Finland Life

Finally Made It to Lapland!

One frustrating part of OUR experience here is Finland is trying to get information from the Finns on traveling within Finland.  So different from the USA.  When you ask about a destination it is usually quite easy to get info about traveling to places within the US and outside the US.  Some of our  experiences here in Finland have been completely blind – Lapland was definitely  the case here.  Lapland was a last minute decision with less than a week before we would leave.  We found an excellent deal at least what we felt was an excellent deal with the train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi.  It would be an overnight train experience.  Everyone was  very excited!  Rovaniemi is located at 66°30′N 025°44′E which is just south of the Arctic Circle.

As a family we put Lapland on our bucket list.  With that bucket list we wanted  to see reindeer, see Santa’s home, dogsled ride, ice fishing, snowmobiling and the Northern Lights.

This trip was going to be quick as we would be one night on the train to Rovaniemi , one night in Rovaniemi and then one night on the train back to Helsinki.  I spent a lot of time investigating what to  and how to make the most of it in such a short amount of time.  I had basically no help from anyone on trying to figure out what to do.  We found a get deal for our hotel in Rovaniemi on TripAdvisor which included breakfast.  The hotel was called Rantasipi Pohjanhovi.    If you click on the link it will take you to our  HotelRoomTours site and you can view the room we stayed in.   A short distance from the hotel was a great outdoor AngryBird Park.

I knew I wanted to find the best possible tour with what was on our bucket list and not spend too much.  Lapland is quite expensive, almost comparable to Disney in my opinion if not more.  I found Lapland Safaris online.  They seemed to have the best tour packages in my mind and good feedback.  Basically, they could cover everything on our list if we wanted to spend a lot of euros.  We narrowed it down to one specific tour – Santa Claus Safari which takes approximately 6 hours total.  The weekend we went (first weekend in Decemeber) was the opening season for Rovaniemi.  Our safari would include nature, culture and the spirit of Christmas.  This would be perfect for our family.  When I booked the trip I was experiencing some difficulties and their customer service was quite helpful.  The cost for the Santa Safari was 197,00 euros per adult and  98,50 euros per child.  This also included lunch.

When the train arrived into Rovaniemi we found our way to where we should catch a taxi.  This ended up being the most difficult part of the trip.  We stood for quite some time in the cold snowy weather with two young children waiting for an available taxi.  We made several phone calls and the hotel was trying to assist us the best they could.  Rovaniemi is a small town so it was a pretty quick trip to the hotel.  We arrived into Rovaniemi around 8:00am and we had our safari scheduled for 10:00am.  Lapland Safari start point was located right next door to the hotel we were staying in.  This was quite convenient.   We had time to check in and use the restroom with plenty of time.  We headed over to Lapland Safaris to check in.  The first part of the trip would be a snowmobile safari to a reindeer farm.  We were taken to the clothing area where we were all fitted with proper Lapland attire.  I might add it is quite cold up in the Arctic Circle.  From head to toe we were completely covered.  We then took a bus ride to the snowmobiles.  The children rode in sleighs pulled by snowmobiles and any adults that did not want to drive a snowmobile.  They sat in cozy sleighs with a nice warm blanket.  We got a short explanation on the use of the snowmobile and hand signals we would be using and then we all loaded up.  I believe we had about 25 ppl in our group.  The snowmobiling was on a frozen river.  We did see a small herd of reindeer in the distance on the river running.  That was pretty cool!  Christian did the first round and I drove the second half.  Here is a short video clip of the snowmobiling.

Our destination on the snowmobiles was to a reindeer farm.  Here we would learn more about the reindeer and the Lappish culture.  We went inside a structure where there was a warm fire and a guide dressed in his Saami attire.  After this we headed back outside and had a reindeer sleigh ride.  This was a lot of fun!  We were able to fit our family of four on one sleigh pulled by one reindeer.  This was a special experience for our family. Here is a short video clip of our sleigh ride.

After the sleigh ride  they girls played in the snow and we were waiting to have a visit with Santa Claus.  We were the first ones to go and have our own private visit with Santa.  After everyone had their visit with Santa we got back on the snowmobiles to head back to catch the bus to take us to Santa’s Village.  Santa’s Village was pretty much a tourist area.  The best part was getting some postcards and stamps.  The postcards would be stamped from Santa’s Post Office!  I don’t think I’ve ever written so many postcards in such a short amount of time.

The next day we decided we would take the girls to Santa’s Park.  This was pricey, but fun.  The girls were the perfect age.  The park is completely underground which was pretty cool!  The girls would go to Elf School,  calligraphy class, decorated gingerbread cookies in Mrs. Claus’ kitchen and another visit with Santa.  Lots of fun at Santa’s Park.

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After Santa Park we found a great outside Angry Bird Park right in Rovaniemi just two blocks from our hotel.  The girls played for a bit and then we had some Subway in the lobby of our hotel before heading to the train.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The girls had fun and we were officially in the Christmas spirit.  This was perfect for our family.  We felt like we had enough time and were not rushing to get things accomplished.  Another time would be ice hotel or glass igloos and trying to find the Northern Lights.

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Categories: Family, Finland Life, Nature, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Family Sled Time

This was a fun video put together from our sledding last year, 2013. We are still waiting for the snow in the Helsinki area.

Sledding Fun in Finland

Categories: Family, Finland Life | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas 2013 Video Greeting Card

Merry Christmas or Iloista joulua

We decided to do a little something different this year so we created a Video Christmas Greeting. When you click on the link it might take a few seconds to load. We hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014!!!
EricksonFamily Christmas Greeting

http://www.biz4kids.com/EricksonChristmas2013.html

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Finnish Flag

One of the most beautiful sights in Finland is seeing their flag flying with the bright blue sky in its background.   The flag is not flown everyday like we do in the USA.  Finland has certain flag days.  I will list those days so you can see when and why it is flown.   Unfortunately, today I came outside and for the first time our neighborhood, consisting of 8 homes, had its flag flying.  The reason it is unfortunate is because it was at half mast.  When you see a flag at half mast in a neighborhood it is because someone has passed away.  I think this is such a special form of respect for their people.  I am glad to see that this neighborhood has a flag.  I almost thought we might buy one as a gift before we leave Finland.  Christian and I often joke about flying the USA flag on the 4th of July on their pole since we have never seen a flag flown on it even on the special flag days.  🙂  Not sure our “older” Finnish neighbors would appreciate since we barely ever get a hello out of them.

Like in the USA, Finland has similar rules with flying their flag.  When a death occurs flags are normally lowered to half mast as soon as the information about the death of the person concerned has been received. If the message is received late in the day, the ceremony can be postponed to the following day.

When flying the flag at half mast, the flag should first be raised to the top of the pole and then lowered so that the flag’s lower edge is in the middle of the pole. Before lowering the flag from the half-mast position, it should first be raised all the way to the top.

On the day of a funeral, the flag should first be flown at half mast, and after the funeral service and the burial, it should be raised to the top of the pole for the rest of the day. During the memorial service, the flag should be flown at full mast to salute the deceased and to honour his or her memory.

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The Finnish flag is also called siniristilippu (“Blue Cross Flag”), dates from the beginning of the 20th century. On a white background, it features a blue Nordic cross, which represents Christianity.

By law, the Finnish flag must be flown from public buildings on the following days:

  • February 28, day of Kalevala; the occasion is also celebrated as the Day of Finnish culture
  • May 1, Vappu, the Day of Finnish Labour
  • Second Sunday in May, Mother’s Day
  • June 4, birthday of Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Marshal of Finland; the occasion is also celebrated as the Flag Day of the Finnish Defence Forces
  • Saturday between June 20 and 26 June, Midsummer Day; the occasion is also celebrated as the Day of the Finnish Flag. The flag is hoisted on Midsummer’s eve at 6 PM and flown through the night until 9 PM the next day.
  • December 6, Independence Day
  • Days when Finland holds parliamentary and local elections, elections to the European Parliament, or a referendum
  • The day the President of Finland is inaugurated

Days on which flying the Finnish flag is an established custom

It has become customary to fly the Finnish flag on the following occasions. The dates are also listed in the Finnish State Calendar compiled by the University of Helsinki, and it is recommended that the flag is flown on these occasions in the same way as on those prescribed by law.

  • February 5, birthday of the National poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg
  • March 19, birthday of Minna Canth, Day of Equality, beginning in 2007
  • April 9, the day Mikael Agricola, the founder of the written Finnish language died and Elias Lönnrot, a collector of folklore was born; the occasion is also celebrated as the Day of the Finnish language
  • April 27, National War Veterans’ Day
  • May 9, Europe Day
  • May 12, Day of the Finnish Identity, birthday of the statesman Johan Vilhelm Snellman 
  • Third Sunday in May, memorial day for the war dead of the Finnish Civil War and World War II 
  • July 6, birthday of the poet Eino Leino; the occasion is also a celebration of poetry and summer
  • October 10, birthday of the National writer Aleksis Kivi; the occasion is also celebrated as the Day of Finnish literature
  • October 24, Day of the United Nations
  • November 6, Day of the Swedish Identity
  • Second Sunday in November, Father’s Day
  • 8 December, birthday of the composer Jean Sibelius; the occasion is also celebrated as the Day of Finnish music
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Featured Family in an online magazine called EuroCircle

This month our family was featured in an online magazine, EuroCircle.

Here is the link:

http://www.eurocircle.com/events/42732

 

Categories: Expat Tips, Family, Finland Life | Leave a comment

Good Bye to the Ice Cream Man

Back on August 18th we heading out to the park when the girls heard the chimes. They began to go a little crazy and the begging began. Mommy, Daddy, It’s the ice cream man. Please!! We finally gave in. He pulled up and climbed out of his truck. Almost everything was sold out, but 2-3 items. He told us this was his last day due to the taxes just going up too much. He told us that the ice cream sandwiches were pretty good. We bought a box for a discounted price. He was a very nice young man and he talked a few minutes with us. We felt very sad that this was it and we would not hear those chimes going through the neighborhood any longer.

A friend, Michelle Carter, sent me an article that was in the WSJ about the end to the Finnish Ice Cream Man. I’ll attach a picture of the article below. Also a picture we took of us buying ice cream on the last day as we watched him drive off into the sunset. 😦

You can read the Wall Street Journal article and watch a video here.

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Finnish Pulla and Coffee (Kahvi)

It is quite common in Finland to be invited for coffee, but that usually means a bit more than coffee. Finns are also huge coffee drinkers. They actually lead in coffee consumption for the entire world. I read somewhere that the average Finn consumes up to 9 cups a coffee a day and 10 pounds of coffee a year. Another thing I read was that you are not considered an adult until you can drink Finnish coffee. They like their coffee black too. When Finns add things to their coffee it tends to be milk not cream. Coffee cream is very American. During tourist season some restaurants and cafes with have cream, but off-season you mostly find milk. I have to say I love Finnish coffee(kahvi) and I drink it black. I also fall in the category of drinking 6-8 cups a coffee a day.

This summer when I traveled back to the US and had my black coffee I found that I had the shakes because the coffee was not strong enough. I looked forward to returning to Finland to have my Finnish kahvi. 🙂

When we have visitors we like to invite them for coffee. One of the popular items served with coffee is Finnish Pulla. Pulla is Finnish sweet rolls. The pulla has a distinct flavor to it. The flavor is cardamon. They are also sprinkled with white sugar. I have made Finnish Pulla with another American friend, but I usually cheat and purchase pulla from the store. If we head out with visitors we like to hit Cafe Esplanad in Helsinki on the Esplanad. Their pulla is quite a large serving and yummy. They also serve a delicious salmon soup.

Here are some pictures from the Cafe Esplanad when I took my friend, Jennifer there.
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Cafe Esplanad Pulla

Here is a fun video I found on YouTube of a young lady making some Finnish Pulla.

Here are a few pictures of some pulla I made with my American friend, Tara.

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Homemade Pulla

I am trying to figure out if I can fill a 20 gallon Rubbermaid container with Finnish coffee when we return to the US. 🙂

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Temppeliaukio Church or Church of the Rock

This is one of the most popular landmarks in Helsinki. Roughly a half a million visit it during a year. Temppeliaukio Church is a Lutheran Church located in the Töölö neighborhood. The church plans were started back in the 1930’s, but due to World War II it delayed construction. The church was finally started in 1968 and opened in 1969. The church is quite unique! It is built into the rock. The church hosts music concerts due to its great natural acoustics.

This has been on my Finland Bucket List and after living here for over a year and half I finally went inside the church back in May with my friend, Jennifer. I had attempted to see the inside before, but there was a wedding so it was closed to the public.

Here are a few pictures of the Church of the Rock.

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Church of the Rock

Categories: Finland Life, Travel | 2 Comments

Finland’s National Bird, The Whooper Swan

The Whooper Swan is Finland’s National Bird. You can also see the swan on the Finnish 1 euro coin. The Whooper Swans pair for life.

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Recently I had a friend visit me that I had not seen in 20 years and I took her to Iittala. Iittala is a Finnish glassworks company. I have collected several pieces, but one of my favorites are the Birds by Toikka. We also visited Stockmann and currently during the tourist season they have a theme going on the 5th floor called <Feels like Finland. This display is going on from May 31 – August 24, 2013. The really cool part was that they have Heikki Väisänen, an Iittala glassblower blowing glass objects right there in the store on certain dates in June. See Stockmann’s website for more information. We were able to watch him make different objects. My friend, Jennifer and I both picked up Swans that Heikki had blown and signed. Together we will remember being reunited in Helsinki when we look at these birds on our shelves – a pair for life.. Also for Jennifer this was her first solo adventure in Europe. I am so happy she took on this challenge to rekindle a friendship!

20130605-124450.jpgJennifer and I - Reunited after 20 years in Helsinki Jennifer and I – Reunited after 20 years in Helsinki

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Giro d’Espoo 2013

This past Sunday we enjoyed cheering on all the cyclists that took part in the Giro d’Espoo. It was a windy day and comfortable temperatures. The cyclists seemed to not care. The 111 km route ran along the Espoo first saattoajona rantaraittia, then moved to Kirkkonummen side. Kylmälä and Veikkola through the route returned in Espoo, Kauniasten and back into the end zone.

The riders went right past our house in Tapiola. We stood out there with our coffee and cheered. Christian even had some Tekla riders taking part. We even had one notice Christian and he waved and gave greetings as he rode by. Later in the day we headed to the finish line which was Espoo Sports Center. We cheered on lots of cyclists as they came across the finish line. The girls were wishing that their Uncle Chris was here with us to watch or so we could cheer for him. Here are a few pictures and a video Christian put together from the event.


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Visit the Giro d’Espoo web page here
http://www.girodespoo.com

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