lauantai 30. joulukuuta 2017

Veselé Vánoce!

Greetings from Ostrava, from a happy and over-fed Iiris. I am truly overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness I've encountered during my short stay in Czech Republic. After few intensive days of celebrating Christmas, it is time slowly get back to the routines. Just for few days though, before welcoming the year 2018 by celebrating it in Warsaw with my squad!

Just to make sure I wouldn't miss any chance to celebrate, I arranged an after Christmas to myself for the time I return back to Finland - because simply, I cannot be a year without Finnish Christmas food. It is quite hard to even think about eating now though, since I have celebrated the Christmas in typical way, by eating a lot. And I mean, a lot.
We were spending the Christmas Eve in Hradec Nad Moravicí with Ivo's family. They were kind and welcomed me to take part in their family Christmas. Otherwise I would have spend the Christmas alone in Warsaw, since I didn't have enough time to go back to Finland between the Christmas and New Years Eve. Fortunately I could spent my holidays with them! I am extremely grateful for this opportunity of celebrating the Czech Christmas with them, mockrát děkuji. <3
On Christmas Eve, we woke up slowly, and ate some Vánočka for breakfast. Vánočka is like our pullapitko, typical pastry which is offered on Christmas. With butter, for some reason, it was even better. Even though the "butter" they eat in Czech Republic is weird, because it is sweet, rather than salty. Well, on the other hand I've heard that the Finnish salty version is strange for Czechs - so I guess again you tend to prefer things what you're used to :D
We had a traditional Czech Christmas dinner, fried carp and potato salad. The potato salad I am used to eat, is rather horrible dish which you can buy ready from the stores. We in Finland are usually eating it as a side on New Year's Eve and on Vappu. It does not really help the situation that it reminds me of a certain New Year's Eve on 2010, when I was not feeling that well, because of the combination of that and some strange drink flavoured with salmiakki. This Czech version of potato salad, bramborový salát, on the other hand was self-made and wonderful. There are lot of different methods to make the salad, and various ways starting from how to cut the vegetables to the usage of mayonnaise - but I guess the main point is that you make tons of it. Fried carp was also very tasty, and even as a vegetarian in favor of vegan food, whose first choice is not definitely fish, I enjoyed the meal a lot.
After a meal it was time for the appearance of Ježíšek. Unlike I'm used to, the gift were brought by Baby Jesus, rather than Santa. The shock moment for me was to discover that not all people know that Santa is from Finland. The image of American version of Santa Claus is rather dominant, and his real origins are often unknown. But as the people from Greenland, Americans are to be learn the fact that Santa is Finnish. The battle between Santa Claus and Ježíšek caused lot of discussions, and arguments, which one is better. Conclusion was, they are both pretty creepy. :D
One tradition concerning the Christmas Eve in Czech Republic is that if you don't eat anything between lunch (typically polévka, a soup) and the main dinner - you are able to see a flying pig in the sky! Well, we didn't see a flying pig but actually we did see a shooting star. After the main dinner there was still place for cukroví, sweet small cookies, from which of course I had to taste every single flavour. And then do the other round with my favourites, meaning all of them.
The following days were filled with eating and spending time with Ivo's family. Everyday I would say I'm unable to eat more, and everyday I would find myself taking another and another offered cukroví until the point I could not eat more. I got to learn a lot of Czech Christmas traditions as I got to be part of them. I had a special Christmas, the first ever spend anywhere else than in home, and the first one spend in other country. Ivo's family was sweet to take me as a part of their christmas, even though I don't (yet) speak Czech in understandable way. But, to be honest, I am starting to understand it, a bit. If it is being speaked pomááálu. In the next post I will tell more Czech stories, and explain what we did on the days between Christmas and New Years!

Na shledanou,
- Iiris

maanantai 25. joulukuuta 2017

Päivän sana slaavi, fuck skandinaavi

First of all, where did the time go? I am currently (19.12) spending my last "normal day" here in Warsaw, as I am leaving tomorrow to spend Christmas to Ostrava. Next time I'll come back here, it will be only for holidays, and I will have the whole squad here for new years. Then I will return to Finland. It feels sad to leave the Warsaw-life behind, but I really need to return to Vaasa and start to focus on my thesis.
Last week my Suomi-Squad visited me in Poland. Aada unfortunately fell sick just day before the journey, so she had to stay home - but Aleksi and Taru were able to come to Gdansk. Eventually, I mean. Their first flight was cancelled because of the snow storm in Finland. As if that would've ever stopped anything in Finland though, I am a bit disappointed... :D Well, I had a day in Gdansk with myself and I managed to do some minor progress with my thesis in a meanwhile. Also I had a room for six people just for myself, no big deal, a basic day.
The next day finally my friends got to their flight, and so I went to the airport to pick them up. We had scheduled one day to spend in Gdansk, so I took they through the main sights. We went to eat Pierogi's in Mandu, which we discovered a good place last time in Gdansk with Ivo. My friends were amazed of the prices, which are starting to feel scarily normal for me, I will have hard time to face the prices in Finland again...
On the evening we had a flight to Krakow. I usually never fly with domestic flights, but actually the flight was way much cheaper than the train would've been, and it took four hours less. As we wanted to save some time, and money, the choice was easy. When we reached Krakow, the first essential thing was to have a drink in Bania Luka. (The infamous bar where I almost died in January, it was good to be back!).

We had actually some really exiting programme, since the new Star Wars had its premiere. Naturally, we needed to see it immediately, so I booked the tickets in advance for us. AND OH MY GOD. The film. I am still processing what I saw, but if you haven't seen it yet, please do as soon as possible.

Krakow was as amazing as I remembered. I was there almost an year ago, and surprisingly well I remembered the places. We were shamelessly acting as touristic way as we could, and so we took annoying pictures with, well, everything. Thanks for Aleksi, now I have a terrible urge to buy a Polaroid-camera, since it might be the coolest thing ever. Can I?

We spend two days in Krakow, and it was totally enough since we were walking almost the whole time. Of course, we also had to try their trams because someone wise once said that "whenever you are in new city, always try the tram". And cool trams they had. Really nice.

It was a pleasure for me to show Poland to my friends, who had never been there. Next time we will see each other in Finland, quite soon, but to have them in my current home country was special to me. Now I have terribly much things to organize before I can relax, and start to get to the Christmas spirit. So probably, I'll be in the spirit somewhere around February. No, but to be honest, I am really exited about this Christmas. I'll get to see Czech Christmas, with its traditions, can't wait!

Do widzenia,

maanantai 11. joulukuuta 2017

Suomi 100

This independence day was anything but traditional for me. I am not a biggest fan of traditions, as some of you may well know, but I'm used to celebrate independence day in a certain way. Including good food, Finlandia and Linnan Juhlat. At least it has been a day off, and a certain point between autumn and Christmas. This year was extraordinary. It was obviously like a normal day here in Poland, so I had lectures. Well, okay. I knew that there was going to be an event on the evening, so I was not as unpleased as I could've been.  As I mentioned in the earlier post, Finnish Embassy in Warsaw was organizing the event on 6.12. to celebrate Finland's 100th independence day. There was also another possibility to get to the celebration spirit, as many cities around the globe, including Warsaw, were illuminating their venues and buildings to congratulate Finland.
The event itself was held in Old Orangery, located in Lazienski Park. We had a slightly different opinion with my map, what was still considered to be 'in Lazienski Park', but after a while searching the place, in the rain, with my fancy dress, I found it - stylishly twenty minutes late. The programme started at 7pm with a cocktail hour, and the menu was designed to represent Finnish flavours. They were offering dishes including reindeer meat, whitefish, Karelian pies and "breadcheese" with cloudberry jam just to mention few of them. I had hard time to find a translation for leipäjuusto, since the straight translation sounds just stupid. Google is offering me a word "Finnish squeaky cheese", which is actually quite well expressed!
Since the only Finn I knew from Poland, Tuuli, was going to London on the next day - I went to the event by myself. I decided to socialize a bit, since it would've been too boring just to get drunk alone. I did something really untypical, and started a conversation with few girls who looked around my age. It turned out that they were studying Medicine in Bialystok, and most of them had been living in Poland for several years already. In this "tiny town" Bialystok, they have a relatively huge community of Finns, which I found weird, since I haven't been able to find a single Finn from the city as huge as Warsaw. Well of course now when they were gathered to the same place, it was much easier, and I eventually met two Warsawian Finns!
After the cocktail hour, the event continued with the programme. We somehow managed to acquire the best places of the whole venue at the balcony. But since no one threw us out, nor came to claim the places, we stayed. First we heard the national anthems of both Finland and Poland. They were followed by the video messages from President of Finland Sauli Niinistö and President of Poland Andrzej Duda. The programme continued with the speech of the Ambassador, and ended up to a short concert of Sibelius's music. The musicians were awfully skilled young Finns - we were impressed.
With Bialystok-squad, who quickly adopted me to their group, we continued to a restaurant. It was a good call since I could not eat that much in the event, for obvious reasons. One guy from the group turned out to be from the same small area in Tampere where I've also lived, and we found out that we've been hanging out in same groups before! Again I had the feeling that the world is so small. At some point of the evening, I started to wonder how absurd it was so spend the whole evening with the people I had just met. Sometimes it takes just a small push out from your comfort zone and you end up to the weirdest situations, potentially leading to something good. As they said: "Well, you happened to pick a good table" - I surely did!
In a meanwhile, Finland was celebrating the independence day in traditional way. At least most of the people. I read about the demonstrations, and to not go too detailed in those, strictly speaking I do not think those demonstrations should be part of the independence day (or any other day in that matter...) Demonstrations such as 612 and "Kohti Vapautta" were luckily smaller than expected, nevertheless I still find it, slightly saying, disturbing that nazis and fasicsts are able to walk under these slogans, freely in Finland. Despite these marginal demonstrations, I am glad how these issues are being dealed with right now in the court. The Nordic Resistance Movement was banned and convicted illegal in the end of November.

Maybe the fact that I've been living abroad for awhile now, has helped me to appreciate Finland in a -different way. Some things I've taken in granted, but the distance has helped me to see features that are unique to Finland compared to other countries. I am grateful for our honest society, honest people who you can trust. You can leave your wallet to the bus, and know that there is a higher possibility to get it back than not. I am grateful for the safe, clean and peaceful environment where I've had a privilege to grow. I am grateful to have benefitted from one the world's best education systems. I am proud for being from a country which was and is a pioneer with fighting for equal rights and gender equality. My Finland is multicultural, tolerant and respectful.
Myös oman äidinkielen merkityksellisyys on korostunut ulkomailla asuessani. Suomen kieli on luonteeltaan erityislaatuinen - kieliopillisesti sukupuolineutraali, rikas ja vivahdeherkkä, ja juuri nämä seikat tekevät siitä minulle erityisen rakkaan. Olen onnekas että olen saanut oppia suomea ensimmäisenä kielenä, ja käyttää sitä itseilmaisuni välineenä.

Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää, Suomi 100 vuotta sekä hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää suomalaisille ja suomalaismielisille! <3

tiistai 28. marraskuuta 2017

Warszawa with dear guests

I got to spend some time with my friends from the Czech Republic, as they visited Warsaw about two weeks ago. Ivo arrived on Wednesday, and rest of the group arrived on Thursday afternoon, after some troubles with the Polish railways - how unexpected! It was their first time in Warsaw, and I, a local with the experience of few months, was more than delighted to be their quide.

So I took my guests to some of the necessary places,
starting from my favorite milk bar to the Lazienski park and the (in)famous shotbar Chupito. The principle of the bar is that you need to point what you want, and hope that it will taste good. You cannot really guess the taste since the shots have names such as LOL or Pikachu. We took a part on the Old Town's Free Walkative Tour, which was, in my opinion, extremely interesting. I learned a lot about Warsaw's history, I would recommend everyone who's visiting Warsaw to take part on this tour, to learn about the city in more detailed way. It's starting everyday 10.30am from Zygmunt’s Column on the Castle Square, and it's free of charge! We also visited the Cultural Palace, but somehow we didn't quite reach the viewing terrace - next time we'll manage to do that, for sure ;)

Others left on Friday evening, but luckily Ivo stayed with me until the next Thursday. We did some essential Ivo-sightseeing, so we travelled around with the trams and a metro. With the best possible company (and a terribly overpriced coffee from Costa) it is a rather nice activity. We visited a railway museum which had a cool backyard full of old locomotives - creating a nice contrast between the city and its skyscrapers, which were right next to the place.

We visited the Uprising Museum, which was probably one of best museums where I've ever been -  educating, and interesting place with well built exhibition. It'd be another place to visit if you'd ever find yourself from Warsaw, admission on Sundays is free. After the museum we went to eat pierogis because obviously, when in Poland, you need to eat them as much as you can! Especially if and when you have only one month left here.

On Wednesday we headed to Gdansk. As did the first snow this year, winter is here... To spend time in Gdansk, which is less crowded than Warsaw, was relaxing after a busy week in capital. We had enough time to check all the essential places in the old town, and we also somehow managed to end up to the middle of an advertisement shootings. Not that we would have minded, but it happened that they'd decided to build their set right in front of our hostel, so our access there was denied. But clever as we are, we just basically went around the set and managed to sneak to our room.

Next day Ivo flew back to the cold country and I stayed in Gdansk for couple more hours. It was enough time to take a tram to an important location, as you can see from the picture above. #onlyfunforfinns. Soon it is December, and my final month here begins. Still I got lot of studying to do, not to mention about essays, - and when I'll be back in Finland it is finally time to concentrate on my thesis. On the next week there will be an important day, 6.12., when Finland will celebrate its 100th independence day. I have a plan to attend an independence day event held in Warsaw's Finnish Embassy. It is the first time I'm abroad during the independence day, and even though traditionally the main programme of the day has not been fancier than to watch other people shaking hands, it would feel weird not to celebrate at all.

Do widzenia,

(ps. I was not trying to escape, but I saw some ducks over there.<3 )

maanantai 13. marraskuuta 2017


I witnessed the event everyone told me to stay away. Here are pictures from last Saturday, when Poles were celebrating their independence day. At least in some cities. Here in Warsaw on the other hand, there was a massive demonstration, march of fascists and neo-nazis. The amount of people marching in their rows left me speechless. Angry people shouting to the ones who were - and will not be there. Scared people (including me), scared from their hostile message and behaviour. They warned me not to go outside, but I wanted to see it with my own eyes. They were right - such a sad sight.  

A spontaneous holiday

Two weeks ago, I had a week-off from University. Meaning that I didn't have lectures where I would've had to attend. I thought it was time to change the scenery, and as I found myself missing my family and friends, I knew where I wanted to go.

So I made a sudden desicion to visit Finland. Not for a longer time, just for a week. Only few people knew about it, the rest came to know when I arrived to their doors. Why bother to tell that I'm coming, right? I found a pretty good deal from Gdansk to Turku - the tickets to there and back were less than train tickets from Helsinki to Vaasa and back :D. And if I wanted to visit Finland before January, the only time to do it was before my studies were about to get more intensive!  
My first task was to travel to Gdansk. Since my flight was about to leave at 9am, the earliest train would've been too late. I decided to travel with PolskiBus (yeah, local OnniBus). Again I got to experience the benefits of night traveling, and the joy of sleeping in a bus. But I have no complaints - I am getting professional in this so I slept almost the whole journey. Next task was to find a bus to the airport. It was easy by using the lifesaving app Jakdojade. It works actually in every major city in Poland (Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan, Wroclaw, Krakow and so on...) - so if you are ever traveling in Poland, this app will save lot of time from you!

I dont know why I had the image that the airport would be small. Probably because the destination from there was Turku, I thought they would be somehow comparable. But no! Gdansk Lech Walesa Airport seemed lot bigger than I thought. After arriving to my gate I heard Finnish for the second time in Poland after I arrived in September. The first time I heard Finnish was in Chopin Museum in Warsaw. I outrageously crossed the line of Finnish personal bubble by looking at them and smiling. (#finnishnightmares) But to hear your own language in a country, where you barely have a common language with natives, feels surreal - especially when the language is as minor as Finnish.

My runaway trip back to Finland was full of activities - I visited four cities within the one week. That is what happens when your friends and family are living all around the Finland and you obviously want to see them all. My first destination was Helsinki, where I met my dear friends Aada and Taru. After a long "one and a half months" without seeing each other we finally got to spend time together again, being restless as always.

After Helsinki, I headed to Jyväskylä. I wanted to see Ivo, even though I knew he would come to Warsaw soon. The only minor tiny little detail was that I quite forgot to inform that I would be coming to Finland, so he was rather surprised when he realised who is there standing outside his window :D In Jyväskylä we threw a party with Erasmus students and Polish vodka. Small tip, if you ever book a common room and there is someone coming after you - fear not! You can always negotiate to combining your partys, or like in our case wait for the latter party to simply die out before it even begun.
For the weekend I had some plans in Vaasa. Like with Ivo's case, I had a small surprise to my beloved Iitu who thought I would be in other side of the Europe. We appeared to her door and our small squad was almost whole again - expect our fourth member Tiia who is currently in Germany, we missed you! On Saturday we attended to a Halloween party at Aleksi's and Alissa's place and I was reunited with both of my cats (who ungratefully were rather sleeping than cuddling with me...)

We visited a viewing tower in Svedjehamn, which is on the coast, even further from the Replot bridge, basically somewhere almost in Sweden. We rewarded ourselves with some munkki after climbing to the tower but it was also worth to climb just for the view! The next destination after Vaasa was Tampere. There I spent nice two days with my parents and the endless amount of food. No kidding, they were serving food in a manner if I hadn't eaten in ages.

Now as I am back to Warsaw, it is time to concentrate on my studies again. I will have a dear visitor, Iivo coming here on Wednesday, and on Thursday even more friends are coming! I am thrilled to show them around in my hometown, and share my favorite places with them - see you soon guys! <3

Do widzenia,
- Iiris

perjantai 20. lokakuuta 2017

Busy town, busy life

In these past weeks I've had some really busy days. Not because of the assignments, but because of the general rush to everywhere. I do not have even that much lectures, actually only on Mondays and on Wednesdays - but there is so much to see and to do here that staying still seems like an impossible task! Yesterday I took a day-off and finally read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Unlike I thought, I was not disappointed, not at all. I actually cried a bit (terribly lot) while I was reading it, so if you feel like opening the old wounds, you should read it too.

The thing I really miss here in Warsaw is playing piano. I started to play the piano again last summer, after several years of break. Now when I don't have a chance to do it, I've realized how much I actually enjoy the playing. It should not be a problem to find someone from here to give me the lessons though, after all Warsaw is the home town of Frédéric Chopin. The only problem could be the language-barrier between me and my teacher. So where to find a piano that I can play? I do have some plans about sneaking to an airport, I'm even willing to give free concerts - especially if and when people want to hear bit-unrehearsed-and-probably-quite-awful piano covers from Game of Thrones.

Few days ago I attended an event which was held in the memory of Chopin. The event took place in the Holy Cross Church. They played the whole Requiem from Mozart as a tribute to him. Oh and the concert - it was amazing. 55 minutes well spent.

I'm planning do an own blog post later explaining more from the courses I am attending here. I want to mention the names of the classes I'm taking part to, so you'll get a better vision of my studies. The courses I'm taking on this semester are,

1. Asymmetric threats,
2. History of European Integration,
3. International Migration,
4. Political and Economic Geography,
5. International Relations in Central Europe and
6. International Protection of Human rights.
I will still have to do some selection, since I am only allowed to do courses worth for 30ECTS, and these six in total are more than 40..

I went to the Museum of Modern Art one day since it is only five minutes away from our University library where I am spending lot of time. They had an interesting art exhibition there, it was a nice and relaxing way to spend a rainy afternoon. There are still lot of museums to see, next I want to go to the National Museum and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

We finally visited the sightseeing terrace on top of the Cultural Palace with Nathalie last week. The views were striking - you could really see how big city Warsaw is in fact. Afterwards we went to an Israeli restaurant (because hummus is life), and we got enormous amount of food for free after we had ordered our meals. It seems it was somehow included to the offer - anyway, good deal, I would say. For those who'll visit me, I will take each and every one of you to eat there!

One day my friend Robert decided to cook for us. We have a "deal" that we cook to each other by turns, and he started it in an excellent way! I am still not that sure what we ate, but I know it tasted wonderful. He was a good friend and made me a vegetarian version, even though it was not the "correct version". Speaking of food, I have a new favorite lunch restaurant here! It is called Wegetarianski Bar Mleczny, and as the name says it is a vegetarian restaurant, with Polish food. I have been there probably eight times during the last three weeks, so they pretty much start to know my face. Everytime I go there I'm trying to speak more in Polish and less in English. The staff there is really friendly, and food tasty and cheap!

We had a nice evening last week in a pub called Kufle i Kapsle. They are offering 16 different special beers there, and they have a deal that you can taste four of them with 20zlotys (~5€). We basically went through the whole list testing every beer, and rating them from 1 to 5. They were not the best beers ever - I swear some of them tasted like coffee which is not, surprisingly, a good combination. I am not actually sure which beer we chose as the winner, so we'll probably need to go back to re-do the test.

Few weeks ago we headed to the Łazienki Park with Tuuli. We chose a nice, sunny day to go there and we got to experience the golden autumn of Poland. The park is full of wildlife - the cutest ducks, some scary swans which were coming really close to us and lot of friendly squirrels looking for food. Łazienki park was one of the most beautiful parks I've seen here so far.

I ordered some photos from Empik to cover my empty walls. Now I have a collection about selected moments from last year, now my room starts to feel like home. It is crazy that there are only two months left of this year, and then it'll be 2018. I have some nice plans for christmas, and before it we are planning to do a trip to Krakow. Also, we are planning to go to Amsterdam in November with my friends from Finland, so if someone has good tips what to do there, let me know! Let's see what trips I'll invent before these and/or after - I really do have troubles of staying still.

Do widzenia,
- Iiris

Veselé Vánoce!

Greetings from Ostrava, from a happy and over-fed Iiris. I am truly overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness I've encountered during ...