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Finally Made It to Lapland!

One frustrating part of OUR experience here is Finland is trying to get information from the Finns on traveling within Finland.  So different from the USA.  When you ask about a destination it is usually quite easy to get info about traveling to places within the US and outside the US.  Some of our  experiences here in Finland have been completely blind – Lapland was definitely  the case here.  Lapland was a last minute decision with less than a week before we would leave.  We found an excellent deal at least what we felt was an excellent deal with the train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi.  It would be an overnight train experience.  Everyone was  very excited!  Rovaniemi is located at 66°30′N 025°44′E which is just south of the Arctic Circle.

As a family we put Lapland on our bucket list.  With that bucket list we wanted  to see reindeer, see Santa’s home, dogsled ride, ice fishing, snowmobiling and the Northern Lights.

This trip was going to be quick as we would be one night on the train to Rovaniemi , one night in Rovaniemi and then one night on the train back to Helsinki.  I spent a lot of time investigating what to  and how to make the most of it in such a short amount of time.  I had basically no help from anyone on trying to figure out what to do.  We found a get deal for our hotel in Rovaniemi on TripAdvisor which included breakfast.  The hotel was called Rantasipi Pohjanhovi.    If you click on the link it will take you to our  HotelRoomTours site and you can view the room we stayed in.   A short distance from the hotel was a great outdoor AngryBird Park.

I knew I wanted to find the best possible tour with what was on our bucket list and not spend too much.  Lapland is quite expensive, almost comparable to Disney in my opinion if not more.  I found Lapland Safaris online.  They seemed to have the best tour packages in my mind and good feedback.  Basically, they could cover everything on our list if we wanted to spend a lot of euros.  We narrowed it down to one specific tour – Santa Claus Safari which takes approximately 6 hours total.  The weekend we went (first weekend in Decemeber) was the opening season for Rovaniemi.  Our safari would include nature, culture and the spirit of Christmas.  This would be perfect for our family.  When I booked the trip I was experiencing some difficulties and their customer service was quite helpful.  The cost for the Santa Safari was 197,00 euros per adult and  98,50 euros per child.  This also included lunch.

When the train arrived into Rovaniemi we found our way to where we should catch a taxi.  This ended up being the most difficult part of the trip.  We stood for quite some time in the cold snowy weather with two young children waiting for an available taxi.  We made several phone calls and the hotel was trying to assist us the best they could.  Rovaniemi is a small town so it was a pretty quick trip to the hotel.  We arrived into Rovaniemi around 8:00am and we had our safari scheduled for 10:00am.  Lapland Safari start point was located right next door to the hotel we were staying in.  This was quite convenient.   We had time to check in and use the restroom with plenty of time.  We headed over to Lapland Safaris to check in.  The first part of the trip would be a snowmobile safari to a reindeer farm.  We were taken to the clothing area where we were all fitted with proper Lapland attire.  I might add it is quite cold up in the Arctic Circle.  From head to toe we were completely covered.  We then took a bus ride to the snowmobiles.  The children rode in sleighs pulled by snowmobiles and any adults that did not want to drive a snowmobile.  They sat in cozy sleighs with a nice warm blanket.  We got a short explanation on the use of the snowmobile and hand signals we would be using and then we all loaded up.  I believe we had about 25 ppl in our group.  The snowmobiling was on a frozen river.  We did see a small herd of reindeer in the distance on the river running.  That was pretty cool!  Christian did the first round and I drove the second half.  Here is a short video clip of the snowmobiling.

Our destination on the snowmobiles was to a reindeer farm.  Here we would learn more about the reindeer and the Lappish culture.  We went inside a structure where there was a warm fire and a guide dressed in his Saami attire.  After this we headed back outside and had a reindeer sleigh ride.  This was a lot of fun!  We were able to fit our family of four on one sleigh pulled by one reindeer.  This was a special experience for our family. Here is a short video clip of our sleigh ride.

After the sleigh ride  they girls played in the snow and we were waiting to have a visit with Santa Claus.  We were the first ones to go and have our own private visit with Santa.  After everyone had their visit with Santa we got back on the snowmobiles to head back to catch the bus to take us to Santa’s Village.  Santa’s Village was pretty much a tourist area.  The best part was getting some postcards and stamps.  The postcards would be stamped from Santa’s Post Office!  I don’t think I’ve ever written so many postcards in such a short amount of time.

The next day we decided we would take the girls to Santa’s Park.  This was pricey, but fun.  The girls were the perfect age.  The park is completely underground which was pretty cool!  The girls would go to Elf School,  calligraphy class, decorated gingerbread cookies in Mrs. Claus’ kitchen and another visit with Santa.  Lots of fun at Santa’s Park.

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After Santa Park we found a great outside Angry Bird Park right in Rovaniemi just two blocks from our hotel.  The girls played for a bit and then we had some Subway in the lobby of our hotel before heading to the train.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The girls had fun and we were officially in the Christmas spirit.  This was perfect for our family.  We felt like we had enough time and were not rushing to get things accomplished.  Another time would be ice hotel or glass igloos and trying to find the Northern Lights.

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Categories: Family, Finland Life, Nature, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Siberian Flying Squirrel Encounter

About two weeks ago we were on an evening walk home from a birthday party and we were grazed by what we thought was a bird, but when we looked at where it landed we realized we were brushed by something you don’t always get to see in populated areas. It was a squirrel! This squirrel is called the Siberian Flying Squirrel. They can be found in Southern Finland and Estonia. They look different because of there big black eyes and the membrane that connects between the front and rear legs called the furry glide membrane. The other type of squirrel you see a lot of in Finland is the Red Squirrel. He looks different then the squirrels we see in Georgia, USA because it has very pointy, furry ears.

Here are two pictures I found on the Internet of the two kinds of squirrels.

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Isovanhempien päivä

Isovanhempien päivä!
Today Natalie’s Finnish Preschool is celebrating Isovanhempien päivä/Grandparent’s Day! They have been preparing and practicing song and dance. They are going to have few other surprises I’m sure, like coffee and pulla.

Natalie has been a little sad and not wanting to go to school since her grandparents are not here. The teacher in me came out and I worked with Natalie on making this fun for her. We got daddy to bring home some lanyards from work to borrow for the day. We took some pictures of the grandparents and Natalie and placed them in the lanyards to be her special necklace.

The bell rang and Natalie gave me her usual hug and kiss and then in the classroom she went with her necklaces. The children were immediately curious and came over to check out Natalie’s unusual necklaces. They were a hit! She had a huge smile and I think she felt very much apart of the event. She was telling the children in Finnish about the pictures. Her teacher walked over just a curious and turned and gave me a thumbs up and said, “Excellent idea!”

Mommy job done and I am satisfied she will be happy when I return!

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Hyvää Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday children around Finland dress up as little witches and equip themselves with willow branches decorated with colourful feathers and crepe paper. The little witches tour the neighbourhood, knock on doors and recite an old poem that promises health and youthfulness for the coming year and asks for a reward. Whoever opens the door gets one of the decorated willow branches as a gift and the reward is usually a chocolate egg or other seasonal sweets.

Here is what the little witches recite:

Virvon, varvon,
turceks’ terveeks
tulevaks’ vuodeks!
vitsa sullepalkka mulle!
Rauhallista Pääsiäistä

For fresh, for health
for the coming year!
The branch for you,
the treat for me!
Have a Peaceful Easter.

Hope all our friends And Family have a happy Palm Sunday And Easter!

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Blazed Salmon or Loimulohi

One of my favorite things about living in Finland is all the salmon. I love salmon and fresh salmon not farm raised salmon. Salmon from the cold Baltic Sea or from the northern rivers in Lapland. If you purchase salmon in the grocery store here it is probably from Norway.

My day brightens up when I walk by our KMarket and I see the Lohikeisari signs hanging up and as you get closer you smells that open fire and then the smell of delicious salmon cooking. It is called blazed salmon here in Finland.

˜Blazed salmon cooked by an open fire (“loimulohi” in Finnish) An old, lovely way to prepare salmon. Blazed salmon is often cooked by a group of people telling stories by the fire. The salmon fillets are seasoned with salt and nailed to wet alder planks with wooden pegs, which are then placed in a vertical position by the open fire. The cooking may take hours, but the result is crispy on the surface and juicy inside. It is so yummy!!!

The people selling it are super nice too. Now I visit their Facebook page to see when they are at my KMarket – lucky for me seems to be every two weeks.

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Trip to Tallinn in 2 Minutes

I’m a little behind on my posts, but here is our 2 minute clip of our trip to Tallinn, Estonia. We had a wonderful day trip to Tallinn back at the end of April. It only takes 2 hours on a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. Hope you enjoy our video. More to come with a visit we took to Sweden.

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Jumping Around by the Ferry System

Two weeks ago we decided to try to take a ferry over to Estonia.  For this trip we selected the Silja line.  Basically these ferries look like cruise ships, but can carry cars, buses and trucks.  The ferry to Estonia is only 2 hours.  They have ferries going back and forth all day.  We selected the early morning ferry and then the 19:30 (7:30pm) ferry back to Helsinki.  We rode on the Star and SuperStar.  We spent around 100 euros for the family round trip.  Both ships were pretty nice.  For the early morning ferry we decided to book the buffet breakfast.  The food was only fair.  There are other options for eating then the buffet, but we thought this was the easiest with the time of the departure.

The girls enjoyed exploring on the ship and playing in the play areas.  You can book a room on the ship if you want to sleep.  No need for a 2 hour ferry ride.  We arrived pretty quick!! The phrase “Smooth Sailing” was just that!

One recommendation would be to catch a cab from the port up to Tallinn or grab that double-decker bus tour.  It is a pretty good hike with children if you are planning on walking around all day.  We actually planned on taking a taxi back to the ship at the end of the day, but did not spot one and walked.  It seemed faster on the walk back to the ship even with tired little girls.  The ship back to Helsinki was packed not much seating was available.  There is duty-free shopping on the ships.  I’ve never seen so many cases of beer being taken off a ship.

We look forward to more ferry experiences while being here.

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Carl Larsson Exhibit

The Ateneum in Helsinki has had the Carl Larsson Exhibit on display since February.  I became familiar with this artist through Christian’s mom.  It is one of her favorites.  I think is now one of mine too.  We decided to take the girls down to Helsinki to the exhibit.  I made one of my “Erickson Family Scavenger Hunts” for the Carl Larsson Exhibit.  The girls were very excited to go on a scavenger hunt!  The Antenum had over 100 works of by Carl as well as some furniture and interior designs by his wife, Karin.  He had over 1400 paintings of his family.  His daughters reminded me a lot of my two girls.  I think that is what I liked about his paintings.  I felt like I was looking at pictures of my girls.

Just a little info about Carl Larsson.  He was from Sundborn, Sweeden and lived from 1859-1919.  Christian’s mom has visited the home in Sweden and one of the last visits she had a tour from Carl Larsson’s granddaughter.  We hope to visit his home while living over here.  We saw an old movie which showed a lot of his home in Sweden and it was fun to see his paintings with the familiar backdrops.

The girls enjoyed the exhibit.  It was fun to go around and point out things in the paintings and to show them how to appreciate art.  Part of the exhibit was an area that looked like the inside of the Larsson’s home, but it was with his paintings and they were life-size.  You can see in the pictures below.

We look forward to sharing more art with the girls while being expats in Europe!!

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Kevään??

I was beginning to wonder if spring was ever going to arrive here in Finland.  We had snow into late April and this last snow the Finns were telling us that was it no more.  Not sure how they knew this, but they seem correct.  We were teased with a few days in a row with temps in the 50s and the signs of spring are now starting to arrive.  We have noticed flowers popping through the ground.  They remind me of the famous March Banks at Winterthur Museum in Delaware.  Lots of small purples and white with hints of a golden yellow here and there.  Now that the snow has melted away you can see the beautiful rocky Finnish landscape.  There are also beautiful mosses growing on the rocks.  We are also hearing the wildlife with birds singing.  I even caught two birds doing there thing right out my bedroom window.  The girls and I saw the most gorgeous pheasant today.  Spring is very different here compared to Georgia.  Spring requires what we would call a winter jacket in Georgia.

I think the girls are going to be a little confused by the seasons.  An example was a homeschooling activity I was doing with them that involved the clothing for spring.   The clothing on the worksheet was quite different with what we have to wear here for spring.

The cross-country  skis and ice skates have vanished and the bikes, skateboards and roller blades have all come out.  The popular bike here is called the Jopo.  We see lots of teens and tweens riding these bikes around town.  I think American kids would think the were strange.  Also the kids are so young and riding two wheel bikes.  You see very small kids with the Strider type bikes.  The Finns continue to be very active.

We now have the sun rising at 5:30am and setting at 9:09pm.  This has been adjustment because the sun kind of sits lower and seems to just stay put for awhile.  We have some strong sun beating in our back windows and we are now using our sunshades.

We are still waiting for the leaves to arrive and the grass to turn green and hopefully the ground will be dry and not muddy.  We know it is coming close as some allergies are starting.  Christian experienced the very puffy and tearing eyes just last week.  We were told it was Estonia’s pollen blowing up to Finland because they are experiencing their burst.  We cannot wait to see the green on the trees.

The other big change with the weather are the outdoor kiosks that are opening up.  Lots of small markets.  We have seen strawberry stands, cakes and pastries, ice cream/gelato, crepes and so much more.  The restaurants have put out their tables and we now have the Europe that everyone pictures in their minds.

Looking forward to the Jazz Fest in Tapiola and heading into Helsinki to the Carl Larsson Exhibit.  SuSu will be on our minds while at the exhibit.  We will do our first family adventure on Sunday as we will board a ship/ferry and head to Estonia.  Stay tuned for that adventure…

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Coffee Lovers

I have to say I believe that the Finns and the Swedes really know how to make a cup of coffee.  I love their coffee!  We have also enjoyed some cappuccino.  The Italians might be a little stronger on that front.

We made the mistake of letting the girls try a sip of our cappuccino and now they think they are coffee drinkers.  Well… why not since Finland is #1 in coffee consumption per capita in the world.  Yes they hit  the #1 spot only before Norway, Iceland, Denmark, The Netherlands and Sweden.  Kind of crazy!  I believe the US was like #25.  Finland is getting its first Starbucks this year and that is at the airport.  Not sure if the Finns will want to spend the € like they charge in the US.  They really know how to make their own coffee.

Another really cool thing are their coffee makers.  I love them!  The girls loved the ones we spotted at Stockmanns called the Moccamaster. You can see below why they liked it so much.

The other great thing is that coffee is not just a morning thing it is very popular here to have afternoon coffee.  The Finns have wonderful invitations for coffee.  We will blog about this later because they do such a nice job with this and it’s not just coffee!

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