Those crazy Finns.

No, seriously. The Finnish people are insane. In the best way, of course.

The best experience I had while in Finland was, without a doubt, the Kaljakellunta, or, Beer Float.

What it is, you ask? Well, it’s basically a bunch of people who do not like to stay at home with nothing to do and decided to get something that floats, a few beers and…go down a river. The Vantaa river, more specifically.
A lot of people get together to have fun on top of floating things while they go down a river, drinking beer. There’s really no other way to describe it. It’s simply as awesome as it sounds.

Me and my cousin were really excited about it and as soon as we heard of the event, we started thinking what would make us float down the Vantaa River. We ended up buying an air mattress.  Like this one:

 

We got there and there were already hundreds of people with all sorts of floating things. People actually put a lot of effort into these things! They definitely planned ahead. Some people built a boat-like thing, with woods, car tires, etc. It was amazing. Some people bought those kid’s inflatable pirate ships and they even had pirate hats (awesome!).

The main thing though, was the BEER. You’re supposed to be drinking BEER at all times. Haha.
Me and Lucas bought a snack, some beers, brought a camera (which was ruined because of the water).

We started inflating our mattress and it was all very fun. People helped each other, and when ready, took their ”ships” to the water. The feeling when you are about to jump on top of the mattress that is already on the water, is very funny. It’s scary, and funny, I mean.

So there we went….people were watching, filming, laughing…and it was fun. Simple fun, you know?
Who would’ve thought that going down a river would be that much fun? But it really was.
And not just because we were, well, drunk and floating, but because everyone there was nice and talked to each other, we were part of a big thing, of a tradition of people who did not like to be average, boring….People who actually did something different. We were a part of something.

Sometimes we would have to stop to well….in simple words….pee. And then we had to ask people for help to ”stop” our mattress and go to a little bush. It was hilarious. There was music, food, talking, laughs. It was sunny, too, which helped.

 

The Kaljakellunta (Beer float)  is organized through websites like Facebook and such, to gather people. There are no official organizers. It is a annual event, that started in 1997.

So, enough talking, here are the photos, and a video of my experience on the Vantaa river :)
And, if you’re ever in Finland, in the Helsinki area, around August, GET INFORMED about dates and try to go to this. It is amazing and so worth it!

 

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Finnish partying !

I didn’t go to a lot of clubs but I did go to a really nice one in Helsinki. The name is Kaivohuone. I couldn’t find many websites from the club because most of them are in Finnish, but their Facebook page is pretty good.

Kaivohuone is a really cool club and a great choice for the summer. It is packed with beautiful young people, good music, and the building is big. I went there with my cousin two times in a week haha and it was really fun.
They drink a lot of cider in Finland, and not the American kind, that are usually non alcoholic or pretty damn weak.
Their cider tastes delicious. You can apple or pear (maybe some other flavors, but those are the ones I had) cider and it’s good because it isn’t super strong so you can drink it and get a buzz after a few.
They drink a lot, I think hahaha. Vodka, also. Great Vodka. Duuh!
I also went to one of my cousin’s friend’s house and we played some card games, had some beer, etc. Young people in Finland are fun but they might be a little more reserved, very different from us, Brazilians. And i think that that was a great thing.

This is the club, Kaivohuone:

 

Best part was: we walked there. Haha, you cannot walk to a club in the middle of the night in brazil. Not if you don’t own a gun or a bodyguard. lol

 

 

NEXT POST, LAST POST about Finland!

 

 

 

Let’s talk about Finland some more.

I’m going to start this post by talking about a comment I received on my last one :)

I briefly talked about the Finnish Sauna, and Sartenada (blog) told me that he had made a post about it, and it is very complete, with photos and everything. So, check it out: http://sartenada.wordpress.com/category/sauna/
It’s hard to explain WHY the Finnish Sauna is so amazing, but maybe by looking at these pics, you’ll be able to get an idea. Also, Sartenada is a blog worth checking out, I was just taking a look myself and wow, incredible photography.

Well, now more about my trip :)

First day, as you all know, I went to the beach. It still sounds very odd to be to say that, and yes, it might be silly and i might sound like an ignorant who only knows the cliché things about places, but I really did not know how things worked in Finland when it wasn’t snowing and dark…That was just the idea I had…I could’ve never imagined going to the beach there.
But it was a wonderful experience, after all. Then, later, me and my cousin went to the Mall and a few other places in the downtown are of Helsinki. For those of you who do not know what or where Helsinki is, it’s the capital city of Finland.
Here are a few things I have been reading about it:

Helsinki is among the world’s northernmost capitals and the lengthy winter, from October all the way up to April, is dark and freezing. Winter temperatures average -5°C, but the wind chill makes it feel even colder and the mercury can plunge below -20°C on a particularly cold day. Snow falls only intermittently and often melts into gray slush.

The summer is often pleasant. Temperatures sometimes climb above 25°C. Parks burst into green and sunbathers dot the city’s beaches.

So yeah, there you go…. But it is such a beautiful city, very organized, nice places to go, cool things to do, there are parks, shops, museums etc.

Helsinki Cathedral!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But where I stayed at was not Helsinki. My cousin was living at this little apartment in a city called…are you ready? KauniainenIt’s a cute little town in the Metropolitan area of Helsinki. Me and Lucas took the bus to Helsinki a lot, and the train to other places. The train leaves every 15 minutes…and it’s like I said about Paris, it’s better if you don’t try to be a smart-ass and ride without paying because someone might come check if you bought the ticket. I need to be honest, as Brazilians, me and my cousin skipped this rules a few times and just hoped for the best. hahaha

The apartment lived at was a place his host family had because where they lived was a bit out of hand from where they worked, so it was too big of a commute. It was a small but very pleasant place to live, close to a nice market, pizza place, a park, the train station was a few blocks away…

Kauniainen apartment.

 

 

One day after I got in Finland, my cousin informed me that we were going to his host family’s lake house. Apparently it’s very common to have a Lake House.

Getting there, after 5+ hours, was a good surprise. It was very peaceful and extremely beautiful. There was the main cabin, where the kitchen was, the porch, the living room and a small bedroom were…Another cabin with two separate rooms. The outhouse. Yes. Outhouse. And the Sauna.
It was at their lake house where I discovered one of the most amazing snacks I have ever had in my life.
It’s this rice pastry thing filled with mashed potatoes, or a rice-pudding-like sort of thing and you’d eat it with butter or butter and tomatoes on top…Just divine! I found a few recipes but I doubt I can find all the right ingredients and prepare it correctly in order to be just as perfect as the real Finnish ones. Here is the recipe of Karelian.

 

THIS IS AMAZING, PLEASE TRY IT.

Another thing about Finnish food is, obviously, SALMON. And if you don’t like fish…well, too bad for you :( but salmon in Finland is even better than the salmon dishes i have tried before.
Lucas’ host dad made this spaghetti with a creamy salmon sauce that was….can I use the word divine just one more time???? Because it was!
A lot of their dishes use salmon. I tried googling ”why is finnish salmon better” but found nothing. I think it might where they fish it from, but I will not say anything dumb, so let’s just stop here with this last comment: EXQUISITE!

There was just ONE thing I did not enjoy eating in Finland and oddly enough, EVERYONE there seemed to love.
Salmiakki. It’s SALTY LIQUORICE. Horrible, huh? But since they all love it so much, I’m going to talk about it…
Liquorice is very common in the US and that’s where I tried it for the first time. I didn’t love it, either. But when my cousin’s host sister offered me this black candy, liquorice did not come to my mind. I just thought ”oh, candy, sure”. Then when I bit the candy, well…it was salty!!!! So weird! But they have a bunch of variations of the Salmiakki thing. I think I remember seeing Salmiakki ice cream at Mc Donalds. Or it was somewhere else, you know…I didn’t buy it so, whatever. But it IS worth trying, since it’s such a normal thing around there. Even if people tell you it’s bad, try it. Just do it!!!!!!

WELL, BACK TO THE LAKE CABIN…
Besides trying the delicious finnish dishes, that was where I had my first Sauna experience. The Fins take pride in their sauna. A lot like Argentinians and Brazilians, the people from Finland constantly make comments that imply they are a bit better than the Swedish people. So when we talk about Sauna, they make sure you understand it is a FINNISH thing.
But, anyways. When you first enter the sauna, the sensation you get is hard to describe. It’s way hotter than anything i had ever witnessed. As soon as you sit down, you start sweating. Not in a yucky, disgusting way, but in a purifying way. You feel like you’re cleansing. It’s great for your skin, your hair…I think it’s even great for your soul, and I am not even joking!!!!! haha

When I thought it was already pretty hot, the girls kept pouring more water into the steam thing…. And it got hotter and hotter and they didn’t seem to mind or be satisfied.
Then you start getting used to it…and it feels really good.
After the sauna, you jump in the lake!!! The cold lake. And remember, I was there during summer time…they do that in the WINTER, with snow and frozen lakes.
After taking the courage to jump …I finally got in and I think for that moment, I went to a place like Heaven or something like that. It’s so worth it.

For you, girls, a great tip my friends gave me was to leave some conditioner in your head while you’re in the sauna. It makes it soft and shiny! Very good.

So we spent 3 to 4 days at the cabin and it was very good to relax. During the day we’d eat and sunbathe, read some books and play crosswords, talk, take naps….swim…And during the night we basically just talked and ate and it was great.

Relaxing time!

The Lake

 

 

some pics for you to see how great of a time we had at the lake :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the weather was amazing, too.
Close to the cabin (well, an hour away) there was this castle. First real castle I’ve been too, and it was very pretty.
The name is Olavinlinna.

Currently, the castle hosts several small exhibitions, including the Castle Museum which displays artifacts found in the castle or related to it, and the Orthodox Museum which displays icons and other religious artifacts both from Finland and Russia. The castle forms a spectacular stage for the Savonlinna Opera Festival, held annually in the summer since 1912. 

 

Me and Lucas in front of the Olavinlinna castle.

 

 

Me loving the castle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to finish this tomorrow, because I want to chat with my cousin to see if he remembers a few other things that I don’t and to add more cool info about Finland.

 

Good night ! :)

Let’s talk about Finland.

The time has come. It’s time to talk about that Scandinavian country I barely knew before my cousin was an exchange student there.
Yes, Finland. Where the days last forever in the summer and the Sun barely comes out in the winter.
A few things I did know about the country before going there was simply that it was absurdly cold and I think I had heard some people say it was Santa Claus’s land. That’s about it, I’m very ashamed to admit. OH, AND VODKA, yeah, the Vodka, how could I forget about that?? ANYWAYS….

But then in the middle of 2009, my cousin Lucas went to Finland, through Rotary. I was living in Cali at the time, but we’d eventually Skype and he’d tell me this crazy things about the Finnish people, the language, their traditions, how cold it was… He was always going to the Sauna, and parties IN a sauna and people were naked and I was just ”wow, that’s pretty wild and weird….sounds awesome, cous.”
It did sound awesome.

What sounded NOT so awesome, and more…well, hard as f*** was FINNISH. I was so impressed by my cousin’s determination to learn the language. Sometimes when we were on Skype, I’d hear him talk to his host family or a friend and I was just amazed. The Finnish language is not like any other language. I mean, that’s what Lucas had told me. He had learned basic French, our family is German and he went to a Swiss school, so he knew German, he knows English, and the basic Spanish….and he said Finnish had nothing to do with ANY of those. Nor Russian, Swedish, etc etc etc.
But the cool thing is: Almost ALL Fins I met, or even just saw on the street, stores, restaurants etc, SPEAK ENGLISH. And not just average, basic, ”kinda good” English. Very well spoken English. And that includes kids, teens, adults, elderly…. It really is a first world country. I’m saying this as a girl who was born and raised in a developing country. Most people in Brazil don’t speak English, even though its taught in schools. This is changing, yes, but we’re far from being like Finland.

So when I went there I wasn’t all that worried about the language. But I had no idea I wouldn’t have ANY problems with it at all. Everyone understood me perfectly, and it was all 100% fine. Pheww :)

I decided to go to Finland because of all the stories Lucas was constantly telling me.
What amazed me the most, though, was definitely some pictures I saw of him and his friends on someone’s rooftop, watching the Sun. At 11. PM. YES. 11 PM. And it was a beautiful, bright shiny Sun. I wanted that. i wanted to have a long-ass day with Sun almost 24 hours in.
And when I turned 20, my grandma gave me some money…first thing I thought was ”I’m gonna go travel”. Then I talked to my cousin and the idea came up. That was it, I was going to Finland (and Paris…).

 

This is what I packed for my Finnish trip:

  • Jackets
  • Sweaters
  • Sweatpants
  • Uggs

Then I got to the Helsinki airport, went outside and SURPRISE, the sun was shining, the weather was deliciously WARM, and my cousin was there, waiting for me…with shorts and sunglasses. His plans were: ”Hey Luah, let’s go to the beach.”

”THE BEACH?? OH DAMN…” Worse part (not that the beach is bad, at all…)? My luggage had not arrived from Paris, where my lay over was. So I was wearing Victoria’s Secrets sweatpants, warm uggs, a sweater…and had no change of clothes.
We had to go to a cheap store to buy shorts and flip flops and a t-shirt. Except, we found shorts and a t-shirt (a Jimi Hendrix one, may I just add…) but NO flip flops my size. So yes, there I was, in a first world fancy country, at the richest city, with the most beautiful people….wearing cheap clothes and no shoes, like a bum. Hahaha.

And you know what? I didn’t care. I was tired, yes, but I knew my cousin wouldn’t wanna waste all day, especially when it was hot and beautiful like that, for me to rest…We went to the beach, no ”buts”…

A Finnish BEACH! :)

 

Me, my uggs, my Jimi Hendrix shirt...and no shoes. Perfect.

 

YES, this is going to HAVE to be a part 1, part 2, maybe even part 3 kinda post because Finland and I had some great moments together.

For now, I’m going to let you with this two pics and the beginning of my story :)

 

Talk to you later, my fellow travelers! :)