Road Trip: Driving to the Arctic, Rovaniemi! Ole Hyvää!

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In Finland, summer means an across-the-board time off from work and now I can appreciate why it is so. Having going through long, dark and exceptionally cold winters, Finns start rejoicing upcoming spring from March. Among several hobbies that I have, I am a keen traveller.

Last summer I decided to drive to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland (Finland) located literally at the Arctic Circle to test drive my new Volkswagen Polo. Rovaniemi offers loads for the tourists ranging from snowmobile rides in winters to river cruise in summers.

For me, it was more about experiencing the drive. From Oulu, it takes roughly 3 hours to reach Rovaniemi.

I equipped myself for the journey with eatables, my camera and an extra pair of t-shirt, in case I had to stay overnight. The drive from the beautiful city of Oulu to Rovaniemi was an experience of a lifetime.

Oulu to Rovaniemi

For the three hours of driving, I saw a few cars and more reindeers and a diversity of stunning landscape. At many occasions, I felt forced to stop my car and take a close look at the reindeers and moose. The entire journey was joyful, calm and I do not recall a single moment of monotony.

Navigators won’t help

Upon reaching the city center, I kind of lost my way and even the Tom Tom navigator could not pinpoint the exact location of the Santa Claus’s office. That left me with no choice but to seek help from the locals. I parked my car outside a pizzeria and after ordering a slightly large thick-based pizza, I asked the lady at the counter about my destination.

Though, she could hardly speak English, she took no time in grabbing a map and drew a line underlining where I was (the pizzeria) and my destination. Yeah, that’s some customer service and cordiality now, eh? After having enjoyed the delicious pizza, I followed the paper-based map and reached my destination with ease.

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The Arctic Atmosphere

It was indeed more than what I had anticipated. A large number of visitors from almost every part of the globe were enjoying themselves. Guided tours operators were busy playing their roles and it was a pleasure to see kids elated when I entered Santa Claus’s office. It is beyond the scope of the article to go into further details. In a nutshell, I loved the town of Rovaniemi and did not feel dissatisfied by any standard.

After having spent about two hours at the Arctic Circle city, I had a cup of freshly brewed coffee and it was time to drive down back to Oulu. On my way back, I was still thinking about numerous temptations that Rovaniemi has to offer. However, it was time to get back home and my VW Polo was cruising effortlessly within the legal speed limit.

The Return to Oulu

It was about 7 pm (that is more like 2 pm in summer time) when I had already completed half of my journey. I was a little exhausted but certainly enjoying the varying scenery.

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But the enjoyment ended up with a glimpse of a baby reindeer right in the middle of the road.

My natural reflex was to somehow evade a collision with the small animal. I tried to maneuver my direction marginally and the next moment, I found myself in a waterway on the side of the road. What happened was that the car slipped for about 800 meters and then hit a few trees finally ending up in the ditch.

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For the first few moments, I could not cognize the situation. It was as though some invisible force has shaken me inside out. After about five minutes, I realized that I saved the reindeer and soon afterwards, I realized that I was alive! I released the seat belt and got out of the car and looked around but there was not a single human to be seen. I was shaken naturally yet I somehow got over the emotion and started to wait for someone who might be on her way to or from Oulu.

Some Finnish May Help

After about two hours of agonizing waiting time, I saw a car driving towards Rovaniemi and started waving. The driver flashed his car’s lights from distance giving me a hint of hope. In a minute, he parked his car on the roadside and came to me speaking impulsively with evident concern. Sadly, I could not understand a single word and with my very basic Finnish skills, I somehow managed to make him grasp that all his words were meaningless to me.

The guy pulled out his iPhone and called a number and handed it to me. On the other end, it was his girlfriend who was fluent at speaking English. She asked me whether I was hurt and needed an ambulance? My response was “Thank you so much for asking. I am fine. But my car is destroyed and I want a tow truck please”. I had a few minutes of chat with the lady and she asked me to hand over the phone to her husband, which I did.

Everyone loves a helpful Finnish

This person tapped me on my shoulder and called a number (I am sure it was the tow-truck service). He spoke for about 10 minutes and hanged up. He then looked at me as though he wanted to know how I was feeling. My response was a muddled smile. It took 2 hours for the tow-truck to come to the accident zone and straightaway; the pros started doing their job.

What amazed me was that the person who had stopped to help me, waited with me for the entire period of time. As far as I recall, his car engine was running for the entire period. There was no communication between us except for an occasional eye contact. It was dark now and we were in the middle of nowhere.

Finally, the damaged car was lifted and securely placed on the truck’s platform. The truck driver had a little chat with my “angel”, and I was told in “Finn-glish” that I would be given a free ride. I thanked my rescuer as much as I could but his gestures indicated that it was not a big deal for him. I asked for his cell number and my request was approved.

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After about two hours drive, I reached home. I thanked the truck driver and waved good-bye. The next day, I was at the hospital and a chain of visits to physiotherapists and GPs began.

Near me, the most intriguing part of the aforementioned occurrence is that Finns are truly caring and considerate. The way that stranger helped me, stood by me for more than four hours, arranged everything has left an ever lasting mark of Finnish people.

I sent a text message articulating my gratefulness and the only answer I received was “Ole Hyvää”!

About Sitwat Langrial

Sitwat focuses on socio-political issues that revolve around Finland and the globe.

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