Category Archives: Travel

How is it living in a cold country like Finland?

A question I’m constantly asked by foreigners when traveling anywhere outside the Nordic countries. Well, maybe Russia and Baltic countries included.

So, how can people live in a country where it’s always cold?

Ok, first of all it’s not cold all the time, all year round. Of course not. Otherwise we’d have all now emigrated to the Southern Europe.

Helsinki can also be like this! My favourite rocks at Eiranranta

A small forest with morning sun in Tampere, Finland

Also, cold is a relative term – the human body can get used to very strange conditions, also to -20C. At least for a couple of days of the year.

I feel many Finns have some genetic mutation, as they almost never complain about the cold. Or the weather in general. They also think it’s not good behaviour to do it – believe me, I’ve heard so many times the comment “please don’t complain, it could be worse“.

Well, here the criteria for bad weather is quite different as in most of the countries.

If you’re interested, here comes the average temperature of Helsinki during different months, as published on Travelhappy Climate Charts for Helsinki.

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You can read more about the Finnish seasons (the change is amazing!) on the page of Ilmatieteen laitos, the Finnish Meteorological Institute. They offer interesting info on the Finnish weather and its different phenomena in general.

Anyway, today I seriously reflected the question about the weather. We’ve been 2 weeks island hopping in Greece with my boyfriend with a temperature of 25-30C and guaranteed sunshine every day.

The thing is that I’m a person that seriously loves sun and warm weather. Especially in the winter, I ask myself why was I born in Finland where most of the time I’m freezing. (I also complained about the chilly wind in the evenings in Greece so you get an idea of my desire for hot weather).

Actually one of my life goals, which I confirmed this summer, is to be able to spend one entire year in a summer dress and flip flops. Let’s see when and where…

Today, when we returned to Helsinki (wearing my summer dress and flip flops) it was raining and +19C. Literally a chilly welcome. Eventually the sun started to shine and the temperature rose a bit.

Still, I wonder how this kind of very unpredictable weather affects the Finns living here? Does it make one suspicious towards the world… and everything? You can never trust that it will be sunny even for 3 days in a row – and the weather forecasts change all the time.

Winter evening in Kuusamo, Eastern Finland. To admire a snowflake you must go outside…

So the final answer to why reminds in the air – and in the minds of the ancestors who came to live in Finland.

Of course there are many excellent reasons for living in Helsinki. And the few hot sunny days we have really are wonderful!

Also there are many people in Finland who don’t share my view. Their attitude to weather is stoic.

Or maybe they mystically forget the bad days and remember only the best of all our seasons: the bright snowy days, spring blossoming and autumn leaves with amazing colors…

Autumn at its best! At Billnäs village on the South coast of Finland

Yes, of course all this is nice. Personally I just can’t forget that many many mornings you wake up and the world is grey and you go to sleep and the only change is that now the world is black. For me this is pretty depressing, for many Finns not.

I guess that’s the trick of living here! You need a bad memory or some genetic modification…?

Rowing my little boat on a rainy day, in Tampere, Finland

Rowing on the same lake on a sunny day. Quite a different feeling.

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Visiting old friends in Turku – yes, we’re getting somewhere!

Last weekend I continued my small road trip through Finland and visited my “old” university friends in Turku. It’s always a big pleasure, as we used to be very close while studying and nowadays we meet too rarely. However, the positive thing is that we’ve remained so close that the conversation continues from where it was left the last time. That’s a sign of a good friendship.

As to City of Turku, everything looks the same. There are some improvements, though, as the city seems a bit more lively now. Friday night there was an event in the old Brinkkala quarters were local psychedelic bands were playing – not exactly my kind of music, but the idea is great!

We also visited Naantali, a little town near Turku – where they say the sun is always shining. And it was also this time! To me, Naantali is one of the prettiest towns in Finland, it has a special maritime atmosphere in the summer. No wonder that the summer house of our president is situated there. And Moomin World, Muumimaailma, a big amusement park built around these sympathetic fictional characters.

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Aura River – the heart of Turku, the old capital of Finland. Now with some huge ducks (plastic ones).

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Turku public transport offers you many choices!

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“Luckily everything is fine.” A writing in the bathroom of one of our favorite bars, Kuka.

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Visiting the old quarters of Naantali is like going back in time. This street is called “Cat’s Tail”.

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The Church of Naantali. Especially I liked the sandglasses – maybe for controlling that the priest didn’t talk for too long? 😉

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And old time picnic in the park of Naantali. So pretty!

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While men take photos of themselves with expensive cars, I wanted to be photographed with Moomin train in Naantali.

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Lunch in Naantali in one of the restaurants by the sea.

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In the night, we visited a wonderful birthday party in an old school building converted into flat. The photo could be named “Mosquito”. (And not the only one…)

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Dancing the summer night away…

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The first blueberries of the summer found at my friend’s backyard. Superfood for free!

However, the most interesting thing in Turku is to follow where all my friends are heading in their lives. During the student years nobody really knew what we wanted to do with our lives, where to work, whether to have children or not and all the typical choices. So we spent many many long evenings in cafes and bars thinking and talking… like we still do!

This weekend, while sitting in Cosmic Comic Cafe, where we always end up, we started to think whether we’ll ever feel like adults and mature persons? And if that’s a good thing anyway… Someone suggested that maybe it’ll happen when (and if) we ever have kids. I doubt it.

On the contrary, I think that we have already matured a lot, we just don’t notice it. In the end we have come far from the university days, we have chosen to follow some paths and closed some doors on the way, too.

Some friends have got married – and even divorced – some have got children, some are still single but have got a permanent job and an own flat. Some are still doing their thesis or working on whatever they find. One friend is going to Nepal to do voluntary work.

Old friends serve as a mirror to my own life. They know me from many years ago and in many cases they have great suggestions about what I should and shouldn’t do. The best thing was that, while sitting in a bar having a beer and talking of this and that, one friend suddenly said to me that, even if I’m not very happy with my job etc., I look very good and seem a lot more happier now than during our student days. That was a nice thing to hear – and I guess it’s true.

So it’s completely OK to become older and wiser – as long as your friends are getting older with you. 😉

PS: Sorry for the varying quality of the photos: I had iPhone and my boyfriend a real camera…

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A summer house where living is easy…

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Yesterday we visited the summer house of my godparents. It’s a pretty old wooden house, where all their four children with their kids, husbands and wives fit well. In the old days, the sister of my grandfather used to live alone in this big house – till’ she got 100 years old and died. An amazing, strong lady!

So we are very happy that the house stays in the family, as everyone has good memories of the place. It’s about one hour trip away from Tampere, so it’s easy to take the car and spend a day or two there.

This time I went with my mom. The moment I stepped in I remember how much I love old wooden houses, their smell and sounds. It’s always been my dream to live in one. The atmosphere is special, especially in this house were I remember most of the objects from my childhood and I know that elder generations have been living years in these same rooms, painting the walls, having sauna and planting all the flowers and trees.

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However, at the same time I start to feel very nostalgic about how fast time passes and dear old people die. Just two days ago I heard that the husband of the sister of my grandfather died at the age of 97. They had been married more than 60 years, so it’s a big shock to her – she’s also 95 years old. The couple has always been living a very healthy life, but even if their life has been happy and full, it breaks my heart to hear that it’s now over.

But that’s life, and everyone shall die someday – maybe tomorrow, maybe in 50 years. You never know, so the only option is to live your life as full as possible and spend a lot of moments with your loved ones.

Anyway, not to get too melancholic, back to the summer house! The best thing was to hear about my relatives daily routine there. They are now retired, so they spend most part of the summers in this house or with their children in Helsinki or in their other house in Northern Finland – they are free as birds to change address whenever they feel like!

While in the summer house, they wake up early and start working in the house or in the garden – in an old house there are always so many things to do. And they love this kind of simple physical work and look so healthy and happy. They work all day, then in the evenings they eat something simple and nice, home-made food made from local ingredients bought from a market place or a small eat factory nearby. Then they go to sauna (every evening), chat and read a bit and go to sleep. No TV and a mimimun of Internet. No running water. Total peace and simple life.

Oh, how I envy them these days as my daily routine consists of office work: filling reports, sitting in the office and attending more or less boring meetings and processes that don’t have an end. I talked about my discontent also with my godparents. They agreed and truly supported me in looking for other alternatives… I’m so happy I have such a supportive family!

Well, for now I’m on holiday and have more time to think about my future and what I really want from life. Don’t know if leaving the city life behind and going to live in the countryside would be an option for me, but everyday I understand better people who make this choice, too.

All photos: Helsinkimylove

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Mänttä – a little Finnish town full of contemporary art (and naked men)

Yesterday we visited Mänttä, a little town 1,5 hours from Tampere (by car). It was a nice excursion, which we repeat almost every summer with my parents. “The dying industrial town” Mänttä has been able to do something admirable – it has converted into a lively centre of contemporary art! And now Mänttä is a bit stronger, as it was merged with the municipality of nearby Vilppula in 2009.

Mänttä Art Festival (Mäntän kuvataideviikot) is an event of contemporary art that represents mostly new Finnish visual work. There are some established names in the exhibitions, but the festival is also known as a show of experimental and daring art. The artists are invited every year by a different curator. The main venue is Pekilo, a converted factory now filled with art.

And then the verdict. For me, this year’s exhibition was OK, however I didn’t enjoy the it as much as last year – probably because of this year’s curator… for me, the exhibition could have been a lot more daring and focusing on one, interesting theme.

Anyway, there’s a lot more to see in Mänttä, as interesting exhibitions are held also in The Honkahovi Art Centre and in the two Serlachius museums: Gösta Joenniemi’s villa and Gustaf Serlachius Museum, which mostly tells about the centre of Mänttä life in old times – the Serlachius factory.

Here it all began – Serlachius paper factory in Mänttä.

The town has an important industrial past – it’s the former residence of industry magnate R. Erik Serlachius, who practically governed the town with his huge paper factory. The famous Finnish toilet paper Serla was born here. These big guys were luckily interested in arts and culture, too. The factory owner G.A. Serlachius and industry magnates Gösta, R. Erik and Gustaf Serlachius have all contributed to Mänttä becoming a flourishing art town. Now their great collection of famous artworks can be enjoyed by everyone in their museums.

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Pekilo – factory building converted into art museum. Quite ugly outside, full of contemporary art inside.

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Images from this year’s Mänttä Contemporary Art Festival main exhibition at Pekilo.

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This piece was composed by miscellaneous stuff found near the venue.

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At Honkahovi we enjoyed lunch (champignon soup) while admiring the peaceful lake scenery. The villa has also what was once the biggest one-piece window glass in the Nordic countries.

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Sculptures in the garden of Honkahovi by the lake.

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Joenniemi villa. Inside you can find some wonderful artwork from the Serlachius family collection.

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A typical old Finnish wooden house next to Joenniemi villa – inside there is a nice cafe-restaurant.

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We also passed by the centre of Mänttä – and saw some naked guys on the street. I would say this was the most daring performance I saw at the Contemporary Art Festival this year!

Credit of all these photos: Helsinkimylove

At a Spanish wedding – Where’s the crisis?

This weekend I’ve been feeling so lazy. Luckily today I got an excuse to stay at the sofa, write and listen to music – thank you, heavy rain.

I also checked the photos I took at the wedding we attended in Spain earlier this week. My boyfriend’s little brother got married in their hometown, Albacete in Castilla-la-Mancha. Our brief visit of 5 days (2 of them travelling) included eating, drinking and meeting lots of family!

This was the first time I attended a wedding in Spain – or abroad. My Finnish friends are not of a marrying kind either, nor myself, so I didn’t know what to wait for.

Spain, with its serious economic problems and unemployment rate of 25% (the rate of young people is a terrifying over 50%!) have filled the headlines also in Finland. So I expected to hear a lot about “la crisis”. I was wrong. Luckily most of my boyfriend’s friends and family are working, so things don’t seem that bad. Still, at some point all the conversations led to the crisis and I could sense that people were very worried about the future.

Some kids hanging on the stairs of the cathedral before the wedding.

In this context, the wedding seemed overwhelming. More than 150 guests gathered at the big cathedral of the city in the evening, dressed up in a fancy way… I heard this is typical for Spanish weddings, while the Finnish ones tend to be a bit more humble. Inside the church the Mexican Catholic priest gave us a long discourse on the marriage and love, the rings were exchanged and the soprano and pianist performed some nice tunes (to keep the audience awake, maybe? 😉

The young happy couple in the process of getting married. The proud parents stand behind. Symbolically, the mother of the groom and the father of the pride.

All in all, the service was quite similar to Finland, which makes me think how globalised we are – or probably it’s the Christian religion with its codes. “Luckily” some details where new. For example, the bride and the groom exchanged coins -as a symbol of sharing their goods! For me, this seemed a little strange even if the marriage is (also) a financial agreement.

After the ceremony, we continued to a restaurant nearby – and started eating! This continued till’ morning and I lost count of the dishes after 10… amazing! Before I thought that we eat a lot in Finnish weddings, but now I know that would be just the tapas. I have no clue how people were able to digest all that food. I had to leave almost half, which was a big pity, as everything was delicious: fine salads, patés, seafood, fish, meat of many kinds… and 3 desserts, of course. After eating it felt good to dance a bit and drink a couple of digestive gin tonics from the free bar. At 6am we went to sleep, but naturally the party went on.

My favourite dish at the wedding – I love seafood and this was of excellent quality.

Next day we continued the eating, drinking and family reunion at the summer house, where more than 50 persons gathered. We enjoyed tapas: an entire jamón serrano and a huge manchego cheese followed by paella and gazpacho manchego. The mother of my boyfriend was a bit upset as people didn’t eat enough – after eating all night and day – in the end more than half of the paella had to be thrown away.

Fruit dessert with special effects.

I always feel very bad when food is wasted, and we talked about this with the family. We asked, why there has to be so me much food then, if everyone knows beforehand that nobody is able to eat it? The answer was that it’s the tradition. As in many countries, it’s important to show that there is a lot of food and things are fine – especially now, when there’s the shadow of the crisis cast over. Anyway, I hope this attitude will change, little by little – at least my boyfriend is now very conscious and doesn’t approve throwing away food.

An entire ham, jamón serrano, was cut and served in front of us. It’s a special process.

This might not look like gazpacho as we know it, but sure it is! It’s gazpacho à la Castilla-la-Mancha with different kinds of meats.

An excellent seafood paella prepared by a bar nearby, it just fit in the car… Unfortunately everyone was too full when the plate arrived.

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Karjalanpiirakka, an amazing Finnish pastry

It’s raining here in Tampere. I wonder if the summer will ever come to Finland. I’m here to visit my parents for the weekend, but for now the best option is to stay on the sofa and read a book.

I’m home alone, because my father just went to bake 500 Karelian pies to be sold tomorrow morning at the market place – they really are a big hit! “We’ll sell them in 5 minutes”, he’s boosting.

My father’s origins are in the Eastern part of Karelia, a region that Russia invaded during the Second World War. All the Finns were “thrown out”, they were given about 24 hours to leave their homes, collect all the belongings they could and escape to what is now Finland. The Karelians were relocated all around Finland, the family of my dad in a town near Tampere, where she met my mother… So there’s something positive in the tragedy.

My dad travels a lot to Russian Karelia. Some people still speak Finnish there and he loves to revisit the familiar places – even if he was very small, when they had to go.

Because of the harsh history, Carelians feel very strong about their culture. Also my father belongs to a Karelian friendship association.

Karelians have a fame to be very hospitable. When we go to visit my Karelian aunt, she always fills the table with an amazing amount of food. So, it’s easy to understand why they have brought many delicacies to the Finnish gastronomy. The most famous food is probably the Karelian pasty or Karelian pie, which are now very popular around Finland.

There are many variations of the recipe depending on the region, village or even the house. Once, when I was taught how to bake these pies by some grandmothers, they almost almost got into a fight on which is the correct way to make the pie.

Anyway, the common recipe includes a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. You normally eat the hot pasties with munavoi, butter mixed with boiled egg. However, the pies can be eaten with almost anything: cheese, ham, salmon, vegetables…

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This is how it looks like! Or should look like. Some delicious, fresh Karelian pies.

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Karelian pies can also be made with mashed potatoes, like here, or with carrot. Credit: Ilta-Sanomat.

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This pie is called “Sultsina”. It’s a fine pie that used to be eaten with special guests. It’s normally filled with rice or semolina porridge. Credit: Yle.

I’ve visited Karelia a couple of times. It feels very special, as part of my roots are there. Here come some photos I took during my trip in 2005 – to get in the Karelian mood. As you can observe, nowadays the region is very poor.

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This is Aunus, a Karelian town on the Russian side. A very typical village path with a very typical grandmother walking on it.

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The Aunus river on a hot summer day. In the winter living here is completely different, very hard.

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The grandmothers in Russia are really something! Strong, wise women who take care of the household and especially of their boys and husbands, who in many cases like vodka a bit too much…

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A typical Karelian wooden house in Aunus region. 

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Being a Refugee in Finland

The last couple of days I’ve been in Seinäjoki, a city about 3 hours’ train trip away from Helsinki. Seinäjoki is the capital of the province of Southern Ostrobothnia, and with a population of 58 000 it’s one of the fastest growing urban centres in Finland. Even if you wouldn’t believe it.

It was my first visit to this town, which seems very small and, sorry to say, ugly. Well, this is nothing “personal” as it happens with most Finnish towns. During the fast urbanization in about 1970s, most of the old pretty houses were torn down and replaced by boring concrete blocks. This destruction is a tragedy for our cultural history.

Anyway, to compensate there is some fine Alvar Aalto architecture. Lakeuden Risti is the symbol of the city.

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The church by Alvar Aalto is the proud of Seinäjoki – with some other building designed by Aalto. Credit: Yle.

It was my first time in Seinäjoki. Sometimes traveling inside your own country is a lot more exotic than going far away. You think you know what you’ll get, but nope: people act different, they speak another dialect etc. Very eye-opening!

Why was I there? At my work we organise events called Markets of Possibilities, which take place around Finland in about 20 cities each year. So we travel to see how they go.

In these events Finnish NGOs tell about their work and offer “exotic” food and program. The aim of is to bring out the multicultural side of Finland and tell the locals what they can do “for a better world”.

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Markets of Possibilites are fun events. Here’s the Choir War in process. Don’t know about the technical quality of the signing, but these ladies were devoted.

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Flashmob by local students. They had also danced in supermarkets etc. Go Seinäjoki!

There, I met there The Refugee Woman of the Year, Malalai Rahim from Afghanistan, as she participated in a panel about refugees’ replacement in Finnish cities. Finland has agreed to receive 750 so called “quota refugees” every year, but the problem is that some municipalities don’t want to have them.

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Malalai Rahim, this amazingly active lady, seems to know everyone in Seinäjoki.

This year, Seinäjoki has promised to receive a group of 20-30 people from Congo, but the neighbouring towns have said “no”. It’s a sad thing, especially as we talk of so small numbers. I think Finland, being a wealthy country, could receive more people. But our country is still very homogenous and people are a bit afraid of “opening the borders”. Even if we’ll definitely need more foreign work force in the future.

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Panel discussion held in Seinäjoki about quota refugees and their replacement. Speakers included a representative of UNHC, vice mayor of Seinäjoki, immigration officer and Malalai Rahim.

Malalai Rahim made a big impression on me. She spoke very good Finnish and her story is amazing. The talebans threatened her life, as she was a woman working as a doctor in Afghanistan, so she had to leave. In Finland, she studied the language and went to the university to get another degree, to be a gynecologist. Now she works in a hospital in Seinäjoki, has 5 children and is actively involved in local politics trying to help newcomers. Me and my colleague, who were just about to complain how tired and stressed we felt, fast shut up.

Malalai made good points about refugees’ integration in Finland. We need to make our social integration program a lot more efficient! It’s not enough to give people a bit of food and money; everyone needs to feel meaningful and get to work, too. Otherwise you stay at home, get isolated with your problems and soon you are not even able to raise your children. I really hope this idea has some impact, coming from the mouth of someone who truly knows what suffering and life as a refugee are about.

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There is already one Congolese family living in Seinäjoki, and in the fall there should be some more quota refugees from Congo arriving. Getting ready for the Finnish winter… Credit: Yle

As a refugee, one should never lose faith and become bitter for what you have to go through. You MUST raise your head and go on. But a little help is needed, and it’s our responsibility to offer it.

Everyone should remember that things can change fast. What if one day we need to leave our country? How would you like to be treated? We have experience about this in Finland, as during The Second World War almost 80 000 children were sent to other Nordic countries as refugees. They were called The Finnish War Children.

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Finnish war Children in Turku. Credit: Wikipedia.

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What is a quota refugee? Within its refugee quota, Finland accepts for resettlement persons defined as refugees by the UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and others who are in need of international protection. The refugee quota is verified in the state budget for each year.

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Relaxed weekend vs success

This weekend I’ve been visiting my parents in my dear old hometown Tampere. More about this excellent city shall follow later on in the blog.

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Hämeensilta, the main bridge of Tampere. The statues have got decorated for "vappu, the 1st of May party.

All week I’ve been feeling tired and a bit stressed at work, so my plan for the weekend was only to relax. This is why I came to come to Tampere to my parents’ place. Enjoying their good company, great food supply, sauna and sofa cures anything. I told only one friend that I was coming to avoid any “obligations” to meet. Yesterday we did some successful shopping and enjoyed cava in a cozy restaurant H2 + K.

However, things normally don’t go as planned. Lately I’ve been writing quite actively as freelance journalist to some magazines and, because of my slight crisis at work and big need to develop myself as writer, I’ve been saying YES to all the enquiries to write something. So on Friday I promised to write an article about Pixelache festival and Helsinki African Film Festival, both to be held in Helsinki in May. As I’m “specialized” in writing about arts & culture…

The negative things is that deadline for both these articles is tomorrow. Thus, a big part of my “relaxed” weekend has been contacting interviewees, looking for background information, writing, editing and watching African films.

The paradox is: I love writing and I’m ambitious, but at the same time I feel a constant voice saying in my head “it’s weekend so please please relax – as you promised – and have some fun!” Of course, it’s not the first time when this happens. I really want to become a better writer and establish freelancer contacts with new publications, but this means working in the evenings and weekends. And I’m jealous about my freetime. I love, need and deserve it!

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Would I rather spend a Saturday evening with my friend and cava here or home alone working? 2h + K restaurant in Tampere.

This morning I read a column about success in Aamulehti, the daily newspaper of Tampere. The journalist asked himself, why he hadn’t become a professional photographer, which used to be his dream. In the end he said that he loved too much his “freedom to do whatever – or nothing at all”. And to succeed you need to concentrate on ONE thing and forget about everything else. It might not sound that hard, but it is. For me, this weekend it meant forgetting about the following:

  • Spending a whole evening on the sofa reading a good book – without a work-related thought on my mind.
  • Cooking and having a nice long dinner with my parents and enjoying some good red wine.
  • Visiting the new home of my friends, even if they live nearby.
  • Having a long, relaxed walk around the neighbourhood observing the spring around me.
  • Hanging around the centre of Tampere and having a coffee – without time limits – with my old friends. Concentrating on their stories – without thinking about my own work!
  • And, most importantly, having time just for doing nothing. This is very important for me, and anybody, to get totally relaxed and letting your thought flow freely and get some creative ideas…

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Sure, this is just one weekend, so I’t ok, but I definitely wouldn’t be ready to give up of all the spontaneity and fun in life just to become an excellent writer. Or excellent whatever. And they say, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I prefer to be happy and free than excellent at something – and I still don’t accept that these two things are incompatible! So for now I’ll shut down the laptop and go with my Dad to visit a fish market in Tampere.

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Sausages, beer, pretzels and castles – you’ll find all this in…


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The typical Bayerian dish - white sausage, beer and pretzel. Served only in the mornings.

This time it’s not about my dear Helsinki but of Munich and Riga!

What’s the (only?) negative thing about spring? It doesn’t offer us workers any considerable holiday breaks. So I try to take advantage of any long weekend and travel around with my boyfriend. For Easter, we went to Munich and spent a night in Riga on the way.

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Riga panorama from a bar in a clock tower. The bar is a bit styless but the view compensates it.

My first ever visit to Riga was nice but brief. We wandered around, visited typical markets and slept in a hostel owned by Australians. Must go back in the summer, as Air Baltic offers very cheap direct flights from Helsinki.

Then Munich. Well, it never was a dream destination for me, but why not (the only cheap flights we could get for those dates with a coupon we had to spend).

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The best of Bayer: Neuschwanstein Castle. We were "lucky" enough to visit it in a middle of a snow storm - in April!

The Bayerian traditions sure are interesting. Like the rypical “breakfast”, white sausages and 1 litre of beer (with prezel, of course). Or the traditional costume dirndl sold everywhere – and people who so happily wear them on the street or in the traditional beer gardens.

Ah, the beer! Normally I’m not a fan of (Finnish) beer, but the Munich versions were excellent! Especially beer with lemon. I could easily drink a litre or two of that.

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The famous Hofbräuhaus Beer Garden in Munich. Here Hitler organized the first publicity and propaganda events in 1920.

Munich is the richest and the most expensive city in Germany, which you really notice. People look wealthy as do their cars. Munich is the home of BMW, and I really got a lesson on car history as we spent some hours in the BMW headquarters and museum – a deal we made with my boyfriend so we would later see some modern art  – well, in the end we skipped it for the lack of time. But instead I got some nice beer with lemon in the park.

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Our hotel remembered us with a bottle of wine. Nice. As my boyfriend doesn't like wine, well, a woman has to do what a woman has to do...

Still, after four days of Munich – and of snowstorms and rain – it was great to come back to the sunny Helsinki. The routine is not that bad when you get away once in a while. Yesterday we took out the bicycles from the winter shelter and tonight we had a great hot sauna. Now it’s just perfect to lay down on the home sofa with a glass of red wine, jamón serrano and picos. Not very Finnish but hey – mixing cultures is the thing of today. 😉

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Jamón ibérico de bellota (the best kind) and picos (Spanish bread snacks) for dinner. Home sweet home - Helsinki.

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Smaller dreams in Turku

Last weekend I visited some old university friends in Turku, the old capital of Finland. There I spent 5 years studying my Master’s Degree, having endless coffees and beers with my more or less ambitious university and hippy NGO friends wondering what to do with our lives. Well, I guess we still don’t know…

Those were very good times, but I’m also happy to have finished with the studies, moved on to work in Helsinki and achieving so many new things in my life.

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Icicles covering Logomo, Turku Centre for Modern Art.

Going back to Turku is a small nostalgia trip to the past. The same dear friends, bars and restaurants… well, those that are left. It is also a bit disturbing to notice how everything stays the same in the city –  most of my friends still do the same things as we did back then, 10 years ago.

Some have finished their studies and are now working while others are still struggling with their thesis. Some have kids now and are “established”, building their own houses. Some just hang around and work the minimum possible to survive and lead a stressless life. The rhythm in Turku seems quite much slower than in Helsinki, even if the difference in the size of the cities is not that big.

It was good to have long talks with my friends, whom I haven’t seen in years. And I learnt an important lesson. I, who complain a lot about my career, life in general and “the little I’ve achieved in life so far”, should actually STOP complaining right now.

In Turku it is a lot harder getting a job, finding nice new friends or get a new, good boyfriend. So life can easily become monotonous and you loose your faith in that “anything is possible”. As one friend put it “my dreams are smaller than yours”. This made me wonder how can you ever compare the size of dreams? Aren’t all the dreams equally important and big – for the person who dreams them? I hope so.

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