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!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Advertisements

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.

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! :)

 

Paris, non, je ne regrette rien.

What best way to start a post about Paris than with a song by lovely Piaf?

My stay in Paris was extremely short, but memorable.
I went to Finland in July, to visit my cousin, and I had bought tickets to Paris before hand. I only stayed there for 5 days, and before getting there, I was upset it wasn’t a lot of time and maybe I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the trip.
Oh, man, was I wrong. Paris is worth visiting, even if you have just a couple of days.
Everything they say about it is true. It’s a damn romantic city, it has amazing food, beautiful places, great music.
I will have to disagree with ONE thing though. And I will explain why.
People kept telling me that French people were rude. I’m not sure if I didn’t took that advice into consideration because people tend to say that about my city (Curitiba) or because I just don’t like pre-judgements. I like checking it out myself.
So I did.
I went to Paris with the most gigantic smile on my face. I was happy to be there, I was enjoying being with myself. In the airport, I bought some food because I hadn’t had any breakfast and I was taking a bit too long to choose what I wanted to eat. This FRENCH lady in line, smiled at me, with absolutely no hurry or any signs of impatience, and told me that the fruit juice was really tasty and the pan au chocolat was delightful. She realized I wasn’t from there and chose to help.
There. My first ever impression about French people. Not bad, huh?
Actually, I’m not being fair. I take french classes and my teacher is from France and he is the nicest person, really sweet and patient. Not at all rude. And then, the lady at the airport.  I thanked her, took my food,sat down, called my mom on Skype and said: Mom, I’m in Paris.

This was the first time I tried Couch Surfing. When I was in Finland I sent messages to a bunch of people and asked if I could crash on their couch for a few days. I got a few replies, but there was this one guy with a lot of references. So I messaged him back, we talked a lot, for a few days, to get to know each other a bit better before I went to his house.
Sam was his name. Sam gave me directions from the airport to Gare du Nord, to his house. I thought I was going to get lost, actually, I had no doubt about it. But I followed his instructions, asked people if I was going the right way, and I got to Gare du Nord pretty easily. Then, from there, I had to carry my…quite big….suitcase to Sam’s house.
Then I got off the train and realized that there was no elevator or escalator.  ”Ok, ready to carry this huge thing up the stairs?” I thought. That’s when two guys gently offered themselves to help me carry it upstairs. I was so relieved!
On the way to my host’s house, I took time to look around. The area I would stay at, was mostly a immigrants area. A lot of indians, middle-eastern people whistling and asking if they could carry my luggage for me. It was funny.
Following the directions from my iPod, I got to his house, but could not type in the numbers to open the gate. I think Sam saw me from upstairs and ran to help me.
His apartment…also no elevators. But he carried my bag. :)

His apartment was a very pleasant little place, with two rooms and a nice living room, with a tiny balcony. So french.
I noticed that no matter what time you went to the balcony, you could always see people in the other buildings smoking on their balconies.
The weather was really warm when I was there, which I love, by the way.
After leaving my suitcase in the room I was staying at, Sam asked if I wanted to go sit by the Siene river and drink some beers. ”If I want to??? I’ve been dreaming about it.”
There we went, got some beers, sat down and talked for an hour about our travels, favorite places, stories, etc. Then we decided to go ride the Paris bikes.
They have a pretty good bike sharing system.

Paris

A resurgence in bike sharing programs is attributed by many to the launching in 2007 of Paris’s Vélib’, a network of 20,000 specially designed bicycles distributed among 1450 stations throughout Paris. Vélib’, inspired by Lyon’s seminal Vélo’v project, is now considered the second largest bike sharing system of its kind in the world. 

That was absolutely the best idea ever. We rode our bikes all over Paris. For hours. Such a great feeling.
We stopped at a bistro to have some…burgers! Yes. And then Sam ate them with a fork and a knife and I found that hysterical for some reason. Then we continued our ride. It was summer, so through out the city, there were these water spraying ballon things to refresh everyone.

Refreshingg

Fork and knife + burger = Sam

In the days that followed, Sam took me to a few other nice places around town. We talked a lot. I was too shy to practice my french with him, but when I was alone and had to order something, I did pretty well.
My cousin, Ana, who is basically my sister, was living in Europe at that time and she was going to be in Paris when I was there. So we decided to meet. It was so great that we were there, together. We are very close, always have been. I live a couple blocks away from her house, in Curitiba. We were always together when kids, we even looked a lot like each other. But meeting in Paris was so special.
We stopped by little shops, had amazing ice cream, walked around, went into gorgeous churches, talked, talked, talked. She then met my couch surfer for a few minutes, only, though. Then she took her train back to Germany, where she was living.

Me and my cousin, Ana,@some train station.

The next day, Sam introduced me to his friend Tytti (I know….) from Finland! So we had something to talk about since I had just spent 10 days in Finland.
The three of us went out for some drinks, little shops etc. And on the next day, Tytti brought a friend who worked with her at Disney Paris, so we all went out for a walk in the city, had some drinks… and that’s when we went to La Famille  (one of my first posts). We had a great time, laughed a lot, tried all sorts of drinks…
Sam decided he wanted to make a Moroccan dinner for me and Tytti. He is from Morocco but has been living in France for years, with his brother. He no longer follow traditions like the Ramadan (Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, involves abstaining from food, drink, sexual relations, smoking and other vices between sunrise and sunset.). His mom, who was still back in Morocco, thought he did, so she sent him a few Ramadan sweets, that he could eat after sunset. We ate them fro breakfast, and they are DELICIOUS.
Anyways, about the dinner. We invited Tytti to go to ”our” place the next day. Sam and I went to buy the ingredients and wine. There is ALWAYS wine, all the time, everywhere, for everything, in France. No need to say that I loved it.

Tytti came over and we set the table in the living room, by the balcony, because, like me, Tytti also had a passion about the french balconies and she had noticed the smokers, too. We decided we could stay in the balcony looking at Paris, for hours.
Sam made this Moroccan chicken, and it was divine. I wish I had learned how to make it, but it took quite a while ot cook it, then all the spices etc….besides, I do like cooking, but he was the chef that night, so me my new finnish friend stayed out of the kitchen. Drinking wine and talking.

Our french/moroccan dinner :)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will finish this post TOMORROW :)