Oulu pathsOulu's Carnival

It exists, I swear it. There are carnies that live and work in Finland, and not only are they Finnish but they seem to attract gypsies gallore! Who knew that only in Scandinavia, gypsies actually wear their special outfits and walk around, and are not hidden like in the rest of Europe. In any case, my friend started work again and since I left a few days later I had to spend the day by myself exploring. I did so by walking from Koskela to downtown Oulu via the the endless amounts of walking/bike paths in the region. In between this time and walking around some more in Stockmans, we went on the way back, talking of limits of ourselves, and stretching the thoughts into a carnival, where they even had rickity roller coasters that dared themselves by staying on the tracks. It really was a surprise, but I had a good laugh. This was followed by laying at the port, eating candies, and chatting more about us.

Oulu Airport

The last few nights together was not only trying with time, but also emotionally. It turned out that my friend and I bonded dramatically and we got terribily used to each other’s company. Nights were filled with tears, and awkward silences, and starvation, but we managed to have a good time by geeking and l33t1ng ourselves out talking about my new mobile phone, and other misc. topics such as Eurovision and Melodifestivalen. As snuggle time passed I began to become sad about packing all of my things away. I agreed to leave some of my things in Oulu so that I have firm reasons to come back and get them, as well as because I seemend to not be able to get my stuff back into the same spots. Truly tragic. The next morning I spent puttering around and making my way up to the factory univeristy to meet to take me to the airport. I left him a nice card at his flat, that made him cry shortly thereafter, and we arrived at the airport two hours ahead of schedule. I actually read the ticket wrong, but it’s better to be early than late! I chilled there for a few hours and then made my way to Helsinki, called, and then onto Stockholm on the smallest plane known to mankind with limited space and obviously all business people coming back from one capitol to another!

I arrived back into a super-hot Sweden, and made my way back ot Arash’s place, which he clearly wasn’t at. There was clear awkward atmosphere with him and his inability to keep himself under control but this was remedied with badminton, Couchsurfing meetings, and hanging out with Carolina!

Oulu statuesOulu church

On day three, we made our way around the town, as the sun was shining and everything was pretty and lit with the warmth that we all love so much. I got to see all the castles, and churches, and the major buildings of the city. It must be noted that when one says city, by Finnish standards there is no such thing. Not even the capitol city qualifies for being a city according to European and International standards. The greater Helsinki area is too large, as they expanded it to be Vantaa and Espoo in order to bring it to city status; project failed of course.

So I saw the church, where there was either a wedding going on, or some really happy funeral, or baptism. I never realised that people could get baptised, but given the low amount of religious people in the region it’s highly unlikely. In any case we continued on to see some statues of famous unknown German-sounding, but really Swedish politicians or generals, but then I got an idea. I love train stations, and the Finnish word for it, but also I needed to go potty so we walked to the train station and I saw where I was a few years in the past (without knowing it of course). For those of whom actually follow my blog, you’ll remember that it was in Oulu that I made a train connection coming from Kemi towards Helsinki with my “friend” or rather loose acquaintance, Ilja.

Oulu Train StationTechnopolis, Oulu, YLE

Thankfully I didn’t run in to him at all, since I think he came from Oulu and was studying in Helsinki. It’s a small town, but no mishaps or confusions in regards to seeing people I recognise. Having an undying passion for train stations, and as well as national broadcasting buildings, we, with the help of Juha-Matti, via mobile phone, set out to find the YLE offices in Oulu. It’s a tiny building that’s ironically called Tecknopolis. We continued walking to the Gigganti, which of course is a technology store as I decided that I wanted to buy a new mobile phone and wanted to look at some models. Stockman’s has a lovely selection but only the Nokia main branded ones are able to be tested.

Why did I decided to get a mobile phone in Finland? Well for starters I wanted to try out a Nokia, and second of all all mobile phones in Finland come unlocked and it’s illegal to sell them (without a subscription) with a SIM-lock. Even if you have a plan, after two years the company is forced to give you the code to unlock the phone. I love that idea, it’s the greatest thing ever, I think! So everything was perfect and I started taking notes on what I might like or not.

The day ended more or less with us walking around and me taking photos with some statues, and then the complete and utter exhaustion that is taken over the body. This can be noted as my host sneakily took a photo of me while I was laying on the bed. How devilish and sly, him! We watched some videos, ate burned popcorn, drank Pepsi-Max (no sugar!!) and then went to bed; two separated at birth twins, reunited (despite being born in different years!) Our dramas no longer lasting, and a great closeness therefound thenceforth.

Oulu UniversityOulu University

We woke up the next day at some God-awful hour and made our way back into the awesomeness of Oulu. We walked around as it had rained before, and decided to check out the awesome cafés (one of which my host’s godparents own), and had some nice tea, coffee, hot chocolate and resisted taking cakes. The godparents were so cute and kind, and Marija was so surprised to know that I speak English and Swedish both, funny things, yes yes yes. In any case, we continued our tour of Stockmans (which of course is the classy Finnish-national store that’s ironically bilingual, so I had no problems there!) People wear name-tags and identify which languages they speak (and it’s really true about their levels as they have tests to verify it!)

Stockmans in OuluOulu streets

We walked around some more and I was shown the city. We more or less did walking of everything, and had a gay old time. We met up with Elina and Noora in the morning at the university to have some food. Noora was feeling sick, and Elina was nervous about going to Rome with Noora. They had no plans, hahah, except drinking no doubt! haha. I got a tour of the university (which looks just like a factory with funky colours). I met some of his colleagues which were wall nerds, and we walked around to see the campus. It’s quite a small university, and like everywhere in Scandinavia, on the inside it’s so warm you might as well wear shorts and a t-shirt!

Roberts Coffee, OuluRoberts Coffee, Oulu

We chilled, and walked back into town and did nothing special. Spending time with friends, is one of the best things that one can do. I attest to it being true, of course. At this point I decided that Stockmans was awesome and Robert’s café, even better, because we were obliged to go back and have cakes on godparents request. I think that if my host could have decided, he would want to go there every day of the week. He flirts with the people that work there also, so it’s quite amusing to watch to see what’s going on and how people react.

Arlanda Airport

What happens when one embarks on a travel past the Gulf of Bothnia? Well they arrive in either Finland, Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania; the former is the destination of choice. After chilling awhile in Uppsala and having some “interesting” times (in other words dramamatic) I woke myself up early one morning to get to the airport in Arlanda. Having showered and took my time, of course I ended up being late to the train station for the Upptåget, and subsequently fearing that I would eventually miss my check in (once again) and it would all go to hell. Turns out to make matter worse, the train only goes once per hour instead of twice or three times because it was Ascention day. Damn you Jesus, or whatever we are celebrating.

So I arrived at Arlanda, after having bought an incorrect ticket and blah blah blah, and ran to the auto-check in. Turns out it only takes like 5 seconds to do it all so I chilled in Duty-Free and eyed some things that I may or may not take back to Canada / USA.

Helsinki-Vantaa AirportOulu streets, in Koskela

So I arrived to the terminals and we waited, and then we got to Helsinki and as proposed, I had a lunch-date with Tobias, in other words the nearly-famous friend of mine who was the Swedish Language YLE commentator this year in Moscow, in other words Eurovision! Go team him; so we chatted and I ate the first meal of the week (basically) and then I got lost finding the domestic terminal. Tobson warned me that it wouldn’t take long, and low and behold the security check took less than 2 minutes (no joking at all). There were 10 people working at the domestic FInland terminal, and I was the sole person there, only one in the terminal for the next hour. Serves me right for being ahead of schedule, bwhaha!

Darude Concert, OuluOulu dancing

Anyways, I got into Oulu in the afternoon and, despite massive crowds from all the flights from Helsinki and baggage left overs, I found my host and we got on the bus. Awkward handshake, Finnish style, for the person for whom I would give my life. Despite all that we got on the bus and headed into Oulu-proper, or Koskela, where he lives, for a party. Shower, dressed, organisation, and we were off to Jenni and a group of new friends I call the “Oulu Groupies” to celebrate the ascention of some saint, or son of God, and more importantly a concert of Darude!

If you don’t know who Darude is, then you can either inform yourself, or drop dead right there. He’s a DJ that released a highly popularised remix-song called Sandstorm. Everyone knows it, just they don’t know who did it! Tragic for them because it’s real class! We went to Jenni’s, we got a little tipsy, and everyone’s English improved greatly after the shy-awkward stage. I chilled with the funny and chatty Noora, and Katariina (who spoke near-perfect English!), and of course my host, Elina, the stunning Jaako, the flower-pretty Jenni, and her gorgeous friend Jennika, and of course the boyfriends, charming Niko, and Juha-Matti. I either named everyone or possibly forgot Katariina’s boyfriend’s name. It’s difficult to remember damnit. Also, props to Finns for producing very tasty sugary cider (way better than the French kind!).

We sang some Eurovision songs and chatted about who was hot and who was not, bwahha, and then we went downtown with the full 10pm sunlight, to the lovely disco-club Odessa, a Finnish chain with places all over the country. We chilled in, coat-checked, and then got-a-dancin’ to the sort of lame DJ. It was lame for about 30 minutes, and then the most amazing things happened.

Darude, performing

We were dancing, and someone bumped into me and I just shrugged it off (having lived in France and being used to it), and then Jennika brought it to my attention that it was Darude that bumped into me. I nearly fell over, and then took a look around and loved how Scandinavians are all about space. They throw their bags in the centre, and they dance like they are crazy. Even Jaako was dancing!

The crowd thickened, and Darude started to play. We were in the middle, and slowly and surely we made our way up to the front where we were rocking with the best of them. The “concert” was absolutly amazing, and then since we were in Oulu and it’s Finland, and basically have 5 million people in the entire country, stars are very accessible. People started gathering for autographs and to talk to him, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon, and I’m glad I did. I got some photos, and then spoke with him. He was surprised that I was in Oulu and even more surprised that I was going back to Toronto in a week. He asked for my name, gave me his e-mail address and info and asked me to contact him so that he could get me on the VIP list in Toronto at the Courthouse. Oh yes, that’s true and I’m awesome. Go me! I just about died, and hugged everyone around me cause it’s like the first time I ever met someone famous, at least internationally!

Oulu, at early hours of the morning

The night ended after a few hours, and we went to get some pizza while the sun was still up (as it doesn’t set), and we got chatted up by some drunk people and walked the 5km home to his flat. We slept like rocks, clearly. It was one of the greater days of my life!

Map.02

Finland you say? Land of lakes and forests? That’s the understatement of the century…

So on the morning of December 30th, Robb and I woked up at 06.00 and left for Haparanda by car, which is on the border of Finland. We weren’t sure where we were going because the bus stop was an abandoned old train station that isn’t in use anymore, and the details were sketchy about the bus that I had to take to the closest train station in Finland. We got there and waited about an hour, and then the bus finally came. I had to say goodbye, which was difficult and very sad, going on the rest of my journey alone, especially to Finland. Oh well, yay for mobilephones!

So I get on the bus and I tell the bus driver “enkel till Kemi” and he stares at me with a blank look on his face. And then I say “Kemi” and he says something to me in Finnish, and I clearly understand. Then figuring out whether he wanted the money in Euros or Swedish Crowns was a struggle. Numbers in Finnish is messed up, and the fact that he spoke no Swedish or English didn’t help. I was the only one on the bus for the whole ride which was scary, but whatever. It’s the wierd thing about driving through Finland, there wasn’t much to see, and I was all alone reading a book which I nearly had finished. We got to Kemi, and I walked around for awhile looking for the train station; it turns out it’s right behind the bus terminal but I didn’t realize this. I had previously made my reservations for the train, but I had to pick up the tickets. Being the ditzy person that I am, I forgot that it was Sunday and that nothing would be open, so I had no way to get my tickets.

There were a few people in the termial building (small room) and I went to the machine to pick up my tickets but it wouldn’t take my number, or my credit card (surprise surprise) so I had no ticket, and only a pass for the train, so I hoped for the best. I got on the train with all the Finns and then found a seat, even though there were many cause the train was coming from Rovaneimi, one of the randomest places ever, heading for Oulu. The conductor came around and I showed him my pass, and tried to explain to him in 3 differnet languages that I didn’t have a ticket but I had a pass, he didn’t want any of it, and was rude and threw it back into myface and went on. How rude eh? Oh well, he probably understood what I said in Swedish but just didn’t want to aknowledge it because of rivalry. So I just slept and tried to keep the old man across from me from staring, by hiding under a blanket.

We arrived in Oulu, where I was to change trains and meet a friend who I would be staying with in Helsinki. Frankly, he was a friend of a friend, and I was sorta nervous about it, since it was New Years and all, but a free place to stay is nice. So he was at the station, and he came and told me that had about 8 boxes to load from the train because he was moving to Helsinki. I said I could help, but communication was difficult. Little did I know, but he is Russian, and speaks Russian, Finnish, and broken Swedish, and hardly any English. Communication was, how shall I say, a major struggle so I resigned myself to the fact that I would smile and nod for a few days, and sucked it up. The train ride was weird, because I was in the wrong seat. It was long too with nothing to see or do, but sleep. I tried to fall asleep but I kept getting woken by babies runnind, then somewhere halfway there I got my seat taken by someone, who wouldn’t get off until Tampere, a few hours from where we were. It turns out that he didn’t want to give up his seat becasue there were no other seats on the train at all. People were laying everywhere, in-between cars,on the floor, in the asiles.

Helsinki.01

Why would a company that has a monopoly of the train services sell more tickets then they have seats? It just doesn’t make sense, so I found a window and parked myself standing there reading my book for a few hours, how boring, tyring, and irritating to always have to move for people that were searching the non-existant bathrooms. Eight hours later we arrived in Helsinki where it was horrible rain weather, and I had to help him take about 100kg of things to a cab… I was irritated, tired, and just miserable at this point. This is the site of where the train arrived, some random train stop closer to where he lives. So we took the cab to his flat.

Helsinki.04

It turned out that he was moving into his flat just that day so he had nothing there, and I had to carry everything. I was becoming very annoyed, but I just pretended to be happy. He cook Russian food (disgusting) and I slept the earliest I’ve slept since I was about 9. The next day he decided to walk around Helsinki showing me around, which was nice, even though I didn’t understand anything he said to me. I will post all the buildings, but since I don’t know what half the stuff is I really don’t know what to write about it!
 

Helsinki.10

w Years Eve, everything was closed and they were closing all the roads and such for the celebrations that would come. The harbour was very nice, along with some curches, and many Russian tourists all over the place. Despite being the capitol city, it’s more of a large sized town and not city, very quiet and small which is quaint, but just weird being a capitol. Notice in the pictures that everything is just rain, rain, rain, rain. It rained a total of everyday that I was in Helsinki, and it never ceased. It’s actually quite sad, but apart from that, it’s a very pleasant place to be. I would have liked to go back in the summer when it’s probably warmer and more sunshine, but alas time is limited.

Helsinki.12

This buidling is actually quite important. Throuhout history Sweden-Finland relations have changed, and having wars and such, but this building is quite special because it’s a replica of the royal palace in Stockholm, and now acts as the official embassy. It’s quite a bit smaller, but it looks exactly like what I will see while in Stockholm soon, and notice the traditional candles in the windows; jättesvensk!

Helsinki.21

This building is super special and super sexy in my opinion. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with them, but I love TV buildings. YLE is Finland’s national broadcasting company, and before leaving I said to myself that I had to go and visit it, and take pictures, being a tourist and all. So I was with all my luggage riding the public transit around Helsinki looking for it, and I was impressed as it’s a very nice building. Maybe Tobias works there? If so then whoohoo he gets to go into a really nice looking building everyday, lucky bastard!

Helsinki.22

What is the importance of this building? How could anyone ask such a question!? This is Hartwell Arena and will be the host for Eurovision Song Contest 2007 in Helsinki. *drools* To me at this exact moment, this place is godlike in ways that can not be described in words. It’s just so sexy, but at the same time it’s really bland looking and nothing interesting is going on with it; and it’s in a really odd place that’s in the middle of an industrial part of Helsinki. Despite all this, go team ESC!

All of this was in the rain, by the way, so I was soaking wet and made my way back downtown since I had to get to the harbour to get on my cruise ship bound for Stockholm. Stockholm, yes that’s in Sweden you silly geese. I got there a few hours ahead of time scheduled (which was smart) and got through the lines and such then boarded the boat. I payed about 50€ in total for the ticket and cabin which is quite cheap. The place was just fantaboulus and beautiful, but there were tons of drunk Finns, Swedes, and Russians. I parked myself in my little cabin and took a much needed shower and went to get some things to eat before we set sail. I didn’t think that I would have any problems on the boat, but between the extreme fear of boats that I have, and the food that I ate, I felt extrodinarily sick for the duration of the trip. I felt like I was going to blow chunky chunks about a million times, and finally fell asleep in my bunk bed in hopes that I wouldn’t explode on the sheets. Luckily I didn’t and all was swell after 16 hours in the boat.

It was intesnse, it has everything! Disco, bars, performances, even a programme, which really impressed me, despite being too ill to participate. It was all swell until I woke up in the morning to see the clock at 10.00. Frankly, I freaked out because we were supposed to get into Stockholm at 9.30, and I thought that I was late getting off the boat. I forgot totally about the 1 hour time difference, so all was swell and I took another shower and calmed down trying to find directions to where my hostel was in Stockholm. Go team ditzy me!