All Finland day journals
Arrived 0830 Helsinki time. Nice but long flight from JFK. Big Airbus.
-Gave us a great room. 2 story suite with 3 bathrooms and private sauna, on harbour. Conference center right across street. Kids racked out. Will let them sleep a while, then go exploring this pm.
-City looks very european (duh) and old. Should be nice adventure. Finns seem like great folks.
Finland Day 3
-up since 0300 Helsinki time, as bio clock not reset. Sunrise at 0400. Went running after 5. Cool and quiet. Run from where we are at Marina/Harbour, up thru City Market, down Esplande to end of walkway at Stockman’s, twice so 3 miles. It’s great way to see a city, when no one is up, then watch city wake up.
-Yesterday was all science. 3 hours of statistical models for improving diagnostic accuracy in am. PM was 3 hours of differentiating lateral and medial ventral left temporal lobe functions in semantic memory…enuf science for a while.
-For last nite’s part of Conference, received engraved invitations stating: "The City of Helsinki requests the pleasure of your company at a reception…" Pretty elegant. Good but nordic food. Old City Hall museum.
-Spent rest of nite wandering around the parks and streets of Helsinki. Vy safe. Lots of classical trios and jazz on street corners.
-Today (Thursday) and tomorrow, we will be real tourists. Bus tour around town. Then, ferry to Suomolinnea, old fortress built by Sweden to keep Russians out – didn’t work 🙂
-Free breakfast buttet with lots of food. Nordic stuff – fish, good cheese, hard bread, but weird little hot dogs and pork n beans, too…go figure
-Really is international – a babble of languages. When I finished running down by the docks, couple came up and asked if I speak German, in German. Nine was all I could say. Lots of Nordic languages, and German, some Russian. Makes me wish I knew more language. Guy beside me in conference was from Australia, but that’s a different language, too.
-Fortunately, most all Finns speak good English. We learned a bit of Finnish, but mostly I say Kiitos to everyone, which means "thank you." Can’t go bad saying that in any language.
-Not much radio,unfortunately. Helsinki 1 repeater is pretty quiet, except for ID in Finnish, Bobby and I do some simplex 2meter FM, so he’s OH/W4RPC and I’m OH/K4RLC. Hope to try some portable cw from Suommolinea today, and maybe in Estonia Saturday.
-Very pleasant loft, looking out on morning sun on harbour. AC reading romance novel (no comment)-she says hello to all and need to wake Lauren up for her to run at 0715. She’s too fast for me, so I get loaner bicycle from hotel and ride beside her.
Finland Day 4
Yesterday was a fascinating day, starting with taking a ferry out thru the harbor to Suomenlinna Island, which became a Swedish fortress around 1740, as a way to keep invaders (particularly Russians) out. It is an island full of history and politics for the three countries that ruled it – Sweden, Russian and, since independence in 1917, Finland. It is a buttress design with 40 meters of very thick walls. Originally planned to be abt a 400 meter wall, the military commander soon learned that the geology here is granite bedrock. The earth was basically bulldozed down to the bedrock by the glaciers, a few yrs back. Built by cheap labour, which means soldiers and prisoners. Still has a jail on the island, for some upkeep.
Suomenlinna had other fortifications, and a new beach built by the Russians. There were lots of people over there, sunning on granite outcropping, eating and drinking (this has to be the most favorite local activity). Also, they seem to like to take their clothes off as soon as and whenever possible, and lay on small Russian beach or meadows. We went on a walking tour, led by a young Finn with a British accent, who acted out battle strategies with all the wit and absurdity of a Monty Python routine. (We have a bit on video.)
-Set up the cw rig, but wasn’t able to make any contacts. Got the usual weird looks and strange questions abt what I was doing. Haven’t been taken as a spy yet, but will have to be careful in Estonia, as Alanna said she’ll get really mad if I get arrested over there and put in a gulag.
-Sorry, but the Finnish fish (especially salmon sushi) doesn’t sit well. We found an elegant Greek restaurant right down the street. Looks like a pit on the outside, but decorated in Victorian style on the inside. In fact, the salmon sushi has been a problem for me ( no one else). The guy who invented Immodium should get the Nobel prize.
Finland Day 5
-Took a guided bus tour around Helsinki today. Had headphones that translated into English. Much of the Helsinki architecture by same person, Endel. Modern buildings (from the 1930s on) are “functional” sytle, that defines much of this culture. Went to the famous Rock Cathedral, an evangelical Lutheran (national religion of Finland) carved out of a huge chunk of granite. Also went to the Sibelius monument. Took pictures of the kids sticking their heads inside the round steel pipes that look like organ pipes, making them look headless. The Japanese tourists thought this was hysterically funny.
Made two trips to Stockman’s today (If Stockman’s doesn’t have it, you don’t need it). Had to get contact lens cleaning stuff for Bobby and miniDVD tapes for me. They have a wonderful bakery with great Danish and cheesecake, and gluten-free sweets for the kids. (Finland is great place for the kids, as all menus state if food is gluten or lactose free, and whether it has garlic). Spent the afternoon at City Market, shopping for stuff. Bobby found his reindeer knife. A Finnish lady chased him away from her knives, but he reasoned a guy would not have any problem selling him a knife. He was right, and bought a cool one, in leather case, handmade and signed by the artisan. Bobby and I both had reindeer dishes for lunch, in different dishes. He had reindeer meat balls (there’s a joke there) and I had a reindeer pilaf with onion rings. Mine was in a hotdog shape and tastes like really potent beef dogs. Got to buy Helsinki Tshirts. Then, big thunder storm with lightning (market is also on the harbor). For some reason, didn’t think they would have lightening here, but massive storm. We came back to room, hung out in our private sauna and ate some leftovers, plus room service Scandic burger and chocolate mousse.
The only comment I have is that it would be incredibly expensive to live here. Stockman’s had basic electronics like Best Buy, so could compare shop. Much more expensive, plus, big tax, including a 22% tax on restaurant meals! Glad that bill didn’t get passed in NC. There are plusses to a “welfare state” like good universal health care, but downside is huge tax basis. Public school thru age 16, but universities are very competitive and expensive. No UNC type system.
Up after 2300, been watching Russian TV tonite. I think it’s a comedy..or a car repair show. TV doesn’t have lots of the junk that American TV has. But you can watch Law and Order SVU, Numbers with Finnish subtitles. Commercials in Finnish and Russian are really funny. Bobby and I take turn guessing what they are really advertising. Who knows?
Getting packed for boat trip to Tallinn, Estonia in am. Have to be up early to make 0700 departure. But hard to get to sleep early with sun up til abt now, and drinking Finnish coffee, which is incredibly high octane. Looking forward to spending time in medieval part of city, called Old Town.
BC Katajanokka Island, Helsinki
Finland/Estonia Day 6
Today, we got up early for the trip to Estonia to hear Prof. Endel Tulving and sightsee in the medieval Old Town. Almost all 500 of us went, on multiple bus rides across Helsinki to the docks at Lansisatama Harbor. Boarding the Tallink Superstar took almost a mile walk up gangplanks. It was a huge ferry, with the bottom loading cars and even an 18-wheeler. We settled on the afterdeck in the morning sun. But, soon after getting away, it became extremely windy and cold. Alanna found a part of the ship that looked like an old disco stage, and we hung out there until departure in Tallinn.
From the ship, we could see some modern office buildings to the left, with the Old Town vista of towers and castle-like structures to the right.
The group was taken by bus to Hotel Sokos Viru, which is also a conference center. After a nice coffee reception with sweet rolls, we heard Prof Endel Tulving, now 82, talk about Memory from the perspective of being one of the world’s great memory researchers. His presentation was not so much scientific data, but a talk by a classically trained scholar who views cognitive psychology from a philosophy of science perspective. Just my kind of guy. I talked with him a while after his presentation. I asked him, looking back on his years of experience as the preeminent memory theorist and researcher, what would he recommend to keep our memory healthy as we age? He thought for a second, got a twinkle in his eyes, laughed and said: "Don’t grow old!" There’s a lot of wisdom and depth there.
While there were scientific papers for the remainder of the afternoon, several of us (mostly Americans) played hooky and visited the Old Town, the medieval part of Tallinn, which started around 1127. Walking up to Old Town, although it fit in with the medieval architecture, there was a familiar image of golden arches – McDonald’s! It proved handy for later bathroom breaks. Our first impulsive decision was to climb the old Town Tower. It had narrow, steep circular steps. Halfway up, we found an alcove with a hole in the floor. The sign explained that it was the toilet for the town guard, so he didn’t have to walk all the way down for bathroom breaks. Alanna thought we were at the top, but it was only halfway up. The view from the top was great, and we understood why the town would post a guard up there. But getting up was the Stairmaster from Hell.
We walked the old and rough cobblestone steps, visited the City Museum, ancient cathedrals, castles with high thick walls, and other medieval sites in this confusing city. And bought some trinkets, including refrigerator magnets. At the end, we met back at Hotel Sokos for a guided bus tour around Tallinn. Our bus hostess was funny and tangential in her explanations.
Since all four of us are licensed amateur radio operators, we used our ham radios to communicate, when we lost each other, as cell phone usage there is incredibly expensive. There are no repeaters in Tallinn, the capital city, so we used the simplex channels recommended by the Estonian Amateur Radio Union. No special license, as we were grandfathered in, under the European CEPT. Just had to use the country prefix and district number. For Tallinn, it was ES1 and our calls, eg, ES1/K4RLC.
We saw the site of the Olympics, and they still had old Russian propaganda statues. Even though Estonia is allegedly a country free from Russia, our hostess showed where Russian Army spent their current summers by the sea. Best not to kick sleeping bears.
The boat ride back was a bit rougher, but still beautiful in the Bay of Finland. We got burger and pizza from the Estonian-flagged ship’s kitchen, but they didn’t quite taste the same. Translating the money, we spent $50 bucks for this. The kids enjoyed the duty free store for bricks of white chocolate for 800 Knooni, and Bobby got a Giga-bag of chips.
We got back around midnight, tired, but having really enjoyed a sojourn to meet a famous memory psychologist, and travel back in time. I wouldn’t do well in medieval times, nor did most denizens. Would probably be in the city’s alms’ house where they put the town folks with smallpox, syphilis, dementia or anything else that kept the peasants from being productive. Must have been a fun place.
Finland Day 7
Up early for last day. Luckily, our flight doesn’t leave til early evening, so we have almost a full day to knock around.
Up around daybreak, which is 0400. Woke Lauren and proposed that she and I run together this morning, as it’s the last day. She likes the idea. She slows down and I speed up (mostly her slowing down) and we run the course from our marina, thru the city market, the Esplande and city park to Stockmann’s. We were concerned abt her running alone, and we did see a few derelicts who looked like they had been drinking all night, as well as Finnish sailors on Liberty in their dress uniforms tiredly walking toward their ship. Mostly, it was cool and nice. She decided to stay with me for second loop, until the end when I suggested she sprint hard to the hotel. It was a really nice bonding moment for us, both runners, and 42 years apart, but enjoying the rhythm of striding by the President Palace, City hall, and other really old buildings, on old brick and cobblestone streets. Such great vibes, and something she will remember forever.
-Next, wake up Alanna and Bobby and have usual big bfast buffet. They still have the tiny hot dogs with pork n beans (and lots eat both) as well as meat balls (Bobby says they’re reindeer). Musta had a drunk cook as today’s scrambled eggs have consistency of bad custard. Avoided those and the “crusty fish.”
-Spent most of the day in the market, getting trinkets for friends/family. I tried on the Russian winter hats, made of mink or seal. The woman was really disappointed when I didn’t buy one, but there would be little use for this in Raleigh (although they look pretty cool and communist). –Saw a funny Tshirt for Lauren: it said: “Good girls go to Helsinki; Bad girls go to Lapland.” Got her something less outrageous. Took lots of video, with the video camera at chest height so it didn’t intimidate anyone, and just walked around the crowded market, listening to the various languages and enjoying being in a place where this had been going on for hundreds of years.
-Packing up was sad, as we really enjoyed Finland and wish we had more time to go up north to Lapland, and over east to St. Petersburg. Maybe later. But it was a great family adventure that the kids and us will cherish forever.