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The largest snowman I'd ever seen. The first ball was bigger than me!

ROVANIEMI...... Okay, I've heard of the "Land of the Midnight Sun". I guess the opposite of that is winter twilight in Lapland. It's very hard to imagine it until you actually experience it, but Rovaniemi, the Finnish capital of Lapland, gets about three and a half hours of daylight during the Christmas season. That means the sun starts peeking over the horizon at nine in the morning but it isn't really light until ten. By 1:00 PM you can already see that the sun is setting -- and it only just barely inched over the horizon!

MARTIN

Slippery streets no matter what your means of transportation

It never really was bright and sunny, but man, oh man, was it cold! Cars were plugged into streetside outlets so they would be warm enough to start in the morning. There was a temperature posting in the center of Lordi Square. On the first day of the journey, it was a balmy -6 degrees Celsius. With my down coat, I was actually okay. Finns say that cold doesn't really matter as long as you dress properly for it. Well, I wasn't dressed right for -11 degrees Celsius on the second day. I needed some long underwear. I planned to go shopping as soon as possible. Predictions for the rest of the stay were -20 degrees Celsius. I don't know what that is in Fahrenheit, but believe me, it is cold.

Sunny or not, the people were set for hoards of Christmas tourists. A bus awaited directly out of the airport door to whisk people to the five main hotels in town. Easy as pie er, frozen custard. But, when it gets cold, it's time for a hot Finnish Christmas drink called glögi.

MARTIN

My souvenir basket for carrying wood is kitty cat approved and tested.

Rovaniemi was much more cosmopolitan than I every would have imagined at the Arctic Circle. The population was close to 60,000 people, all dressed very warm. There were movies, concerts, a shopping center, sleigh rides, Christmas markets, the Arktikum, a nearby zoo, Finnish saunas, and it even had a few claims to fame. It was the home of Lordi, the Finnish metal band that won the Eurovision Song Festival a while back. Lordi Square was named after the band. Rovaniemi was also home of the northernmost McDonalds in the world. The didn't serve reindeer burgers, probably because it sold for about $18.00 a pound. However, they did offer free wireless internet. That scored points in my book. But, for most doting grandparents and children of all ages, Rovaniemi was the home of Santa Claus.

MARTIN

Copyright 2009 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.