After long months of autumn, winter came to Helsinki, and with it, holiday season. I had not been on a real adventure since September and our road-trip in Lapland, but I had planned something spicy for the end of December. The origin of it all was Sólstafir’s concert in Copenhagen: I wanted to see this old favourite band of mine again, and when I learnt they were playing in the capital of Denmark, they had not announced any gig in Finland yet. I thought it was a good opportunity to visit Denmark again, and see some friends there.
I flew there on Friday evening, and the morning after, I was in the train to Falster and Lolland, two islands in the south of Copenhagen. In Nykøbing F, I met Gert and Hans. I knew them from my year in Denmark, when I had spent two weekends in the area already. We drove to Lolland, stopping in several good birding areas and chatting about birds. I was astonished by the quantity of ducks feeding on the sea or resting on the lakes, including the remarkable Smew (Mergellus albellus) and Red-crested pochard (Netta rufina). I don’t see many raptors in Helsinki, so I was happy to spot a few Common kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) and Common buzzards (Buteo buteo).
This autumn had been hard. The year before, it had snowed a lot in Helsinki in November, but none of this this year: rain was all we got, and not a small measure of it. Particularly irritating were the sunny days during the week, when all weekends were cloudy and rainy. That allowed me to edit a lot of pictures, but the spirits were definitely not high in this period. Viaporin kekri was an interesting event, but it was as gloomy as the whole period. The festival’s motto, “end of light, beginning of darkness”, seemed particularly accurate.
But then, a few weeks later, surprisingly, the weather forecast promised “some light” during daytime, on a weekend. I readied my gear and set sail to Suomenlinna (my favourite place in Helsinki).
You know I love Suomenlinna. It’s even my favourite place in Helsinki, ahead of Seurasaari.
There’s magic on these four islands that form a UNESCO World Heritage site. I love Finland for its serenity and simplicity, and Suomenlinna truly exemplifies these traits, provided you go there at the right time. Avoid the sunny weekend days, embrace the weekday evenings, and you shall be rewarded. Its status attracts visitors, but they are spread on a large surface, so it’s not hard to find yourself alone, facing the waves or the city.
On the first Friday of the month, there is free entrance to Kiasma, Helsinki’s museum of Contemporary Art. Since the exhibitions change constantly, I like to take advantage of this opportunity to “culture” myself. I visited with my dad in February, but the first time I was there was in September last year, and I showed it to you here -> click!
The first exhibition was ARS17, showing works heavily influenced by digital media. The best one was maybe ASLAP (AS Long As Possible), by Juha van Ingen. A 1000-year long animation showing but a number for 10 minutes, then the next one for the next 10 minutes, etc. After 1000 years, the animation starts again. Yes.
Today, Finland celebrates its hundredth birthday. I hadn’t planned anything special for it, but I thought I could show you why I love my adopted country so much =)
On July 1 and 2, I went to Rauma, a lovely town on the Western coast of Finland. My friend Bjørn was visiting from Denmark for a few days, but I wanted to do something else with him than visiting Helsinki (I’ve done that a few times already).
So I took him on an adventure. We went there by bus (Onnibus ❤ via Turku, but without transfer) for a few pennies, a tent and a pair of sleeping bags in our luggage. We were lucky, for that weekend was very warm. We arrived on Saturday in the middle of the day, the sun was shining when we “checked-in” at the camping. Unfortunately, it was not a very tent-friendly camping: there was plenty of room available for camper vans and caravans, but tent campers were only given a gentle slope with trees, rocks and roots aplenty… We found a spot that was kinda flat, raised our shelter and set sail to Rauma itself.
We walked, we didn’t steal the truck
Well, yes. What did you expect?
Eurasian siskin (Spinus spinus)
OK, let’s start from the beginning. More than anything else, especially more than a birder, I’m a photographer. As a photographer, I want to make pictures that I like, pictures that are pleasing to the eye, pictures that I find beautiful. My goal is not to make pictures that show exactly what was visible when I took them.
Our journey started in Rovaniemi. We went grocery shopping, then we headed north.
Our first house was to be an AirBnB in Sassali, near Sodankylä. We had a few hours to reach it and still arrive before dusk, so we took our time, and stopped in the Arctic Circle Hiking Area, walking a few kilometers in the forest while miraculously avoiding the rain (well, too much of it at least…).
… beginning of darkness.
As night fell over Finland, I went to Suomenlinna. Again.
Viaporin Kekri, the night of the spirits, was organized there. The revival of an old festival of harvest, this celebration brought forth culture and history, opening hidden places to the public for all kinds of performances that exposed echoes of ancient times.
Sometimes, I come up with crazy plans, like spending the weekend 300km away, sleeping in the car during the day, and driving around during the night.
Yep, I did that in the very beginning of June, when I wanted to see Siikalahti, the so-called “best bird lake of Finland”. The name seemed oddly familiar, and I wondered whether I had visited the place during my first trip to Finland, in 2003. I had to make sure. So I drove east and north, past Kotka, Lappeenranta and Imatra, and arrived late in the night in Parikkala, under a deluge. I say “night” because of this very downpour; otherwise, nights are very bright in Finland in this period, and brighter as you go further north.
Given the weather, I had no other option than just sleep… which wasn’t as easy as it sounds like! Mind you, a Skoda Fabia is a small car, and it’s surprisingly not meant to be used as a bedroom. I struggled to find a comfortable position in the passenger seat (I didn’t find any), until exhaustion pushed me to oblivion.