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Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern

17 May

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be on the water and visiting one of Helsinki’s pearls: Kaunissaari (Beauty or Beautiful Island). It’s a very interesting island, almost in the open sea, one side covered with thick forest and the opposite side featuring wind-swept rocks. Although it’s not a big island, 2 km long and about 800 metres wide, it takes a good couple of hours to walk around and savour the nature. I took the camera along with the intent to capture any pattern that caught my eye: some are man-made, some courtesy of mother nature. Unfortunately the battery was empty before my walk was finished, so I had to fall back on plan B, my phone!

Pine-cone Starfish

Pine-cone Starfish

I didn’t get very far before sight this was on the ground in front of me. The longer I looked at it, the more convinced I was that it was starfish that had been pulled apart.

As we made our way along the path it was very quiet. The ‘summer’ season has just started and there weren’t so many people on the island. The guest harbour was emptying as everyone started heading back to their home port.

Birch Forest

Birch Forest

There is something very haunting about a birch forest that has no leaves. Although it won’t be long and this forest will have its green cover on.

Valkovuokko

Valkovuokko

The forest floor close to the path was covered with this lovely valkovuokko (wood anemone) and when I stooped over taking this particular picture a couple passing by made a comment joking that I should hurry as there weren’t many around 🙂

 The island has plenty of facilities for day visitors and campers alike. There’s a dog park, saunas to rent, a very cute little cafe, oversized board games and a meandering nature path. Before we got to the nature path there was something we had to take care of though! Coffee and pulla, the staples of Finnish social life.

Nautical Theme

Nautical Theme

Nothing says nautical quite like red, blue and sails. This was inside the cafe looking back to the large sheltering umbrella’s on the terrace. While I was fluffing around with the camera a customer came in to charge his phone. That’s one thing to remember, there’s no electricity service. Strictly candles, grills and generators.

Oversized Chess Pieces

Over-sized Chess Pieces

Remember the over-sized board games? You weren’t sure exactly what I meant were you? If chess is not your thing also on offer are darts, volley ball and the age-old favourite of chilling in a hammock with a good book!

Wood Stack Art

Wood Stack Art

There is an art to stacking wood. It takes an extra special talent to make your wood-stack look like… an Angry Bird perhaps!

Weathered wood

Weathered wood

If you are interested to visit Kaunissaari, you can catch a ferry from Vuosaari. The journey takes approximately one hour each way. Alternatively, if you have access to a boat of your own, head to the sheltered guest harbour at the end of the island.

I’ll leave you with this detail of a cabin up close.

By the way, please let me know what you think of the pictures all the way down the left and the text on the right. I thought I’d try something new and now it feels like it doesn’t quite work. I might just have to come back and do some editing later.

So if you want to see other entries from this week’s challenge, head over to here and follow the ping-backs!

April 9 is Mikael Agricola’s Day & ‘Finnish Language Day’

9 Apr

Yes, it’s another flag day in Finland. April 9th is not just the anniversary of Mikael Agricola’s death; it is also when Finn’s celebrate Suomen kielen päivä. Now I know if you drag this text into your favourite translator it will give you an answer something like this: Finnish language day. That is a little misleading! Mikael Agricola is recognized as the father of written Finnish language.

Taken today 9.4.2013 *

Wikipedia has a quite nice page in English that discusses his achievements. By all accounts he was a gifted student, particularly when it came to languages.

If you visit the Mikael Agricola Foundation page there is a neat summary of his achievements under the Elämä page. There is some small confusion over his birth date, some references record it as 1507 while other texts rely on 1510 as his birth year. His sudden death in April of 1557 is now the date used to celebrate not just his life, but also his achievements in recording the Finnish language.

Even though he spent time studying in Germany, he was more than just a student of languages. He was a member of the clergy and was appointed as Bishop in Turku (back when Turku was the Finnish capital. He was a diplomatic as well, and his untimely death occurred on the return trip from a peacekeeping mission with Russia.

When Agricola’s first writings were published, there was no standard Finnish written text nor was the Bible readily available to the general population. Agricola solved this dilemma by publishing a primer and catechism as one and the same. I’ve done some digging, and if you’re interested in reading the very first Finnish language book ever published, check this out! While the spelling has evolved over time, if you say the words phonetically it’s definitely the same language I muddle along with everyday!

A listing of his works is available here, and there is a detailed listing of additional links here. Unfortunately the links are in Finnish only. I will keep hunting and try to add additional English information as and when I find it.

If you are looking around Helsinki for Mikael Agricola references, one of the most obvious choices would be the Mikael Agricola church situated a few blocks from the city centre. Did you know that there was a design competition and the selection committee were unhappy with the 56 designs submitted (too much ‘functionalism’) and so a second round was instigated with the brief to follow ‘traditional church forms’. The winning design by Lars Sonck was dedicated in 1935. You can find the church here:

Another address to check out could be Agricolankatu (Agricola’s street) in Kallio:

Last yet not least there stands a statue inside the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral:

Mikael_Agricola_-_Helsinki_Lutheran_Cathedral_-_DSC05388

Mikael Agricola in the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

* I love flag days! It’s wonderful to see flags flying from every building and in every yard. I can’t help myself, I just have to take a picture. This one was taken as I arrived for class this afternoon at Liiketalousopisto-Helmi.

March 19 is Minna Canth’s Day

19 Mar

March 19th: An official flag day in Finland for Minna Canth and Social Equality

Were you wandering the streets of Helsinki today? Or any part of Finland for that matter? Did you notice the number of Finnish flags flying? Any yard that boasts a flag pole would have been flying the national flag. Today the flags were flying for two reasons: the anniversary of Minna Canth‘s birth in 1844 and celebration of social equality in Finland.

This flag day has only been official since 2007, previously it was at the discretion of building managers and owners whether they would hoist the flag or not. What’s more, Minna Canth was the first woman to be awarded an official flag day. This year there appears to be 19 official days throughout the year when the flag should be flown.

Minna Canth is remembered for her writing and social activism. It is no accident that the Finnish Day for Equality falls on her birthday. She was an early advocate in improving the position of the poor and women. A widow, raising seven children on her own, she also managed the family drapery shop and pursued a career in writing.

Her writing was not limited to one format: she was a journalist, short story writer and a playwright. Her plays continue to be performed today. In the latter part of her life she established her own periodical and edited that also. It was a short-lived venture although it did introduce new ideas to the Finnish populace.

While you may not find so many monuments in and around Helsinki, you will find Minna Canth street in Töölö:

If you travel further afield to the city of Kuopio you will find much more as the greater part of her life was spent living in this beautiful lakeside city.

Minna Canth statue in Kuopio, decorated for summer
(Image Credit:Kuopion Matkailupalvelu Oy )

Lastly an oft published picture of the writer herself:

Minna Canth, writer and champion of social change.
(Image Credit YLE)

On a totally personal note, it’s my mother-in-laws birthday today also!

What does Finland mean to you?

25 Sep

To my valued followers, I’d like to explain my absence. Over summer I enrolled in a short course at the Helsinki Summer School, which in turn inspired me to continue my studies. Subsequently I’ve enrolled in studies that will assist me in my long-term goals. Short term it means that I’m a little strapped for time to write all the blogs that I’d like to. My aim is to get back to two posts per week by the end of October.

Now I’d like to ask your help with a little research project I need to run for one of our travel courses. In a nutshell: what does Finland mean to you as a destination?

Feel free to comment below. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. I’m interested in how you see my adopted home as a destination, whether it’s for a day, a week, a month!

Please mention if you have visited Finland previously and it would be especially helpful if you could briefly note how your ‘visit experience’ rated against your expectations. I’m quite keen to hear your opinion of Finland.

In the mean time while your gather your thoughts, here are some random shots I took in and around Finland this summer.

Is it a car? No! Bicycle rack in downtown Helsinki…

Summer delights from Ă…land

Cinema tickets, island style!

Night of the Cats: Action at the zoo (after dark!)

Bird on a stone!

Summer flags

Ă…land sunset