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Sweden ahead!

Posted 29 September 2007 - Vaasa (FI):

It`s Saturday and I am having some difficulties keeping up with all the Finnish parties. Tonight was fun though: I cooked for 5 people (that`s including myself) and we were singing many songs after we finished the meal. Apart from that, no exciting news except my planned arrival in Sweden tomorrow. Yeej! A new flag in the corner of Us Europeans!!

Below photo is by now a souvenir from the Lappland hike:

(© Luosto - FI, September 2007)
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Survived Lappland

Posted 27 September 2007 - Torvinen (FI):

Hi again. Sorry for being slow the last few days. I was walking around in the forest. I did have internet access (!) but no electricity so hence the delay in postings. As you may have read, I was getting bored in Rovaniemi and the idea of fellow couch surfers Philipe (see today`s interview and Etienne (FR) to go hiking somewhere north-east of Rovaniemi sounded like the perfect idea.

Philippe took Etienne, Jussi (my host in Rovaniemi) and myself to Torvinen in his small van. We visited a supermarket on the way, then disappeared in the forest where we spent one night sleeping in a cabin and eating around a fire. Jussi then left back to Rovaniemi and Philipe had work to do. Etienne and I kept walking for another two days, spending one more night in the forest.

It`s amazing how they have small houses in the forest where everybody can use the facilities free of charge. There is no supervision whatsoever, but everbody who visits cleans up after him/herself, chops some new wood - like we also did :) - and write his name in the visitor`s book. It is not possible to make reservations for the cabins. All happens on a go-and-see basis. Which can be quite a risk in some periods because the next cabin is usually at least an hours walk away.

From the second cabin, we walked all the way back to Philippe`s place, about 20-25 km, crossing two hills that were made up of rocks. We joked about Moonraker and I shot some photos. Photography at this latitude is quite difficult. There is not much light!! And this is only the start of winter. Next time I will bring a tripod.

(© Luosto - FI, September 2007)
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Still alive

Posted 26 September 2007 - Lappland (FI):

Difficult to write cause am in the middle of the forest. No worries am alive and new postings are on the way.

(© Lappland - FI, September 2007)
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Fire fire

Posted 25 September 2007 - Rovaniemi (FI):

As is always the case, there is sunshine after the rain. I was not very happy these last few days, having this cold that did neither change into illness nor go away, being a bit bored about the pattern of going to someone`s place after the other, being behind on the stories, not knowing which subjects to cover for the next days, how to make it to Sweden without exceding the budget and more of the same stuff. Basically: just starting to get a bit bored.

But as I said, things got a lot better since, with a surprise excursion to the Lapland forest. I will not bother you with the exact how and where, but I am now feeling a lot better, out in the open air, big woodfire, improvised but nevertheless tasty food and good company from Finland, Canada and France. I do believe again that not all of the 10 coming months will be more of the same. It`s just stupid stuff, but if you have a lot of time to think about things, that sometimes has its disadvantages too.

Well, whatever, things are good now, I hope the cold will go away and all the rest should be fine too. Greetings from Lappland!

(© Rovaniemi - FI, September 2007 )
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La forme? Pas trop

Posted 24 September 2007 - Rovaniemi (FI):

I didn`t sleep a lot these last few nights, and that`s probably why I was feeling a bit shitty today. I tried to be smart when I left Helsinki, buying a three day travelling pas for 126 euros. I uses two of the days and am now stuck with another 42 euros worth of travelling, but only about 20 more needed to make it to Sweden. After spending 10 days in each of the Baltic States, it now seems long before I get to Sweden, because I basically completed the Finland itinerary. There are some things that I still want to write about but it is not very likely I will get very useful answers if I move further north. There are another 500 kilometers of Finland north of Rovaniemi and most of that is forest and rocks - and no more railways. So I can`t really decide what to do when I leave Rovaniemi on Wednedsday. Hitchhike to somewhere beautiful up north, risking to come back with no interviews? Travel back south via another route than the one I used to get here so I can save expenses in Sweden? I don`t really know.

I spent most of today on the train, and fell asleep quite frequently. The scenery is beautiful: still trees in all colours you can imagine. But ALL you can see from the train is trees so after a while it turns into this colourful fog that makes you sleepy. I was thinking of not wanting to do any interviews anymore because whatever I write remains so general and I really doubt it is useful to anybody. Fortunately, I grabbed my spirit together and asked a girl on the train about Kalevala, a Finnish book that tells stories about the Finnish culture and way of living. I thought I was going to use it for today`s article, but then my host in Rovaniemi started telling me about the Sami (indigenous people from Lappland) and then I changed my mind. I will use the collected information about the Kalevala for tomorrow.

So, I arrived in Rovaniemi, which is supposed to be the home town of Santa Claus, but I haven`t seen him hanging around in the area yet. Arriving in Rovaniemi als implies that I crossed the arctic circle - woohoo - I am further north than a good share of Greenland! Temperatures are on the decline (now around 10 degrees) and the weather has been grey all day long. I`m hoping tomorrow will be better.

(© Oulu - FI, September 2007 )
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Colourful Finland

Posted 23 September 2007 - Kajaani (FI):

I stayed with Jani and Trisha last night and they took me for some sight-seeing during the day. All trees have changed colours and no two trees seem to have the same colour. Green, yellow and red in all different shades. We walked near some lakes, were joined by Mari (photo at Us Europeans today), had pizza and then visited two other friends of them for coffee. A very nice way to spend a Sunday and a good alternative to tennis.

Tonight, I am staying in Kajaani but sleeping at Mari`s place instead. She lives closer to the railway station than Jani and Trisha do, which is handy because I want to catch the train at 6h22 in the morning.

(© Kajaani - FI, September 2007)
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Sleepy train travels

Posted 22 September 2007 - Kajaani (FI):

I spent a lot of time sleeping today, mostly on the train from Kuopio to Kajaani. There is only forest on the way from one place to the other, with a small lake every now and then. The colours are fabulous but that did not keep me from falling asleep. Four nights out in a row is a bit too much for me under these circumstances - and it would have been under pretty much any other circumstance. I was invited to stay in Kajaani with Trisha (who I met at Thursday`s party) and Jani, her husband. They live just outside the city in a nice red wooden house which I will photograph tomorrow if I think of it.

We had a nice oven-baked dinner with smoked salmon and it all tasted very local and Finnish and everything! It is surprising how friendly and hospitable everybody is with little me. I hope everybody will come back so I can return the favour and if my dad is reading this: yes I know that you risk being served a glass of water and having to sit on a swinging chair with no table or having to bring your own beer (Jean ;). It all goes as it goes. I will try to improve when I come back.

Enough about that. I have also sorted out the next place. It will be Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle. From there, I will try to make some excursions to the real Lapland before coming back south to Sweden and eventually even much more south. Hard to imagine that I will be in Portugal in one month from now!

(© Kajaani - FI, September 2007)
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Sleeping and financial details

Posted 20 September 2007 - Kuopio (FI):

I got to the next stop on my list which is Kuopio. After a night out with the three English girls who where also staying at Johanna`s place, it was not very easy to get up. When I got to the train, I fell asleep, changed trains in a city starting with P, fell asleep again until I reach Kuopio. It was like supersonic flight and felt like I arrived in Kuopio even before I left Jyväskylä.

I walked to the university area to meet Panu, who will be hosting me in here. I am happy that it`s so easy here to stay at people`s places. It`s nicer, easier to get to know more about the country and also a lot cheaper. That factor in Finland is quite important, because when I looked at the hostel prices on my first day, I was scared to have to spend all two weeks in Helsinki to `save` enough money to get to Vaassa. The plan for now is to get around the entire Gulf of Bothnia and the odds look good for a timely arrival in Sweden by 1 October.

Below photo is one of the coolest I have taken since starting this trip. I am very happy with it. Nothing is happening and it is still a nice image. That`s how I like it best.

(© Kuopio - FI, September 2007)
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Not much news

Posted 19 September 2007 - Jyväskylä (FI):

Another day in Jyväskylä, but it`s the last one. I`m heading north-east, as planned, towards Kuopio tomorrow to find out what`s happening over there.

(© Jyväskylä - FI, September 2007)
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Reporting from Jyväskylä

Posted 17 September 2007 - Jyväskylä

I moved away from Helsinki this afternoon northbound. Now the proud owner of a three-day travel pass for the entire Finnish rail network, no comments on the cost of such a ticket, I am confident that I will make it to Lapland and around the Gulf of Bothnia to Sweden. I am now in the city of Jyväskylä (English pronounciation something like IEUW-VessKuuleah), surfing couches again. And cooking again - like I did for Teemu and Katja yesterday - I now cooked something different for my hostess Johanna, who will most probably be in tomorrow`s article on Us Europeans about how Finnish people deal with winter.

On my way to the station this morning, I got a bit upset thinking about some things in the EU that are completely ridicule and how much difference in thinking exists between the original founding members and the recently added countries. That`s all for now, I will keep the details for the 1st of October, which I will use as the next reflection day on Us Europeans.

(© Helsinki - FI, September 2007)
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Rain and sun in Finland

Posted 16 September 2007 - Helsinki (FI):

After my arrival in Helsinki yesterday, I seriously hated Finland for at least two hours. Fortunately, things got much better since then, up to the point that today was the best interview day since the start of the project. The rain faded out, the sun appeared and I was lucky finding a place to sleep. I did not have any place until half past 8, but I knew a Couch Surfing meeting was planned at 8 in some local bar. So just went there to check it out, hoping that somebody would be ready to help me out. Which was the case! I still slept sort of outside, but it was a covered balcony and I slept very well.

I am hosted by Teemu (Finnish) and Katja (Russian) who live together in a neighbourhood not too far from the city centre. We had some interesting conversations about languages, cultures, Baltic States, Russian politics and many more subjects. I cooked dinner in the evening after I walked around Helsinki for the entire afternoon. I interviewed many friendly people, who moreover spoke English as if it were there first language. The Finnish I met so far are much more interested in the Us Europeans project which is a great mental support to me.

I have now been away for a month and a half and already completed four country. Time is going incredibly quick. I don`t keep track of the days of the week or the exact datum, but the weeks fly by. I am not thinking about home a lot, this trip somehow seems like a parallel life. I am keeping track of things, especially the news - but Holland is not top of mind. Some people ask me whether it`s not tiring to keep moving on every second day or so. Not really. I got used to it and packing my bag now feels like taking the train to work. The difference being, that I spent most of my days outside and that I talk to many different people about lots of interesting things.

I am will still be in Helsinki tomorrow morning, then do a day trip to Tampere on the way to Jyväskylä. I will attempt to travel around the Bothnic Gulf to get to Sweden by Sept 15. If I don`t make it, I will cross to Sweden by ferry Vaassa-Umeå.

That`s all for now. Photos are all from Helsinki today:

(© Helsinki - FI, September 2007)
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From In to Under the newspaper

Posted 15 September 2007 - Helsinki (FI):

Hello from Helsinki! No disasters on the ferry, certainly not like the one with the Estonia, now 13 years ago. I was discussing that accident with some people and it seems like the tragedy has never been properly investigated. There havee been no solid conclusions leaving room for many rumours and conspiracy theories, see here.

Anyway, I did make it safely to Finland. It was raining, grey and cold in the morning but has been sunny and almost warm throughout the afternoon. Everything in the shops by the way is )*#&(*& expensive!!! And busy! The hostel in Tallinn was almost empty last Thursday and since high season is over, I thought Helsinki would be doable without a reservation but it`s not. I have not found a place to stay yet. There is a Couch Surfing meeting in town later on, so I hope somebody will lend me his /her couch,,

(© Helsinki - FI, September 2007)
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PhotoLog Updatum and Travel Plans

Posted 11 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

You may have noticed that the achive functions of the PhotoLog menu have been expanded! You can now search for images by datum, by location and by type. I noticed that the Denmark link is still missing on the map, will fix that asap. For other countries I haven't seen much of since 1997 or at all (Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia, Finland, Slovakia), I have dug my analogue negative files to come up with some photos to justify their dedicated pages. That's also how I got to the Finland photos below, dating back from a business trip in 2003. Finland is a funny country. Women have rope-like hairs, men look like bears and speak with soft, crackled and low-tuned voices. Humour is dry just like the elk and raindeer meat. Large parts of the population speak Swedish as a second or third language, while road signs in Helsinki are even bilingual. Good for us Dutchies because it's impossible to make sense of the iiiiuuuuu-Finnisch language.

Let me also post a list of the upcoming trips for 2007:

- End of January: Good-old Paris;
- Beginning of February: possibly US;
- End of February: Madrid and probably Barcelona and Bilbao as well;
- June: Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Scotland.

(© Lahti - FI, October 2003)
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