Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Discovering Scandinavia

Hello lovely people who are reading this blogpost. It is already the 5th of December, and here I am, writing only my third post… Despite the fact that I am not good at keeping everyone back home up to date, I decided to write a long article here about all my travels I have done up till now.

Living in Helsinki has granted me a lot of opportunities to discover the Scandinavian countries. I have now been able to visit Tallinn, Stockholm again (twice even), St. Petersburg, Porvoo, Oslo and Lapland. I still have some places left to see in Finland itself and those will be visited in the last 4 days of my exchange here. Turku and Tampere, get ready!

Now, the first place I visited when I arrived in Finland was Tallinn. Some of my friends from Belgium decided to visit Helsinki for a couple of days and it seemed like a fun idea to take the boat and sail to the other side of the Baltic Sea. Now I say it seemed like a fun idea. In reality I was ill, lying in the toilet for almost 3/4rd of the ride. Big shout out to my amazing friends who didn’t get seasick and stuck at my side while I was emptying my stomach. I really love you guys! Once we survived the horrid boat trip, we arrived and got to land to see the beautiful medieval city, Tallinn.

It was a nice change from Finland as Helsinki is a pretty modern city compared to Tallinn. The little streets were cute and the city square really made me feel as if I travelled back in time for about 500 years. I loved it there. Here are some little pics I took together with my friends.
(Tallinn September 2018)

My second and third trip I took from Helsinki were again Stockholm. In a previous post I already exclaimed my love for the city. I visited my second time with Inez, a close friend of mine from the exchange. Together we saw again the same stuff I did the first time, but we went in to the Royal Palace. Here we saw the changing of the guard too, just like I did with my parents in Copenhagen. Inez and I slept in a hostel which was a boat and ate a lot of cheap hotdogs and chicken nuggets, like normal students should!

The third time going to the city was with my boyfriend. He had already been to the city too, so we decided to not visit the obvious places. I mean we still went to the Old Town, but this time we decided to take a bus and drive all the way to this big palace called ‘Drottningholm’. It was created for all the queens of Sweden. Paul and I took a guided tour there and it was interesting to learn a little bit about the dynasty of Sweden as we both didn’t know much about it.

Oh and by the way, the boatride to Stockholm didn’t feel like hell! I didn’t get sick, which was a big relief!
(Stockholm October 2018)

Being a student in Helsinki has a lot of perks because Finland is situated next to Russia. Why is this so interesting? Because when you take a boat to St. Petersburg you are allowed to stay there for 72h visa-free! Thanks to the ESN and TimeTravels organization a lot of students got to go there.

For me it has always been a dream to visit the city. I’m intrigued by the Russian history of the tsars, plus I love the movie Anastasia (which was also the name of the boat we took)! We got to see so many beautiful places such as the St. Isaacs Cathedrale, the Hermitage (Winter Palace where the tsars used to live), The church of Spilled Blood and many more. I even had the opportunity to see the Swan Lake ballet of Tchaikovsky in the theatre of the Hermitage! I am in love with this city. The thing I discovered about the country is that it is very expensive to get into and to get a visa for, but once you’re in, it’s super cheap. I really recommend trying to visit the city if you love learning about history as much as I do!
(St. Petersburg October 2018)

After the travel to Russia it was time to take a little break of the big travels and so my boyfriend and I decided to make a daytrip to Porvoo. About this town: it is old and beautiful, but after 3 hours you’ve seen already everything there.

It’s situated an hour away from the capital of Helsinki and it’s easy to reach by bus. It was cold and the sun was already setting at 15 o’clock, but sure worth a visit.
(Porvoo November 2018)

A week after the visit to the little town, Provoo, my boyfriend and I took a spontaneous flight to Oslo, Norway. Arriving there at the airport was interesting. I never have felt so welcome in a foreign country! The airport has parquet which makes it immediately feel cosy when walking around there. So the first impression of the country was good.

From the airport we took the train to the city centre and did some sightseeing there. We were welcomed by some beautiful light at the seaside where the Opera House is located. Despite the fact that it was cold, the sunrise sure was gorgeous. Every day we saw sunsets and sunrises as how they look in movies. So dreamy. I can 100% say that I’m in love with this city!

We saw places such as the Opera House, the palace, the Christmassy streets, the islands in front of the coast with nature, Langholmen and the statue park full of naked statues. Definitely one of my favourite cities I have ever been to!
(Oslo November 2018)

The last trip I took was again with ESN and TimeTravels. This time to Lapland! Now this trip was interesting as we had a long drive ahead of us. We left Helsinki at 22 in the evening and arrived around 12 o’clock the next day in Rovaniemi to visit Santa Claus Village (where the REAL Santa lives) to only leave at 14:30 again so we could arrive in Kilpisjärvi at 21 in the evening. As you can tell, it was the most exhausting travelling I’ve ever done.

The sun came up between 10-11 and went back down completely between 15-16 which was a crazy experience. My body was super confused and wanted to sleep the entire time. Luckily between those few hours of daylight we got to do some cool stuff such as learning Artic Skills (now I say learning… I still would die in that cold), driving a snowmobile (here again, I say driving… I let my boyfriend drive that machine after I almost killed both of us when I was at the steer) and visit Tromso in Norway.
(Kilpisjärvi December 2018)

The most amazing experience was seeing the northern lights. It has always been my dream to see them ever since I was little and saw Brother Bear. I was so happy we got to see them as they had been hiding the entire time behind clouds. Now, I can die in peace knowing I fulfilled this dream of mine!
(Somewhere in Norway December 2018)

As you can tell by this super long blogpost, I did not really have much time to write… So hopefully this makes up for it! I promise to update you about living in Helsinki and my future roadtrip once I’m back home in Belgium.

Thank you if you’ve read this entire book and are still here. I appreciate it!

Monday, 27 August 2018

Roadtrip to Helsinki.

A lot of people have called us “crazy” for even thinking about driving all the way to Finland. But we did it anyway. Although it really was a challenge. We quickly discovered that our car isn’t big enough for 2 giant suitcases, 3 trollies and several other necessary stuff (laptops, food and so on).

We decided to leave in the evening of Thursday the 9th of August. We drove all night through Germany, entered Denmark and eventually arrived in Copenhagen. It must have been around 9 in the morning and unfortunately our room wasn’t ready yet, so we couldn’t lie down for a quick nap… Instead we immediately went to the city centre.

What did we see in Copenhagen?

The Nyhavn

The Little Mermaid

The Amilienborg (where we saw the changing of the guard)

The next day we wanted to stay out of the city centre and went to a little seaside town, Humlebaek. There was an exhibition of this German expressionist, Gabriele Münter, who has travelled all around and made very interesting paintings. She also took some photos who, back in the day, were very advanced. Definitely an artist worth knowing about!

After our little trip to the seatown we went back to Copenhagen and visited the aquarium there. It was quite special as I have touched an actual snake (and I’m terrified of those creatures!) and we’ve seen the sharks getting fed. We loved it here.

On Sunday, the 12th of August, it was time to leave Denmark behind and go visit the next country on our list: Sweden. It was quite spectacular driving on the 18 km long Øresund Bridge which connects Denmark and Sweden. Once we were let into the country (they do check at the border there) we still had 540 km’s to go till Stockholm.

We arrived in the late afternoon and went to the centre straight away. Although it was raining that day, the city still looked beautiful.

What did we see in Stockholm?

The Riddarhuset

The Royal Palace

Västerlånggatan (the Western Long Street)

The Stortogret (the Big Square)

Our second day in Stockholm was a little bit different. In the morning we went to visit the Vasaa-museum, which was really interesting! It’s about a boat that sunk back in the 1600. After 300 years, it was rediscovered brought back ashore and still more than 90% of the boat was intact. 

In the afternoon we went to a little suburban area with a beautiful view on the city. After that we boarded the ferry that was going to take us to Turku, Finland.

10 hours on the boat, a beautiful sunset and a couple of hours driving later… we finally arrived in Helsinki. My new home for the next 4 months.