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Archive for December, 2010

New Years Eve

31.12.10 – Helsinki’s New Years Eve celebrations were held at the Senate Square, or Senaatintori in Finnish. It’s common to see events happening at the square because the open area of the square is perfect for large gatherings. A stage was setup using the Helsinki Cathedral as a backdrop. The cathedral was bathed in blue light and the surrounding buildings, the  main building of the University of Helsinki and the Palace of the Council of State, were lit up with glowing white light. The crowd was lively and sang along with the singers as well as dance along with the dancers. At midnight, the bells of the cathedral were rung and fireworks burst from behind the stage. Fireworks continued on throughout the city for the next hour but I turned in, ready for a new year ;)

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30.12.10 – I’m surprised I don’t have more posts on Finnish snow removal. You can’t walk out the door before noticing dump trucks hauling snow, compact tractors scraping away at the sidewalks and streets or something as simple as a guy with a shovel trying to clear a path. You learn quickly in this city to notice when a sidewalk is marked off with yellow tape because it means there are crews on the roof of the building, rigged like mountain climbers, shoveling snow from the steeply pitched roofs.

The snow builds up so quickly on the sidewalks I’ve learned to walk differently, shorter steps, slower speed ;) It’s not like walking on ice, although there are times you will be walking on ice, and it’s not quite like walking on snow… it’s almost like walking on some type of styrofoam.

Occasionally you’ll find a spot where they’ve managed to chip away to the hard Finnish granite which is often used to pave the sidewalks. Sometimes it makes me wonder, “why? It’s just going to get covered up again.” I guess what other options do you have? I guess you need to keep chipping away.

2010 is quickly drawing to a close and I find myself thinking about everything which has transpired over the year. At this time last year I had no idea I would be settling down in Helsinki and here I am. In some ways everything is totally different, yet at other times I see it’s the same. I’m still dealing with issues of work, friends and family. Some issues are satisfying, some are challenging, some are issues I would rather not deal with but… I still need to keep chipping away.

I bet the person who cleared the path in the pictures above must have felt good once he was done. I’m sure I will too ;)

I have one more post before the New Year but to all the other people out there “chipping away” at life, here’s to you and yours. I hope you have the luxury to look back on your past, like I have, so your path to the future is clearer.

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29.12.10 – I think I need to start carrying my DSLR camera because it’s difficult to really capture a peaceful day when it’s snowing gently. I was walking along the waterline and tried to capture how everything seems to slowly fade from sight off on the horizon. I am not sure if these pictures work but I hope you get the idea ;)

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28.12.10 – Almost everyone who has visited Helsinki is familiar with Uspenski Cathedral and the Helsinki Cathedral which are both distinctive landmarks and situated in the city center. Temppiliaukion kirkko, or Rock church, is also well-known for its distinctive architecture. One of my favorite churches is Johanneksenkirkko, a Lutheran church, built in the late 1800s, which is located just a couple of blocks from where I live. I had never heard about the church before I moved to Helsinki, it’s not exactly a major tourist attraction, but luckily I stumbled upon the neighborhood early on and it still remains one of my favorite places to be in the city.

St. John’s Church was built between 1888 and 1893 by a Swedish architect in the Gothic Revival style. It’s the largest stone church in Helsinki with twin spires rising 243 feet (74 meters) into the Finnish blue sky. I often use the spires for guidance when I’m lost in and around my neighborhood. If I see two spires it’s St. John’s and if I see one spire it’s Mikael Agricolan Kirkko.

I often go out of my way just to pass by the church and its surrounding park. On the day I shot these pictures, I had just finished a late lunch with some friends and I was walking home. It gets dark early these days, usually around 4PM, and the church was almost radiating reddish light as the daylight faded rapidly. There’s a field to one side of the church which is usually busy with a couple of football/soccer games in the warmer months but now has an ice rink. On the backside of the church there is a small steep hill where little kids were careening down on sleds, slamming into snow banks at the bottom, the whole time hooting and hollering. It’s nice to experience the peaceful solitude of a religious landmark and the youthful joy for life peacefully coexisting. This is something Finland does very well.

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Sledding the Day Away

27.12.10 – Snow days are good for sledding. I try to hit the ice rink when it’s not snowing. It’s been snowing, albeit lightly, for the last couple of days and I finally picked up a “standard issue” cheapo plastic sled, so Max and I hit the hill. Emma tagged along too but she’s in a teen stage where she doesn’t like trying anything new, especially if it might make her look stupid ;)

Maybe you’re interested in where? My favorite spot is the hill behind the Sinebrychoffin Taidemuseo, on the Southwestern side of Bulevardi (Bulevardi 40), just before the harbor. See you there.

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26.12.10Scandinavians love their candy. Denmark and Sweden are usually battling for first place in most non-chocolate candy consumption surveys with an average of around 25 lbs. annually per person! Sweden even has something called Lördagsgodis, Saturday sweets, which is something similar to Saturday morning cartoons for kids in America. Finland is right up there with its Scandinavian neighbors. Even though prices are high and options maybe limited at the grocery store, you can always find a wide variety  of inexpensive candy in Finland.

The kids and I were looking for something to do after some sledding so we headed to our favorite video store, Makuuni, to pickup a couple of movies for the evening. Something I’ve always found interesting about Finland are the video rental stores. Bulk candy usually takes up as much space as the video display shelves. After choosing a movie, you can grab a plastic bag and a spoon and start digging into the candy. Chocolates, caramels, gummies, gums, lollipops, licorices… the list goes on. Most of them are types I’ve never seen before so I usually try to get a couple of my favorites and then try something new. It’s so bad but it’s so good!

What’s your favorite theatre or video store candy? Leave a comment and I’ll see if they have it at my local store ;)

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25.12.10 – Well at least not naughty enough to tip the scales ;) Emma and Max did pretty well this year. Max scored several Lego sets, some cool books about science and facts in both English and Finnish and even a knife! Emma received a bunch of Finnish videos (Jaana got a HDTV and a Blu-Ray player), some books and gift certificates from H&M and Gina Tricot, her favorite stores. And now… some rest!

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