Greetings from Belgium

Belgia, Ranska - 22.6.2018 16:27

Where the beer is strong and the chocolate is dark. There were bras hanging from the window. In black, yellow, and red. We are in Belgium! It’s the football World Cup, and you can see it on the streets. Lots of houses have put something with the country’s colors out on display.

We are staying here with Deb’s parents. Enjoying the good life of not having to worry about cooking or cleaning. So far the time here has been filled with many administrative tasks in the bank and seeing the doctor and dentist. It’s becoming the ultimate health check. Firstly, because Switzerland health care has been too expensive, and secondly because we are going to live in the wild starting from September. Yes, we have just signed the contract with Medair to work in the Democratic Republic of Congo! It’s very exciting and we are looking forward to the mission.

I was able to visit Brussels for the first time when we met there with my friend Joonas who is working in the Finnish Embassy for the summer. I really like the city, its old buildings, historical and beautiful monuments and lively streets. Of course, great beer everywhere as well. I’ve taken a challenge to try as many different beers here as I can. But I think I have to come again, since there are more than 3,000 of them.

We went to Atomium, which is a landmark in the area. It was built for the ’58 World Expo that was held in Brussels. It’s an impressive structure, and must have felt like something from the future when it was built. 40 Million people came to visit it in the World Expo.

Belgium was a significant battle ground in the First World War. We learned more about it in the World War museum in Ypres, which was destroyed but then rebuilt after the war. Just to be bombed again in the Second World War. That’s hard to understand. How come people allow such destruction and suffering, especially so soon after the First World War, which would not have been forgotten about by then. We watched the remembrance ceremony in Ypres, held by the British every day at 8pm. I was surprised by the amount of people, there were busloads of them. We also visited another memoire in a park, where they have built a touching monument for the 600,000 people who died in the area. On our way to Dunkirk we also stopped at a remarkable cemetery at Tyne, where 12,000 soldiers were buried. I was impressed and happy to see that those killed in the war are being honored in such a way. I don’t really know if we have something similar in Finland regarding our war with Russia.. museums and monuments, I mean. My experience and understanding of the war became more concrete after this visit, and it will be interesting to visit the Second World War museum in Pearl Harbor!

We still have more than a week here before we head out to Thailand. We are going to meet with more friends, try more beers, watch more football, and even visit Paris, which will be the first visit for me in the French capital! Right now, I’m looking forward to going to the movies tonight, and throwing a wedding party tomorrow for the friends and family from Belgium who were not able to attend our wedding in Switzerland!

Welcome lunch in Leuven with Marieta and Jeff Be welcome to BrusselsAtomium Looking for MagritteGood! The famous monument of Brussels - Manneken PissFor equality Dans la grande placeHandsome guy. Joonas looks good too ;) Artisanal beers in Delirium Cafe with Joonas Lunch in Ypres  Memorial for the 600,000 killed in Belgium during WWI Bluff perspectives One evening in Ypres Mmm... mussels, they were so fresh, so delicious! Trying out the Ypres rally podium Memorial for those in Tyne  World War II, Dunkirk Just like in the movie England was still too far a swim

Greetings from the North

Norja, Suomi - 17.6.2018 12:14

Our time in the North has been very memorable; we have met with lovely people and seen beautiful scenery. Our batteries have been recharged in the midnight sun – it’s incredible how awake you feel when it’s always bright outside!

Let me tell a couple of stories of our travels above the Arctic Circle after we left Seinäjoki, where we met with the big family from my mum’s side. By the way, it seems like updating the blog is remaining my responsibility, while my wife is editing our video material. You can find the link and password to a nice video of our Scandinavia tour at the end of this post.

So, after a 6 hours train ride from Seinäjoki to Rovaniemi, which Deb used for editing videos, we arrived and, as usual, my grandpa was there to meet us at the train station. It was a joyful reunion, and even though Deb doesn’t speak Finnish and my grandparents don’t speak English they get well along, communicating by expressions and gestures. It’s always a relaxing time when we go to our grandparents. They take such good care making sure we put on at least a couple of kgs before we leave! My grandma had made the delicious cloudberry cake she usually makes when we visit. We told them about our wedding and showed pictures and videos of it. As they couldn’t come to Switzerland, we also showed them videos of our life over there so they could see the environment we have been living in.

Life at grandparents is simple and stressless. My grandpa had lost a tooth so he took his teeth for repair. However, time flew by as he was singing songs to us, without his upper teeth, that he forgot to pick up his teeth from the dentist before they closed. But he just laughed about it and said that “well, I think I will just eat porridge for breakfast tomorrow!”. He’s so funny. They had moved to a new apartment, which was really nice and just around the corner from Eetu and Paula, friends I met while studying in Helsinki. They had since moved to study and work in Rovaniemi, together with their Lapland dog, Milli. We went to visit them and spent a nice evening catching up, eating pizza, and playing board games! It was really nice seeing them again!

Although Rovaniemi is already at the Arctic Circle you can still drive much further north. So we did. Deb’s friend, Lise, from Mercy Ships lives in Hammerfest, so my grandpa offered us his car to drive and visit her in the northernmost town, which was still 650km further north from Rovaniemi. As we didn’t have so much time before going back to Helsinki, and we wanted to still spend more time with my grandparents, we could only spend one night in Hammerfest. But we did it anyway, 9hrs of driving there on Tuesday, and 9hrs of driving back on Wednesday. The good thing is that the sun doesn’t set for couple of months so it’s bright all the time, which makes driving that much less tiring and less dangerous. Those roads in Lapland are great, empty, wide open and straight! The only danger there are reindeer, and the police if they catch you enjoying the empty roads a bit too much. However, we didn’t experience problems with either of them. Hammerfest is the last ice free port on the coast, so they have built a big gas production facility over there. Apparently there are hundreds of kilometers of pipes from the station going to the gas sources in the arctic sea. And the vessel transporting the gas to its destinations is worth millions. We saw the station and the ship, as we hiked up some of the mountains in Hammerfest.

It’s a very barren environment, so far up north that there are no trees growing. So that makes you think it’s cold. A couple of weeks ago it was +25, and when we visited it was a solid +4 degrees. The weather up there is unpredictable; we saw sun, rain, hail, snow, and rainbows all in one hour. It’s quite a harsh environment, but it’s pretty as well. It’s so remote! They have a small airport but it’s not uncommon that flights are cancelled due to difficult weather conditions. Sometimes the only way to escape the island is by boat, as the roads can be blocked by avalanche. Lise has been living there for a couple of years, working in the hospital. Besides the people working at Statoil, the others are mainly the hospital staff, in the town of 10k habitants. If you take into account the number of reindeer living on the island, I think the population may be doubled.

My dare in Hammerfest was to swim in the sea, the ice cold sea. I’ve never seen sea water so clear. It’s not that I was too hot because of the sunshine, but it was just one of those things on the bucket list, ice bucket list.. I did it just in the beginning of our way back to Rovaniemi, so I was definitely awake for the drive! It wasn’t really swimming, it was more like panicking in the water. Also, as my grandpa said, the beaches up there are not so good. So it was basically just a rocky shore and I tried not to hurt myself while dipping into the freezing salt water. My watch showed the water to be +8 degrees, but it still didn’t feel warmer than the air that was a stable +4.

The drive back to Rovaniemi was beautiful. On our way to Hammerfest we drove through Ivalo and saw the big lake Inari. We arrived to the sea sooner and those views were nice, but I still preferred our way back on the west side through Alta and Enontekiö. The scenery changed a lot, we went through plains with no trees, along beautiful rivers, and then reached the tree line but still stayed high up from where we could see the forests and river down in the valley. Then drove in the valley next to beautiful mountain lakes and through narrow gorges. The forest became thicker but remained still very low, as the growth season in the north is short. Gradually the forest became taller and more variable, as we reached the border of Finland again.

For the last couple of days in Lapland we went with my grandparents to their cottage, which is quite remote, in the woods, by a lake. That’s a place where you can hear no sound. It’s quite amazing to be so deep in nature. There we stayed one night, watched the World Cup, piled some wood outside to dry for the next season and filled the shed with firewood for this season, helped my grandparents to put the jetty on the water for swimming, warmed up the sauna and went swimming. Then the next day it was time to say goodbye to my grandparents, as we flew back to Helsinki.

As we arrived in Helsinki, we went to my sister’s place to help her build a sofa bed she had bought. (making good use of her brother being in town..) She made dinner for us so it was a fair trade, hehe! The next day we met with my friends Kalle, Ida, Joonas, and Pauliina at Kippis Festival in Helsinki. It was a beautiful sunny day to enjoy live music, artisanal beers and burgers, and great seeing good friends! From the festival we went to Shotti Baari to play some shot roulette, a game that sounded so fun I had to try it and take others with me to this small and shady bar. We raised the bar, quite literally, and went next to the terrace on top of Torni, from where you have nice views over Helsinki in the sun set. I got to try the world’s best gin, Napue, from Finland. It looked very arctic with ice cubes, rosemary, and cranberries. On the terrace I happened to meet my friend Petri, whom I’ve known the longest, for over 20 years now! So it was a happy coincidence. That whole evening was a very nice ending for our time in Finland.

From this link you can watch the video of our tour in Scandinavia.

Password: 1205

Now, the time has come to move on to the next destination, Belgium, here we come!

 

Our wheels to Rovaniemi With Ukki Cloudberry cake Visiting Eetu, Paula and Milli On the road 18hrs in two days  Norway, baby! With Lise in Hammerfest View of Hammerfest Apero Polar bear beware!Last kiss? Cold cold cold!I am Thor! Back to Finland Ukki can still chop wood in his old days, but we helped him pile them. Nice little activities at the cottage. Wood for the winter With Mummi and Ukki Karelia stew Standing on the successfully installed jetty on the lake  The old poet Our next destination! See you again! My sister's apartment got new furniture! Summer princess At Kippis Festival with Ida, Kalle and Joonas Good times in Helsinki Shot roulette Found this Teddy Bear on top of Helsinki Quality drinks See you next time in Congo?

Meeting friends and family in Finland

Suomi - 10.6.2018 15:23

Since coming back from Sweden we have been actively meeting my friends and family in Finland. It’s been really good connecting with all of them!

We’ve also carried with us our polaroid camera and wedding guestbook and filled it with pictures and stories of the friends and family we’ve been meeting during the trip, a nice memory!

I’m so proud of my wife as she’s met every day with new people. And yesterday we met with the cousins, uncles and aunts from my mother’s side, 42 all in all, at a cottage we had rented by a lake in Western Finland, “Pohjanmaa” to celebrate my sister’s graduation and our wedding. Most of them didn’t speak English but we talked to all of them, and had sauna together. We also swam in the lake which was pretty chilly, but I’m so proud of Papi since she stayed the longest in the lake and sauna with me, and we did many times the normal sauna as well as the smoke sauna, with “vihta” that is a bunch of birch branches we use to “gently” beat ourselves with in the sauna, creating a nice aroma and it’s good for the body too! We ate traditional Finnish foods such as salmon soup and rye bread, and after the sauna we had different sausages cooked in the barbecue. We did some singing as well and my relatives were very impressed seeing me dancing as we showed some videos and photos from our wedding in Switzerland.

It was good spending time with family, as we see each other with such big group only once in 10 years or so. A lot had happened since I last saw them. Many had got married, they had kids, bought a house.. It was like getting to know them again. We spent Friday with my cousins Laura and Tuomas and their family at their house, watching videos of “Finnish prom” that Laura had attended, discussing and eating good food. There is too much good food on this trip, I’m gaining weight! But that’s because we can’t buy souvenirs as our luggage is full.. so we enjoy good food instead. We discovered how my aunt and uncle had met each other and it was thanks to this Finnish country side custom “rinki”. It means driving rounds around the town again and again, sometimes parking for a bit, maybe popping loud music, and the goal is to see if there happen to be any friends around in town or some interesting people to get to know to. So they were both on the rinki, “chasing” each other, and finally stopped their cars next to each other and started chatting. That’s how it started.

Funnily, as we were walking around the town of Seinäjoki today, I heard a familiar voice saying “hey!”; I turned around and saw that two of my cousins were there, they were on the rinki. As there was no traffic, I went to talk to them on the road and we agreed to go for a coffee nearby. That was a nice break, just a relaxed hour before our train to Lapland, where we are on our way to meet my grandparents and friends for a few days.

Meeting with Jyri (previous housemate) and Raimo (priest/squashmate) at Naughty BRGR in Helsinki Meeting with Miikka (uni friend) and Iina  Flamed salmon glamping with Mika in Nuuksio   Staying at Laura and Tuomas’ house Family in Finland Family from mom’s side Sauna, olut ja vihtaFreeezing  Some gents we found on the Rinki!

Greetings from Sweden

Ruotsi - 5.6.2018 16:06

We had a really nice couple of days in Stockholm together with my cousin’s family. It was great to see their baby, Aurora, the first baby I’ve seen from my cousins’ children. She is so cute and full of life!

We walked around Stockholm and my cousin was our tour guide showing us the sights. Funny thing but I think our favorite visit was to Spotify where the husband of my cousin works. That was out of this world! I would never leave work, if I was single and working at Spotify! We were very impressed.

We also visited the Greenpeace office where my cousin works, and that was cool as well! Seems like the working hours are very flexible here in Sweden, and people don’t seem too stressed about work. It is here where they tried 6 hour working days and I think the results were good. Another thing we noticed was that all the public toilets we visited were “all gender” toilets. I heard that the military service is now mandatory for all genders as well. So, life seems very equal here.

Djurgården was nice and quiet, and had interesting boats we could visit. Södermalm was a very nice area too, and much less touristy than downtown or old town Stockholm. Also we found a really great restaurant called Hermans, that served a delicious veggie buffet!

Now we are off to flight no. 2 out of 18!

       

Greetings from Finland

Ruotsi, Suomi - 4.6.2018 09:30

Hello world!

We have been witnessing the Finnish summer that is incredible when it lasts for more than a Tuesday afternoon! We’ve had such good fresh food, hot sauna, refreshing swimming in the lake, and the world’s best strawberries. I might be biased, but still.

Last evening we took the boat to Sweden. Beautiful sailing through the archipelagos. Today we will meet my cousin in Stockholm!

      

The day when everything’s still ahead

Sveitsi - 1.6.2018 16:13

It is with great excitement we are starting our journey! We have been waiting for this day to arrive, and it’s finally here, the three months vacation is now! Feels very good, no stress no worries, just us :)

Switzerland is sending us off with great weather. We went to the lake this morning to enjoy this paradise for the last time for a while. It truly is beautiful! The lake, the mountains.. and the friends we have are very dear, we’ll miss all of that at some points I’m sure. But we’ll have new experiences and learnings as we go, and “add value” again in the next place wherever it is.

We are on our way to the Geneva airport, then off to Helsinki. It’s been unusually HOT in the northern part of Europe for quite a few weeks already. Mmm, maybe the strawberries are ripe already then! Looking forward to the loooong northern evenings!

We’ve been spending a lot of time at the self storage lately. Our stuff will be safe here for a while.