Destination North: A Sub-Zero Adventure

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Spur of the moment! Back in October, a trip to Morocco we had been planning for a few months turned out to be difficult and impossible to accomplish. We needed a new destination to test out our 2007 Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited, and It didn’t take long to decide that turning the map upside down would offer a nice alternative: going north, up to the Arctic Circle in Finland.

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So, a few nice ingredients for an interesting journey came together: a cool destination, a three-week holiday, and an opportunity to drive our Red Rubicon Unlimited to get us there.

We decided to plot an initial route by boat from Germany to Helsinki, starting with an 800-kilometer drive to the Lubeck Harbor. Then, a 27-hour boat trip would deliver us to the south of Finland. From Helsinki on, we would travel upward along the west coast of
Finland for a week and a half to reach the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi. We would then descend back down the western border of Russia and relax with the rental of a traditional Finnish cottage (with a sauna, near a lake) for a week of rest and calmness in between.

The boat journey is great; only a few non-commercial passengers sail on what essentially is a cargo vessel for trucks and containers. Internet onboard and in the cabins provides us with a great planning tool for the journey ahead, plenty of time to spend on reading travel journals, and even learning a few words of Finnish. Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric group of languages of which the only related modern language is … Hungarian. Luckily, most of the younger Finnish people speak English very well.

Up North, Helsinki to Rovaniemi

Although a number of weather forecasts promised mostly rain and above zero degree temperatures prior to departure, the purser on the boat, upon arrival in Helsinki, surprised us with good news, telling us “to be careful, because it had started snowing and freezing.” Yes! This was why we came with the Jeep!

From Helsinki, we planned a route to cross the city of Tampere, moving up to Vaasa. In Vaasa we stayed in a small hotel, located on an island outside of the city. It was a former bunker room, meant to protect hotel guests and inhabitants “from grim ideas of big neighbor Russia” (quoting the hotel owner). Now though, it had been converted into a children’s playroom. From Vaasa, we planned to move further up north to Kokkola and Oulou, to arrive in Kemi, before going straight to Rovaniemi.

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