Tag Archives: Helsinki

Spring is (almost) here – and so is Tampere Film Festival

Ups. They say that times goes faster when you get older but I never imagined it would go this fast. And I’m not that old yet, anyway. 😉

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Photo: yle.fi

Anyway, even the Finnish winter is almost over, which is great. Today it has already been 7C degrees over zero.

However, after an extremely mild winter it feels that we haven’t been as superheroic as after surviving a “normal” hard winter. But I don’t care! I’m looking forward to taking my bicycle out of the storage room and taking all the heavy winter clothes back to the cellar. Soon, very soon… maybe next week!

Another sure sign of the approaching spring is Tampere Film Festival, which always brings me back to my dear old hometown Tampere. What changes from one year to another is the weather.

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For many years now, I’ve written articles about the festival to the Finnish magazines I collaborate with as freelance journalist. This is a tradition I love – and need. Routines give you security, they say. I always return here, meet lots of people I know and get to see a great amount of short films – the best thing about them is that they are short! It’s a perfect concept for these times full of concentration problems…

Further, Tampere Festival is among the most important European short film festivals, so one really gets to see interesting things. All in all about 500 films!

Some of this year’s highlights are short films from Africa, a rare treat in Finland, and films based on Edward Hopper’s amazing paintings. Today I saw a selection of films by a German painter-director Jochen Kuhn. Perfect ones to relax with after a long working week. 

And tomorrow more shall follow! Before that, I’ll concentrate on enjoying the time with my parents, sauna and some delicious mom’s food… Good night, everyone!

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Helsinki today: restaurants & a huge fleamarket

Today I got to taste Helsinki the way I really like it: with lots of happy people on the streets and with good weather!

This is not so easy combination that the people living in warmer climate might think… But when Helsinki wants to show its good side, it really is something! There’s a special feeling in the air…

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Today we had decided to take part in a huge fleamarket (in Finnish kirpputori), organised every now and then in different parts of Helsinki.

This time the association of Kallio, Kallio-liike, arranged a very popular street market in the bohemian & hipster Kallio neighbourhood, where everyone could just come and start selling their things – for free.

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The only requirements where to take all your unsold things back home with you and to make sure that the day would be fun & nice for everyone. And it really was! The sun was shining, there were lots of people selling and buying (perhaps more or less we were the same people but anyway) and everything went smoothly.

It’s so great when people quite spontaneously “occupy the urban space” and use it to strengthen the sense of community. The Vaasankatu street was closed to cars (actually it has been like that all the summer). Another good thing,

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However, the fleamarket wasn’t the only event happening in Helsinki today. A lot bigger one was Ravintolapäivä (Restaurant Day), which took place all over the city – and Finland – and internationally!

In short, it’s a food carnival where anyone can open a restaurant for a day – and it’s amazing how many people do it in very creative ways! You just have to take a walk in Esplanadi park, like we did, to get a good glimpse of the variety.

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Their enthusiasm is amazing, as is the fact that one gets to taste the most interesting things… Today I was mostly selling stuff at the fleamarket, but I still tasted typical Maleysian soy bean rolls with shrimps and Vietnamese frittata with cabbage. Or something like that… Unfortunately there are no photos of these delicacies, I was too hungry to think about photos at the moment. 😉

Only the creativity of the chefs is the limit when it comes to the food and locating the pop-up restaurants: they can take place homes, gardens, parks, streets, balconies, shops etc. Naturally now in the summer the most of the restaurants are outside, in the November or January edition of Restaurant Day it’s a bit different…

Thank you for today, Helsinki! Looking forward to seeing more days like this, with the city alive and many smiling people around.

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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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Back to blogging – and it feels so good!

This must be one of the most common comments/explanations/excuses for a blogger, but I can’t avoid it either: I’ve had a crazy spring with a new job (which is excellent!) and too many (too interesting) freelance writing and proofreading projects accumulating… ln brief, my poor blog has been abandoned for some months.

However, all that is now gone. We enjoy summer even here in Helsinki and I’m full of inspiration and with a long list of interesting things to write about!

Most of them include the word Helsinki, but as I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel quite a lot this summer, I must tell about these trips too…

Actually right now I’m lying half dead on our dear home sofa after 2 weeks of heavy island hopping in Greece. The best souvenirs are a happy and relaxed mind, suntanned skin and about 100 photos from Athenas, Sifnos, Milos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros and Antiparos… more about these islands we visited when I get the photos and mind arranged.

Ah, it feels so good to be back. 🙂

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Crazy Days in Helsinki

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The entrance of Stockmann in Helsinki. Thousands of people coming and going. Credit: Suomen Kuvalehti.

Today it started – “Hullut päivät”, The Crazy Days in Helsinki. The streets are filled with people carrying yellow plastic bags with ghost images and people ask you whether you have already been “there”. Some announce that they hate it and would never go there (even if most of them have been there many times and will keep on doing it).

All this started as a marketing trick of a big traditional Helsinki department store, Stockmann. The first Crazy Days was organised in 1986, and nowadays it’s held twice a year for 5 days.

The event works so well, because there’s a clever psychological catch. Normally, Stockmann is considered quite expensive and posh, so during these 5 days “anyone” has the chance to feel a bit special and buy products that would normally be too expensive.

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Typical Hullut päivät bags, Helsinki. Credit: Yle.

Today I worked from my dear home office day and stayed in pyjama till early afternoon. Despite this, I really was working quite hard… In the afternoon I had to get dressed and go to my boxing lesson. And after jumping around and kicking the sack for an hour, my boyfriend called – from Hullut Päivät. So there I went. I have some strange, perversive love with this event. I hate the rush and people pushing you around but there’s something mysterious that draws me to Crazy Days…

Balloons and stuff. Buying is so much fun...

Maybe it’s the tradition. I remember Hullut päivät from my childhood, all the typical sweets and products that they still sell – only during these five days. It’s a carnaval! People queuing at 7am for getting cheap flight to Peking, London, Mexico City… whatever happens to be in the offer. They really sell everything from food, electronics, books and clothes to cars, boats, jacuzzis and trips to China. New items are revealed every day, so you never know what you might be able to buy. Well, even if you read it all in the catalogue.

In the end we spent a couple of hours wandering and looking at things. My boyfriend bought three CDs and I tried to find some cosmetics. But I’m becoming more selective – or stronger perhaps, as in the end I noticed that I really didn’t need anything. Well, till we found a tomato plant that we definitely wanted for our home! Probably we’ll have to back to Crazy Days before Sunday, as in the end we got too tired and confused and forgot to buy the thing…

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Easter the Finnish way – eggs, lamb and mämmi

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Easter decorations. Credit: Kotiliesi

This evening I’m off to Munich for Easter holidays, so I probably won’t get to experience all the Finnish Easter stuff. At least I can write about our Easter traditions – some of them are quite interesting.

Our Easter celebrations started last Sunday. On Palmsunday (Palmusunnuntai) children go from door to door dressed like Easter witches and doing “virpominen” by waving decorated tree-branches and wishing a good year with a rhyme. The kids give the branch away – if they receive sweets or coins in return. A bit like Halloween’s “trick-or-treat”.

I used to love this when I was small. We dressed up with my friends, went around the neighborhood and finally shared our “catch”. Good candies were worth a lot more than “boring” coins. Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs  we liked the most. And I still do, even if now the selection of chocolate eggs is a lot wider.

Unfortunately we didn’t receive any witches at our door last Sunday – well, we didn’t have any candies either – as in the city the entrance doors are locked and the kids can’t get in. 😦

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Little witches doing "virpominen". Credit: Yle

Tomorrow it’ll be Easter Friday. While I’ll be walking around Munich, I know many Finns stay silent at home. When I was a kid, my mom didn’t let me do almost anything this sad, gloomy day – even if my family wasn’t religious. In Finnish the day is called “Long Friday” (Pitkäperjantai) and it really felt so! According to tradition you weren’t even allowed to smile with your teeth this day.

At Easter you decorate your home with twigs and branches and grass you cultivated in jars or tins. You also hide cholocate eggs around the house and then children look for them. Well, my mom still does it for me and a colleague just told me that she hides eggs for his boyfriend. So the tradition goes on.

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Lamb is a typical thing to eat for Easter. Credit: MTV3

Special dishes include eggs in different forms, of course, and lamb – to celebrate the end of what used to be fasting for Easter. And it still is, for some.

A truly special Easter delicacy is “mämmi”. Foreigners normally hate this stuff that reminds closely… poo! If you are brave enough to taste mämmi, you’ll notice that it’s not that bad – with sugar and cream. At least I like it! Once a year, that is.

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Mämmi. You love it - or hate it. But you've got to taste it! Credit: Wikipedia

Another typical dessert comes from Russia, Pasha. This is heavy stuff, so taste it – but not too much. Compared to mämmi, this is a more “normal” thing to eat, I guess. 😉

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Pasha, the Russian contribution to Finnish Easter. Credit: Wikipedia

So, “Hyvää pääsiäistä”, Happy Easter! Have a rest and eat enough chocolate eggs.

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The perfect job that never was

The sun is shining and it’s almost Easter, so I left the office early and called up a friend for a glass (it ended up to be 3) of rose in my new favourite bar next to home – Birds Cavabar that featured on the blog also yesterday… I don’t drink cava EVERY day though.

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Lapinlahdenkatu, the street of Birds Cavabar. Today it looked just like this - a pleasure to wait for my friend out in the sun.

Anyway, it’s great to see my dear friend, who works as producer for a talented Finnish photographer and who is going to open an art gallery soon. What happens nowadays is that we mostly talk about work – I guess something has changed, as before men (and various other subjects) used to come before the career.

My friend hadn’t heard what happened to me with my job interview a couple of weeks ago. In a nutshell, I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated at my current job, and been looking for “new challenges”. So I sent an application for a communications job at the Ministy of Internal Affairs. It sounded perfect.

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Ha! And I thought I was clever choosing well paid & interesting. But something essential was left out...

To my big surprise they called me for an interview! They had received 172 applications and interviewed only 5, so I felt fortunate. I spent days preparing: studying their webpages, reading their comms strategy, composing a clever answer for any possible question.

On the day of the interview I felt confident. People were nice and everything seemed to go ok… just that it didn’t. I had this strange feeling that something was wrong, and when I got out I texted my boyfriend that I don’t get this job.

And I didn’t. A week later I received an email telling that they chose someone else – the person who is currently doing the job (with a temporary contract). So, in the end it was a kind of a fake job offer – normally they always choose the person who they already have working – if he/she isn’t a complete disaster. That’s a normal procedure and perfectly just. What is not so just is that you have almost 200 people who honestly think they’ve got a fair chance: nobody told be what the situation was – and of course I didn’t realize to ask about it. Next time I will.

But it’s interesting that talking about my experience I heard many similar stories from my friends. Is this a common procedure? I couldn’t find any info with some Googling, but it sure would be interesting to know.

Well, there’ll be more jobs and mine is not that bad – at all. Still, looking for something new once in a while is good for you! It makes you evaluate your abilities and helps you to demand more at your current job – they shouldn’t take you for granted.

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Restaurant Day – become a chef for a day

I enjoyed my dear  – and cold – Helsinki so much this weekend! On Saturday we had Helsinki Restaurant Day, a food carnaval, where anyone is invited to open a restaurant for a day. The concept was invented by a couple of clever young guys from Helsinki – it is an amazingly simply and just ingenious idea!

The restaurants can be anything, you can check out the Browse restaurants section on Restaurant Day webpage to get a glimpse… Only the founder’s imagination is the limit. Absolutely anyone can be a chef for a day, make some exotic or traditional culinaristic experiments and invite strangers to their homes, install a kiosk on the street or organise an open picnic in some corner of the city. Some of my friends, who are lucky to own a shop, convert them into tea lounges, muffin factories or even into a Brazilian-Iranian restaurant, as one of the shoe stores in Helsinki did on Saturday.

This Saturday morning me and my friend decided to visit as many as we could of these pop-up restaurants. The only two limits were: 1) your stomach is not limitless and 2) the weather was “a bit” challenging, almost -20C…

Actually, to fight the second condition, I got an idea to fill my termo with – surprise surprise – champagne! Haha even if it maybe wasn’t the most elegant thing to do with that expensive drink, at least it helped us to stay warm all day long and it cheered us up on the windy streets filled with snow! Here are some of the delicious things we saw – and tasted, of course.

Celebrating Restaurant Day with a style. Hipster muffins at Hiphip cafe, Punavuori - the hipster neighbourhood of Helsinki.

Parmesan cake at a home restaurant in a cool old stable in Punavuori, Helsinki. The cake? It was excellent! As were the chats with the other "clients" present in this nice couple's living room.

My friend's underwear shop Punavuoren putiikki was converted into a tea lounge - with a sweet atmosphere and even sweeter cupcakes.

Warm tea to keep you going in Restaurant Day

Muffin Top - more muffins and spicy tomate soup at a jewellery shop in Punavuori.

All in all, the experience was great – once again… The carnaval is organised about every 4 months and each time it gets more popular! Also the police (who at first disapproved all this) is now looking the event through it fingers. More of this kind of spontaneous community activities, please. By the way, the next Restaurant Day is celebrated in May… Welcome!

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Cold, colder… -40C?

Finland today - cold as the colour suggests.

As most of my friends’ Facebook statuses declare: It’s cold in Finland, like in most of Europe these days.

Here in Helsinki the temperature is not as “bad” as in the Northeastern parts of the country, but we have our fair share of chilliness. Today it was about -20C, which feels like -32C because of the wind – that’s cold! Foreigners ask how is it possible to survive in these temperatures? Well, you just have to dress up properly. For example, today I was wearing all these things – and I only got frozen in the nose and cheeks:

  • a warm set of long underwear & jeans
  • normal socks and woolen socks and extra warm winter shoes with lambswool inside
  • leather gloves with lambswool and a thick woolen scarf
  • a feather jacket with a big hood
  • a winter hat like this one. (Lots of Finns wear this model, so I guess they’re either in fashion or just efficient against the cold…

My beloved winter hat. For you I still have my brain functioning.

With this clothing I almost feel ok outside – for a short time. Only the face is a problem. This morning I saw a woman (not a Muslim one) in the street wearing a veil covering ALL her face. Maybe you stay warm, but you don’t see anything!

Anyway, people here don’t tend to be afraid of the cold. In schools, children have to go skiing and skating in sports class if it’s less than -15C. And I’ve never heard that you’d get free from school or work because of the cold weather. Wishful thinking…

Helsinki some days ago - so cold but so pretty. Photo: Inka Soveri / Iltalehti

Let’s see what happens in the days to come: they say it might get colder than -40C in the Northeastern Finland! Wow!!!

I’m almost always cold, so I’m not a good Finn. Anyway, they say that a human being is capable of getting used to extreme temperatures. The aboriginal people in Tierra del Fuego, South America, can sleep half-naked outside in freezing temperatures etc. Some characteristics help you to survive in the cold.

  • Having enough fat to keep you warm (many Finns have learnt this too well…)
  • Having shorter legs and hands – the more compact you are, better you reserve warmth
  • Being a woman – we survive better in extreme temperatures
  • And avoid being tired, on medication, too old, too thirsty or  – most importantly – too long time outside!
According to researches, many mammals follow these rules. Maybe it applies to us too=? At least many Finns are a bit round and have short legs. Purely for environmental reasons…?

Enjoying the cold. Me and my friends snow-shoeing at -20C in Eastern Finland.

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Office work – more freedom, please!

Today’s 3 main topics have been volunteering, weather and – not that surprisingly – office work. (Well, I also had a great sauna, but more about that later…)

First, this morning I had a radio interview about volunteering for the national Yle Radio Suomi, as tomorrow we’ll organise an event where people looking for volunteer work and NGOs looking for volunteers meet. The idea is nice, and Finland actually is the promised country of NGOs – there is one for almost every purpose you can imagine!

The interview went fine, they said. Even if being in the studio and thinking of thousands of people listening makes you feel a bit strange…

All in all, Finnish people volunteer a lot, sometimes without even noticing: in NGOs, sports clubs, school associations, helping the old lady next door by bringing her milk from the supermarket. One in every four Finns volunteers and 50% of those who don’t would like to do something. Nice numbers, but there is still a lot to do – for a better world!

Cold and snowy Helsinki - this one is from 2010. Credit: Hannes Heikura, Helsingin Sanomat

Today’s second topic has been the weather. In brief, it’s -15C (or even colder with the chilly wind!) in Helsinki today. Luckily it’s also sunny and pretty with all that bright snow.

Stress Reduction Kit

We also have one of these at the office... just in case.

And then to the MAIN topic – work in the office! This evening I met two friends in a cafe of Ateneum Art Museum and we talked about work. We are all loaded with “interesting” tasks and projects. So we got some ideas to make our lives a bit nicer:

1. Office life. Do you know the UK series The Office? Well, it results that our respective offices (like I guess most of the offices in the world) have their “special character”. So, it would be great to film or at least record in the meetings and situations and maybe also to write a book about the a bit absurd aspects of office life. Unfortunately I guess we would be thrown out of the office before finishing the story…

Why not, if the work is done?

2. Working hours. Luckily my office is quite flexible and we are allowed to work from home – like I did today. But  we also have clock cards and our working hours calculated. It’s my first job with this system. After the initial shock I got used to it – even if I’m quite a free soul. Actually it’s nice to notice the hours slowly accumulating – and then you can have a longer weekend to compensate.

Anyway, why can’t it be so that when the daily work is done, you’d be free to go? People have different rhythms, some are early birds and some… well, are not.

3. Physical presence in the office. I’ve been seriously thinking about the necessity to stay in the office 8 hours a day. Why? I do no costumer service and all the information I need is online. So if there are no meetings, there are no real reasons for staying in the office.

I read a great blog (in Finnish) on how the sometimes archaic office rules should be updated. One of these rules is the physical presence of the employee. We would be a lot happier working from home, cafes, museums, parks, from a paradise island – wherever YOU’d want to! Especially for jobs that require creativity and concentration this is essential.

Well, maybe it takes some time to introduce these ideas but in many places they are already doing it… I really hope we’d get some changes before I get retired!

Ups

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