We didn't wake up until 10:30 a.m. and we still felt like we had barely slept - the 24 hour sunlight was really messing with our body clocks. All we did today was drive, for about seven hours, through the same pine tree scenery as our drive from Stockholm yesterday. It rained the entire day, not stopping once. Depressingly this highlighted just how many leaks we have inside our van. We crossed over into Finland in the last hour and a half of driving, which meant we were finally back in a country with affordable food, reasonably priced petrol and euros.
As we were coming into Rovaniemi (which is pretty much directly on the Arctic circle) we passed an intersection with three huge supermarkets located on three of the corners. We couldn't resist. We chose one at random and entered the largest supermarket/department store combo I had ever witnessed with my own eyes. It took five minutes of non-stop walking just to get to the food section. A whole day could have been lost in there but we only had a few euro on us, so we had to severely limit ourselves. That didn't stop us buying alcohol though (now that it was in our price range), from a massive selection of beer and cider.
After checking in to a caravan park for the night, Danny whipped up an amazing red curry dish with rice, followed by cheese for dessert. We eat so well on this trip, better than we do at home. If it wasn't for the rain we would have taken a walk around after dinner, as it was still broad daylight outside. Instead we moped around inside, planning the next few days of our trip. The worst thing about the rain was that we couldn't see the midnight sun, which I was particularly looking forward to. The forecast predicts it won't clear up for days, so we will probably miss out on seeing it completely.
Up at 9:30 a.m., which was a bit better than yesterday. It rained all night and was still raining when we ventured outside. On the upside I managed to have a shower with no time limit placed on it, unlike in other Scandinavian countries.
Today we lived out a childhood fantasy: exploring Santa Claus Village. The rain did put a downer on the whole adventure but it was still very cool to be there. The site consisted of roughly a dozen souvenir shops, a few cafes and, of course, Santa himself. After waiting in line for ages (yes, with mostly children), we finally met Santa, posed for a photo, had a short conversation with the man himself (it turns out that Santa has a Russian accent) and paid an exorbitant fee for one photo. Completely worth it. Somehow we restrained ourselves from buying thousands of Christmas souvenirs and only came away with a couple of trinkets. One of the cashiers was Australian but had been living in Finland for 40 years. I don't think she meets many Aussies up here.
We can now say we have been inside the Arctic circle, as the official line crossed straight through the village. I'm not sure why that's significant but it sounds impressive.
Back in the main town of Rovaniemi, we wandered around looking for pizza - for some unknown reason we had pizza cravings. The best we could do was a pizza buffet, which we knew would be dangerous but we couldn't help ourselves. So we sat down for average pizza, mountains of lasagne, a truckload of scalloped potatoes, a little salad and a tiny amount of ice cream. No surprises that we left feeling sick and in need of a good vomit but at least our cravings had been taken care of. Best €9 we had spent in a long time.
With euro now in our wallets we drove back to the supermarket intersection we visited yesterday to explore it in more detail. Like Australia, Finland had specific alcohol shops for wine and spirits, rather than placing them on supermarket shelves alongside all the other groceries. The price of wine was way more than we wanted to spend, so we did something we had never done before: we bought a cask of red wine. We were a little ashamed but it was the cheapest option. I wonder how long that will last. On a more responsible note we also picked up a tube of silicon for all our leaks – it was about time we took care of them.
We decided to drive to Oulu to take some time off tomorrow's drive. When we started our sat nav, we discovered we had changed time zones and lost an hour when we entered Finland. It only took us 24 hours to notice. The drive was again wet and windy, with the van shaking multiple times on the road. At one point our skylight popped open while driving, which was less than ideal. As we neared Oulu it finally stopped raining and a little blue sky came out. We parked not far from the water and watched the sun slowly setting over several hours. We didn't have any dinner because we were still full from the buffet. Danny siliconed the van – we'll see if it makes any difference.
Today was summer solstice, the longest day of the year, but I don't think it made any difference to us. Every day feels like the longest day at the moment.