely road. It not only had trees on the sides but houses that looked like they were taken out of a movie.

I am sure that today is one of those days when the time has stopped and any thought has gone into the background before my first encounter with Santa Claus. My enthusiasm and affection for the little things that happen to us in life is incredible. But today, just to see Santa in this small place far from the world, in this town full of magic, I have fulfilled a great dream, to know that Old man with a white beard and red suit who will visit us again on Christmas night. Do you believe in the magic of Christmas? I was sleeping at this hour as the child who has reached their most magical dreams! Santa Claus exists!

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