Szeged

The third largest city in Hungary, Szeged lies in the Hungarian steppe close to the Serbian and Romanian borders, at the confluence of the Tisza and Maros rivers. Marci and I travelled there on my fourth day in the country, we made a short break in the city before moving east. Szeged is often called the “city of sunshine”, and it was sunny indeed when we were there.

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First steps in Budapest

In May, I went to Hungary to visit my friend Marci. He and his girlfriend Linda had visited me in Copenhagen last year, and had since then asked me times and again when I would go to Budapest. Since I had no idea about my future, I dared not plan something that could conflict with a potential job, so I kept delaying… until I landed this job at RELEX, one that leaves me a lot of freedom, as I’ve mentioned in the past (we’re hiring, by the way 😉 ). It was about time to go, so I planned this trip for the upcoming spring. 10 days, that was probably too much to spend in Budapest only, but luckily Marci had many surprises and half-surprises in store for me.

But let’s start with the capital.

I don’t have so much to say, so I will try a new format for this article. I will follow the photo-log layout used by kirilson in his own posts, basing my tale on the pictures instead of having them complementing the words. I hope you’ll like it; please do not hesitate to share your thoughts on the idea.
EDIT: now that I written it all, I realize I actually had a lot to say. Sorry, not sorry 😀

Of course I saw the Parliament, maybe the most iconic building in the city. It’s seen here from the other side of the Danube, but we’ll have more occasions to get acquainted 😉

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Vardø

We arrived in Vardø in the middle of the afternoon, and soon found our accommodation before heading out again for sunset. At that moment, we were at the very end of Norway, still far North but also further East than Saint-Petersburg or Istanbul (it’s easy at this latitude ;)). The small town lies on a island linked to the continent by a tunnel; Marci was really impressed to see such infrastructure in a remote location like this one.

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Vadsø

In the evening of our fourth day in Varanger, we slept in Vadsø, the administrative center of the county of Finnmark, home to some five thousand souls. In the morning, before driving to Ekkerøy, we visited the little town. Marci looked for a souvenir shop, but there didn’t seem to be anything of interest in the citycenter. What I noticed, in Vadsø but also in other towns, was a lamp store. I guess that, in places where the sun disappears for several weeks every year, inhabitants are particularly mindful about lighting in their houses, and so this kind of business thrives. I also liked the colourful houses.

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Kusama at HAM

HAM, like Helsinki Art Museum. Sorry, we’re not going to talk about food 😉

kusama

…or maybe we are?

Tennispalatsi hosted a retrospective exhibition on Yayoi Kusama, “one of the most famous artists in the world”, though I had never heard about her. We visited the museum on New Year’s Eve (after Finlandia-talo), as it was free during the evening. Before going upstairs. to the bigger hall, we got introdued to Kusama’s life by a slideshow presenting the most important events of her life.

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Details of Finlandia-talo

Finlandia-talo (Finlandia Hall) is a prominent landmark in Helsinki city, Alvar Aalto’s last masterpiece, and the center of an ambitious urban plan never implemented.

2017 will see Finland celebrate its 100th birthday, and to start the year, many events were organized in Helsinki on New Year’s Eve. Among those, one looked particularly appealing: a free visit to Finlandia-talo, a congress and event venue designed by the maestro himself: Alvar Aalto, maybe the most famous Finn in history. I didn’t know that visits were organized regularly, so it seemed like a unique opportunity, and I was really happy when the woman at the desk added a line for me, even though the visitor list was supposed to be already full. I’m not going to give you a historical overview of the building; instead, I’ll show some visual details and tell some anecdotes that our friendly guide showed us.

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Colors of winter

When people think about the Finnish winter, their first thought usually is: “snow”. And then, when they get to know the country a little bit more, especially the south of it, they think: “grey”. Yes, snow but not enough to cover everything, and then it melts quickly, creating this depressing pools of slush stirred by the passage of cars and buses. Not to mention the clouds.

I totally understand this feeling: I love snow, I love to see it fall and hide the roads, and attenuate all the sounds. I love the sight of a city wrapped in a blanket of peace, and I always get distressed when temperatures rise again. When snow stops falling, I hate to see those endless, boring grey skies, and I start dreaming about sunny days. Or more snow. Usually I dream about a return of the snow.

When I went to Kontiolahti to view the Biathlon World Championship, I saw a wonderful sunset over the frozen lake, and it was a revelation: there is beauty out there, waiting for me!

kontiolahti-3

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Tallinn, pearl of the Baltic

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This was one of the few sunny week-ends of these past weeks. On Saturday, a freezing walk in the forest didn’t yield the expected results in terms of photography, as there were very few birds around (some Blackbirds (Turdus merula) and a Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)), and I was too cold to stop and take my time. I walked, blinded by the rays of sun reflecting on the frozen ground. Behind the trees, I spotted a herd of Roe deers (Capreolus capreolus).

On Sunday morning, I was in the bus when I saw the horizon turn a deep orange, beyond the city. I met Patrick in the tram to the harbour, a curious coincidence that made us laugh since I had told him on the phone that we would meet “inside”… the ferry terminal, of course. So we met a bit earlier than expected, on our way to the harbour. I got a really smart smartphone this autumn only, and it was my first opportunity to use a digital ticket. So I scanned my phone, and it worked. Aah, technology…

helsinki
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