Tag Archives: adventure

52: Phew!

22 Oct

Okay, okay, okay, I am a BAD blogger. It has been nearly two weeks since my last blog, BUT I have an excuse.

Largely my time has been taken up with classes, lunching, essays and studying at home! I have managed to have a little fun too though.

Here’s what I’ve been up to, in pictures =)

A trip to Oulanka National Park, two days of hiking, delicious Finnish food and fun with my classmates. It was a great experience and I got to spend a lot of time with people who I have classes with daily but never get the chance to chat to. It’s a very beautiful place that I would highly recommend to everyone!

Oulanka was followed by a trip to Pannukakkutalo for some yummy yummy pancakes =) I had reindeer and smoke cheese for dinner and banana and caramel for dessert. Delicious!

The weather turned from this….

…. to this, within the space of a weekend.

I also met my kummi mother for a trip to the local art gallery which was great (although I forgot my camera so I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures!) and the cake was amazing!

This weekend I went to a very international pop quiz at my friend’s apartment, where I spent some time with friends and made a couple of new ones. Yesterday I tried macaroni casserole at my Finnish friend’s house, it was great!

Now I have to face a ton of essays (I’m currently working on five, with another three or so to follow) but it’s autumn break this week so hopefully I will have more time to write.

Hei hei!


39: The Irish Festival and Rovaniemi

9 Oct

I have been awfully neglectful of my blog in the last week. I’ve been so busy here – trying to study, socialise, live, sleep, eat… one of them has to go, I’m sure of it. While I’m enjoying every second of my time here it’s hard to get time to stop, or even slow down. 

Last week saw the Irish Festival come to Oulu, the most northern celebration of Irishness that exists, so I’m told. And they seem very proud of this fact here in Oulu. I began by seeing the Swedish band ‘Turas’ play at Bar Hemingway in the city centre. The relatively small (but incredibly cosy) bar was packed come 9pm and the band was bang on time to start. They played lively Irish jigs and one of the group sang a Irish song alone – a brave feat in front of so many. The Guinness tasted great and flowed from the tap and during the second half a number of students demonstrated their skills for Irish dancing. We finished the night with an ever-so-slightly tipsy bike ride home in the drizzle that’s fixed itself over the city.

Friday night we caught the movie ‘One Hundred Mornings‘ at the Valve Cultural Centre, another hidden gem (for me, anyway). A very intimate cinema sits on the second floor, which was packed for the showing. A dark, edgy, though-provoking movie, ‘One Hundred Mornings’ didn’t disappoint. Almost at the other end of the spectrum was ‘Parked’, the movie that was showing Saturday night. It was sold out and I could understand why. It was a hilarious, inspiring and slightly melancholy story about a homeless man who was living in his car. The acting was top-notch, the actors brilliantly cast. 

Not content with my extra-curricular activities of the week I decided to join my groups of friends in a trip to Rovaniemi on Sunday. We left at 7.55am and reached the town around 10.30. The train was comfortable, roomy and on time – the opposite of British trains. I love the landscape of Finland. We stopped for a few minutes next to this place:

One of the girls we were with began squawking: ‘Why are you taking pictures? It’s so ugly!’

I couldn’t believe it! These settlements dotted the railway line, places of life and of work; real people live here and work to survive and that is what makes it beautiful. It’s not dressy or fancy, but it’s a brilliant example of survival, planning, sturdiness and determination. Everywhere at the moment we see these huge piles of logs where people are preparing for the winter and gathering the supplies to help them through it.

We arrived at Rovaniemi and visited the library which housed a small art exhibition of Sami art. it was very beautiful and thought provoking, but everyone was keen to get to ‘Santa’s Village’ – which has reminded me that I must go to the art gallery in town and soak up some culture next week. 

Santa’s Village was a little disappointing, I have to say. Maybe our expectations were too high. It was pretty, yes, and there were lots of shops with quaint little gifts and cheesy Christmas decorations, and beautiful hand-crafted bowls and the suchlike. There were many cafes and places to eat and the buildings were all made of rustic wood, but that was really all there was to it. We met Santa and he was a neat guy, he let my friend hug him and another was allowed to touch his beard, but that was the highlight and it was over in about ten minutes. 

We went back to the city centre and hiked up a nearby hill – the name of which I have forgotten but which I will look up. It was most hilly area I have seen in Oulu thus far, and it was beautiful. There was a brilliant lookout tower near the top (I think, we didn’t actually go any further) which gave us a great view over the city. After this we headed back to town and sat in (another) Bar Hemingway until it was time for our train. I managed to practice my Finnish that day and think I did pretty well, and we had a great laugh. We were all shattered by the time we got home and had to cycle home in the rain, but it was a great experience.

Here are some more pictures from the day:

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Hopefully this post has  not been too lazy! Admittedly it has been written in haste, and whilst I’m supposed to be working on a presentation and an exam for tomorrow. I will do better next time!

In the meantime, have a good week =)

Canned Dreams/Koiteli Rapids

30 Sep

Another week down! Another week of panicked study, quite dull classes and hiding from the rain. This week has been a bit grey all over, other than my trips to Finnkino and Koiteli Rapids.  Monday I also went shopping and found another great second hand store. This one was run by the Pentacostal Church and can be found on Uusikatu, numero 78. I bought a jumper and a scarf for 2 euros, bargain. I also sampled coffee from ‘Coffee House’ in town – yum! What a selection of buns and cakes! 

This year Oulu hosted the Nordisk Film Festival, a showcase of independent films from Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. The cinema, Finnkino, is right in the city centre and has a great-modern, cosy and snack filled interior.

We caught the end of ‘The Quiet One’, a movie about a girl who moves from Iran to Sweden and faces language problems, before we settled into ‘Canned Dreams’. It’s the story of all the workers who contribute to the ingredients that make up a can of ravioli. Sounds a bit odd, but it’s actually a really touching insight into the lives of workers all over Europe. Many have sad tales to tell, and life is grim and hard, but there were some uplifting ones too. One man worked the fields every day and told the story of his brother who had been killed in a car accident, by policemen who were drink driving. The man and his brother were very close, but rather than let it make him bitter he finished his story by telling us that his daughter was the meaning of his life, and he was trying to teach her to be wise and as happy as possible.

It was one of those movies that makes me realise that I’m very lucky, that I should work harder, and that I should smile even when times are hard.

After another crazy video-game ride-in-the-dark journey home I crashed out and overslept the next morning. Very luckily my class was cancelled anyway.

Wednesday we took a trip to Koiteli Rapids, something of a hidden gem to us foreigners; before going there I would not have associated rapids with Finland. Despite the cold (8 degrees on the way there, 6 on the way back) we had a great time. It was very beautiful and it would be a lovely place to go back to in the summer. There’s a stage for performances, a summer cafe and many little places where you can have a fire and roast makkara (sausages).

I recommend taking the long way round unless you have a good mountain bike, otherwise you’ll be stuck on 6km of dirt road with a bad bike and sore muscles. It was such hard going on a racing bike with no gears. We stopped to ask for directions from one of the few houses along the way and were lucky enough to meet with a very friendly older Finnish man (with a super fluffy, super friendly dog) who confirmed that we were going in the right direction. 

The summer cafe (closed, sadly).

Towards the end of the week I met with my tandem language partner – I think she was a bit disappointed with my level of Finnish! I felt awful because I hadn’t really prepared very well either, but hopefully she’ll be pleased with my Finnish phrases next week.

Today I will finally meet my kummi family – I don’t know where we’ll go or what we’ll do, but I’ll post an update when I get home =)

Hailuoto Island

9 Sep

This is what The Rough Guide to Finland says about the Hailuoto Island:

‘Oulu’s best beaches are to be found on pristine Hailuoto…a perfect way to get here is to hire a bike in Oulu from Pyörä-Suvala…and then cycle out to the ferry in Oulunsalo, a distance of around 27km. The ferry runs all day at roughly hourly intervals and take half an hour to make the crossing.’

Sounds relatively easy right? Sounds like a nice easy jaunt, as though it’s not too far. But in fact, if you Google map it, it’s actually quite a distance. And the ferry leaves from Riutunkari, a part of Oulunsalo and not the city centre, which is an extra 12km (ish) from the city centre.

I did not know this when I set out in the morning and actually thought it was relatively close to the Oulu city centre (mistake) and thus did not pack accordingly. It was worth the ten hour round trip, believe me, but I would advise taking the proper provisions. There are places to stop for food on the way, but not many, and after passing Oulunsalo city centre there’s very little until you reach the ferry. If you’re going in September or later you will need warm gloves and socks at the very least because mornings are cold and it doesn’t get much better by lunch.

That all said, cycling to Hailuoto was a great way to see the Finnish countryside and I made two new friends whilst doing it. We arranged the trip via the exchange group on Facebook and had a brilliant day, even though we had only just met.

I began at 9am from the Linnanmaa campus and met the other two girls at Tirolintie, another cluster of student apartments. We cycled along the edge of the city until we made the highway. The route to Oulunsalo is signposted well (as most routes are) and after about an hour we reached the city centre – although we didn’t realise it was such until we asked an old Finnish man for directions. Maybe it was so quiet because it was a Saturday morning, but it was a very humble city centre.

From there we made our way out onto the highway again. The cycling here in Finland is great because the network of bike lanes is so extensive. Instead of cycling on the highway you can cycle alongside it on very wide, very smooth paths. I expected a lot more potholes in a place with such harsh winters, but I was surprised to find that it was easy going the majority of the way.

We passed many open fields and felt surrounded by the wild. Often there were abandoned sheds in them and very little livestock. We passed through a  few small ‘villages’; groups of about ten or twenty houses, often very beautiful and elaborate and usually with a school set in the middle. All of them were quiet, and we passed very few people. Occasionally a moped or mini-motorcycle would come humming along the cyclepath (which seems to be the norm here), surprised and sometimes baffled to see us foreign cyclists. You must watch out for these because I don’t think that they expect company and occasionally we had to move quickly to get out of the way.

We passed only one other group of cyclists on the way, who looked like they were going a long distance, and they looked much better prepared! Panniers, waterproofs and everything. It made us look like rookies!

We finally ran out of a cycle path after this and passed a very small, very tired looking village. Despite this, they still had a football pitch and a slide in a makeshift playground. The road here was the worst, especially for my racing-style bike, as it suffered from a lot of pot-holes and rough stones. I had to concentrate hard not to get bumped off my bike by a stray stone or particularly deep hole.

After this we were forced to cycle on the open road. Normally I hate this, but it was fine; there weren’t enough cars for it to be a problem and they had plenty of space to go around us. The worst thing was that they were probably all laughing at us from their warm, fast vehicles. It was quite a monotonous ride for a while, with our view being only the single, straight road and trees on either side.

When we did reach the coast we realised that our effort had been worth it. It was stunning. The sky and the sea were so blue and you could hardly tell where one ended and the other began. It was so peaceful that none of the wind turbines were turning; everything was still and calm. A wave of excitement washed over our group, giving us all a burst of energy after the long ride.

Before you get on the ferry you can get snacks at a small hut and use the toilet (which is free and pretty clean, much better than the one on the other side). There are also maps, brochures and postcards for sale, and a giant map showing you the island. We had lunch on a bench whilst we waited for the ferry and enjoyed the sunshine. By this point I hadn’t been able to feel my toes for about an hour and tried to massage some life back into them and soak up the weak sun that was shining down on us. It was nearing 1.30pm so I bought some chocolate for energy to eat alongside my peanut butter sandwich, and was glad for the extra sugar.

The ferry itself was larger than I expected, although this would make sense as it seems to be quite a popular summer destination for the Finns. One of my riding companions also told me that many people from Oulu choose to buy retirement homes on the island, which doesn’t surprise me. It’s a truly beautiful place. In winter the ferry doesn’t operate; instead you can drive across the ice!


We were the only cyclists crossing, and once we reached the other side we realised why. Once again a long, wide road stretched out in front of us. Sadly, Hailuoto’s action all seems to take place on the other side of the island. That’s about 20km of riding before you find anything worthwhile. It was beautiful, but it was dull. Next time it would make much more sense to grab a bus or hitch a ride to the other side and back. At the time, however, we didn’t realise this. We cycled for nearly an hour and stop at the place labelled ‘potti’ on the map.  We had a short break as we admired our surroundings. Pictures can’t capture the atmosphere and the colours of the water and the sky. In the distance we could see livestock (possibly cows, but they were so far away) grazing and I thought to myself ‘such lucky animals!’ I also thought how good the meat would be from them, roaming around, completely carefree in their beautiful environment.


After this we headed back, content that we had at least seen something of the island. We all said how much we would like to go back in the summer and camp. It felt like we had only really scratched the surface of the experience of Hailuoto and I would have loved to see more. There is only a small paragraph on it in The Rough Guide to Finland and I think it deserves more, if the outdoors if your kind of thing.

It was a long journey home and we stopped many times to rest our legs. Although it was easy cycling it was getting to 5.30pm and it had been a long day. The sunny afternoon turned into a classic autumnal evening, with the sun shining gold on the fields. When we finally made it back to Oulu we were nearly exhausted, but the view over the river lifted our spirits enough to get us home (just).

All in all it took 10.5 hours and we cycled roughly 90km/55miles. Essentially, from Bournemouth to London. If I had known that when I started I wouldn’t have gone, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. Which is why I’m glad I didn’t know.

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