Rock church and train to Lapland

We had booked seats for the early afternoon train to Rovaniemi, which is close to the Arctic Circle. There were a few hours before the train left Helsinki. So, we walked via an unfamiliar route to Temppeliaukio Church, popularly known as Rock Church because it is built directly into solid rock.

The church attracted nearly a million visitors per year before the pandemic. When we got there, we had a short wait before it opened. There was a family waiting to get in too.

Plans for building the church began in the 1930s but construction was delayed until 1968. The original design covered up the rock. However, when the acoustic requirements were specified, the architects discovered they could meet them by leaving the rock walls exposed.

The elliptic church hall is bathed in daylight, which passes through the narrow skylights between the rock wall and the central dome.

The inner surface of the dome is covered in 22km of copper tape spiralling to the centre. It looks like the cross section of a tree.

The church has no bells. Instead, external speakers play a chime melody.

We sat down and enjoyed the calm. Within 30 minutes of arriving, the church began to fill up with tourists. By arriving early, we’d been lucky to enjoy some peace and quiet. It was time to return to our flat, pick up our luggage and make our way to the central train station.

Our train left on time, and we settled down for our eight-hour journey to Rovaniemi. We took the day train (there is also a sleeper train) so that we could see the Finnish countryside. There were some good views and a lot of snow!

We arrived about 8pm to see Rovaniemi covered in snow. There was some grit thrown on the platform, but we laughed when we saw the snow and ice. It was worse than the paths in the national park, which we’d avoided because they were too slippery! This time, we’d have to embrace the icy conditions otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing any of Rovaniemi.

A small consolation was that our guesthouse was close to the station, and we slowly walked there.

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