The winter of 2013-2014 is said to be one of the last few moments of the solar maximum, a period of greatest solar activity in the 11 year solar cycle of the Sun. It is this time when sunspots are greater in number, resulting in Earth experiencing more solar storms, and hence, more aurora borealis activity.
They say that aurora chasing is one of the to-do bucket lists, and time could not have been any better for us to embark on this adventure, especially when it has been the Boy’s dream to capture the aurora on camera.
The planning phase took us about 6 months, as we debated on which of the 4 Scandic countries we would be visiting. In the end, it was the combination of Finland’s Santa Village and Sweden’s Abisko National Park that we settled upon.
Time difference: -5 hours
Transiting in Frankfurt, we finally disembarked at Helsinki Airport Terminal 1 after our 18 hour flight.
As we needed to purchase our 48-hour Helsinki Card, located at Terminal 2, we walked over to the Tourist Information Centre after collecting our baggage. Transfer to Helsinki city centre was made easy via the Finnair City bus, where our Helsinki Card gave us a discount for the one way trip.
Our stay for the city was Hotel Haven, a small luxury hotel located at Unionsgarten, accessible via tram.
Night came really early as it was winter, plus we were in a place where the sun only stays in the sky for about 5 hours. By the time we settled down, it was already dark, but that did not stop us from checking out the nearest place of interest, Helsinki Senate Square and Cathedral.
As it was the Christmas season, Senate Square was the venue for St Thomas Christmas Market. With Christmas crafts, artisan jewellery, winter wear and warm food, it was a lovely experience basking ourselves in their festive cheer!
While the aroma of cooked food filled the air, we decided to give their local cuisine a try, ordering ourselves reindeer meatballs and grilled salmon with garlic sauce. And although I have never been a fan of garlic, Finnish garlic sauce is oh-so-yummy!
As luck/misfortune would have it, the day we landed was also St Lucia’s Day, a day when a young maiden is chosen and crowned in the Cathedral to represent St. Lucia, followed by a parade around the city. By the time it was 7pm, the area was clustered with loads of people and it became pretty hard to walk around. Even after the carriage carrying the maiden had left for its parade rounds, many people were still chasing it.
We decided then to call it a day, as I was tired from the long travelling and jetlag. But this day marked the beginning of our trip to Northern Europe, something I have never expected to do so. And it was indeed a trip to remember…