Pop quiz: What’s the most populous city in northern Finland? If you guessed Oulu you’d be right!
Despite it being northernmost larger cities in the world with a population just under 200,000, I confess to have never heard of it until recently.
I had few expectations of one of the world’s largest sub-arctic cities, except that it would be so cold that your skin would freeze to metal in a matter of seconds. That may be true some of the year, but when I was there it was a refreshing and dare I say pleasant (subarctic speaking) 5+ degrees.
The previous few days had been action packed in nearby Iso-Syöte. I had tested my need-for speed at snowmobiling (only to discover that most grannies probably need more speed than I do). My ice-fishing skills were also less than formidable. Our guide had pointed out that a real fisherman would have his back towards the sun. I have no doubt this was excellent advice, but the warm sun on my face felt so good that I continued to fish facing the sun and shock of all shocks didn’t catch anything. Fortunately I fared much better at dog sledding. As an animal lover it’s impossible not to connect with the Huskies who greet you by jumping on you. I appreciate that much enthusiasm in a greeting!
But after all the excitement I was looking forward to some peace and quiet, which is exactly what I got as I explored Oulu early one Sunday. Besides a few hearty souls, I had the city to myself. Perhaps everyone else still in bed after a late night of karaoke (Finns love karaoke, one of the Five Fun Facts about Finland I learned !) and a few too many Lonkeros (my new favorite Finnish drink). Whatever the reason, Oulu’s quiet vibe seemed to match my own need for something low-key:
I did stop and chat with one local though. I wouldn’t say he was exactly friendly, and he practically rolled his eyes as he told me his name:
It was Rudolf. After my visit to the Reindeer Farm, I should have known. Given my need for quiet though I forgave him for his conversational skills. We looked each other in the eye, saying nothing and appreciating the silence.