Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Snow Castle in Kemi, Finland (March 2015)

Me and some snowy Angry Birds.

I'm continuing my series of winter magic in Finland with one more post. In March 2015 we decided to do one of the craziest things ever and caught a night train from Tampere to Kemi to visit the Snow Castle...and the next night train back - without a cabin! We'd done something similar once before when we went to Rovaniemi in the spring of 2013, so we knew we could pull it off. The trip is a bit less than 8 hours and usually the ticket is 57€/one way, but we managed to find a good deal and paid significantly less. The night train leaves at around 10 pm from Tampere and arrives in Kemi at around 6 am, which means that pretty much nothing is open when you arrive so you'll be freezing outside for quite a while before you can do anything. And anyway, if you're planning to go there for the Snow Castle, bundle up! It's insanely cold, and as you'll be spending pretty much the whole day outside, you really need to wear enough clothes.

The Snow Castle in Kemi is a work of art - I mean, what else can you say about an actual castle made purely out of snow and ice?! It's easily reachable as it's only a short walk from the city centre of Kemi. It's also right by the sea, so you really can't miss it even if you're as bad with maps as I am. Every winter, they build the castle with a different theme, which in 2015 was "Finnishness". 2017 will have quite a similar theme - Finland 100. This theme will celebrate Finland's 100th year of being independent - I'm guessing it will be quite spectacular! And in general, what an absolutely fantastic way of showing the world what we have here - sculpting it all from ice!

Anyway, we had a quick breakfast at Subway and then headed to the castle. I hope these pictures will show at least partly what an amazing place it it!

Newly arrived in Kemi!

In front of the castle!

Kemi on a map - as you can see, it's really close to the Arctic Cicle.

Entering the castle...

The chapel.

Two dorks in Lapland...:D

Julcsi with Väinämöinen, the old sage from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.

Väinämöinen playing his kantele. 

You can be sure to find me by any fireplace :D.

Ice hockey, literally.

And Julcsi will always find Moomins wherever she goes.

An ice tractor.

You can even spend the night in the Snow Hotel section of the castle.

The ceiling/roof of the Snow Hotel room.

We are very proud of our saunas!

It was cold!

You can spend a night in that thing, too, stargazing on the icy lake!

The compulsory hot chocolate!

Santa Claus IS Finnish, too.

These two dudes will also greet you at the entrance to the railway station in Helsinki,

Terttu - one of the two Snow Castle mascots.

Sledding is fuuuuun!

Cloudberry shots!

What a fabulous experience, truly! The only thing that made me sad was the thought of someone putting so much time and effort towards designing and building the castle every year, and then the castle melting away in the end...I would go nuts if it was me who had been involved in all the hard work!

We still had some time before catching our train, so we wandered around in Kemi a little bit and then ended up having a really good Chinese buffet at a clearly popular restaurant. We also found a lovely little coffee shop where we had these sweet pastries called "lumipallo" = "snowball". Delicious, and very Lappish :)!

Julcsi couldn't resist buying this harp seal <3.

The Snow Castle is open between January and April (unless it melts away before April) every year, so if you're in the area, it's a must!

My next entry will be on a place far farmer than Kemi, namely Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Stay tuned :)!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Winter Magic at Moominworld in Naantali, Finland! (Winter 2015)

Do you know the Moomins? The big, hippo-like storybook characters from the amazing Finnish writer Tove Jansson's books? Or from the Japanese animation from the 1990s? If yes, read on. If no, definitely read on! In Naantali, Finland, we have this place called Moominworld where you can meet all the characters from the books as well as spend a lovely summer's, or in this case winter's, day outside, wandering in Moominvalley and sampling delicious things from the many coffee shops and restaurants. Moominworld is a lovely place to visit for both adults and children alike, and the place indeed is full of tourists of all ages, especially from Asian countries. We, too, were an international bunch, as in addition to myself and Julcsi, we brought along our Erasmus + assistant language teacher Giuliana from Germany.

Getting to Moominworld even without a car is quite simple. Naantali is quite close to Turku (16 km), so we just caught a local bus from Turku Market Square to Naantali for 3€ one way. Buses number 6 and 7 will take you to the right place. There is also a Moomin Bus operating between Turku Harbour and Moominworld, and it also picks people up from their hotels on its way to Moominworld, which is quite a practical option - though significantly more expensive at 13€/return ticket. We found the local bus simple to use, and it was easy enough to find our way to our destination from where the bus dropped us off, even if we had to do quite a bit of walking.

Moominworld is mostly open in the summer, but every winter, a so called Winter Magic week invites you in, usually in February. The entrance fee is around 20€, which might seem like a lot considering the size of the theme park, but really, it's well worth it and you can easily spend the whole day there doing fun stuff and hanging around with the different Moomin characters. For Winter Magic, there's sledding, skating for children, skiing, snow shoeing, there's a Moomin show (mostly for kids), and a lot of food to choose from (you can find both home-cooked food and light snacks)...and hot chocolate and waffles Moominmamma style, of course. All in all, the place has a lovely, homey atmosphere and it completely lets you be a child for one day.

So, on to the pictures!

At the entrance!

Getting acquainted with the area...

With Mymble in her house :).  I

Ski jumping!! My "Matti Nykänen" won, of course :D!

Julcsi getting some hugs from Moominmamma!

...and Julcsi giving some hugs to Moomintroll :)!

Sledding is FUN!

The three of us! Behind us, you can see the Moominhouse!

You can also visit the Moominhouse, which is just about the coolest thing ever! I've always been in love with its round shape, and have even told my dad that he can build us one to live in if he's interested...:D! This is what it looks like from the inside...

Moominpappa's study.

Julcsi and Giuliana with the perverted fireman and his sausage :D!

The swim room.

Giuliana and Sniff.

Julcsi and Too-Ticky.

Our buffet lunch.

Moomin tea <3!

Julcsi giving snow shoeing a go.

Myself with Snork Maiden.

Julcsi with Stinky.

Hot chocolate with marshmallows!
And in case you want to see what Naantali looks like, check these out! It's a really pretty and idyllic place, so combining your Moominworld visit with a stay in Naantali might be a nice idea.

If you're into Finland and/or snow, you might be interested in my next post, which will be all about the big snowcastle in Kemi! Stay tuned :)!

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