Teeny Weeny Winter

Rupelmonde, Spanish mill

The weather has been on the chilly side for a while already all over Belgium. Finally, this Saturday it snowed a little in Flanders! That is a rare event and is a cause for joy for many. I spotted the first kid running around with a sledge outside before 9 in the morning.

We were less amused, since it was that day that we had to take Waffle’s new buggy to be adjusted. That meant driving to Roosendaal in the Netherlands, on the snowy roads. You see, snow on the road in Belgium is not a very good thing. It causes panic and screaming and upside down cars, usually not a pretty sight. And sure enough, before we passed Antwerp we saw 3 accidents and judging by the radio, more was in the making.

With good luck we managed to get to Roosendaal in one piece and dropped of the buggy to be made narrower. That caused some discussion since the maker of Xxtreme buggies is a sworn competitor. He did not have much understanding for Waffle’s style of driving. The narrowing would change the weight balance of the thing, which would make it slower, etc. etc.

We were told to call him in two hours time to check if he was done with the thing. That gave us enough time to head for Rotterdam. The snow covered Netherlands is a beautiful sight with its muffled colors and bolders and trees appearing from the haze. Such a pity we left our camera home.

Netherlands, Winter, Snow
Here is a pic for you from couple of years back…

In Rotterdam some shopping happened. Yes. You read correctly, we went shopping. We found a street, right in the center of town, with coffee shops mixed with all sorts of small boutiques selling oddities, vintage and trinkets. Luckily we had no time to go circling too many other streets. We went home with a pair of very seventies dresses (I actually do wear normal people clothes outside of the trail), and a remarkably narrower buggy.

By Sunday all the snow was gone. It seemed to have evaporated and turned into mist. The white cloud wrapped around everything: The windmills seemed to appear from nowhere as we drove past them towards Dendermonde, where we wanted to have a walk.

There we did a loop between the rivers Scheldt and Dender. The side of the Scheldt seems to be the Dendermonde villa district.The walking path took us in between the grand houses and the river, hiding in the dense fog. I must admit, I like looking at peoples homes. Especially if they are houses I would not be able to ever own, and the ones some architect designed and by some miracle managed to sell to some poor fool.

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We were following the wonderful numbered crossing system, and our selected route took us quickly into more calm countryside. Everything was white, it felt like we were walking through a cloud, that only slowly revealed what was coming up ahead. A surprisingly lovely weather for a walk.

That was such a calm weekend. After that it is good to turn our gazes towards the trip Cyprus, which is here in a day or two. We are especially looking forward to the flocks of flamingos and the empty beaches. Maybe some mountains too!

Till then, behave all my dear people!

 

 

 

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A Christmas in Finland

Oh, if this wasn’t a trip I had been looking forward to a long time! A Christmas in Finland with all the traditions that make Christmas so special to me! And now hopefully for Waffle too; this would be his very first Finnish Christmas.

Latvia, Riga

Well, we did not make our way directly to Finland. We flew with AirBaltic, and they land in Riga, Latvia before continuing to Finland. For us this presented an opportunity to get a short sniff of a new country. We arrived at noon and our flight to Finland was scheduled for late evening. So to spend the time we rented a car and headed off to the Latvian coast.

Latvia is pretty. There are pine forests lining the coast and a few beaches here and there. Close to Jurmala we found a large swamp area, which we are sure is an important resting place for moving birds when that season comes. The countryside has also a heavy print of Soviet history in its buildings and farmlands.

 

We dared to enter also the city of Riga. Neither of us is a huge fan of visiting cities and especially Waffle was skeptical towards this small capital by the Baltic Sea.  Turns out Riga is actually a very pleasant place to visit. The Christmas market was as Christmassy as they come with hot pots full of sizzling foods and a tolerable crowd. The whole city was lit with beautiful lighting to celebrate this dark season, even a rainfall couldn’t bring the atmosphere down. We spent a few hours walking around the city until it was time to find a plane again.

Finland, Helsinki

Soon my blocked nose told me that we were landing, causing an excruciating headache. As soon as we got out of the airport we took the direction for Espoo and a birthday party of my dear friend Miia. We arrived at two in the night and the celebration was having a rather drunken tone to it. Nevertheless it was nice to see my Finnish friends again and squeeze all of them a little too tight.

The next day was, as usual, booked full. Visiting family members, eating and seeing some more friends. Waffle had met a nice piece of hangover and was less than happy to be dragged out of bed so early, but after a coffee or two he was waking up. In the evening some of the friends gathered around as we visited the Christmas market in Helsinki.

 

After indulging with  the sweet and savory scents and tastes of the market with my dear people, it was time to find us a car and head on. We wanted to get to the central Finland to my parents as fast as possible.

The Winter Wonderland

As we got higher up north the snow started falling and soon we were surrounded by snow covered forest, driving on an icy road. Waffle’s knuckles were getting whiter and whiter as he squeezed the steering wheel.  I was excited to be back home, couldn’t be there fast enough.

It was well past midnight when we finally arrived at my childhood home. Everything was under snow, and the darkness was pushed away by candles and lanterns all over the yard. Just like always. The sauna was still gently warm, and we got to crawl between the sheets squeaky clean after a good bathing.

 

A few days of profusion followed. We were hardly able to lift our backsides away from the table, when we were called to eat again. As it should be, if you spend Christmas in Finnish style. We managed to squeeze in a couple of walks here and there. Finland is so beautiful when it is all covered in snow, I see it now with a complete different set of eyes, as I do not live in the middle of it anymore.

Pre-Christmas Lapland

Before enjoying the actual feast of Christmas we went to Lapland, in order to hunt down some auroras and revisit Karhunkierros, the trail that led us to the point where we are now. Our hotel was between the cities of Kemijärvi and Sodankylä, way up north from the arctic circle. We took a route in the eastern Finland to get there. Those are small roads, covered in ice in winter, which added some excitement to the road tripping business. I am not used to driving on ice anymore, and Waffle haven’t been given the chance to learn it in the first place.

The traveling was slow, not only because of the icy conditions but also because after every corner the breathtaking and icy scenery forced us to stop and stare at the wonder. We stopped at Ruka, the ending village of Karhunkierros, to have some nostalgia and food. The ski season was in full swing and that sleepy little town was not so sleepy anymore. We had our lunch in the last light of the setting sun. At 2 pm everything was swallowed by blue darkness.

 

In that afternoon darkness we drove on to our cabin, bathed in a cold sauna and went to bed. The sky was covered in thick layer of clouds and the forecasted heavy storm of northern lights was nowhere to be seen. All those kilometers we had driven for nothing.

Karhunkierros – Nostalgia

We left early in the morning and headed south. We were so high up, that the sun did not rise. Even though the sun does not climb above the horizon, it is not as dark as you might imagine. There the whole southern horizon has a bright yellow glow and the landscape seems to glow with it. It is a very special world of soft colors and indirect light as the snow reflects every little bit of the hiding sunshine.

It was around noon when we arrived at the starting point of the Small Karhunkierros. Some people had been walking it, and there was a trail visible. Icy and slippery, but a trail nevertheless. Since the days were short and I was still rather ill, we did not go round the whole walk, just picked the rapids which lay relatively close by.

First we headed for Myllykoski. A small waterfall with an old mill on the side. That one I had come down with a raft in the summer two years ago. The rapid and the nature around it looked a little bit different this time. It is a beautiful sight to see the water rolling from underneath the ice and falling in a rapid, shaking the hut underneath your feet.

 

We headed on, towards the Jyrävä rapid, taking in the beauty of nature in the moments of disappearing daylight. We reached Siilastupa, the hut looking at the Jyrävä rapid, there we had said a goodbye on the midsummer 2014. The place holds some memories for us and it was beautiful to just sit there and listen to the ice crusted rapid, now when the shortest day of the year was just behind us.

Christmas is here!

For Christmas we returned home, on the quiet and icy roads. We almost hit a reindeer that happened to stand in the middle of the road and did not consider a fast approaching car a major threat to its existence. All of us continued our lives happily from that incident. But a little further, right in front of us someone drove into a moose. The result of that was less happy.

At my parents we had some duties to attend to, like finding the perfect spruce to bring in the true spirit of Christmas and of course decorating a gingerbread house etc. But mainly our Christmas is  about calming down and eating as much as you can, while going to sauna every day.

We managed to get a very nice tree inside and the gingerbread house was not completely ugly, nor so pretty that you wouldn’t dare to eat it. Success I would say! Waffle enjoyed the dining so well, he hardly left the table, and is now swearing to come back every Christmas.

 

Before the Christmas was over we had one more chance of seeing the auroras. The sky was clear and Waffles phone said the probability of seeing the magical light was somewhat high! So out we went into the cold of the night. A bit further from my home there was a perfect place with minimal light pollution and an open view to the sky. There we saw something we thought was a cloud. Until it started shifting and glowing in eerie green light. We were indeed looking at northern lights. That was a cherry on top for this holiday!

The Christmas day came as did our time to say goodbyes and head back to Belgium. We packed one extra piece of luggage, thanks to all the gifts and Finnish goodies we were dragging home with us.

Belgium greeted us with grey skies and heavy rainfall. Quite a contrast to the pure white of snowy Finland, there is a bit of home sickness on my mind after this trip, thank god there are all the goodies in the cupboards at home to kill the worst edge of that!

Finland – Once more

Snowtrail bridge and forest

It has been a really miserable winter in Belgium, while in Finland there was a hefty season of below -20°c and loads of snow. Somewhere in the midway of January I had the idea, that we definitely need to go and find some snow in Finland! A good flight connection appeared for last weekend and so we went. Off to a mini

holiday in Finland,
with the goal of meeting my friends and family and snow.

When the time to go came, the real harsh winter had stepped aside, and I was afraid we would only get to enjoy the grey and rainy side of
Helsinki.. We landed during the night to the snow covered airport, greeted by a huge convoy of snowplows, a surprisingly handsome sight! And most importantly, no rain or grey weather!

Our dear friend had offered to house us over our stay, right at the heart of
the hippie district of Helsinki; Kallio. Once we crawled in, there was a night snack waiting for us and a very intriguing TV show about gigolos. You should never keep your telly open later than the midnight on a Saturday…

Finland Helsinki People


Our host and the Armenian enforcement

We only had two full days to spend in Finland, and a huge bunch of people to meet. Sunday, being the first day was planned full of eating related activities. After our host pampered us with breakfast we moved down for a brunch, where we were supposed to meet some other friends too, our dear hiking companions from Tampere. Brunch was taking place in one of the cosy corners of Kallio, in a place called Oiva. Oiva offers one of those brunches you will need for the killing of a massive hungover. The brunch is massive, buttery, meaty, hearty, comforting and huge. As well as delicious. If you happen to be in a need of such in Helsinki, go visit Oiva.

The eating did not stop there. After a short stroll around town it was time to meet some of my family members. The part of family, that still carries a lot of the hospitality of the people of Karelia. Meaning food, food as much as you can eat. On top of that brunch. Oh deary me, were we full after that!

Finland Church Helsinki
Some holiness was needed to get through the eating, look closely and you’ll spot a local taking a nap!

After that short hangaround, we shifted our wobbly, whaleish bodies back to where we originally came from, only to sit on a dinner table, with some old, and newer friends. Our kind host had prepared some delicacies while we were eating out. Dinner was very Italian, trying to deceive us into thinking it was light, by hiding among a fruity snack. Failing miserably after introducing mud cake and profiteroles as desserts. By that time, both Waffle and me had gained 5 kilos.

Finland Friends Outdoors

After such a feeding we felt the need for some light activities, to get things going again. We headed for Espoo, stopped by a friend to have a second breakfast and entertain a stay at homer mom. Handily we were rather close to
Nuuksio National Park, the perfect location for a afternoon walk.

The day was sunny with occasional snowfall, absolutely beautiful setting for walking. The forest was pretty as a picture, with pillows of snow on the trees, sounds muffled by the snow cover on the ground, and absolutely no one around. Trail taking us to a few bonds and swamps. That was our relaxation moment in the midst of balancing the timetable of seeing friends and relatives and food. In the evening we were ordered back to the city center of Helsinki, drinking some nice Finnish beers and and chatting with who ever happened to come by. You know, those basic things you do. That night we stayed at one of my relatives, the sauna at his place was just the cherry on top for that day.

Tuesday came all too fast. Our last mission was to meet the last of my family and some more food. After some guitar solos and hearty conversations we needed to leave.

Always when I return to Finland, I get the feeling, that I am home. It is still my home country and the silence of the nature is the best remedy for my soul. Now I got my winter, which I was missing in Belgium and got to see my lovely friends, who magically always find some time to see me, thank you for that!

Finland Aerial
Take off, towards Amsterdam and home.