Happy birthday Finland!

Today, on Independence Day (Itsenäisyyspäivä), Finland celebrates its 99th birthday!

Sweden started to colonize Finland in the 12th and 13th centuries, and until the beginning of the 19th century, Swedish was the official language of the country. From this era, Finland kept Swedish as its second official language, and 5% of the population still speaks Swedish natively. Under the Swedish rule, Finns suffered from the many wars Sweden and Russia waged on their territory, and a “spirit of Finnishness” started to grow. “We are not Swedes, we do not want to become Russians, let us therefore be Finns”, Adolf Ivar Arwidsson (1791–1858) said.

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

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Winter fantasy

This article is a collection of pictures from the last snowy days before the “heat wave”… since then, it’s rained a lot, but the memory of this lovely time is still alive and well.

My commute between home and the office goes through Keskuspuisto, the central park of Helsinki, and often in those days I did it walking, enjoying the scenery. That was a powerful relaxing tool, especially after a tense day at work.

keskuspuisto

One day I got lost, but ssshhh, don’t tell my colleagues… Continue reading

Snowstorm over Helsinki

The only memory I kept from my first November in Finland, two years ago, was one of a grey sky, all day, all week. In fact, it was the gloomiest November in years, with only a few hours of sunshine… and whenever you ask a Finn which month is the worst, they reply “November”: it’s getting dark, it’s getting cold, but there isn’t snow yet, nor has the Christmas spirit kicked off. Therefore, I dreaded these first weeks in Finland. It felt like arriving in the middle of October was the worst possible option.

Oh how wrong I was!

helsinki

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Before the storm

It was still autumn. Sure, there were fewer golden leaves on the trees, and it was getting colder, but nothing announced the forthcoming storm. I was out, looking for the elusive Siberian accentor (Prunella montanella), first in Vuosaari, then in Myyrmäki. I followed tenuous paths, wandered through secret places, and ultimately found the bird. Oh it was a short sighting, and most of the time I only saw its rufous back, when it fled my approach from one bush to the other. But still, from the distance I saw this wonderful yellow face, and that made my day.

Below are some pictures from these glorious days in Helsinki, in Keskuspuisto, Vuosaari and Honkasuo. I admired the squirrels, in their grey winter coat, cautiously coming near the feeders, or the thrushes, Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and Redwings (Turdus iliacus) alike, feasting on rowan berries, like the Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) before them.

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

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A Walk in the mountains – Dent de Crolles

Flashback. October 9, this is my last week-end in France before long. My dad and I have decided to climb the Dent de Crolles, an imposing mountain overlooking the Grésivaudan valley, not far from Grenoble. As a matter of fact, it’s right above the Plateau des Petites Roches, and its funicular

09.00, the car’s thermometer reads 3ºC. Quickly, we get out of the car. Click, the bag is closed, clac, the camera is set at my side, we are ready.

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And there was autumn

When I left France, we were barely leaving summer. Nights were getting fresh, but the only hints of orange in the forest came from dead trees, those which didn’t survive the latest heat wave.

I feared I would arrive in Helsinki after the end of the autumn colors, what they call here “ruska”. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, and the ruska was in full swing! So I took a walk on my first day, going from Munkkivuori to Ilmala, visiting a patch of kitchen gardens, a residential area, a park and a forest. Yes, I did not even leave Helsinki, yet I did all this in one afternoon.

helsinki-6

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Up Is Down

Hello, I’m writing this article in Munich Airport. I’m waiting for my plane to Helsinki, where I have found a software developer job. I’m looking forward to this third living experience in Finland, and I’m already dreaming of snow, owls and nordic lights. However, that’s not my main topic today, because I still have tales of heat and sun to share (by the way, the weather forecast in Helsinki, for the coming week, says cloudy, 3ºC… brrrr!).

Before we start, though, I suggest you put this song, taken from the Pirates of the Caribbean OST, on:

One afternoon, I went with my mom to Lumbin, in the Grésivaudan valley. Some shopping was on the table (gloves and waterproof clothes, you know), but we also decided to go to Saint-Hilaire du Touvet via the funicular. This cable car system was opened in 1924, mainly to serve the sanitariums built on the Plateau des Petites Roches to house tuberculosis patients. I don’t remember when I was there for the last time, but it was ages ago, it seemed.

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