I didn’t sleep a wink last night, and due to our conjoined sleeping bags, neither did Ben. At 5 AM some squirrels started a loud round of nut gathering, leaving us both wide awake, so we piled in the car and started driving to Rovaniemi, Santa’s official home town.
Our main goal for the day was to see another reindeer. We cruised for an hour or so before suddenly a big white one appeared in the dead middle of the highway, scrambling awkwardly to get out of the way of traffic. When he realized we were slowing down for him, he stayed the course, perched happily in the middle of the road.
We pulled over to take his picture, and when Ben got out for a better vantage point, the reindeer walked right over, heading right for Ben. A little nervous about his close proximity, Ben dived back in the car. He was so close our telephoto lens couldn’t see anything but fur! He wandered around, sniffing our car and blocking more traffic for a while before he faded back into the forest, munching as he went.
An hour or two later, we rolled into town and checked into our first official camping in nearly a week. We sorted our stuff, washed our clothes, and took well needed showers. Then, we headed off to complete some errands and to visit Santa’s village. At the store, I fell in love with not one but two pairs of shoes (I pretty much never, ever buy shoes.) and vowed to come back for them tomorrow.
We had low expectations for Santa’s village, but sometimes it is still fun to check out a super touristy place. Ben declared his own personal hell was complete: an entire tourist attraction based around a holiday he doesn’t even really like. It was kind of dull, the brown cabins surrounded by green leafy trees, but the photos from winter did look a bit more convincing! We browsed the endless souvenir shops and then headed into visit Santa himself.
The lead up was sort of cool, dark and mysterious, explaining how Santa slows time to make it all around the world in one night. Then it was time to meet the world’s chattiest Santa who wanted to know all about what we do for work and about our hometown (Ben’s note: I never would have thought that Santa would be such a conversationalist. He had a particularly keen interest in Bree’s schooling). Then, it was time for a sales pitch, where we declined to spend forty Euros(!) to own a filmed copy of our visit.
It was a pretty kitschy tourist attraction, but it was free, so no complaints here! It was an easy, quiet day, which was just what we needed. Then, it was back to our riverside campground to finish packing our bikes for our flight in a couple of days.