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At the arctic circle

entertainment Updated: Jan 13, 2009 16:26 IST
Rupali dean
Rupali dean
Hindustan Times
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Crisp white snow, crackling fires, long nights that call for coziness, a good cuddled-around-the-hearth feeling is what my impression of Rovaniemi was but I discovered this and much much more.

Reindeer safari
The best part of Rovaniemi, apart from meeting the Big Man himself, is undoubtedly the reindeer. Though slow rides, yet a lot of fun; sample this hold on to a rope and let the reindeer pull you on skis. The most astounding experience of my life, it was fun to drive through pristine snow covered trees.

As the saying goes “The sauna is to Finns as wine is to the French”. “it's great for blood circulation”, they say! Interestingly nowadays friends often sauna bathe together regardless of genders.

Ice fishing
A sport Finns love doing . The lakes provide one with a fair chance of a good catch. It’s amazing to see people in their arctic clothing, staring into a little hole in the water and that seems like an Ice-fishing competition. I waited for over an hour to catch one, but in vain!

Arktikum museum
The museum is worth seeing, not only for its architecture but also for its collections. Most of the museum is buried in the Ounasjoki riverbank, but a high, narrow, glass-walled lobe juts out from the earth, pointing to north, like a two-story compass needle. I came face to face with some of the immediate effects of climate change at the new Arctic in Change exhibit, including experiencing a true Arctic chill in a specially-equipped ice box.

Santa’s village
8 Kilometers north of Rovaniemi is Korvatunturi, where Santa Claus officially lives, year round, at his Arctic Circle headquarters. It sure is a white fantasy land, constructed partially of snow buildings. It’s great fun to drop off letters for your near and dear kids at the Santa Claus post office where the merry Elves are busy but ever ready to help you out. Trust me it’s a great high to stand under the blue line marking the Arctic Circle and seeing Aurora Borealis in winter (in summers you can see the midnight sun!).

Food & drinks
A must-try specialty here is the reindeer meat. You may have it stewed, broiled or sautéed in butter, splashed with lingonberry sauce. Do not also miss the creamy morel soup and the cold smoked arctic char (a mixed taste of salmon and trout).The Finns raise a toast for the national drink of Karhu (fisherman’s candy) and Koskenkorva (vodka). Cloudberry cocktails, made with the more commonly known Lakka, work just as well too.

The duty free shopping at the Helsinki airport is beyond compare. One may buy a variety of souvenirs ranging from reindeer meat, reindeer horn handicrafts, clothes, accessories, Koskenkorva to the famed ‘Fazer’ breads and chocolates.

A must buy is the ‘kuksa’, a traditional cup made out of wood by hollowing it out (make sure you buy the hand made one though). If you have enough time on you, buy yourself a spa treatment at the Airport …there’s nothing like watching planes take off and land while you get a massage done.