Week two in Finland

There’s something incredibly freeing about wandering alone through a foreign city. The liberation of the anonymous, I suppose. I’ve lived in small country Australian towns now for the last fifteen years. Anonymity does not exist in such places, even as a rather solitary creature who prefers my own company. I’ve never been able to blend in.
But here I do, a foreign city, surrounded by people speaking a foreign language…I could be anyone. I stand on Aleksanterinkatu, drawn to a corner by a delightful noise, and I am honestly moved to tears by a man playing beautiful music on an elaborate array of glass bottles. 

  
Surrounding me, watching also, are rosy cheeked Finnish faces, rugged up in big coats and beanies and mittens just like me. No one looks twice at me, and I feel like one of them. Except I lack the high, razor-sharp cheek bones. All around me, massive displays of Christmas lights and trees and hanging stars create a true winter wonderland that I had thought could only exist in my imagination or old movies. There are gnomes everywhere! Fairy lights everywhere! The windows of Stockmann’s department store house intricate, animated, musical displays that fascinate children. And a spinning one made of chocolate that fascinates me. 

  
   
   
Small pieces of white fluff start falling from the sky. I look up. Did someone shake a rug out of a top floor window? That’s going to set off my hayfever. I chuckle at myself as I realise it is snowing, and can’t believe I actually thought that. Apparently still very much an Australian. 

   
   
I came here to discover a part of my heritage, a part that had always drawn me despite being only one eighth of my genetics. I’ve thrown myself into the crowds and the energy and the pulse of the city. This trip, like all travel, is changing me. So many little mysteries falling into place, so many things make sense now. I am perpetually surprised that my halting Finnish is understood. Something about me is attracting the attention of tourists, and no less than four times so far I have been asked directions. What is that about? I am guessing the openness of the Australian face versus the more unreadable Finn. Or maybe just because I keep grinning. πŸ˜€

  
Around every corner here is a sense of the familiar. Oh, and a yarn store. πŸ™‚

  
Working my way across the city, I have gathered a nice little collection of Finnish yarn and accessories. Also a little Drops. And maybe a Rowan or two. Because I’m three quarters English too. 

  
  
Jetlag has worked wonders on my knitting, and the fiddly Lilli Pilli and the linen crochet shawl charge ahead in the early hours of each morning. I’m also working on a jacket, which hopefully I’ll get finished to wear on the trip home because no way will it fit in my case. 

  
Tempting as it has been to bust open the beautiful new Finnish yarns and have a party, I am keeping them perfect and chaste for now. Something very special will be planned for them…if indeed I can fit them in my suitcase too. In addition to the surreally appealing Muumi merchandise I keep buying, I may be struggling for room. 

  
Come on. It’s a Moomin cookie cutter. How could anyone resist? πŸ™‚
A splash of afternoon sun brings everyone out, turning their faces and bodies toward it. I find myself naturally avoiding it. It is the Europeans who love sunbaking, while ironically most of the Australians nowadays seem to hiss at it and run for the shade…

   
 But then just as quickly it’s back to lovely cold and grey. I walk to the Hakaniemi market, past the gorgeous Kiasma gallery, across the water and through parks dusted with snow.

   
    
    
    
 
I wander also in quieter areas on days when I’m struggling a little. I largely ignore my diagnosis but occasionally it sneaks up and I have to pace myself as my joints crackle like bubble wrap. So I head for the beautiful cemetery by the water, where candles are lit on the graves throughout the dark winter months. The Sibelius monument. The Olympic stadium. This time of year, there are very few tourists. There’s a peace here, a comfortable, relaxed connection to the seasons. A different ebb and flow to the extreme brightness, energy and polarity of Queensland, currently sweltering in the summer heat and humidity.

I am reminded of a ring I used to wear, an intricately carved silver snail. It was a talisman at a traumatic time in my life, a symbol and a protective shell. A reminder that everything I needed was always carried within me. It feels good not to need that symbolic protection anymore, to know I can be at home anywhere. Even so, I miss it. Or rather, I miss M. He has not expressed the slightest word of complaint, despite the fact this trip has been so hard on him. We don’t live the kind of lifestyle one person alone can easily maintain whilst working full time. 
  
I’ll be coming back here regularly. Even without the genetic link, my inexorable adoration of Moomins ensures it. But M will be coming too. 
Next week…finally…the Christmas markets!! πŸ˜€

B x

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47 thoughts on “Week two in Finland

  1. Ooooooo, sending big squishy hugs for you Bianca!! I know that sense of familiarity – for me it was found wandering around Italy, despite [as far as I know] zero a drop of Italian blood in my veins! I soaked up something there that remains within me even these many years later.

    Referring back to your last post though, I have to say that while travelling alone is one thing, staying alone and getting out and about alone is very brave! Especially with the language thing. It looks rather bleak and cold there, so I hope it does snow and become very beautiful and Christmassy sometime before you depart. The story of the snail ring is special – I am glad you remember you carry it all within yourself any way. Today I am filled with a sense of how very fortunate we are, in that we get to experience these amazing places and ourselves within them. That we open to whatever the experience of life is and that we get to share it with those who grow dear through this amazing world where we share our posts.

    Look after yourself, stay warm and keep buying those precious little gifts for yourself – as Bruce says, post ’em back – it will be like reliving the trip all over again when they arrive πŸ™‚ xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you lovely Pauline πŸ™‚ xo I really appreciate all your comments. I can totally see you in Italy :)) Yes I too get a sense of deep gratitude that we’re able to travel like this, and to experience so much with relative ease… I guess I don’t feel at all brave given it is such a safe place, and nowadays with gadgets we could really be in constant contact if we want to… I just try to stay open to where I am so I don’t miss anything…:) I do think it’s definitely good to get out of my comfort zone and my hermit tendencies πŸ™‚ yes I’m looking forward to a bit more snow and some nighttime exploring of the markets, the sun sets at 3:30pm which is so weird! πŸ™‚ I will definitely be posting because I can’t stop buying lol…omg the shoes…. πŸ˜€ xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Bianca, such wonderful writings ( when is your book published!) As a traveler and 2x immigrant, I fully understand the impact traveling has on you but you word it so well! It is wonderful to walk the city with you and I truly covet your trips to the Moomin store (only one cookie cutter???) Please continue to bring us along! xo Johanna

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    • Haha thanks Johanna, I am already planning to head back to Moomin store for at least one more cutter, you read my mind! πŸ™‚ and yes there are a few other things from there not photographed too…thank you for the compliment on my writing, for me paradise is to write and knit every day, I have two novels being assessed right now so fingers crossed! πŸ™‚ xo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Must be nice to see some blue skies, however brief. Love those peeks into your shopping bags – I covet the owl needle gauge and that NALLE multicolour yarn. Bring some home and put them in your shop πŸ™‚ The home of your ancestors is a picturesque place; I would love to visit one day. Found any relatives? I had a month on my own in Istanbul this year so I know the feeling of the lone explorer πŸ™‚ I bought needles and yarn there too and knitted in the evenings while listening to Radio National and Classical FM on my iPhone – in a glass to magnify the sound. I even knitted while I was on some long ferry rides – local women would pick up my knitting to look at my messy stitches, nod and smile at me. Haha

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    • WOW Mary, a month in Istanbul! Now that really is brave! πŸ™‚ what an experience that must have been. I laughed at the image of the iPhone in the glass :)) I’m up at 2am every day here and listen to audiobooks while I knit, I can hardly imagine life now without my iPad. I haven’t knit in public as you did, bit cold on the fingers probably. Have contemplated the ferry over to Estonia for a day trip, so would take the knitting for that :)) they definitely appreciate the hand knits here though, and have their own beautiful, simple style. Which I sadly have not inherited lol. Copious research on ancestors has dead ended at Helsinki for me, unfortunately the name was just about the Finnish equivalent of John Smith. When I go to Adelaide next I’ll go down to the maritime museum, it’s the only place where more info may be found in the archives, and they are not online yet. Yes will fit as many accessories and yarn in my bags as is humanly possible….:) x

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  4. Friends, who have now moved to the Aussie mainland, headed over to Germany last year for Christmas. They had very similar tales. They were born in Germany but grew up here in Australia and wanted to taste their heritage fully. They both said that it is incredibly beautiful to celebrate a cold Christmas and it just felt “right”. “M” is what every woman desires in a partner. He “gets” you, and he is giving you room, and wings, to fly. Lucky girl πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks narf! (I assume it’s actually Fran? Which is a lovely name but narf is such a cool word!! :)) isn’t it an amazing concept, I studied genetic memory at uni and it is a real and fascinating thing, as I’m sure your friends would attest! (Plus, I think lots of Aussies want to see a white Christmas sometime, deep down :)) yes, like you and Stevie-boy, I feel so lucky to be with my beautiful M, he’s a keeper πŸ˜€ x

      Liked by 1 person

      • You got it in one. Most people don’t associate narf with fran ;). Genetic memory would be a fascinating thing to study. “The sum of us”. What makes us intrinsically drawn to our origins when you pare away the chemicals and the learned responses. The best time to eat turkey and drink mulled wine and eat your weights worth of brandy sauced, flambeed Christmas pudding is when it is incredibly cold and your body is up for that kind of feast. Our Christmases are not the same. Glad you are feeling the ghosts of your Christmas past and can place another metaphoric block into your identity :).

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    • Thanks so much! πŸ™‚ oh yes Sukkaplokki is awesome, I also just really love saying the name lol. He is very talented. Most of his stuff is on Etsy too. πŸ™‚ I am so glad Finland has made it to your bucket list! Us fibre/yarn lovers need our special destinations…:))

      Liked by 1 person

    • Eeekkk, thanks Yvonne, I’m psychologically back pedalling already!! πŸ™‚ the heat….nooooooooo!!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ they’ve had a massive heat wave at home the whole time I’ve been gone, plus huge summer storms…hopefully it’ll pass by the time I get back! I guess vic lacks some of the steaminess, although still hot. Hope your trip is full of beautiful sunny cool weather! :))

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  5. What a beautiful blog. It looks cold and damp there, but also lit up and lovely. I have had that sense of familiarity before–when I’ve been in England and Scotland–where I was asked for directions (and to join the National Trust) and then I opened my mouth! But I think it’s openness–you are taking things in and not closed. People always see that. Your yarn is beautiful, and Bruce is right–mail the stuff. It will be such a joy to see it again. Thanks for showing us your sights!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much Lisa πŸ™‚ . It is dark and cold and damp and I am understanding more the passion for Christmas here. It really turns what could just be miserable weather into something magical throughout the season. I laughed at the image of you surprising people with your accent in the UK πŸ˜€ yep, I’ve seen those surprised looks too lol! πŸ™‚ I agree, being open is the way to absorb the experiences and not miss anything!

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  6. Lovely post and beautiful photos. I admire Your skills to praise my country Finland, although this time of season, it is not at its best. Anonymous – this is the word, which also my wife loved, because now living three years in a small town, we also want to be anonymous. We walk every day very much and meet people who live in the same house or nearby us. Therefore, next September we’ll move back to our birth town -Helsinki and will enjoy us being anonymous. We have a second home in Oulu, which is in the mid-way of Finland from where it is easy to visit Lapland. We love this town also very much.

    Did You already visit Suomenlinna castle and Seurasaari museum area? Its beauty and history is worth for knowing and seeing.

    We both, my wife and I wish to Happy Stay in Helsinki, Finland.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for all your comments Matti! Much appreciated! :)) I love that you are able to choose between the two lifestyles, and have the best of both worlds! To come back to Helsinki and be anonymous for a while, which can be a relief from the small town life. And then also after a while to go back to where everyone knows you, and you know everyone, can be very nice and welcoming too! When I come back next year I will travel further north definitely, as far as Rovaniemi I hope, and experience Lapland also. I hope my Finnish is better by then too! πŸ™‚
      Suomenlinna and Seurasaari are on my list for my final week, I am hoping for a finer day especially for Suomenlinna as I was told it can get very cold there. But even wet and cold and grey is beautiful to me as it is so different from home! πŸ™‚ Best wishes to you and your lovely wife, Bianca

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. I am glad that our autumnal weather did not frighten You. Lapland is great choice for Your future visit. Its atmosphere is relaxing, very special – very difficult to explain. It must be experienced. Since we started to visit there, we fell in love with it. It calls our mind for new visits.

        If You’ll have any question, do not hesitate to ask us. When You are back in Your home, check my road trip posts and start dreaming.

        All the best. Matti.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi. If You do not mind, I give here one cool place for a visit, which you surely love. It is Ladies toilet in the top floor of hotel Torni. From there, there is a magnificent view over Helsinki. Hotel Torni is situated only 150 meters from Stockman warehouse. Every female traveler should visit there when in Helsinki. πŸ™‚

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    • Oh wow, that is cool about your grandparents! πŸ˜€ I hope you make it here soon! Yep, alone can definitely be such a great experience (However if we are ever here at the same time, would love to meet up for coffee and knitting! :)) your flight time would be a lot less…very jealous of that lol…I remember Iceland is on your list too, and I am keen to see a fellow knitter’s adventures there too :))

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You must have a friendly face to be asked directions four times in a day. I think I may have been asked about four times in the last ten years. I guess I should try to look more approachable. Or perhaps smiling at random strangers would just get me arrested.

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  9. Absolutely amazing. You seem to be really having a very good time and making the utmost best of the experience.
    Thank you for sharing so many beautiful photos with us, I feel like I am travelling with you and seeing so many places through your eyes.
    The yarn and goodies are stunning, I can just imagine how special they must be, and not to mention the fun later to find a perfect project and pattern. πŸ™‚
    I love Moomin too. They are not available everywhere, so when you see one, you definitely have to get!
    Have fun, looking forward to your next post! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s an interesting inward journey to travel on your own… You have time and head space to live at your own pace and take things in as you go, with your own rythm… I’m sure you must be getting plenty of inspiration and will go back home with the head full of ideas and great projects in mind πŸ™‚ enjoy!

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