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Happy Midsummer!

June 18, 2015

This is just a message to all you folks out there – Midsummer is upon us again! I’d like to extend my best wishes for a safe, warm and dry Juhannus. Don’t drink and drive (or boat) and arrive alive!

See you on the flip side!

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The recent tourist

June 18, 2015

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A couple weeks ago my mom and my aunt came to Finland to visit. Being my aunt’s first-ever trip to Finland, she had two requests: to see Santa Claus and see some fells. I had to come up with something and I did! :) (At least I was told I delivered.)

Since the Little Miss was still in school the first week they were here, we decided to stick around home and I thought it was good to let them recover from jetlag too! My mom has been to Haltia before, but not my aunt. I haven’t been there since last year, but it was really great to see the new National Parks interactive touch-screen displays complete with information about the parks and fantastic pictures to go with them. There was also a great exhibit on outdoor recreation too. This time around I bought myself an annual membership, which means the next time I got there I can just walk in with my card. Haltia was a candidate for European Museum of the Year and while they didn’t win, they did receive an award for sustainability.

We visited Porvoo, which is one of the best places in Finland to visit in the summer time. I love all the shops in the tiny old town section, especially the antique shops! We had great weather that day and we just missed the rain as it rolled in in the afternoon.

We also made a visit to (the soon to be national park – apparently) Porkkalanniemi in Kirkkonummi. This place is a perpetual favourite of ours, so it was nice to get back there again. We roasted sausages and did a little hike around the area – and I learned something new – there are snakes there. So be on the lookout!

A visit to Helsinki is not complete without a visit to Suomenlinna. We spent the entire afternoon there and enjoyed the sunny weather. Other than doing a short trip on a street car, visiting Kauppatori near the harbour and ducking inside the Lutheran Cathedral, we didn’t see much of Helsinki.

I saved the best part of their trip for the second week. We managed to stay with relatives on the way up and on the way back down, so that made things a little easier and less expensive!

It’s been a long time since I have visited Rovaniemi and it was great to be back. So, in order to fulfill my aunt’s wish of seeing Santa Claus I booked our stay at Santa Claus Holiday Village, a conglomerate of brand new cabins right at the Arctic Circle. While the paved yards were not really my cup of tea, the cabin we had was fantastic and since we visited there in the “off-season” it was much cheaper. The other great things about this place was that they accepted pets. (Since getting a dog just over a month ago, this now plays into almost every travelling decision we make.)

Unfortunately the weather was not on our side when we were up north. It rained, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to go and visit Santa Claus, which we did. You’re not allowed to take pictures when visiting him, instead you can buy pictures that are taken by a professional. We got to visit Santa for a few minutes and it was even streamed live on the internet! We got the whole photo-video package, since it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. :)

It would have been nice to spend more time in Rovaniemi because Arktikum, the museum, is a favourite of mine. Well, I guess it means we have to go back sooner, rather than later!

From Rovaniemi we headed to Pyhä-Luosto National Park. My aunt’s next request was to see some fells, and that was the closest one on our driving route. Again the weather stymied our efforts at getting outdoors, so we enjoyed our cabin and spent time poring over the map of Finland to see where we had been and where we were headed. The next day cleared up nicely, so we did head up to Pyhätunturi to take a look around.

After that we had a long drive ahead of us and made our way down highway E5 south. We made a couple of stops – at Ruka for a quick lunch, but we were driven back into the car by the rain. We were roaring down the highway when we blew by the totally cool (my friend says scary) Silent People exhibit in the middle of nowhere just north of Suomussalmi. Their clothes had just been changed on the day we arrived. We turned around and went back!

From there we headed to Vehmersalmi via Kajaani and Iisalmi. This the first time I had ever driven the E5 and I do want to go back. Suomussalmi looked like a really nice place! Our trip north was a whirlwind, but it was worth it. There is so much to see and do in Finland… Uh yes, and there were reindeer on the roads!

My mom and my aunt made it back to Canada safely and they had a good time. It’s hard to believe they were here just two weeks ago – time flies!

Things I didn’t know last week

June 10, 2015

Here we go again! I gleaned a few of these facts from the most recent version of the S-group customer magazine Yhteishyvä.

Tourism stats for Helsinki indicate that in spite of the economic downturn, the number overnight stays in Helsinki are still good. Helsinki is a safe and familiar place to visit for many. Visit Helsinki presents the number of overnight stays by foreign visitors in 2014:

  • Russia – 242,532
  • Germany – 147,572
  • United Kingdom – 129,949
  • Sweden – 123,488
  • United States – 120,695
  • Japan – 107,472
  • China – 57,991

Domestic tourism in Finland has grown, Finns are remaining in-country more often than before, with popular destinations such as Uusimaa (the capital area and beyond) North Pohjanmaa (Oulu) and Pirkanmaa (near Tampere) topping the list. The growth of stays in paid accommodation in Finland grew by 18 percent over the previous year according to Statistics Finland.

So, when was the last time you spent time being a tourist in your own country? (Look for more on that in my next entry, because I did jump into the tourist role recently!)

Finns are real bread lovers and it shows. The S-group published a breakdown of sales figures for 2014 as follows.

Fresh baked gluten-free products – 1%

  • Sweets and treats – 1%
  • Home-baked goods – 1%
  • Freezer and bulk goods – 3%
  • Coffee breads – 10%
  • On-site bakery goods – 9%
  • Dark breads – 37%
  • White breads – 38%

Customer criteria for purchasing bread include: price, healthiness, “naturalness” and locality. The S-group stores have more than 500 bakeries around the country.

Here’s a heads up for consumers out there: The warning symbols for chemical products in Finland will change soon. Colour themes will change as will the symbols and they may not resemble previous versions. In Finland chemical products containing acids can still be sold using the old symbol until 2017. The changes are being made under recommendation from the United Nations harmonizing symbols on a more global level.

Find out more about these changes at the European Chemicals Agency.

Picture of the day

June 7, 2015

I have spent much of the last two weeks out and about all over Finland because my mom and my aunt were visiting. I’ll write more about it later, but here’s a teaser: a view from Pyhätunturi in Lapland, a place I can now cross off on my “places to visit” list.

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Last week…

June 1, 2015

A slight delay on this post! Last week I had a pretty busy weekend and spent more time in Helsinki and out and about on a weekend than I have in ages. It was fun and the one great thing was noticing things and seeing things I hadn’t before.

The highlight of the weekend was seeing the Von Hertzen Brothers in Vantaa and enjoying the great weather on Saturday and most of Sunday. This year’s installment of Naistenkymppi was well-attended with over 16,000 participants as was the World Village Festival in Kaisaniemi (what a zoo!). :)

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To allow or not to allow…

May 20, 2015
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Disclaimer: Anyone who is surfing in for the first time and leaves comments on my posts or responds to comments made by others will be subject to moderation.

Yesterday I discovered five comments waiting in the queue for moderation. They were in response to comments other folks had made here earlier on the posts regarding Finland’s recent parliamentary elections (here and here). While the comments were not directed at me personally or what I had written, they were aimed at other readers who had commented on my posts.

The comments are angry, hateful and racist; and could be considered offensive to many, the tamest of them being: “You can shove your cultural sensitivity up your ass.

In the spirit of allowing for “debate,” I asked my friends whether I should allow them or not, everyone said no.

For the record, I have only ever prevented two comments from seeing the light of day in the ten years I have been writing this blog. One person left a comment that I considered inappropriate and racist and another identified precisely where I live.

To the person using the handle “Juuso” who commented yesterday, thank you for taking the time to surf in here and read. In the interest of preserving my personal safety and that of my family, I have decided to allow these comments to stay in the queue unpublished rather than deleting them.

Life in Finland is meant to be a journey of discovery, fun and reflection for myself and everyone who reads this blog, and I would like to keep it like that.

-Carmen P.

Things I didn’t know last week

May 13, 2015

So what did I learn last week?

I have to thank the Little Miss for the first part of this entry. She asked me how do blind people read. I told her what I know of Braille and then realized that we have stuff at home that have Braille printed on it: medicines and prescription drugs. I somehow knew this already, but it escaped me. We also have medicines that we acquired in Canada – and they do not have Braille printed on the boxes. According to an administrative regulation under the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea (3/2013) “The name of a medicinal product (if necessary the strength) shall be indicated on the outer packaging in Braille of an approved standard. This requirement does not concern human medicinal products intended solely for hospital use or for dispensing by health care personnel or veterinary medicinal products.” Thanks to Karin K. Senior Researcher at Fimea for answering my question.

On the left, a box with Braille, on the right, none

On the left, a box with Braille, on the right, none

And the more I thought about it I realized that there are lots of accessibility aids for visually-impaired people when they are out in public. Elevator buttons, the stop buttons in buses, different kinds of stones at bus stops and train stations, raised knobs on floors, sound cues (beeping) at traffic lights and so on.

The World Hockey Championships are on in the Czech Republic at the moment, so that means our household is glued to the TV every day, no matter who is playing. Three things I didn’t know about players from the Finnish team, until I looked: This is the first team in a long time that has no players born in the 1970s (i.e. no Selänne, no Koivu, etc.). Aleksander Barkov was born in Tampere, plays in the NHL and is only 19 years old! Number one goaltender Pekka Rinne is not a small guy, he’s a giant – 196cm (6’5″) tall! They finished second in the pool with a mind-boggling shootout win over Russia yesterday – what a game!

There has been plenty of angry reaction to the clear-cutting of an old growth forest around the popular tourist attractions at Hvitträsk in Kirkkonummi. Last week YLE ran a video of the site after all of the trees had been cut. It’s sad, because this place will never look the same again. I fear its value as an attraction has declined markedly.

This seems to be happening a lot in the capital area lately and clear cutting in this manner clearly makes people angry. Just yesterday the City of Helsinki agreed to develop the island of Vartiosaari into a residential district. Thousands of people are opposed to the idea that a forested oasis in the city that boasts plenty of wildlife and offers a chance to rejuvenate with nature therapy, will become a concrete jungle. A friend assures me it is not too late, something can still be done… I can only hope.

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