Tag Archives: Chinese in Finland

A Weekend in Sotkamo

Back in 2011 we visited my wife’s friends in Sotkamo which is in the in the middle east of Finland. From Helsinki Sotkamo is about 580km away by car which means that it takes over 6 1/2 h to get there. So why my wife has friends in the middle of nowhere of Finland? In 2006 my wife started her studies in Finland. She didn’t study in Helsinki in the beginning but in Kajaani which is roughly 30km to the west of Sotkamo. She stayed there for one year until she found another university and moved to Helsinki. During that one year she made many new friends and one of them she still considers to be her best friend and that is the one we visited back then.

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Snow snow and more snow

We went there in December which means that there is snow, too much snow all around and it is cold, too cold! We left our home near Helsinki at 6am in order to arrive at a reasonable time in Sotkamo for lunch. During those morning hours we had about -16 degrees (Celsius ~ 3 degrees Fahrenheit) which was already a challenge for my poor Diesel powered Opel Astra. Nonetheless the car managed somehow however during the drive to Sotkamo the temperatures plummeted sometimes down to -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit). Let me just say that in never got warm inside the car and even the car engine decided not get warm and thus many other things didn’t work such as the Turbo…(really great when the car has suddenly troubles to get up a small hill!).

It was also during that trip that we had our first (and only) car crash. The whole mess happened towards the final 100km of the journey and wasn’t fun at all. You have to imagine having a road covered in a layer own snow which is compressed and thus nearly like ice at such low temperatures. Somehow I got with my right front tire too much to the right where the snow layer was higher and then everything happened rather quick. At over 80km/h (~50 mp/h) the car started spinning around crashing on the opposite lane into the fields just barely missing an oncoming truck. I don’t know how but nothing happened to us or the car! Some driver who saw everything came to our aid and managed to call on some farmer who pulled us out of the field with his tractor for very little money. I will never forget the feeling when I lost control over the car and saw during the spinning motion the truck coming closer and closer.

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Getting ready for some cross-country skiing failure

With some delay we managed it finally to Sotkamo where we had our lunch at the friend’s restaurant. Compared to Helsinki Sotkamo was already entirely in the Christmas season with too much snow all around. The little town is known for its skiing resort Vuokatti. It was there I tried my luck to teach my wife how to do cross-country skiing but it didn’t work out so well. In fact my wife gave up after a while so I decided to do a short 2.5 km round but got lost somehow and had to do a 15km round. The skiing center in Vuokatti is very famous in Finland as it offers a variety of possible activities such as downhill skiing, cross-country, ski jumping and there is also a cross-country skiing tunnel which makes training on snow possible during summer time. Though it offers so many sport activties we spent the least time doing any kind of sporty stuff there. My wife had more important things to do with her friends such as talking, eating, watching movies, eating and eating. As said before one of her friends got back then a Chinese restaurant in the town resulting that there was always more than enough food.

As Sotkamo is very small with only 10.000 inhabitants there is also not much to do within the city center. There are some shops around but that’s about it.  During winter it is a perfect place for winter sport enthusiasts and in summer time it offers great hiking trails. What makes this place also interesting is that it is not that far away from the Arctic Circle and Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi where my wife visited once with her friends in 2009 but that is again stuff for another time.

Have you visited a place with more than enough snow to get already annoying for you?

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A Day at Seurasaari

In 2013 when both my Chinese in-laws visited us in Finland for our Wedding there we also visited few other locations around the country. Seurasaari was one of them towards the end of their holidays in Finland. Seurasaari is an island located in Helsinki and I only knew it myself due to an open water swimming competition I participated at few years before.

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An old wooden church

 

This island is famous for a few things such as Seurasaari Open-Air museum which has old wooden buildings from around Finland, masses of red squirrels, the huge bonfire during Midsummer and the nudist beach (it is enclosed by a wall and men and women are separated by a wall leading even into the ocean). Well, we didn’t visit the nudist beach but the Open-Air museum, watched hundred of squirrels and my crazy mother-in-law didn’t believe that people would go swimming in these cold weather conditions (+28 degrees celsius ~ 82 degrees fahrenheit) until see saw many children at a normal beach playing in the water…

For more information you can check out what Wiki has to say about the island (though in English it is really barely anything) or the National Board of Antiquities. When visiting Helsinki and you have more than just a day to spare I recommend going there for a few hours as it is perfect to relax a bit from the daily madness (okay, in Finland any place is perfect for that I guess)

Have you ever visited such Open-Air museum or similar location with old buildings gathered from around the country and centuries?

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Going to Stockholm

One of the few trips we did with my in-laws together last summer was to Stockholm, Sweden. My wife’s parents stayed with us four weeks, usually enough to get something decent done however we had in between a wedding to manage which took some resources from us. In the end we only managed to go to my parent’s cottage, Tallinn and Stockholm. The trip to Stockholm was already something my wife had planned before but our ever-changing schedule that summer made it nearly impossible to go anywhere.

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Our ship (the red one!) in Helsinki

 

Some Basics

Stockholm is a place nearly every Finn has visited at least once and this has a very simple reason: The ship cruise! The usual way to go from Helsinki to Stockholm is by ship, either leaving from the capital city itself or going further to the west coast to Turku. This cruise is so popular for Finnish people due to the tax-free store, snus and drinks. During the night hours the ship can be divided into two groups. The one group, made up mostly by families and tourists from around the world, tries to get rest for a day of activities in Stockholm and the other group, mainly consisting of the younger generation of Finnish and Swedish people partying and drinking the night away.

 

Our Trip

Right from the start we got into some trouble due to lack of parking lots at the harbor. This led to a situation in which we nearly missed our ship. Calls by my wife (as I was too unstable already by driving around the different parking lots) to the service line of the ship cruise company solved the issue right in time. These cruises are for most people something fun, they go around, eat in the restaurants, go shopping in the tax-free, sing karaoke or relax in the bar. This cruise was everything but relaxing for us. You see, once MIL discovered the tax-free store we had to go with her there several times to help her around. During that time she was in some kind of shopping frenzy as she was not able to buy any clothes for three weeks already. This resulted in her looking at each clothing item with manic eyes, trying the same pieces on several times even though she knew they wouldn’t fit or didn’t match her taste. This all didn’t matter to her, she needed to buy something! However even after the fifth time going to the store she could not find anything to buy or got convinced by her daughter not to buy this or that useless item.

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Too many people again

As you can see, there was not so much relaxing up to this point for us, so what about going to eat? Oh no, we did not go to eat. We actually wanted but each restaurant we went to my in-laws had only one comment “Too expensive”. Well, there went the good food part of the trip as well. Karaoke? Sorry, nothing for me and I had also no interest in going to the bars so we ended up staying the entire trip (except the many visits to the tax-free store) in our cabins.

Last but not least we arrived next morning in Stockholm and experienced our very next disappointment. We took the tourist bus tour around the city but, unlike in Helsinki where the same company is operating, only a few buses had the tour offered in Chinese and we ended up on a bus without it. This meant a lot of translating work for my wife for the entire time and to make matters even worse, our bus broke down towards the end. Slightly annoyed we made our way from the last station towards the city center to grab some food. All the while my in-laws made the often repeated comments of “It is so clean here”, “Such a blue sky”, “How can they keep their windows so clean” and then one comment we hadn’t heard in Finland “So many people here”. Yes, there were many people in the streets and it felt sometimes as busy as in Xi’an but that could be because anything more than 2 people on the street is busy when living in Finland.

Usually it is fairly easy to find a nice place to eat, especially when you are really hungry. But this does not apply with my in-laws around. Usually it is something like this “We don’t want to eat Chinese”, “We want to eat something new”, “This looks so strange”, “Too expensive”, “Too foreign”, “This looks good!” and as you may guess, this last one is a Chinese restaurant…

With filled stomachs we started our journey anew through Stockholm or let’s say, our journey from clothing store to clothing store, MIL viewing each item with ferocious eagerness. Through some unknown magic she was once again not able to buy anything, making her even more crazy than usual. More crazy as we now started to go through all souvenir shops so she just could buy something, at least something little but now again, nothing. To make her mother feel better my wife came up with the idea to buy chocolate on the ship for her friends as a gift. What a terrible idea but more about that later.

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My last grey memories of Sweden

As I knew already that we would spend the entire cruise back to Helsinki just in our cabins I decided to get my family exhausted by taking the long way back to the ship. This meant also we would be walking through the beautiful old town of Stockholm were the Royal Palace is located. As expected MIL had something weird to ask again “Can we go visit the King, I would like to see him”. No comment.

Thankfully we stopped at a supermarket before the harbor to buy some food for the cruise which included some sweet pastries covered in jam. The biggest and sweetest looking one we had planned for FIL (he has a real sweet tooth) but we would not know the fate of this delicious pastry until the next day. Once again on board the tax-free shop mayhem started and this time focused solely on the chocolates. As promised my wife guided her parents to the chocolate section but little did we know about the plans my in-laws had created during the past hours. We expected perhaps ten to twelve 300g chocolate bars for their friends, oh no, we spent in the end over 100€ on these chocolate bars. Can you guess how damn heavy so much chocolate is? Well, it resulted later on to some trouble when packing for their flight back to China, yes, too much chocolate. Furthermore this chocolate shopping easily took us close to two hours as my in-laws were fighting with each over whose friends would get how much chocolate, how much they would keep for themselves and so on. Let’s just say it was a basic fight over useless things as always.

 

Conclusion

In the end we managed to arrive in Helsinki unharmed. Carrying our luggage I felt like I could open a chocolate store and have supplies for at least a month. I do believe the trip might have been much more enjoyable without my in-laws, at least we could have done everything on our own pace and actually eat nicely. Oh and remember the pastry for FIL? He threw it away as he thought the jam was meat. D’Oh!