Tiananmen square is a majestic and wide area which connects to the Forbidden City through Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
Now commonly connected to the massacre which occurred during student protests of 1989, the square has quite a long history.
Built in 1415 during the Ming dynasty, it went through many renovations including an expansion by Mao Zedong in 1958, who wanted to make it the most spectacular square in the world.
After Mao’s death, a mausoleum in his honour has been built on Tiananmen Square.
For the first few days in the Lapland, the weather went against all my hopes of seeing either the stars or the northern lights; the sky was completely covered in clouds, day and night.
On the third day, walking back from the center of Inari, I experienced almost a déjà vu of my first adventure here. Again pitch dark and again trying to survive the cold and the passing cars on the side of the road.
It was just 4 o’clock in the afternoon but already as dark as it gets.
Just moments before being rescued (once again) by Jussa’s father, I noticed a light in the sky. At first excited, I quickly realized it must just be a small hole in the clouds, from which a small spot of light was coming through – nothing like the clear sky I was hoping for.
It was just after dinner that the single spot was joined by a multitude of other lights.
Taking this as a sign, I started checking aurora forecasts regularly to keep an eye on the solar wind gauges. (Funny thing about the aurora forecast service: every day, a single guy, in Finland, checks the solar data, the sky and his gut feeling and updates the website with the forecast of the night.)
Dropped off at the nearest bus stop, I headed to the husky camp by foot.
It was just 3.30PM but, in Inari, it was already pitch black, especially because there were no streetlights in that part of the road.
Equipped with my massive backpack and phone/flashlight, I started my 2.5km walk. It was an interesting experience: walking in the middle of the forest, the path only dimly light, snow falling; it was thrilling. The darkness and the trees surrounded me in a chilling embrace, which is how I imagine it would have been before electricity.
While all these thoughts stormed through my head, one of the rare passing cars stopped by and a voice called my name.
It was Jussa, the owner of the sled dog camp, and his family, coming to rescue me.
We had a quick dinner and headed to the camp so that I could get settled.
The arrival in Rovaniemi was nice and smooth, despite my host not being around at the time (she was working as a nurse at the ER). Her brother was there and he kept me company in the evening. We tried out the house-sauna and afterwards jumped in the snow. Freezing amazing! (quite lame, I am aware.)
Delimitation of the Arctic Circle (the blue light) at the Santa Claus village
Rovaniemi is a small town where the highlights are the Arktikum museum, the art museum and the Santa Claus village just on the outskirts.
As in Sweden (posts 1, 2, 3 and 4), I took the chance to visit the north of Finland during the winter break. I absolutely love snowy weather and, up until the end of December, there was no snow in Helsinki, so that pushed me to seek white-covered landscapes outside the city.
The trip had the usual mix of good planning and ‘let’s-see-what-happens’ that I like to have when travelling. The rough idea was to first stop by Oulu, head to Rovaniemi (right on the Arctic Circle imaginary line) and then somehow keep going north into the Lapland (hey, also the name of this series!).
So, only certain of my bus ticket and my Couchsurfing host, I headed to Oulu!
As a final trip before our departure, we walked just outside Shkodër to the Rozafa Castle.
The castle, due to its strategic location, has a very long history, dating back hundreds of years. It overlooks the whole area around Shkodër from its height.
View from the castle
Being very close to the border, we decided to stop by Ulcinj, a nice little town near the sea.
It was short day-trip to completely relax and, finally, enjoy a good swim in the sea.
Other than the numerous boats and water-scooters roaming the waters, the spot was a fair typical beach scene.
This was until a guy showed off his cool new gadget!