Trip to Russia!

In March I got the opportunity to travel to St. Petersburg Russia with a friend of mines class – which was entirely Finnish people. So I got a valuable experience in two different cultures at once! We took a bus to Russia, and we had a really funny driver (or so I’m told unfortunately he told all of his jokes in Finnish!) and stayed at Hotel Moscow. On our first night we walked the streets of St. Petersburg and went out to dinner. Even at night the streets of the city are packed with very posh looking people.

On our second day we toured around the city and saw a lot of famous landmarks. We stopped at the Church of the Savior on the Blood to take pictures and went over the bridge that France gave to St. Petersburg for its 250th birthday. We also got to see the 3500 year old sphinxes that they brought over from Egypt. There are so many historical buildings, monuments and artifacts that we unfortunately didn’t have time to see them all.

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On our third day in St. Petersburg we went to the hermitage – which was founded in 1764. The museum was gorgeous; it had art from all over the world as well as ancient antiquities. The museum was so big we got lost in it a few times. We spent our whole afternoon there and only managed to see part of one building of the hermitage; I think it would take multiple days to fully appreciate ALL of the art there. The entire building was beautifully designed with magnificent architecture and gilding. We went shopping after the hermitage and I had the chance to buy some gloves from a street stand, luckily with the help of a Russian speaking Finn.

On our final night in St. Petersburg we went to a Russian club. We originally called a taxi company as we waited outside in the cold, but we were unable to get one so we all took a “gypsy cab” which was simply a private citizen who offered to drive us to the club for an agreed price. Although I was nervous at first our driver was a really nice guy who spoke English very well.

On a final day in Russia we stopped at a little town that belonged to Finland before the Winter War and did some shopping at the local market there. It was quite different from the cosmopolitan St. Petersburg but it was still a very charming little town. All in all it was a great experience, and definitely made me want to return to Russia again soon!

Text and photo: Hannah Rombough

Visit to the Turku Main Library

When I first moved to Turku my friend told me that I would love the city library here and he was right. As student I find myself needing a quiet space to relax and study sometimes, and as nice as the TUAS library is at the Lemminkäisenkatu campus it is a little small. But the city library near the cathedral is the perfect place for me to study. It has such a wonderful place by the river, and is within walking distance of everything. But the best part is that it is such an interesting mix of old and new that I have not seen in a library before.

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They have combined their old library which was built in 1903 and connected it with a new and very modern library they built in 2007. And although both wings structured so differently they both have a comfortable atmosphere. The old building has wonderful old doors and a statue of a woman harvesting in the entrance along two helical-Hannah2-2like staircases leading to the second floor. The inside has a lot of comfortable seating areas to read and great dome ceiling and large windows that let in a lot of sun.  The modern side of the library has a sleeker look with glass walls, but it also has tons of comfortable seating, either at desks to work, or at tables looking out the windows.

The actual selection of books at the library is also impressive, there is a vast array of books in Finnish (obviously) but they also have books in English. And throughout the library they have glass cases highlighting different themes, like books about pirates. My favorite part of the library though is the section in-between the two buildings that has all of the newspapers from around the globe. It was so great to be able to read a newspaper from Canada and catch up on what is going on back home, but it is also nice to look at other countries newspapers to see what’s going on there, and what they like to read about. It’s a nice peek into other cultures!

Text and photo: Hannah Rombough

Ice skating with ESN

ESN consistently holds events for exchange students to go to, that allows them to get active and take part in activities that let them meet other exchange students but also interact more with Finnish culture. About two weeks ago I took part in an ESN event to go ice skating at a local arena.

Even though I didn’t have skates with me I was able to rent skates for €5 and entry was only €1, so it was an extremely affordable price for hours of ice skating.

After I got laced up and wobbled my way to the ice, I discovered it was this wonderful outdoor rink with stadium lights all around it. Although it took me awhile to get acclimated on the ice it was great to see most of the other exchange students were having a similar problem. As we (mostly) all skittered around the ice we were surrounded by Finnish families teaching their children to skate, some what appeared to be figure skaters who were practicing their incredible turns, and on the other side of the rink a game of pick up hockey being played.

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At first we all just skated around the rink, practicing stopping, but once some more exchange students came and we all started skating pretty well some people organized games to play like (ice) tag and other games.  The games were a lot of fun to play – they reminded of when I was a kid. Eventually it started snowing which added to beauty of a night time skate. We ended up skating for a few hours, and when we were tired we could sit in the bench and watch the game of ice hockey being played 

and see the little kids practice their skating alongside us adults – whom they seemed to be better than most at skating!!

All in all it was a wonderful experience that allowed us to get out and get active while partaking in a truly Finnish custom of ice skating. But also it allowed us to interact within the Finnish community and meet some nice Finnish people.

Text and photo: Hannah Rombough