We left our dungeon like apartment in Ivalo early in the morning just after sunrise, and walked down the main street to the bus station. It was cold, 6 degrees Celsius, with a clear sky, and in these last days of August, you could feel the first signs of autumn in this northerly region of the world (one well within the Arctic Circle). The sun, lying at an angle to the horizon, cast long shadows and everything that was illuminated in the flaring light seemed half real and half shadow, more silhouette than real.
From Ivalo to our end destination, Oulu – with a population 200, 000, a large city in Finland – it was almost 8 hours on the bus (changing buses in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland). For that entire journey the scenery out of the window was forests and lakes. It was easy to think of worse scenery – e.g., endless suburbs or factories – yet it was strange, because the forests hugging the sides of the road and the lakes in between, became monotonous, so that when we arrived in Oulu, I felt a sense of relief, even wonder, to find myself walking down streets between high rise apartment buildings and through a busy mall and across an open park.
The apartment we booked was on the top story of a modern building – 12 th floor – and from our small balcony was a view of the park below and the urban skyline.
Oulu is a pleasant city, scrupulously clean, with wide open streets and pedestrian crossings. In its centre, where all the shops and stores are located, there are wide malls. Oulu is a pleasant place, with unusual for Finland, some historic buildings which evidently survived the Second World War. What was most amazing for me was how quiet Fins are – even in a crowded mall, late in the afternoon – they were strangely quiet as if they were whispering to one another. It made a strong impact on me because this was the first time in over two weeks that we had been in a big city and in the company of a crowd. Sometimes I had the feeling I was in the company of ghosts!
It was incredible and actually I like it. I’ve experienced the same thing in Denmark so it seems as if this is a trait of people living in cold northern climes with long freezing winters. The Fins however whilst quiet and reserved are also very friendly and most of them speak surprisingly good English.
Another good thing about Oulu: plenty of Indian and Thai restuarants!