[From Beth] Sunday didn’t start out as well as we’d hoped. Colin’s stomach woke him up after nearly 12 hours of much needed sleep. Poor kid had had fewer than 18 meals in the last 24 hours and needed sustenance NOW, which meant that we cave in on our normal standards and eat at McDonalds. Good news: McDonalds in Finland serves organic, hormone-free milk and has a gluten free menu, so mom was somewhat appeased.
We loaded up on healthy snacks from the grocery store, stowed our luggage in a locker and took a ferry to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress off the coast of Helsinki. The ferry ride gave us the opportunity for a spectacular view of the Helsinki Harbor and downtown, and the weather was beautiful.
Suomenlinna was built during the era of Swedish rule of Finland, and most of it’s buildings date toward the mid to end 18th century. From the early 19th century to the early 20th century, it was a garrison town under Russian rule (as was the rest of Finland). Today there are still 800 residents and a naval academy stationed on the islands, as well as a number of gift shops, museums, restaurants and places to take pictures.
Sunday night we boarded a train to Roveniemi, a town on the arctic circle near the Swedish boarder. The ride was 12 hours long, and we had a couple of sleeping cabins. The boys enjoyed their own, next to ours. Saara shared a cabin in the car ahead of ours. You might imagine that, as easily as I sleep in moving vehicles, this would have been a very peaceful night, but I kept dreaming of missing our stop (the last one on the route), and mistakenly traveling across Russia without a visa. And zombies. There are always zombies.
Saara’s parents met us at Roveniemi without incident for breakfast (aamupala) and a tour of “Santa’s workshop” – a collection of stores and an opportunity to have a photo with Santa. In August. It was 10 degrees Celsius, and windy, but that didn’t stop us from visiting a couple of reindeer for good measure.
On the road back south we crossed over the border (no customs) to Sweden to take a picture of the local IKEA and have lunch in an over-priced restaurant where Mike could have a reindeer sandwich against Jack’s wishes (Juhani, Saara’s dad, promised Jack that it was probably an angry reindeer that had to be put down anyway).
Outside the restaurant, there were fishermen pulling salmon out of the Tornionjoki (Tornio River) with big butterfly nets off a precarious-looking bridge that we’re told has to be rebuilt every year because the ice flows sweep it away.
More tomorrow on Saara’s friendly family, and the custom of 2nd dinner (iltapala), which has Colin thinking he’s going to immigrate to Finland. For now, we’re going crash and dream of hotel zombies and missing the continental breakfast.