The Germans in Rovaniemi, the evacuation and the reconstruction

First a little background information. It is not easy to understand the different movements and how the enemies changed during an era of a few years. I am not trying to make an over all description of the war’s consequences here, but only to explain the efforts the local people of Lapland had to take caused by the steps taken during the Lapland War in 1944-1945.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the majority of the world’s nations—including all of the great powers. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries.
During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–1940 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland; and in the Continuation War of 1941–1944, following Operation Barbarossa, in which Germany had invaded the Soviet Union. After fighting a major Soviet offensive in June/July 1944 to a standstill, Finland reached an armistice with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–1945, when Finland fought against the retreating German forces in northern Finland.
German operations in Finland expanded further upon the outbreak of the Continuation War, to the extent that there were already as many as 64 command stations in Rovaniemi in January 1942, employing over 3,000 people, mainly Germans. It is estimated that some 6,000 German soldiers were stationed in the town at that time, plus the Austrians, Dutch, Estonians and Swedes, who were working for them. That was a big amount of foreigners considering that the town officially had 8,200 Finnish inhabitants, many of whom were at the front. Almost every village in the rural district had German depots and other types of German military activity. There were at least 200,000 German soldiers in Lapland during a time of four years, from 1940-1944.
The presence of the Germans in Rovaniemi had a considerable impact on the local economy, reflected in the form of a continuous shortage of labour, a doubling in wage levels compared with other parts of Finland. There were a continued rationing and a lack of accommodations, which similarly caused rents to double. The Germans for their part, sold liquor to the local people, which is one reason why Rovaniemi at that time had the worse crime statistics i Finland. The drinking caused drunkenness as well as thefts and other crimes among the inhabitants.

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Although the behavior and customs of the Germans departed from what the local people had been accustomed to, daily interaction established close personal relations not only between the military and civil leaders, but also at other levels. The population was in general well disposed towards these alien troops and the local people even came to like the Germans. Many of the local people would have learnt at least the rudiments of German language, and some far more. Although most of the local women were unenthusiastic about the Germans, and the German military leaders specifically forbade marriage with the Finns, some Finno-German offspring (=illegitimate child) were born. Women, who gave birth to a Finno-German child had unfortunately no good reputation and many of them chose to leave Finland together with the German soldiers and go to Germany. They dreamed of a family and a better life there, but it happened they returned disappointed after some years. The Finnish government questioned these women as if they had been German spies during the war, before they could return to their homestead. It happened some women even found out their German soldier already was married in Germany and had a family, and so they saw no possibility to stay without a job and someone to support them and had to return home to Finland.

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When the Germans took over responsibility for the northern front, the local men were transferred to the main Finnish forces of the Karelian Isthmus and other fronts, where a total of 377 of them eventually died in action.

Finlands War

When Finland signed an armistice with the Soviet Union, problems were immediately expected with regard to the withdrawal of the German troops from the country. With this in mind, orders were given on 7.9.1944 for the whole of Lapland to be evacuated. Transports from Rovaniemi began on 16.9. and were completed in 22.9; in a week’s time (!). Since people from the rest of Lapland were also passing southwards through Rovaniemi and the Germans were moving northwards at the same time, all roads and railway lines were unbelievably congested. In the course of one week a total of 20,000 people moved from Rovaniemi to northern Sweden and 4,500 south to Ostrobotnia in Finland. They usually took their horses and cows with them, but slaughtered most of the sheep and pigs before leaving. Only a few men remained encamped in the woods to see how things would turn out. Some men were taken as prisoners of the Germans when found.
One man, who stayed in Rovaniemi during the evacuation, was Johan Moilanen. He had worked at a saw mill in Rovaniemi before the war. He had earned enough money to buy a little wooden house in Rovaniemi, on Vartiokatu, and the family had moved there. then he worked on the newly built Children´s Home as a caretaker. He managed to stay in Rovaniemi during the destruction, even though everyone thought he was evacuated, and he survived and had also in a strange way managed to negotiate with the German Army leaders that they should not burn down the house of Johan Moilanen and the Children´s Home on Ounasvaara. And so these houses were preserved from the Germans´ demolish.
As the evacuation began in September 1944, people tried to take all their most valuable possessions with them, as no one knew, whether they would ever be able to return. The official restrictions were to take as little as possible, but people still carried enormous numbers of packages to the railway station. The last evacuation train left Rovaniemi on September 23rd 1944. Surprisingly lot of the packages found their way back to Rovaniemi also after the evacuation.

Evakuering
The largest armed engagement between the Germans and the Finns in the Rovaniemi area was at Taipaleenkylä on October 12-14th, when the Finns failed in their attempt to intercept the rear of the German forces and 60 Finns were killed in the operation. During the Lapland War as a whole 1,300 men were killed. Over 90 % of the buildings in the villages Rovaniemi, Savukoski, Inari and Enontekiö were destroyed.

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The German began to destroy the town to the ground on October 10th, first demolishing the manor house of Konttinen and finally burning down the church on October 16th. The Germans usually left the churches untouched when ravaging the villages of Lapland, but in Rovaniemi the last thing they did before they left was to set fire to the church. They also destroyed the churches of Kemijärvi, Enontekiö and Turtola. A regiment led by Lieutenant Colonel Wolf H. Halsti tried to intercept the Germans north of Korkalovaara on October 16th, but was too late.
Within a couple of days they had also left the area of Rovaniemi, at which point the first demobilized Finns from the front began to drift back to the ruins of their home villages. The people who returned immediately after the war had to live for some time in cellars and temporary huts and temporary buildings.
Rovaniemi had been an idyllic village with wooden houses still in autumn 1939. Five years later there were only ashes and ruins left of the buildings.
The Germans destroyed 548 houses, 96 private commercial buildings and nine public buildings in Rovaniemi. Slightly over a hundred buildings in Rovaniemi were not totally destructed, although many of them were damaged. Almost all schools in the rural district were also destroyed. The outbuildings were also destroyed, as were most of the roads and bridges. Most of the villages on the lower reaches of the River Kemijoki below the borough survived. In Lapland as many as 14,779 buildings were destroyed.
The first civilians returned in spring 1945, the granting of return permits having been delayed until the area had been cleared of land mines and other explosives. The borough of Rovaniemi was declared safe by the end of June and the rural district by the end of July, although explosives were still found in some places in the following years, and are still found now and then during constructing works.

About 200 civilians and 54 men working with mine eliminations in Lapland were killed by mines after the war. All the local people had arrived back by the end of September, apart from 279 who had died in the course of the strenuous journey into exile.
The sight which the returning inhabitants saw as they came to Rovaniemi was only ruins and ashes. Of the houses there were only the chimneys left. Rovaniemi was for some time called “The Chimney Cape”.

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It was decided in March 1945 that the town plan should be completely renewed, a task that was assigned to the celebrated architect Alvar Aalto.
Among the first new buildings were locals for the provincial administration, dwelling houses and a number of schools. The new church, built partly with help from Lutherans in America, was inaugurated on 20.8.1950, but the Ounaskoski and Suutarinkorva bridges, which were important for traffic passing through Rovaniemi, were only completed in 1951. As all the bridges over the Kemijoki River had been destroyed, a temporary trestle bridge was built over the rapids of Ounaskoski at the point where the Lumberjack’s Candle bridge stands today. Even the trains ran on tracks laid on the frozen River Ounasjoki for two winters. On October 13th 1944 a train full of ammunition exploded on the railway station of Rovaniemi and the fire spread to big parts of the city.

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You can learn more about the Lapland War and the Germans in Rovaniemi if you visit the Arktikum, the Provincial Museum of Lapland in Rovaniemi and the exhibition about the Lapland War. There will also be a temporary exhibition about the Germans´ presence in Lapland from 1940 until the Lapland War started. ”WIR WAREN FREUNDE – WE WERE FRIENDS” – The Encounters of Germans and Finns in Lapland during 1940-1944 –exhibition opens on the 27th of April 2015, 70 years since the Lapland War ended. The exhibition lasts until January 10th, 2016. With this exhibition Rovaniemi tries to exploit the sad memories of the Lapland War to attract more visitors to the city. Especially Germans are expected to be interested.

Finland and Lapland received gifts of clothing and food from the United States. Some American Quakers lived in Rovaniemi from Christmas 1945 onwards to make sure that the help reached its right destination. In addition, the Evangelical-Lutheran parishes in the United States assisted in the building of a new church to replace the one burnt down by the Germans.
Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the United States, visited Lapland on June 11th 1950 to witness the reconstruction work in person. In honor of the occasion, the governor Uuno Hannula and the mayor Lauri Kaijalainen, assisted by Jarl Sundqvist, forest manager of the Forest Company Kemi, had a log cabin built at the place where the Arctic Road crossed the Arctic Circle. This can be regarded as having laid the foundation for post-war tourism in Rovaniemi.

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The cabin provided for Eleanor Roosevelt soon became too small to cope with the number of visitors, and the Borough Council started to build a new Arctic Circle cottage. In 1984 this was again extended further to create a whole Santa Claus Village with shops and cafés and a post office. The Santa’s Official Post Office frank letters and cards with the Arctic Circle motif and you can visit Santa Claus himself every day of the year today.

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Winter swimming

These days, on March 20-23, the Winter Swimming World Championship is held in Rovaniemi with 1,244 swimmers from 34 countries. There has been huge preparations on the shore of river Kemijoki in the city center of Rovaniemi for several weeks already. The Finns are keen on winter swimming, so this event suits very well to take part in Finland this year.

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In the ice on river Kemijoki there has been made a hole, 25 meters long with 9 lanes. The last few nights have been really cold with temperatures around -22 degrees Celsius (-7,6 F), and to keep the hole from freezing there have been pumps working days and nights. Around the “swimming stadium” pupils from the University of Lapland, the Faculty of Art and Design, have created sculptures fitting into the atmosphere of the Championships.

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This snowman was constantly surrounded by excited visitors of the games, who wanted photos taken together with him for memories to bring home with them. It was hard to get a picture of him without any people. The mascot of Ranua zoo, Jonne the Polar bear, was of course also visiting this event and anyone, who wanted a hug from him, got one.

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To get from the city center to the “swim stadium” you have to either walk the 850 meters along the Lumberjack Candle bridge, or take the snowmobile taxi arranged by Lapland safaris, that was driving non-stop between the city center and the stadium.

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Today on the first day of the competitions the Endurance swim 450 meters for men and women took place. Here are the starting lists for those, who are interested. The swimmers were aged 50-69 years. A lot of brave people, if you ask me! To go into the ice-cold water with only your swimsuit on and then swim 450 meters is really an effort and it tests your body’s tolerance to 100 %. Except for the swimsuit swimmers must wear something on their head, either a swimming cap or a woolen or other warm hat.

The competitors undressed by the pool and climbed into the water. Diving was prohibited.

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During the first run one of the competitors had a heart attack and divers had to bring him up from the water and they gave him first aid and an ambulance took him to the hospital for a check up. After this dramatic start the competition went on smoothly and swimmers who felt they wanted to end their run because they were not feeling well, were greeted by the audience and thanked with applauds for they braveness. No-one had to feel like a looser if he or she could not finish the run. All competitors are really experienced winter swimmers and all are winners and we all have our better or worse days.

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After the race the swimmers could immediately go into the sauna or to the hot tubs near the pool. There were a lot of staff helping the swimmers to get a warm blanket and their shoes on. Many of the competitors really did not matter about the cold outside, even though the audience were trying to keep warm by jumping up and down. This day’s amazing sun-shine did help the audience to keep warm, though.

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The area around the stadium has activities, product presentations and shopping possibilities as well as restaurant services and tourist information. The competitions continue tomorrow. The weather forecast are unfortunately not as good as they were today. Anyway, I think the arrangements around the IX Winter Swimming World Championship are really successful so far.

 

Rovaniemi

Detailed 5 day forecast

A file of reindeer

I believe everyone knows by now I am absolutely fascinated by reindeer; and that means not only the Santa Claus’ reindeer, but all reindeer all over Lapland, the ones you meet when you are in the wilderness and the ones brought into the city to meet tourists and inhabitants of Rovaniemi.

IMG_8861In the city of Rovaniemi they have in the year 2010 gathered a file of reindeer (pororaito) in the park area outside the administrative center with the library and the Lappia house, and also inside the center. The file of reindeer consists of five pieces of art in forms of reindeer and they are spread very nicely all over the park. Everyone of them is unique and perfect in its own way. I, myself, has many times visited the park in different seasons of the year and I never stop admiring the beauty of these pieces of art.

They first one of the five art pieces you may notice as you drive by the park are the two statues of reindeer standing by the road. The artist Tom Engblom explains why he has chosen to name the work: “Are we standing in the way?” He explains the reindeer are usually seen in the forests but also very often, too often, they are seen on the roads and unfortunately many of them are killed by cars as they usually move around in the evenings after sun set or during the period of kaamos, the Polar night, in winter. So Tom Engblom says that usually these creatures are actually “in the way”. There is two different reindeer, one is a female reindeer – a doe – and one is a male reindeer – a bull. The statues are made of cement ant colored in the same color as the traffic obstacles found all over the city, the “betoniporsaat”, and that makes the meaning “are we in the way” even more interesting.

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IMG_8859The next piece in the file of reindeer is “A Bounce” that stands near the door to the library. The Lappish artist Teuvo Tuomivaara has made the statue out of wood and steel. The statue is of course a reindeer, but you can also imagine the antlers to describe sunbeams.

 

 

 

 

The piece of art “Marsh to out” is made by Risto Immonen of plain steel. There is a two-dimensional expression as the reindeer so to say walks out from itself and there is only the hole left. As you look at the sculpture from different angles you see the movement and the sculpture changes into different shapes. The piece of steel weighs about 600 kg and is 200 x 250 cm big. It is not made of stainless steel, so the sculpture will change during time due to the corrosion of rust. 

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Behind the administrative center, in a narrow corner on the back yard stands a reindeer statue made of Sauli Miettunen. The name of the art piece is “Part of Nature” and it is made of cement, pieces of stones, concrete material and steel. The reindeer has really large antlers in form of a big tree and stands in a position as if it has been scared by a car or so.

 

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IMG_8396Sauli Miettunen has also created the sculpture, “The calf” on the wall inside the Administrative center. It is made of stainless steel all over and consists of two different structures that make the calf look like it is moving as you watch it from different angles. Very beautiful. Sauli Miettunen describes his works: Everything is part of nature: the trees, the stones and the animals.

In addition there are a number of other objects that show the influence reindeer herding has had on Rovaniemi and Lapland all over the city of Rovaniemi. Here are some examples:

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Art, architecture and memorials in Rovaniemi, part 2

As I told you earlier Rovaniemi has many memorials from the WWII 1939-1944 due to the fact that the war has had a great impact on what Rovaniemi is today. I will show you some of them here.

IMG_8853The Brothers in Arms Chain -statue is a memorial to the Swedish and Norwegian volunteers, who fought for Finland during the Winter War in 1939-1940. The statue is made by the Swedish sculptor Bengt Lissegårdh (1912-1979) in 1964, and stands in the Park on Pohjolankatu in Rovaniemi. It is amazing how strongly the enormous chain is put together and stands still.

The “Monument to the Reconstruction of Lapland 1944-1955” is a symbol for how Rovaniemi has risen from the ashes after being burnt down by the German soldiers in 1944, to the town it is today; a young and dynamic city. The sculptor Kari Huhtamo was born in 1943 in Rovaniemi. He has made more than 40 public works all over Finland and is also well-known abroad and even in Russia. This statue is made of clear stainless steel in 1977. At the time the statue was brought to Rovaniemi the inhabitants were a bit critical to it and it got a nick-name: the pigeons’ radar. I think this piece of art is beautiful and you can find it near the railway station in the slope between Ratakatu and Pohjolankatu, where it gives a very nice welcoming to the arriving guests of Rovaniemi.

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Kati Huhtamo has also made the smaller work “Antinkulma” on the wall of Rovakatu 32. This he made in 1986. I have always thought this piece of art reminds me of a human face profile. But the explanation is that it is a symbol of abstract and non-material reality.

Pro_Patria_1An artist with more realistic looking works is the Finnish sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen (1894-1966). He has used granite in many of his works. As Wäinö Aaltonen himself has experienced the wars WWI and WWII himself they have influenced him to do memorials of the wars. After the Peace as many other sculptors of Finland he got a lot of orders to make memorials to public places all over the country. On the cemetery of Rovaniemi stands his statue Pro Patria as a symbol for the 604 fallen soldiers from Rovaniemi in the war 1939-1945.

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The graphic designer and heraldic Olaf Eriksson (1911-1987) has designed the memorial of the “6th Division” during the war in 1941. The memorial of quartzite stone was risen 1981 at Valtakatu in Rovaniemi.

IMG_7045A memorial of the peace in 1917 is the stone work “Broken Irons” (my own translation) of Ensio Seppänen (1924-2008). He was born in Kemijärvi in Lapland. The work from 1981 symbolizes the obtained freedom from Russia and is a memorial of the Jaeger movement in Finland at that time. The stone in the middle symbolizes the independent Finland rising and separating from Russian dominion. It stands in Jääkäripuisto in Rovaniemi at Lapinkävijäntie.

In my next chapter – part 3 – I will tell you about the female sculptors who have their works standing in Rovaniemi and also about the pieces of art at the Administrative Center of Rovaniemi.

Nice souvenirs to bring home from Lapland

In the shops of Rovaniemi and specially at the Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle you can find a lot of special Lappish souvenirs to buy. My aim here is not to mention them all. That would be absolutely impossible. I will mention just a few.

I, myself, find the hand-made dolls from the Arctic Doll Factory really adorable. They are all dressed up in traditional dresses of the Lappish people. The dresses are made from normal fabric but also using reindeer furs. On the home page of the factory (unfortunately not in English) you can see there are dolls of all kinds of lengths, boys and girls, and in differently colored dresses, and you can order your own favorite from there, too. The factory was founded in 1953 and is celebrating 60 years this year. After I had dreamed about getting one of these dolls for myself for several years I finally decided and bought myself an adorable couple; Matti and Maila.

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Taigakoru is a goldsmith’s workshop for silver and gold jewelry in Rovaniemi. From the home page of Taigakoru you find all the different jewelry they manufacture. One of the most well-known part of the collection is the collection of symbols from the ancient shaman drums.

The shaman drum was used by the shamans of the Northern peoples in their ceremonies. Shamans were healers and predicted the future. They called on the spirits for help by beating a drum with a drumstick made from reindeer bone until they fell into a trance. The symbols appear on the drum’s different parts. The upper part of the drum skin represented the heavens, the middle part earth and earthly life and the lower part Tuonela, the underworld. The shaman used the symbols on the various parts of the drum to foretell events. Each symbol has its own meaning.

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The Sun and good weather, particularly during the reindeer calving season, made crops grow and it brought good fortune. After midwinter, people held festivals when the sun first edged over the horizon. They made sacrifices to it so that it would restore and bring vitality to creation. The sun has a very special significance in the Arctic, as during the period of the polar night in winter the sun does not rise above the horizon at all, and on the other hand in the summertime it does not set at all.

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Other symbols from the Shaman drum made to ornaments in silver by Taigakoru are: The Moon, Ukko or the God of Thunder, Akka or the Goddess of fertility, the God of hunting, the Black-throated loon, the Crane, the Bear, the Reindeer, the Wolf, the Beaver, the Boat, the Salmon and the Rota.

Other famous jewelry of Taigakoru are the Guardian angel and the Cradle ball. There are also all kinds of Lappish animals and plants in silver. From the home page you can also order your own jewelry.

Marttiini has manufactured knives in Rovaniemi, Finland, since Janne Marttiini established the knife factory in 1928. The Marttiini product range covers knives for hunting, fishing, camping, collectors, household and professional use.

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Inspired by the ancient tales from Lapland (again). The drum at the end of the handle, made of reindeer horn bone, drives away bad spirits and protects the user. The knife is decorated with the same kind of old Lappish figures that have been used at the magical drums of Lappish shamans, as the Taigakoru uses in their production. As you can notice, these figures are the symbols for the ancient Lappish people and their culture, which manufactures these days want to share with tourists and locals, who search for the real Lappish mystique.

Some cute Lappish souvenirs are made by Peeva tuote; a small home factory for elf themes, Lapland themes and angel themes products. Each and every souvenir is special and hand made, often with material from the forests of Lapland. There are not two of the same kind! The most adorable is the doll house with elves Peeva tuote has on show near the stand on the Lordi square in Rovaniemi, where you can buy these products.

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Some interesting places in Rovaniemi to start with

Rovaniemi and its sights

A good start when you want to explore Lapland is to visit Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. That was the way I started. After I first arrived I started strolling around along the streets in the city center, visited parks and walked along the riverside of Kemijoki. Kemijoki is the river flowing down from the northeast of Lapland and it joins together with Ounasjoki; the river that flows down to Rovaniemi from the northwest. Kemijoki river flows right through the city of Rovaniemi and the riversides of Kemijoki are often objects to happenings in Rovaniemi.

I am not going to deeper describe where Rovaniemi is and what is called Lapland in the land of Finland. I presume the information about these facts are found on other web pages. I am simply going to describe to you how to get along in Rovaniemi and other places i Lapland. I am going to tell you about my excursions and visits and the things I have been doing here. As I have lived here for about 7 years now I think I am very well capable of doing that to you.

In the center of Rovaniemi you can visit the magnificent Museum Arktikum; the Lapland history museum, which is also an Arctic Science Center. As a newcomer in Rovaniemi and Lapland you find a lot of useful information there. It is a good place to start. The history of Rovaniemi is amazing. Not the least the fact it was burned down by the Germans in the end of WW II. After visiting Arktikum you know a lot more why the city of Rovaniemi has become what it is today. In the museum there is a map of the city showing how it looked like before and after the second world war.

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The big bridge that joins the city of Rovaniemi to the east part of the city where the Ounasvaara hill is situated, is called the “Lumberjack Candle Bridge”. It symbolizes the workers who used to work hard in the forests many years ago. The light highest up on the bridge symbolizes the fire the lumberjacks used to keep to warm them up and give them light in the forest camps.

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Close to Arktikum you fin also Pilke; a center for northern forest science. Rovaniemi and Lapland have a long history with forest industries and lumber jacks. The exhibition in Pilke is really interesting, and there is something for everyone and for every age! You can even sing karaoke in there and play with small cars or pretend you are a hunter and shoot down birds and animals in the wood.

Did you know the city plan of Rovaniemi is named the “reindeer antler plan”? The famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto made the reconstruction plan for the city after it was destroyed by the Germans in 1944-45. The plan has a shape of a reindeer’s head with its horns. I do not know of any other city plan that is that interesting and exclusive!

The Art Museum of Rovaniemi you find in the Korundi house of Culture on Lapinkävijäntie 4 in the city center. In the art museum there are changing interesting exhibitions and the culture house offers all kinds of concerts and there is always some upcoming event to look forward to. Check out the event calendar on the home page of Korundi.

Rovaniemi is also called the official home town of Santa Claus. Outside the city center, along road nr 4, on the Arctic circle, on your way towards north and Ivalo, you find the Santa Claus Village. There you can visit Santa every single day during the year, get a photo together with Santa and also listen to Christmas carols and shop for Christmas decorations all the year round. During winter season you can also see reindeer there and go for reindeer and husky rides around in the village. Nearby Santa’s office is also the Santa Claus Post office, where all the letters from children all over the world arrive. The letters are sorted by the elves according to from which country they are sent and Santa himself answers the letters.

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Within walking distance from Santa Claus Village is SantaPark. The amazing amusement park down in a cave is open during winter from the end of November to the middle of January. During the summer season it is open for visitors from the end of June to the middle of August. This video from inside SantaPark shows you a little of what to expect of your visit there. Definitely worth a visit! You will get the real Christmas spirit and forget about all the other world outside the cave. The elves will take you for a fairytale trip you never will forget.

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