Tag Archives: Travel

Prague as it looked on the morning run!

I had a chance to visit Prague in November 2017. And those who have visited this city in the past will agree that it is a tourist magnet. Those taking pictures on the Charles Bridge, those rubbing the bronze statues for luck, posing against the John Lenon Wall and walking into the narrow alleys close to the Castle. You barely get to sigh and admire Prague’s beauty with so many tourists around.  But, if you are a runner and want to experience Prague’s raw beauty sans the tourists, it is the best to run it up.

For us runners, Prague offers great opportunities to see the best sites while fitting in our exercise. It is truly lovely running around Prague’s historic sites (run early to avoid the crowd), along the river, and in the city’s wonderful parks. The hill up to Prague Castle is also a great option too.

In November when I visited, it was cold, windy, sometimes rainy but totally worth the run!

Running on the streets of Prague

The Streets in the morning look absolutely stunning. But, one should beware of the speeding cars and the quick trams. Staying close to the Charles Bridge led me to the fairy tale like paths that eventually lead to the Charles Bridge. Also, crossed a couple of packed trams even at wee hours in the morning.

IMG_0592

Check out the colours!!! 

 

IMG_0584

 

IMG_0576

A packed tram! 

Crossing and running Charles Bridge several times! 

The medieval bridge in the heart of the Czech capital, the Charles Bridge is an unmissable part of any visit to Prague. The best time to see it is when everyone is asleep-in the morning. Although I must admit that 7 AM on Charles Bridge was actually not as deserted of an experience as I imagined it would be. You still have a handful of photographers, morning-walk couples and  a few tipsy revellers stepping out from night clubs. But, in spite of this, it is relatively empty as compared to the day time and even the night time.

DCIM101GOPROG1092234.JPG

 A rather foggy Charles Bridge! 

 

Running inside Letna Park

I absolutely adored the Letna park. This park offers some stunning views of the entire centre. If you run from the historical centre, you have to cross the Cechuv bridge and go up 200 stairs first but from then on it is fairly flat. You may meet lots of other runners here too.

DCIM101GOPROG1152417.JPG

Running up, towards the Letna Park

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2471.JPG

Spectacular View of the city from the Letna park. Letná’s elevation and location offer commanding views of the Prague Old Town indeed! 

River Side Run

This route basically runs along the Vltava river. It is a beautiful cobbled stone path with amazing views of the river. You may also see a lot of swans swimming along in the river.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2478.JPG

Run along the river Vltava! I got to know that the name of the river comes from the Celtic language and it means wild river. Enough motivation to run wild? 

Running up Petřín Hill

Petřín is a hill in the center of Prague, Czech Republic. It rises above the Vltava River. The hill, almost entirely covered with parks. Also, it is featured prominently in Franz Kafka’s early short story “Description of a Struggle”.

The Petřín Lookout Tower, which strongly resembles the Eiffel Tower, was built atop a hill in 1891. Other sights include the Rose Garden, Mirror Maze, Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, and St Michael Church. There is also a Petřín funicular that links the Malá Strana district with the top of Petřín hill. The passengers were giving stares when they saw us run up rather than taking the funicular.

IMG_1204

This is the Memorial to the victims of Communism at the beginning of Petřín  hill. It is a series of statues in Prague commemorating the victims of the communist era between 1948 and 1989.
It shows seven bronze figures descending stairs. The statues appear more “decayed” the further away they are from you – losing limbs and their bodies breaking open. It represents how political prisoners were affected by Communism.

IMG_1025

 Built as a mini version of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, the Petrin Observation Tower was built in 1891! 

IMG_1022

 

It is a route that can be taken from below the Charles Bridge that leads up to the hill.

IMG_1054

Taken from the Charles bridge! 

 

IMG_1096

A bit of Detour from Charles Bridge towards John Lenon Wall! 

As you make your way back to the Charles Bridge, you can take a bit of a detour. This detour will take you past the John Lennon Wall, covered with grafitti, poems, lyrics, flowers. There are many opportunities to extend the run by exploring additional trails in Petrin Park.

IMG_1153

Once a normal wall, since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs.

IMG_1127

A Charming Restaurant that was opening for Brekkie!!! Well, runners can be monsters on breakfast table. 

Advertisements

Travelling? Don’t worry. You can Still Run!

Whether you are travelling for work or escaping to an exotic location for some rest or a holiday-travelling can interrupt even the most devoted runner’s schedule. With a bit of planning and the right attitude, runners can maintain their training during vacation or an important work trip. In fact, running can be an enjoyable addition to anyone’s travel schedule. Today, we can discuss how can you run when you travel. As they say, ‘the best way to explore a new place is on foot’-running truly helps here!

17309204_10158484254285038_5198366077464324039_n

With your travel research do some running related research too! 

When you are doing your general travel related research about the places to visit, etc, don’t forget to get a little information about  running at your destination too. Search online for the websites of running clubs or running stores where you will be visiting. They may have routes mapped out and even weekly social runs that you can join.

IMG_2935

A run in Vodelpark, Amsterdam where I saw several brands such as Adidas and Nike Running their own clubs and practice runs on weekends! I joined one such club for stretching! They were nice enough to accommodate me on that day. Otherwise one needs to register on their websites before hand! On the other hand, I knew that Vondelpark was a great place to run, hence I had booked my hostel very close to the park so that I could venture out for a run each morning. 

 

Pack your clothes accordingly

 It does like an obvious advice, but don’t forget to pack running clothes as per the weather conditions of the location. So, look at the weather forecasts for your destination and bring the appropriate clothes. You don’t want to land in shorts and racer back on a route with temperature in single digits.  And do not forget your running shoes. I always keep some space in my bag for the running shoes and running gear. Also, tights which can be worn during a run are also very comfortable to travel in.

IMG_2642

I flew to Reykjavik straight from South of France! And the only tights I had carried was drenched due to a waterfall visit the previous day! As you can see, I am freezing on this run! Thank god I had packed my running gloves. 

Safety First

 Runners often boast of running in the most unique surroundings and situations. But, there are a few precautions to take any time you are running in an unfamiliar city. It’s important to listen to the locals. If your hotel’s employees say it’s not safe to run, then don’t run in that area. There’s no workout that’s so important that you need to risk your personal safety.

BeautyPlus_20170302083326_save

Jerusalem: There was some tension in Jerusalem at the time I had visited the city. And it was only after speaking to a few locals, I ventured out for a run the next day! 

unnamed (4)

At Gulmarg, the locals asked us to stick close to the roads and not venture into the trails. Followed this advice too.

Carry GPS or Map to take you back home

I have a tendency to get lost in new places, hence my best friend is the data that I feed on my GPS watch to take me back to the hotel. But, if you don’t have one, downloading an app or two on your phone may come handy or even google maps for that matter.

DSC_0856

Right after taking this picture, I got lost in Berlin. Just couldn’t find my way back. Had to find a restaurant nearby with Wi Fi to find my way back to the hotel. This was a work trip and I had to head back soon to my hotel for a meeting.

Carry some cash

In case if at all you get lost or feel uneasy or simply get tired, it is in your best interest to carry some amount of local currency with you to either take a public transport back home or just take a cab.

10422541_10154303342380038_7375607232368625444_n.jpg

When I ran from Nice, France to Monaco, all by myself, I ran out of water as the distance was way more than what I had calculated! I had to purchase some juice+water to hydrate myself as it was extremely hot and humid at that time of the day. Also, post finishing this run at Monaco, I took a bus back to my stay at Nice Ville. 

Carry your own hydration

In case if you feel thirsty during your run and don’t know whether there are shops on the route where you can buy water- it is the best to carry a small bottle of water that you can sip while running.

DSC_0136

I always take along with me a bottle of water on my runs in a new city. 

And finally, the most important……

DEDICATION. It is most important thing to bring on any trip. It’s not easy to stay focused and dedicated and hence fit in your workouts when you are in that “vacation mode.” Or on a stressful business trip. Decide before you leave home that you will run, come what may!

I hope these tips will help you run when you travel.

 

GOPR0925_1498029261877_high

Find time, stay dedicated and take good pictures on your runs in a new city! #shotongopro

 

Stockholm-an after thought that created memories

Last year, I visited Finland with a goal to see the Northern Lights. However, considering that Aurora Borealis siting is rather rare-I had kept my return from Northern Finland a little open ended.

Luck had it that I saw northern lights within 20 minutes of beginning the hunt for the Northern Lights and I was lucky enough to cut short my stay at beautiful and very expensive Ivalo to plan a visit to a new place. I toyed with the idea of visiting Poland, Riga, Minsk, etc.  But, finally I decided-‘ok let me go to Stockholm’.

IMG20161009160743

Stockholm city centre

And I am so glad that I chose Stockholm.

I took a Finnair flight with multiple stopovers from Ivalo to Stockholm and landed at the Arlanda Airport. From there a train called Arlanda Express took me straight to the Stockholm City Centre.

I was staying at Generator Hostel very close to the central station. With my backpack, I walked to the hostel, checked into my very clean room which was essentially a bed in the dormitory.

IMG-20161011-WA0001

In my hostel room! 

IMG20161008221720

A rather clean and cosy bed at Generator Hostel in Stockholm

IMG20161008220446

My hostel reception. There was no kitchen in this hostel but the food and beverages were reasonably priced. 

Stockholm was cold and windy. Yet so beautiful!!

I thought there was absolutely no need to buy a city pass as the whole city was walk-able. And that’s what I did, walked through the city over the next few days.

IMG_20161009_151958

Discovered Gamla Stan like this on my first night in the city

IMG20161011012820

When I went to eat after strolling for most of the evening i realised that the restaurants had closed! 

Gamla Stan is charming but the restaurants here shut pretty early. Most restaurants at Gamla Stan take their last orders by 8:45 to 9 pm. I learnt my lesson and had to sleep hungry and foolish on Day 1 itself!!

But general stores such as ‘7 Eleven’ and Burger Kings of the world were life savers.

IMG20161010140652

A beautiful cafe where I had my breakfast! 

And the best part about the trip was that I had a great roommate. He knew the city inside out and had visited it many times in the past. I ended up walking to the Stockholm Palace, Vasa Museum, the market place, the town hall etc. with my roommate.

IMG_20161014_125654

Walked through the whole city! 

IMG_20161010_225509

 

 

IMG20161010170846

This massive blue gate that leads to a green space close to Vasa Museum! 

IMG_20161009_200458

IMG20161010161953

Vasa ship that capsized and sank in Stockholm 1628

IMG20161009154525

Near Town Hall

IMG_20161009_202704

Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe

 

The cherry on the cake was that he had a spare pass to ‘The Cure’ Concert –front row at the Stockholm Arena. That was a memory to cherish. And all thanks to Sokratis Zor’s friend for not turning up to the concert! I could witness the band play from one arm distance and couldn’t have expected a better weekend in this city.

IMG20161009224246

Queue outside Stockholm Arena to get in for ‘The Cure’ concert. Well, we had a better entry and shorter queue 🙂 

IMG20161010001519

‘The Cure’ from the front few rows! 

IMG20161009224404

The huge concert place

IMG20161009235953

With my hostel roommate Sokratis! 

Days went by in a wink at Stockholm and final day was left for some shopping at H&M, casual walk by the windy seaside and long slow early dinner with music at Gamla Stan. This after thought of a visit truly gave me a lot of memories to take back home.

IMG20161009164050

Was lucky to witness ‘The Change of Guard’ at Stockholm Palace

IMG20161009164739

Stood through the entire ceremony which takes place at 1 pm! 

IMG20161009175727

Inside the palace, the Swedish constitution is on the table here! 

IMG20161009184656

It is one of the most beautiful palaces I have seen.  It is said to be one of the largest palaces in Europe! The Royal Palace is the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden and has over 600 rooms!! 

IMG20161010183550

I also discovered chokladbollar or Swedish chocolate balls, during this trip to Stockholm

Tips to Follow for the race day

Mumbai Marathon is round the corner and there are many who participate in this event. Personally, 2018 would be my fifth year of running Full Marathon at Mumbai Marathon. So if you are planning to run this event (whether full or half), or any other race here are a few useful tips that you can follow on the race day. 

  1. Reaching early, a few minutes before the race

My advice would be to wake up a few minutes earlier than usual in morning and give your body a chance to fully wake up. Before a run, I give myself almost one hour to fully wake up on the race day. Please don’t arrive too late as it creates a lot of stress and chaos. (I have experienced this situation too). Most of the roads leading to the holding area are closed for vehicles. Hence, if you are getting your vehicle along please factor in the time to walk from the parking lot to the holding area. Sometimes you will find parking too far away from the venue.

IMG_2674 (1)

Wake up early and reach the venue early to avoid chaos. Target reaching atleast 40-45 minutes before the start. Often there are long queues outside the washroom in case if you want to visit. 

Consider taking Public Transport or you can even UBER it to the venue to avoid any form of parking related stress.

IMG20161002153115

Most races around the world have special public transport arrangements for the race day. It is the best way to travel to the start point. 

2.  Set an achievable target

Plan your race either on paper or in your mind and go as per plan. It is good to be optimistic when you are going strong in the first few km. But, don’t go too fast because there is a lot of excitement around you. Set and achievable target and stick tick to your own target.

B60T0549

Stay Focused and stick to your plan. Don’t get carried away by those running around you.

 

3. Divide the entire distance of your run into a batch of few kilometers each

I love do this personally. Let’s say I am running a 42.195 km. I divide this whole distance into four 10 point something kilometers. I break my target into smaller four targets and focus on the small targeted distance at hand. Puts your stress off to a great extent. Instead of obsessing about each of the 42 kms, I divide it into segments-like 4 segments or 6 segments, whatever you are comfortable with. “That makes it more manageable mentally. 

unnamed

It helps to divide the entire distance of your run into small achievable targets. It somewhat helps the run look more manageable.

 

4. Hydrate well and do not hesitate to visit the washroom if you need to.

You sweat when you run. Hence, please hydrate well during the run drink as much water as your body needs along with taking adequate salts. Please avoid ‘not dinking water for fear of having bathroom breaks’ logic. It is not water, but the food that you eat the night before or day before will impact your bathroom situation before or during a run. My advice will be to pee as close to the race start time as possible.

IMG_20160415_102601

drink lots of fluids and visit the washroom as close to the race as possible

 

5. It is advisable to carry your our hydration

I carry a bottle in hand for every single marathon. Some intelligent person once told me ‘never depend on the organizers for your hydration and nutrition. Yes, you have paid the money as a registration fee, but things can go wrong on the part of the organizers too. You don’t wish to suffer for their errors, right?

BeautyPlus_20170516195619_save

Carry your own bottle! Some intelligent person once told me ‘never depend on the organisers for your hydration and nutrition.

6. Don’t come to a complete stop when you get to the water stations.

It breaks the momentum, sometime it becomes difficult to pick up when you come to a complete halt. Try slowing down a few meters earlier when you see a water station and run at that pace till you reach the water station and then stop there.

trln_120217_sid_set2 (178)

Slow down before coming to halt

7. The golden rule is do not try something new on the race day.

No new apparel or shoes during a marathon. The socks should be the type you wear in other races. The shoes should be something that you have done long runs in. It is not a day to experiment with a fancy new tee or shorts either. Wear something which is used even if it has holes. Also, you might get some fancy eatable on the route. Eat them only if you are used to having them on training runs. Otherwise it may lead to a bad tummy.

running

Don’t try anything new on the race day! This applies to food, clothes, shoes, everything. I have run marathons in even tees and shoes with holes.

 

And Finally, Enjoy the experience. There is nothing more awesome than running in a new place or even for that matter in your own city. Just simply enjoy the experience than being too much into the run and obsessing over your time taken to finish it. Look around; soak in the surroundings, the energy, the weather. It is an experience and it feels beautiful to go through it. And at the finish line, do not forget to smile and pose.

IMG_4661

Don’t forget to pose for the cameras

Street art in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

I was supposed to head to Langkawi from Singapore but then a friend who had visited Penang told me about the Street Art in Georgetown. The minute I hear street art, eyes closed I rush towards that place and open them up to the work of artists who paint the boring looking walls of normal looking streets into something beautiful.

To begin with, streets of Penang are anything but boring looking. Throw in some street art, you have a feast for your eyes!!!

 

20160518_180431_002

In the fishing Village

 

 

I took a Tiger Air fight from Singapore to reach Penang, Malaysia and booked myself into a hotel close to Georgetown and ventured out to see the streets.

I was staying just for a night in Penang. From here, I headed to my beach resort in Langkawi.

Expect the unexpected

I was not really sure of what to expect in terms of the street art in Georgetown, but I was open to surprises.

I put my sport shoes on as the map promised a long walk. Just then a local told me about taking a cycle-rickshaw. I was thrilled by the idea.

Be prepared to bargain hard and stage a  walk out with the rickshaw guys!!

The added benefit of taking a cycle-rickshaw is that the rider who is a local can be your guide. Although those riding the cycle rickshaw barely speak English, you just need their help in spotting the art as most of it is hidden. Hence, broken English works!!

20160518_170259

Taking a cycle rickshaw would be smart if you have a short stay in Penang

20160518_172339

Taken from the cycle rickshaw, through the streets of Georgetown

What’s the fuss about? 

Georgetown is protected as a UNESCO Heritage site. There are different artists that have contributed to the street art of Georgetown. But the most prominent among these artists is Lithunian Ernest Zacharevic.  Zacharevic was commissioned by the Penang Municipal Council in 2012 to create a street art project in Georgetown. This project consisted of painting several large murals in different parts of the old town.

Now, let’s see what the art looks like…

20160518_170226

This was the first painting I stumbled upon.

 

20160518_172935

‘Reaching Up’ You will almost miss this as the boy from far and the speeding rickshaw looks real

20160518_173932

Two children riding an actual bike

 

20160518_174317

Boy on the bike!

img_20160518_203403

You will find people standing in a queue to take pictures with the disused motorbike

20160518_170450

‘A giant girl lifting herself’. This painting is really huge and I love the way in which windows are used in this one.

 

img_20160518_214147

This is ‘I Want Bao! mural which is next to Ming Xiang Tai pastry shop’

20160518_175324

20160518_175238

‘Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat’

 

img_20160518_191748

Blue kitten just next to the fortune cat

20160518_175039

You can’t miss this huge cat for sure! She didn’t like my hair so much

 

20160518_171727

This one is by Australian artist Vexta. Is it hair or branches?

 

20160518_171202

My rickshaw guy was hungry it seems!!! 🙂

 

20160518_174617

This one is a part of 101 Lost Kittens project. ‘The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This’ is what it is called. There are 3 cats in this picture, one can be seen, two have faded!

 

20160518_170724

Please don’t eat me!!

These are some of the pieces of work that I loved clicking. There are many more to see. There are many artworks besides the ones listed here. I along with my ‘rickshaw guide’ tried our best to find as many as we could. If you have more do let me know. Some of the murals are already fading. Hence, do visit quickly before you miss out on the beauty!!!

Beyond Street Art…

Georgetown is a beautiful town to take a stroll in. The locals are lovely and helpful and the food is to die for. Here is leaving you with some more pictures.

20160518_183310

Local souvenirs

20160518_174050

Cycle through the old town!!

20160518_173951img_20160518_202907

 

 

 

In pictures, why Portofino left me mesmerised..

Portofino is a tiny sea village on the Italian Riviera. It is essentially a sea resort which is accessible by boat  (ferry) or train from St Margherita Ligure. St Marguerite Ligure is a station which is a part of the Italian Railway network and is closest to this port. There is no direct train going to Portofino.

This place boasts of ancient marine culture. It is also one of those spots frequented by celebs, artists of renown and writers.

The village is tiny and is characterized by brightly-colored houses.

This beautiful village left e completely spell bound. Why?

Let the images do the talking.

dsc_2563

When you enter Portofino taking a boat, this is the first sight that welcomes you

dsc_2571

I am standing at The “Piazzetta,” which is the meeting-up point

dsc_2638

My climb towards the famous Brown Castle (Castello Brown) the view from the path

dsc_2609

Brown Castle (Castello Brown) gives to best view to take pictures of the coloured houses

FINLAND: Below 6 degree Celsius, Amidst green, yellow and orange

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I had the privilege to experience the Finnish autumn this year right from Helsinki in the south all the way up to Ivalo in the north. It was one of the most memorable trips of my life.  Being in a new place all by myself always fascinates me. And this trip to Finland was one such trip. I didn’t know a soul in the entire country and what made the trip special was exactly this!

img_20161004_192033

Autumn in Finland

Taking a Turkish airlines flight with a single backpack I headed off to Helsinki. Planning all the way through the flight journey-whether it was in the flight or at the Istanbul airport during the stopover. There were certain bookings done and confirmed, there were certain others left open.

But, the agenda for the whole trip was clear- NORTHERN LIGHTS or AURORA BOREALIS. Now, I have wanted to see this wonder for a very long time and scientists too have been scaring me for a very long time that they will disappear soon.

Fingers crossed, I started searching extensively for the aurora forecasts this year, right from the beginning of the year.

Now, I am girl born and brought up in Mumbai- a city known for its ample humidity and I don’t take windy winters well. Hence, I started searching for early aurora sightings on slightly warmer days of September and October. Thus, I locked October first week on my calendar.

Plus, I have always been fascinated by the colours that fall brings in. It is indeed a sight that I don’t get to see much in my own country. Hence, I was completely pleased with my choice, rather too happy about it.

With all this planning and thoughts, I got off at Helsinki airport. Taking a train straight to the city centre where my hostel was located.

I always prefer staying in hostels close to the city centre as the commute from the airport and then during your stay is hassle free.

…Wind cut through my skin as I got outside the station for a short walk towards my hostel.

Helsinki, Finland

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

Hostel Diana Park

It is one of the most charming hostels I have stayed in. I really like clean hostels with beautiful seating areas. The seating area and the kitchen at this hostel was beautiful indeed. It was at walking distance from many places of attraction like the Market Square, the Cathedral, the Orthodox church, the National Museum and most importantly the water front.

img20161002103209

The kitchen and the common dining area in my hostel

A few days in Helsinki..

Helsinki per say can be covered in a day as there is nothing much to visit. But, hey I am not really a touristy traveler. I rarely sit and tick mark locations on my map when I travel.

I really enjoyed walking around the streets, sipping my coffee or hot chocolate, going to the food market etc.

img20161004203450

Market Square, Helsinki

img20161004183351

Streets of Helsinki

Helsinki’s annual Herring Market

I was lucky to have been present during Helsinki’s annual Herring Market, which takes place at the Market Square every year in the first week of October.

Dozens of fishermen from around Finland gather at the Market Square to sell many interesting things. The air around Market Square was filled up with the smell of traditional salty herring. In addition to herring delicacies they also sold Salmon, home-made pickles etc.

Herring Market is in fact one of the oldest traditional event in Helsinki and I was told by a lady whom I befriended on the street that it has been taking pace since 1743.

img20161002165535

Crowds gather to visit the annual market

img20161002170124

Beautiful Churches

Center of Helsinki has many beautiful churches representing different styles. Most churches are Lutheran, but the city also has Catholic church and Orthodox church.

One noticeable point about the churches here is many bear a striking resemblance to Russian architecture.  Many are in fact designed by Russian architects.

img20161002151023

img20161004204901

Beautiful Orthodox Church

 

Tallinn, Estonia

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Eckerö Line: A Day trip to Tallinn, Estonia

I was told that you can take a ‘ferry’ from Helsinki, Finland to Estonia, the capital of Estonia. I booked the tickets online from my hostel room. When I reached the spot to catch the ferry, I was completely surprised to see what I saw. It was a beautiful cruise ship with casino, food options, shopping options, etc available on board. This 2 hour 30 min journey went by in a blink.

img20161003102757

Inside the cruise

Eckerö Line is a Finnish ferry company that operates daily ferries from Helsinki to Tallinn. You can choose your time of travel book the tickets online or at the location to board the ferry.

There is tram line number 9 from Helsinki Central Station that takes you straight to the location to board the ferry.

 

Tallinn Old Town

Twisted cobblestone lanes, beautiful charming buildings, tiny coffee shops with WiFi. This is Tallinn Old Town for you.

img20161003143311

top view of the old town

This town was built from the 13th to 16th centuries, when Tallinn – or Reval as it was known as a great trade and port city. One can easily get lost in the narrow hidden lanes with beautiful colorful houses.

The whole of this old town has a beautiful fairy-tale charm.

The town is full of churches and the Town Hall square has a battery of charming eateries to eat at.

Also, Old Town is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

img_20161011_204538

img20161003160823

streets of Tallinn

img20161003140115

And then i took the evening ferry back to Helsinki…

Santa Claus Express

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.-Oscar Wilde 

After checking out from my hostel and spending yet another day, walking in Helsinki, I was awaiting my train ride to the Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi.

img_20161005_005848

Taking the Santa Claus Express

I didn’t take the sleeping compartment; I took the seating compartment as the difference between the tickets was vast.

Known as the Santa Claus express, this train is a night train from South of Finland to the heart of Finnish Lapland. The travel time is about 9 to 12 hours with trains departing from Helsinki Central Station from approx 7 pm to 10 pm.

The travel on this train is comfortable and affordable, depending on your choice of seats.

The café in the train offers options to eat and drink while on board. And the views outside the window are spectacular.

Although my train was empty, this train could be full during peak season. Hence it is important to book tickets in advance.

Rovaniemi Station to Arctic Circle and Santa Claus Village

After getting off at Rovaniemi Station, I took a bus to the Santa Claus Village. There is a bus at regular intervals from station to the village. Rovaniemi city bus route 8 travels between the Rovaniemi Railway Station and the Santa Claus Village.

img_20161005_132407

Taking bus number 8 to Arctic Circle

Just ensure that you know the first bus and last bus time, in order to not get stuck without transportation on the road.

Santa Claus Holiday Village

I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.” – James Broughton

Yes, I was staying here. The main attractions in the area are all around Santa Claus holiday village. I thought why stay anywhere else. The bus takes you straight here.

All of the  rooms here are heated  and have private saunas, a kitchenette and a terrace. Also, the staff help arrange reindeer, husky and snow mobile safaris, and boats, bikes and fishing equipment can be rented on site.

img20161005143148

sauna inside my room-yaaay!!

img20161005143119

super cosy room!

 

What does the Village have?

-Arctic Circle:

The Arctic Circle cuts right through Santa Claus Village. A white line showing the Arctic Circle is painted across the park. Those who visit here officially enter the Arctic area when they cross the line.

img_20161005_200142

Sitting on the arctic circle line

-Santa Claus’ Main Post Office:

A large variety of  souvenirs, Christmas related items, postcards, etc. are sold in the post office. All mail sent from this post office is postmarked with a special Santa Claus postmark.  Visitors can also specify their mail to be sent at the next Christmas. Santa Claus Main Post Office is the only official Santa Claus post office that is part of the official network of Finland’s post office Posti.

img20161005180630

many letters written to Santa

img20161005170121

Tourists writing letters to Santa

-Santa Claus’s Office:

A Santa Claus’s Office is located here for visitors to take photographs and chat with Santa Claus. However, there is an “office hour” for Santa Claus. When we visited Santa was fast asleep!

img20161005210645

Santa is right here!!

-Go Hiking:

There are beautiful, well marked hikes all around this place, which are a must visit if you love to be amidst nature.

img20161005190229

on one hike

A bus ride to Ivalo

“I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.” – Caskie Stinnett

I took a bus from outside Santa Claus Village to Ivalo. This is by far the most beautiful bus journey I have ever taken.

There are several bus connections every day from Rovaniemi (the town in the Arctic Circle) to Ivalo village. A driving time is about 3-4 hours. You can buy the tickets on the bus itself.

img20161006152903

A charming bus stop

En route, I thought I will catch some sleep but the sights outside left me mesmerized. Beautiful lakes, autumn colors, how could I sleep?

Hotel Ivalo

This bus, after taking multiple stops dropped me right outside my hotel, Hotel Ivalo. Now, Ivalo as such is a small village in northern Finland and my only purpose to visit this place was to view northern lights. This Finnish Lapland hotel is located on the Ivalo River. And you get awesome views of water from your room. It also has a heated pool and Sauna.

img20161006202000

View from my room at Hotel Ivalo

Seeing Northern Lights

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

I had written to Jouni Männistö, an ex-Finnish military man, who operates Northern Lights hunting tours, well in advance. I confirmed my presence on arrival and he said, we will take a call to go hunting today or later depending on the clouds in the sky. Just 50 mins before our departure, I got a mail saying, yes, we are going to see Northern Lights.

I packed my winter wear in my small purse, to set out for a northern lights hiking trip which lasted about 5 hours in the night (returned at around 2 am). There was also a Chinese tourist with me in the vehicle and both of us were lucky enough to see Aurora within 15 mins of the trip. The rest of the night we couldn’t spot them. Juoni drove us around to different spots and also made amazing hot chocolate for us in the night.

auroras-8054auroras-8049auroras-8053

This was an experience like none other. Someone once quoted that the experience of Northern Lights can turn an atheist into a believer. I say, I agree.

Arctic Wilderness

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Of the last day of my stay in Ivalo, I decided to go on a solo hike to UKK National Park near Saariselka. The Suomujoki river flows through the northern parts of the diverse park. It was beautiful to experience wilderness here. The route to well marked and you can choose between the short and the long trails. I chose a longer one and fell in love with the wilderness.

img20161007165124

the trails at UKK National Park

img20161007184104

Some Solace

On the final day of my stay, I woke up early and spent some time by the river Ivalo in the morning simply enjoying the tranquility it offered.

img20161008131248

From here on, I took a Finnair Flight to Stockholm, Sweden. This was completely unplanned and I decided on going here very last minute. But, I have no regrets!! Last minute plans are always the best!

img20161008133851

This charming Ivalo airport

img20161008145517

Taking the Finnair Flight to Stockholm