Monday, 29 August 2011

Finnish things I'll miss

There's now only a week to go! This time next Monday I'll be getting myself together - meaning, having a massive freak-out. As sad as I am, I'm really looking forward to going back to university. I've got some really good ideas going, and as I'm sure the tutors will be insistant on seeing how the past eyar has affected me, I'll be making work about the people I've met here. When I get back to England I'll probably start a professional blog about my art practice, so maybe you can all read that instead of this.
Anyway, as time is runnign out, here is a list of stuff from Finland that I'm really going to miss.

1. Hesburger
Maybe it's because I'm a vegetarian, but I'd rather have Hesburger than any of the chains in England. The veggie burger in Burger King is at least edible, but I wouldn't go near McDonalds. The falafel burger in Hesburger is a beautiful thing, and I'll miss it. I should definitely get food from there once more in the coming week.

2. Karelian pies
I consider this to be Finland's Cornish pasty, as it originates from one specific area but is now popular everywhere. Plus I'm from Cornwall so I like the idea. They are extremely tasty - definitely my favourite Finnish food. I'll be able to get them from the Suomalainen Kirkko in London, but they'll probably be very expensive. I'd encourage people to try them, because you won't be disappointed. I don't eat them with egg butter, as I don't like hardboiled eggs, but even on their own they taste amazing.

3. Lonkeros
This is a Finnish alcoholic mixed drink, and many Finnish people have been astonished to hear that they don't exist in England. I can understand that, as they're probably the most normal thing to drink after beer. They come in lots of flavours, my favourites being Cranberry and Mojito. They're pretty cheap too. Hopefully Finnish visitors to London can stick a few in their suitcases for me.

4. My house
I actually really love the house I live in now. We all make jokes about what a dump it is, and to be fair our flat isn't very well maintained, and not always as clean as it could be, but I still love it. It has character, and I've had a good time there. Even though I have the shitty small room due to my lack of stuff, it's cosy and comfortable. I can hear the tuomiokirkko bells ringing in my bedroom. The building is old and beautiful, much nicer than the more modern buildings. It's in the centre of town, so everything is accessible, and I've been very happy there.

5. The river
I'm lucky enough to live close to the River Aura, and I've enjoyed many walks alongside it. It's a bit murky, but all summer it's been lovely because so many special events for the Capital of Culture have been happening in that area. There are little pieces of artwork all around the river, which has been interesting to see. When the weather was warmer I often sat by the river and sketched or read a book, and it's been lovely. Of course, we can't forget the little dip I took in it at Juhannus. My finger is still misshapen. Living in Finland literally scarred me for life.

6. Arnold's coffee shop
This is a chain, and I'm not sure if it's Finnish or foreign, but I know it doesn't exist in England. They have amazing vegetarian toasties. Emmi and I have spent many hours there drinking coffee and putting the world to rights. It's not particularly unique or exciting, but we've spent a lot of time there, so it's important.

7. Recycling cans
In Finland, and I think other Nordic countries, you can recycle drinks bottles and cans and get money back for them. It's not a lot of money per item but it adds up. Not only does this system encourage people to recycle, it can save you when you're really broke. On more than one occasion taking cans to the shop has allowed me to have dinner that evening. You used to be able to do this in England, and I think it's a wonderful idea that should work everywhere.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The alternative tour of Turku

On Thursday evening Toomas and one other friend took me on a sort of alternative tour around Turku, taking me to strange little places they spent time in when they were a bit younger, and that I'd never find otherwise. It was really cool - it gave me a different view of Turku, and I could see it from the perspective of someone who has grown up here and always lived here. That was a good opportunity for me.
Among the places we visited were more suburban areas, which I doubt I would ever have seen otherwise. I'm happy I got the chance to absorb a bit more of Turku and see some new things. I want to take in as much as I possibly can whilst I still have the chance, and this was a good way of doing it. Obviously, it was also nice to relax with some friends who I haven't seen for a few weeks. In the end we went back to Toomas's house, which is where I've spent an awful lot of weekends this summer. He lives near to St Michael's Church, which I'd never paid much attention to before, but I took a photo because I realised it's a really beautiful building. The park next to it is also very nice - we've spent a lot of time there too. I have a lot of memories in Turku now.
Last night I went for drinks with Heli and Iida, my flatmates. Iida is moving out tomorrow and will be going to Norway, plus I'm leaving, so it's a sad time for our household. We went back to The Hunter's Inn, the nice bar I mentioned previously. It wasn't even so expensive! I'm glad I'm spending lots of time with my friends now, whilst I still get the chance.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Moomin museum and other recent exploits

I've just come home from spending a few days visiting my boyfriend in Tampere. I had a nice time, but the greatest thing about my trip was that he took me to the Moomin Museum! He has just qualified as the world's best boyfriend.
We were very lucky - we turned up about 20 minutes before it was due to close, so the lady working there said we could go in without paying! We still managed to see most of the exhibits. It was lovely; I got to see some of Tove Jansson's original drawings. That was very interesting for me, not only due to the art side, but because I was raised on the Japanese Moomins cartoon on tv, and the style of that is very different to the original books. The originals are sometimes much darker and moodier. There were other items too, such as Moomins books in various languages and set-up scenes with the characters. I would really recommend the museum, especially to tourists, and I think it appeals to both adults and children.
We also went to some small, commercial art galleries, and saw some interesting pieces. Not all of the work was Finnish, but it was good to see. Aside from that we visited some parks and the Pyynikki area, where there's a beautiful forest and beach. Tampere seems to have a lot of lovely, natural areas, more than in the centre of Turku, even though there are plenty of parks here too.
Someone mentioned that Turku has a different atmosphere to many other places in this country, and having spent more time away from Turku I'm inclined to agree. At least during the summer it seems to be extremely lively - I've noticed so many street performers and music. I appreciate that, having a creative mindset, but I also really like Tampere. It seems a bit calmer than Turku. Maybe I'll even end up living there one day, but I'll see what happens. I find Finland as a whole appealing, and I'd still like to see more of it.
Aside from that, my suitcase has now been collected by the courier and will be off to England soon. It was very sad to start packing my life up and taking everything away, but it had to happen.
I'd also like to say now how grateful I am for all the lovely messages I've received recently wishing me luck for my return to England and complimenting me on my writing. I'm very appreciative, and don't worry, I'm still here for two weeks. After that we'll just have to wait and see...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Two weeks to go...

I only have two weeks left in this country! I can't believe it; I don't know where this time has gone at all. I've finished my job and am now doing all the stressful stuff to sort out my belongings and get ready to go.
I'm actually feeling a bit overwhelmed because there seems to be so much to do, and I'm already unhappy about going. I'm sure I'll manage to get everything sorted out, and hopefully get myself together by then. On Wednesday a courier is coming to pick up one of my suitcases, filled with non-essential things, and hopefully everything will seem a bit more straightforward once that's been done.
I hope I can get my mindset into a more positive frame of mind, as I'm not succeeding with that right now. I can see some positives to being in England again - I'll be busy with university, and will have a purpose again, so there won't be that bored, frustrating feeling I've had whilst I haven't been working here. I'll have a student loan too, so money son't be quite as much of an issue as it has been here at times. On Friday my employer asked me what will be the first thing i do when I get home - I said sit down and eat solidly for a week. I'm looking forward to that, at least.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


This week is not going to plan. I was very happy being back at work, everything seemed to be as I wanted it...what could go wrong? Well, I jinxed it. After this week I'll no longer be working because my employers have decided to change their plans, yet again. I'm not very happy as I'm now stranded here with no money. I can't change the date of my flight, so I'm very irritated. This year has really made me keen to work, because being unemployed and broke is extremely frustrating and boring. I'm rather grateful that I'll be going back to university, and be guaranteed something to do.
Until this came up I was enjoying working this week. The other day I was picking berries from the garden. I've never mentioned how Finnish people seem to love picking berries and wild mushrooms. Who can blame them? At least it's free food. I have no idea if this is the right time of year, but it might be nice to pick mushrooms in a forest before I leave. I know several people who pick large batches and freeze them. It's a nice idea - I quite liked pottering around the garden picking blackcurrants and gooseberries. I felt very optimistic and cheerful - definitely not how I'm feeling today.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Stuff about books

Sofi Oksanen is a very popular writer in this country, who has won some really big Finnish literature prizes. I found an English language copy of her novel "Purge"(Finnish title: "Puhdistus") in the library and decided to read it, as she's very successful and respected here.
I'm very pleased that I'm reading it now, as it is a very good book. It's very powerful, quite gripping, and the subject matter is very intense. At times it's painful to read. The story is quite dark, but it is extremely well-written. I can understand why the author has had so much acclaim - the quality of the writing is very high, and she is also dealing with difficult subject matter. She makes the characters and situations very real. This means that it's not always the most comfortable book to read, but the story is very compelling. I'd definitely recommend reading it. Also, I used to have very similar hair to Sofi Oksanen, so that's another reason to love her.
On the subject of books, I decided to have a morning walk by the river today, and saw that there are many mobile libraries on the river bank. There are far too many to count, but they seem to have come from cities all over the country. There were foreign ones too - I noticed ones from Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Russia, and Germany. They didn't appear to be open at the time that I walked past, but pedestrians were very interested in them. I assume this is part of the Capital of Culture things. I have no idea how long they'll be there for, but it seems a very good way to find lots of new books. It was certainly strange to see so many buses lined up. I'm so glad I'm here whilst there are so many special things for the Capital of Culture- it makes the whole thing even more exciting.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


I am absolutely certain that I want to return to Finland, and ideally Turku, after I have finished my education in England. If I'm lucky I might already be back in a year from now. Of course I can't predict the future and I don't know what might happen to change things, but for now there's nowhere else I'd rather be. Knowing this, I've been thinking about why exactly I want to be here so much. I'm referring to the qualities of the country that make it so appealing, not the friends I've made or experiences I've had, which obviously make it a good place to be. It's surprisingly hard to pin down.
One big thing is that this country feels much safer and more peaceful than my own. There are terrible riots going on all over England at the moment, plus there's a constant threat of terrorism, and being here has made me realise how worrying it is. I think people in England are generally desensitised to it as it has, unfortunately, become so normal. It's not something I ever really worried about whilst I was there, and now it seems much more pronounced to me.
I think Finland is very beautiful, and I'm not just referring to the countryside. The cities I've seen have beautiful squares, parks and buildings, and are very clean too, much cleaner than your average city in England. The environment is just so nice.
In the summertime the whole place seems to come alive, which is wonderful after a long, dark winter. I think this doesn't happen so much in England because the weather is better in winter, so the contrast isn't so extreme.
I think I also enjoy being surrounded by a culture that is very different from my own; much more different than a lot of people realise. It makes everything so fascinating.
I find it all a bit ironic because when I first visited Finland, two years ago, I didn't actually like it very much. I only went to Helsinki, but I thought that I probably wouldn't go there again. Circumstances got in the way of that, and look at me now!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Recent things

I've been a bit busy for the past few days - I'll explain why further on. Some nice things have been going on recently though.
Last night the dance theatre opposite my house put on a show as you can see from the photo. They'd placed adverts around our building to say that anyone was welcome to attend, but they held the show in the yard between the house and the theatre, so we were watching some of it from the kitchen and my bedroom. It was really nice though - a bit unusual, so that was fun.
A couple of nights ago I also found a new bar to drink in, which really reminded me of traditional English pubs, so that was cool. Actually, I've walked past it numerous times, and I always thought it looked decent, but I'd never gone inside before. I wouldn't mind going back. The interior was very comfortable and homely, it reminded me of local pubs and some Wetherspoons. It was a pleasant surprise.
The reason I've been a bit distracted is that I've met a man! He's lovely, and has restored my faith in Finnish men. They aren't all drunk and idiotic! Until yesterday he's been in Turku, as he lives in Tampere. That explains to you why I went to Tampere in the first place. One of my friends introduced us, and I'm very happy.
I'd also like to thank the universe, in it's wisdom, for suddenly producing someone I really like immediately before I leave the country! That was clever. It seems that nothing in my life can ever go to plan, but right now I don't really care. Love travels oceans and all that.
Now there's less than one month left in Finland, which makes me feel very sad. On the 5th of September my plane leaves from Helsinki. I'm thinking of this as just a temporary absence for me, and hopefully the time will fly by, as it has this year, and then I'll be back. There's nowhere else I'd rather be.
As this experience will soon be coming to an end, I'm planning to contact publishers in both this country and England, in a bid to turn this blog into a book. It has been much more widely read than I ever anticipated, and several people have recommended doing that, so I hope I can be successful.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Awkward lunch

Today Emmi and I had lunch at one of the tiny restaurants in the kauppahalli. It was called City Sergio's restaurant, and I have to say it was a massive mistake.
I've always thought those restaurants were so cute and that it would be lovely to go to one of them, and that the atmosphere would be really unique. This place was very cheap, and perhaps that goes some way to explain the quality of the food. Emmi ate a kebab which she said really wasn't good, and I ate a pizza which, frankly, was absolutely foul. For some reason they had used pickled peppers as a topping, so there was a strong taste of vinegar, and the cheese was also extremely greasy. The whole thing was freshly prepared there and then, but it still tasted really bad. It was not an experience I intend to repeat. I suppose if you don't try you never know, but in this case I wish I'd never bothered to find out.
I really wanted the food to be good. I wanted it to be a nice experience, because the idea of sitting in the market, watching people shopping, and eating something nice is so appealing, but sadly it was not to be. I was very disappointed. There are several other restaurants and cafes there, selling various types of food, and I certainly hope that those places are better than the one we went to. It was a real let-down. I guess it was pretty bad advertising for them that we left two half-finished plates on the table; anyone walking past would see them.
After that we looked at the chocolate shop, and some of the things they sold were amazing. They had chocolate in all sorts of shapes, and even with images printed onto them, such as Finnish flags and the cathedral of Turku. It was really interesting. My favourite things were tiny chocolates in the shape of Karelian pies! They were really cute. Emmi pointed out chocolates in the shape of nuts and bolts, dusted with cocoa powder to look like rust. Everything was so cleverly made, and very impressive.
Go shopping in the kauppahalli, but definitely do not go to that restaurant.