I found myself packing again. Putting stuff together for a short trip to Finland. My dear friend Miia had organized a sauna evening for the bunch of girls we survived through the university studies with. That was enough for me to hunt down a plane and go. Waffle would be staying home. That felt odd. I was so excited to see the girls and everybody else and have a sauna and some Finnish nature but somewhat sad about Waffle leaving behind.
On a Thursday afternoon I turned the nose of my mighty Polo towards Leuven. The car would wait for me at the parking lot of Waffles office. On the go there, I had gotten a message saying that my flight is cancelled. As I tried to confirm the information, I noticed that the site of Finnair is down, too. Waffle came to rescue and after some calling and running around the airport I managed to get booked onto an earlier flight to Finland.
The flight reached Helsinki as the sun was setting. The train took me to Helsinki center in no time and soon I was finding my way to Espoo. It felt like home. I have never liked Helsinki as a city too much, but it was a home for me for so long. The familiarity of it is comforting and I like the calmness of the streets on a late evening.
Miia took me in with a warm squeeze, it had been too long since we last saw each other. She would be hosting me for a couple of nights. After some babbling and an evening snack I was tired enough to just fall over in the bed.
The next day I spent visiting some family members, my great aunt and her daughter. I enjoy those visits when ever I have time for them. Kaisa, the great aunt has that wisdom elderly people so often have. She still likes to share it, even though her thoughts might not run as fast as before. Her daughter is good company too, and we spent hours discussing the ways of the world.
It was time for a quick lunch in the central Helsinki with Miia and a short visit in the city museum. Helsinki city museum is located in the lovely surroundings of the Senaatin tori and free to visit. Now there is an exhibition of how life has been in Helsinki through the years and how the city has changed. There also is an exhibition of broken relationships, featuring items that tell stories of relationships coming to an end. Something worth visiting, I would say. Miia writes of it here in a much heartier manner.
We started to prepare for the evening of some sauna and food with the girls.We chose to have some smoked salmon and carrot cake, sided with a nice bottle of wine. This would be a payback for Copenhagen, my birthday surprise. We hadn’t told to the rest of the girls that I was in Finland too! That was difficult a secret to keep. I am usually the irritating person who shouts it all over Facebook if anything special is going on.
The moment Kati opened the door and found me, her face was worth the silence. Seemed that it was a pleasant surprise. It turned out to be such a lovely evening with good food, drinks and loads of inappropriate humor. Just like in the old days, not much had changed, maybe we are a little bit wiser now, calmer, maybe and in stable relationships. But we still have the same misbehaving children inside of us who we seldom can let out in decent company. Sauna heated, food gone and drinks flowing we laughed, talked and irritated the cats until late in the evening, when Kati and Nelli had to go to their own places.
For Saturday I got woken up by a cat, carefully walking over me and talking about things cat talk about. I didn’t have much plans, the weather was good, so with Miia we decided to go to the forest and see if it had some berries for us. Miia is living right next to one of the larger shopping centers in Espoo, but still you only need to walk about 20 minutes to get to a forest, where you hardly see people and traffic is only a distant noise. That is so nice about Finland. Nature is literally everywhere. The forest indeed had some wild bilberries for us and some chantarelles too! That brought me back to childhood. I used to be the mushroom picker of the family, spending whole summers in mushroom hunt. Berry picking is strangely meditative activity. You pick a berry, get to know him, eat him and pick another one. Feel them in your fingers and see the bottom of your bucket disappear under a blue pebbly surface.
In the evening it was time to continue towards Tampere. To meet the Armenians we have been hiking with a few times. They picked me up and off we went. Through the Finnish countryside with lush fields of oats and barley with the sun setting behind the forests. Felt homely.
I had some chantarelles with me and that we turned into an evening meal. Backed with onions and stacked onto a bread. A rye bread. We talked over our holidays past ones as well as future endeavors. They had been to Iceland while we were in Montenegro. I think we both were completely in love with those destinations. I hope we’ll be able to find a time for a hike together soon enough. Somewhere.
Ana and Yuri had planned a lovely Sunday. They took me to a strawberry farm, that had expanded into a farm of all sorts of berries and a petting zoo. That is something uniquely great about Finnish summer. The true real, flavorful strawberries that you won’t find anywhere else. Again I was taken back to the childhood summers while picking those goodies. The lake side view from the farm was also a big plus to the experience.
Since we were not even close to being tired after the berry picking session we needed some cycling. Around the Pyhäjärvi that was then. On the go we stopped a few times to pick berries and hunt down some more mushrooms. The area of Tampere and around Pyhäjärvi is just about as Finnish as a landscape can get. The lake is surrounded with forests and the lake is littered with islands. You could stop and stare that for hours, unless there is a berry and a mushroom yelling your name a short distance further.
There was yet another surprise waiting for me once we got back. My hosts had invited Zsuzsa, one of our common friends to join us, and skipped the telling to me part of it. What is wrong with people nowadays, not telling things like those to other people…
Well, it was a perfect evening, good hearty BBQ dinner with again some wine and beer and good music. Even Waffle got to take part to it, via Skype. He had been having his own party the previous night. At the end of it all there was sauna for us and a lake. A little bit chilly lake, considering it is July. The feeling of dipping your sauna warm body into the cool water is extremely refreshing. If you could swim in mint pastilles, I guess it would feel about the same.
Well, all these good things, they come to an end. Zsuzsa went home and the rest of us prepared for a short night. I needed to be at the train station at 4:30 am to catch a train to the airport. I slept a total of 1 hour and got up again.
I was once more leaving Finland behind me. I had planned on sleeping a bit on the train, but that plan was dumped quickly. Traveling through such a landscape does not allow you to sleep. The sun was still just a hint in the horizon and the fields of gold and blue wrapped in cold, white mist. An explosion of golden light finally pierced the horizon as the sun hopped higher.
Oh I was tired in the plane. I was shifting from being awake to sleep and back again. I was a little sad to leave Finland after such a short trip, but was happy to get back home to Waffle. I had my Finnish goodies with me; some candy, chocolate and books, so at least a small part of the norther home was coming with me.
There was a warm buzz inside me when Waffle hopped out of his car and picked me up at the airport. I was home, the other home, there where my heart is now. We’ll see you soon again, Finland.