119. Hunting down Santa

The first sign we were getting close to finding Santa was the photo of him above, seen on the wall of the Mack’s Brewery. Obviously he had been drinking there very recently. Makes sense, being the closest brewery to the North Pole and all.

Later on, I spotted what clearly must be where he gets his groceries and homewares and thought maybe I could bump into him there.

I ran into one of his reindeer. I couldn’t work out which one, but it wasn’t Rudolf. He was no help though.

I swung by his house, but he wasn’t home.

So then I thought maybe I’d catch him at Church

But alas. Despite all of the signs he had been there, I didn’t manage to find him anywhere. Rumour has it he holidays in Hawaii around this time of year.

109. Tromsø

IMG_3099IMG_3107IMG_3108IMG_3110IMG_3111IMG_3112
IMG_3114IMG_3115IMG_3122IMG_3123IMG_3124IMG_3125
IMG_3126IMG_3129IMG_3134IMG_3137IMG_3138IMG_3141
IMG_3144IMG_3148IMG_3151IMG_3153IMG_3155IMG_3156

Tromsø, a set on Flickr.

Tromsø is about as far north/close to the north pole as one can reasonably get, short of chartering planes and other such expensive activities. The aim of the game was to see the Northern LIghts, which was pretty much the only thing on my bucket list. As it turns out, seeing the northern lights is quite the gamble. You can see from the photos that the weather changed very quickly in the two days I was there. My friend Ryan who accompanied me explained something all scientifical about wind currents and weather phenomena that make Tromsø so liveable despite being so far north but I forgot the details…

Tromsø actually reminded me a great deal of Queenstown in New Zealand – beautiful views, a picturesque wee town, that whole ski-bum feel (although there were only a few cross-country ski routes around, not actual mountains) and absolutely exorbitant prices – the Tromsø economy is probably also designed to rip tourists off. As if Norway wasn’t expensive enough already! A great money saving tip though is to stay in the cabins at the campground. So much cheaper, and accomodation is per cabin, so the more friends you have, the better. It was essentially the same as a hostel, apart from a short walk through the snow to the bathrooms.

Two days really was a long time in Tromsø. We managed to tick off every reasonably priced tourist attraction, and then got to the silly stage, which involved tree climbing and pretending I was Rose on the bow of the Titanic. There were some very cool looking “tours” that included things like staying in a Sami tent and going dog sledding, ice fishing or eski riding in the snow, but just getting to Tromsø was stretching my budget enough. If you have the money, there are some very cool experiences you can have there. Otherwise, it was a great little town to check out.

89. Where Santa Goes To Lunch

On the edge of Sibelius park lies Cafe Regatta – quite possible the most novel cafe I have ever been in, if not in the world. And I’m fairly certain it is where Santa goes to lunch. The cafe itself is a tiny little shack, that is actually over the waters edge, chock full of all things finnish and christmassy and generally exciting.

As it is such a small wee cafe, there is a huge outdoor part. With a fire to sit around, a little picket fence, eclectic painted, wooden, mismatched chairs and extremely snowy surroundings, it was just the most amazing and unique atmosphere. I just couldn’t get enough of it! Lovely food and coffee too at pretty decent prices. It has an extra magical quality to it, looking far to small to possibly house a cafe from the outside, like it is some kind of Harry Potter cafe.

I was pretty excited that I was one step closer in my quest to find Santa, but I must have just missed him. Best get a little closer to the North Pole next time.

86. Walking on a Frozen Lake

You might call this one cheating, as I already tried out the whole walk-on-water thing at Uni, but back then all I really did was stand on the edge because I didn’t want to be all wet in class.

Well, in Helsinki, I decided to step things up a notch. As I wandered out to the Olympic Stadium (seems to be a massive deal there) there was a gigantic and fairly solid looking frozen lake. Even though I saw people walking dogs across it, I wouldn’t have considered a short cut across it unless I knew the ice was really thick. However, when I saw a little old lady dragging one of those wheely shopping carts across I decided to break from my “assume nothing” travel rule and give it a crack.

You’ll be happy to know I succeeded, and made it to the middle of the lake with great excitement! It actually got old really fast though, as it was super slippery and I really missed the handy grip provided by the pavement.

Made for some cool panorama shots though!

85. Sibelius Park

Sibelius Park is named after Finish Composer Johan Sibelius. I was particularly interested by this spot as the minute I read about it I was flooded with memories of my Year 11 music class. There were only 5 of us in the class, and all of us had been learning musical instruments since we were very young, so the school curriculum was a bit of a joke. The teacher knew it too. He’d swan in halfway through class with a Latte permanently attached to his hand, have a chat, make sure we were having fun and otherwise leave us to our own devices. It was part gossip session, part having a little jam and playing the odd song and part Facebooking. Actually back then I think it was Bebo, but close enough. Suited us just fine and a month before the Dean needed internal exam results from him, our teacher he gave us our final deadline warning and we whipped out a year’s worth of internal assignments. Some of them were composing assignments and we used a computer program called Sibelius (and a frustratingly slow version at that), so the walk there was full of fond memories music ‘classes’ – i.e. scheduled social time with my friends and a bit of music on the side!

Sibelius park is famous for a large sculpture that sings magnificently in the wind, and it was a reasonable (though lovely) walk from the city centre. Unfortunately, the one time I would have appreciated some wind there wasn’t any, but it was still a nice spot to see. There was also a tonne of snow to frolic around in too!

43. Build a snowman in Sweden

What better place to build my first snowman? unfortunately the timing was more the issue. After Team Trans-Tasman put in an excellent performance at the Free Bar, we weren’t feeling too flash the next day. No hangover would be too big to prevent us from a day trip to Malmo, Sweden though.

Malmo is a 35 minute train ride from Copenhagen central station, and a day-trip definitely worth doing. It cost about 85DKK, which is around $15 each way and was an absolutely beautiful town. There was some lovely art work and sculptures around the city, and of course beautiful, old, wonky Scandinavian buildings.

Something’s not right in this sculpture…

The Malmo central station is really pretty, and all of the top sites are within walking distance. Plan A was to use my nifty smart phone for a bit of a walking guide, but the swift realisation that different countries = different network providers foiled that. Luckily the information centre was just to the left of the station and the handy guide drew us a little walking tour and pointed out the best sites.

She looks cold…

Given the previous night’s shenanigans, refreshments were high on the to do list. The next hurdle was my lack of access to the xe.com app. Silly me, forgetting to check the exchange rate! I had no idea if 1 Krone is worth more in Denmark or if the price of a coke at Sweden’s 7/11 was ridiculously high (turns out it was a combination of both). I spotted another H&M store (hard to miss, just look for the giant posters of David Beckham’s Bollocks) and figured that would  be a great way to estimate the exchange rate – the Danish store has prices in multiple currencies. Sadly in Sweden they only list SEK on the price tags. How rude. I did, however, discover that they must have different ranges in different countries. I resisted the urge to buy more clothes and went back out in to the snow.

Am I the only one that wonders about building safety regulations in Scandinavia..?

It was a tad more windy than I was used to in Denmark/Copenhagen and I almost wished I had my snow goggles on me. I was being absolutely blasted in the face with snow. On the upside, Malmo is known for its parks, so I felt it was a perfect opportunity to tick a crucial item off the bucket list: Build a snowman.

Snow in my FACE

After observing some children make one (it wasn’t creepy, I swear), we quickly worked out the technique – make a little ball of snow and then roll it along until it becomes a big ball! Don’t ask me the physics of it all but the snow on the ground seems to stick to the ball like velcro. Perfect. What we didn’t anticipate was just how laborious making a decent snow man actually is. So as much as I would like to claim the above pictured snow man was ours, it was in fact made by children and ours was more like this:

He was hungover too.

Once we finally had 3 odd shaped lumps of decreasing sizes stuck on top of each other with a bit of dirt/leaves to make a face, we decided it was time to throw them at eachother. Much more fun than manual labour!

Some more snaps from Malmo:

Cutest phone box ever.

I had assumed that this was the Castle in the middle of the park, but in fact it was actually the Casino