Morning Market in Rovaniemi – We woke up early and had a short meeting with Juha – manager of Scandic Hotel and native of Kemi, the location we were heading to -, who kindly drove us to the bus station. Although we were there on time, a lack of attention made us loose the bus, which was a perfect excuse for visiting the nearby street market, where they sold all kind of things, such as fishing boats, nets, clothes and a delicious small fried fish, that we bought to a man who was traveling to Spain in the near future.

From Rovaniemi to Kemi – Once again, I had the chance to calmly enjoy the bus trip and take fast pictures of daily lappish life, from the windows of the vehicle. The bus mainly picked up teenagers and kids from school, for delivering them to their homes, in different neighbourhoods of the beautiful surroundings.

Kemi, Hotel Merihovi and First Walk on the Water – A couple of hours after our departure from Rovaniemi, we were placing our feet on Kemi, a Finnish town founded in 1869 by royal decree, because of its proximity to a deep water harbour. Before heading to our hotel and stopping by some curious display windows that draw our attention, we did a surrealistic choice and ate some indian food.

We were very lucky to spend the night and have a good dinner in Hotel Merihovi, an attractive functionalist-style hotel in the center of Kemi – built during the years 1946-1949 -, that gives you the nice sentiment of being immersed in the set of an old movie.

After having dinner, and before relaxing in our room with a traditional sauna, we decided to walk around the town. In a short distance from the hotel, we found a dog field that connected directly to a huge esplanade covered with shiny white. We decided to go on walking and, although a bit scary, at first – when hearing the ice crack under our feet -, enjoyed the wonderful feeling of walking, for the first time, on the frozen waters of  the Gulf of Bothnia.

Sampo Icebeaker – Finally, the day to experience the main attraction in town had arrived. A shuttle bus drove us from the hotel to the dock, where we met the kind and effective Titta and Maria, a friendly Spanish guide from Valencia, who would escort us during the trip. Unknown for the majority of mortals, Kemi offers the unique possibility of enjoying a four hour cruise on a real arctic icebreaker.

Sampo Icebreaker in Kemi, Lapland, FinlandSampo Icebreaker in Kemi, Lapland, Finland Sampo Icebreaker in Kemi, Lapland, Finland

As explained more extensively here, icebreaker Sampo served in active icebreaking duty from 1961-1987, before its reassignment to its current task in the Port of Ajos in Kemi. The late City Manager of Kemi, Juhani Leino, a man rich with ideas, decided to purchase the retired icebreaker from the Finnish government to the city of Kemi. At the beginning, his idea raised controversy, but turned out to be a great one, making Sampo one of the main tourist attractions in Kemi, since 1988.

There is a genuine feeling of authenticity that involves the whole experience and becomes specially strong when you visit the engine room, pictured in the images below. A complex and noisy mixture of motors and pieces, controlled by a prepared selection of crew members, causes the proper functioning of the ship.

Machine room in Sampo Icebreaker, Kemi, Lapland, Finland Sampo Icebreaker in Kemi, Lapland, Finland Sampo Icebreaker in Kemi, Lapland, Finland

One of the best moments arrived when the great crew of Sampo decided to stop the boat and offer me the possibility of going down on the ice, in the middle of the frozen gulf, and photograph the icebreaker. I did so and enjoyed it very much, transported with a crane and accompanied by helpful Jukka-Pekka Kuusinen, first officer of Sampo, portrayed below.

Swim in the Frozen Sea – The icing of the cake came when the engines stopped again, this time for a longer period of time. Once a small pool was created in the frozen sea, next to the vessel, the passengers had the chance to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience. Dressed in a special neoprene suit, we clumsily walked down the ladder and slide ourselves into the cold waters, in small groups, for a peculiar floating experience that must be tried, if possible, at least once in your life.

Ice swimming during Sampo Icebreaker cruise in Kemi, Lapland, FinlandIce swimming during Sampo Icebreaker cruise in Kemi, Lapland, Finland Ice swimming during Sampo Icebreaker cruise in Kemi, Lapland, Finland

After a memorable time on the Sampo, we returned to the hotel to pick up our luggage. A short walk to the nearby bus station and back to Rovaniemi, the last destination of this Lapland Adventure 2014.

Thanks and gratitude – Special thanks to Titta Vuorinen, for her great help and assistance, and all the Sampo Icebreaker Crew.

Coming soon: Husky Tour, Snowmobile and more action in Rovaniemi, for the last chapter of this adventure.

Read More of Lapland Adventure:

Part 1: Northern Lights and Sami Culture in inari
Part 2: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Part 3: Ice Climbing and Altai Ski in Pyhä
Part 5: Wilderness Husky Tour in Rovaniemi

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