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The bridge crossing the Kemijoki, Rovaniemi, Finland

In my last weeks in Germany, a good friend had directed my attention to the independent film scene in Rovaniemi. It's a town in northern Finland, on the southern edge of Finnish Lapland, at the polar circle. Here the sun sets early and rises late during winter. Also, it's damn cold. I visited a KinoKabaret there. It's a festival that is more like a workshop, where we shoot short films. A Kino cell is a group of short film enthusiasts, who meet a few times a year to realise projects in a short period. If there is a meeting somewhere, there is a shoutout on the Internet and whoever wants to come, can come. They are held all over the world. Whenever I can, I attend such meetings. You meet interesting people and get to look at a city on a whole other level. If you want to know more, read this, this, or that.

The light in the arcitc sky is surreal behind the frozen treetops, Rovaniemi, Lappland

In typical Bella style, I had forgotten my scarf, my cap and my gloves. Optimally equipped I came thus to the polar circle. When I got off, I saw my breath hanging in the air. The railroad track was icy, and around me, I saw only rails and some trees in the distance. Everything was white. Near the lowered platform, the icy train seemed huge. Hesitantly, I followed the other travellers, who were walking around the front end. Only there I saw the station. It was a small, one-story building, which stood nestled on the side of a busy street. In front of the train station, between the house and the busy street, were parked cars. They seemed spooky in this semi-darkness. The green light of the street lanterns added the right amount of desperation and awkwardness to make it look like out of a film. It snowed.

Rovaniemi city map

Through the festival, I had gotten in touch with K., my hostess for the weekend. She was still with a friend, so we arranged to meet there. I followed my phones navigator along a wide road, passing unpretentious buildings and wooden houses. There were light and ice everywhere. I have never seen such massive snow mountains. They were a lot higher than me. When I arrived at my destination and rang the bell, a kind looking and smiling woman opened. She waved me in with Finnish simplicity. I took off my shoes, stayed in my jacket and went to the balcony with my hosts. The apartment was an absolute mess. Everywhere lay clothes, papers, and notes. Here it looked like in my head. The girls, both only a little older than me, were at the end of their studies and in search of their creative form of expression. They were in similar conflicts as I was, with their teachers and the meaninglessness of a careless university education. They faced the same questions as I. We quickly found out that much more connected us than our interest in art.

The workshop itself took place in the university. Student life was so familiar to me, yet I clearly didn't belong anymore. Here in the middle of the school, I realised once again that this was finally, really over. I had no need to justify myself to anyone, no need to explain to any theorist what he wasn't interested in understanding, to formulate no pseudo-intellectual slogans, pretending to be interested in why a poet had most likely chosen a particular word, when the only important question was, why this combination of words still connected to us today. That was not my world. It would never be my world again. Here, I was only a visitor, and from afar, this world looked small and irrelevant. An artificial cage in which young and talented people were kept insignificant. I was no longer a student and able to see the world for what it is. I had to live with the realities and consequences of my decisions and isn't it only then, that we truly live?

Bridge crossing the Kemijoki, Roveniemi, Finland

In addition to the great people I met there, I experienced winter for the first time. The white treetops were wrapped up in white frost, the river covered by ice and the locals played hockey. The sand-like snow was whirling through the air, and the arctic light made the sky the main attraction. I had never seen dry snow. Swirled up in the air and backlit by the low-lying Arctic sun, he turned into millions of small diamonds and gave this rather charmless city magical vibes. Every day I walked for half an hour from the Apartment building designed by Alvar Alto, where I slept, to the university. I walked through small forest patches, past new wooden houses and ever growing garages.

The white beauty that is a frozen river, Kemijoki, Rovaniemi, Finland

The short days were hard for me. I was so accustomed to trusting my inner clock that it took me by surprise when I was tired two hours after sunset. At five o'clock, I could have fallen asleep. When I then tried to fall asleep at midnight, my body already had crossed my fatigue limit. The wheels in my head were spinning with steam, and there was no thought of sleep. It was when it started to dawn, only around 9 am, that I realised I should have slept. It's hard for a newbie. I would have loved to see more of this place with its frozen river and the white treetops. One day, I will come back and explore Lapland, both in the summer and in the winter. This unreal light, the gentle hills and in some places the flat land have an otherworldly charm. There are so many details that come together and add themselves to a magical potpourri. It is different from what you can imagine in Central Europe. It's worthwhile to have seen it with one's own eyes. I will be back.

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