Tag Archives: culture

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!

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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 =)

Finnish Food Mistakes

28 Sep

Two typical Finnish foods have been recommended to me this week and, sadly, they have not lived up to the yummy yummy pulla that I last sampled. 

Food numero yksi:

Salmiakki, aka salted licorice. Sounds odd, but worth a try. So I thought, anyway. The result: had to pick them out of my teeth in the middle of the street and throw them away. My tongue felt like a slug fizzing and shrivelling from salt. 

(By the way, on your first attempt don’t put two in your mouth in one go). 

Food numero kaksi:

Villi, aka goopy salty sour yoghurt something. I peeled back the lid to find a crust on top, not unlike that found on clotted cream. ‘Okay,’ I thought. ‘It smells bad, but if it resembles clotted cream in one way…’ 

Believe me, nothing else about it resembles clotted cream. It tastes a little like unwashed feet smell and it has a consistency of PVA glue, the kind you get given at school for art class.

I still cannot get the taste out of my mouth. Next time I will stick to foods in the bun-and-cake families. 

Ainola Park

16 Sep

As hoped, today was much more productive. This morning was beautiful, so after a trip to the gym (which was surprisingly busy for 8.30am on a Sunday!)  I went for a bike ride to Ainola Park.

A short bike ride in the direction of the city centre to begin with…


I hope I’m right in saying that the above view is of the Baltic Sea. It was beautiful either way.

EDIT: Thanks to   for pointing out my mistake, it’s the view of the Oulujoku river! Silly me =)

Just before you get to the path which leads to the park there is Linnansaari, or ‘Castle Island’. This is where the ‘ruins’ of Oulu Castle are. I say ‘ruins’ because this is what I found:

My ‘Oulu Guide’ tells me that the castle was commissioned by the found of Oulu, Charles XI of Sweden, in 1605. The castle was destroyed in 1793 when lightning struck on a wooden gunpowder magazine. Kaboom, no more castle. In 1875 an observatory was built in the ruins instead, to teach students of the Oulu Maritime Museum astronomy. What you see in the picture is a pretty little summer cafe which inhabits the spot. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it was pretty enough.

This is the kirjasto (library) and although it doesn’t look much from the outside it’s very modern and swish on the inside. They’ve got magazines in a variety of languages downstairs, as well as free internet, and an excellent section for kids (or novice Finnish readers like me!)

The Rough Guide says this of the park:

It is a ‘ pleasantly wooded space which makes a nice spot for a picnic or a late evening stroll’.

That’s it. That’s all it has to say. What a massive understatement; I think whoever wrote the guide either didn’t actually visit it or was feeling particularly lazy when he got the the ‘Ainola Park’ section. The park is incredibly beautiful, even though the summer has passed and autumn has turned the air chilly and the trees gold. A short walk from the city centre it stretches back a lot further than I was expecting.

Ride past the fountain (which I stupidly didn’t stop to photograph because I thought I’d come back the same way) and follow the path under the underpass. It gets a bit more woody, like this:

Keep going and you’ll get to this:


A stunning park, more like a stretch of woodland or a nature park than the kind of park you normally find in the city centre. The sun was shining as hard as it could, and the place was filled with families and bikes and little kids running around after these little guys:

Finnish ducks!

I love ducks. They are adorable. Watching ducks will cheer me up even on the worst of days, so I’m pleased that I’ve found somewhere with such an abundance of them.


There’s a cafe too, which as far as I could work out is open from 9am everyday, even Sundays! (many shops don’t open until midday on Sundays)

Just next to the cafe are these incredible water fountains!

And another pond with more ducks!

I was truly in heaven.

The park hasn’t really brought to my attention by anyone which is surprising for two reasons. First, it’s so beautiful and, if you’re like me and you like to relax in nature as often as possible, it’s convenient and does the trick. It’s magical and the morning light and golden leaves made it even more so. I can’t wait to see it in winter! Second, it was really popular! It was filled with people, probably the most people I’ve seen in one place (apart from the main shopping are of the city). It’s obviously a hot-spot for Sunday morning walkers, bikers and families.

It’s also home to the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum, Oulu Museum of Art and the Tietomma Science Centre.

If you follow the path right to the end you reach the dams, which you can walk along.

On the other side I found some mushrooms growing – and managed to tread in dog poo. The second time in two days! A great big wodge of it too that embedded itself into the tracks of my trainers and dampened my spirits a little. I really should learn to look out for it here.

The path keeps going until you get back to the path which leads to Linnanmaa, perfect for a circular jaunt. It only took an hour and a half approximately to get from my apartment, through the park and back home again. And it was well worth it.

The Sauna

12 Sep

I have found my new favourite thing. The sauna.

As a Brit, and a shy one at that, the thought of sitting in a very warm box with naked people is a very uncomfortable one. So uncomfortable to me that I never even considered being naked myself; it’s swimsuit sauna-ing all the way for me.

But it’s something that I can’t not do while I’m here, so when my house-mate invited me to join her I said ‘sure, count me in!’ and donned my costume and flip flops.

The sauna is so popular here that you can find one almost everywhere. Our university even has one on site – lunch time sauna perhaps? I’m lucky enough that mine is only five floors up, so I can wander up in flip flops and jogging bottoms.

I was expecting a very small, very crowded sauna, but instead we walked into a large, clean changing area with a beautiful view of the university and city. The sun was just setting and the multicoloured sky was unhampered by tall buildings. On the horizon I could see wind turbines turning slowly in the evening wind. And no one else was around.

My house mate, without a single hesitation, got undressed and sauntered into the sauna, getting comfortable on the bench. She didn’t seem bothered at all about her nakedness! I, on the other hand, was much more hesitant and kept my costume on at all times. It’s also very hard to hold conversation when you’re not quite sure where to look.

After I relaxed I found the experience very calming; it was peaceful and through the glass door I could look at the soft light coming in through the window. In between sessions you can shower and sit on one of the many benches, or just admire the view. And once you’re done, just take the elevator back to your floor. I feel both relaxed and invigorated, which I didn’t think possible. A perfect way to end my day…

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