Northern lights in Turku

When you visit Finland, there’s always a chance you can see the northern lights. Northern lights or Aurora Borealis is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere). But let’s not get too technical. I can describe this phenomena in one word: beautiful!

I went to Lapland in the end of January in the hope to spot the northern lights but we weren’t lucky. Everyday it was cloudy so the conditions were not on our side. Although it was a beautiful trip, I had the feeling I’ve missed something there. I went back to Turku with the feeling that I would never see the northern lights.

But that feeling changed two weeks ago, on the 17th of March. I was sitting in front of my computer when suddenly people starting to share pictures of the northern lights on Facebook. First I thought it were pictures from Lapland but then people went crazy and told me you could see them in Turku!

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I went outside as fast as I could with my camera. At first I didn’t see the northern lights and I thought I was too late. But after waiting half an hour the sky turned green! The funny thing was that it was on St. Patrick’s Day, what a coincidence!

I stayed outside with my friends for 2 hours to watch the beautiful sky near the river. People told me it’s very rare to see the northern lights in Turku. I was so glad I saw them finally! I will never forget that night, beautiful Finland!

Text and photo: Lars Claessens

Ruissalo Sauna

If you say Finland, you immediately link it to the sauna tradition. And, as I want to become a typical Finnish guy, it was time to become a real man. And what’s the best thing to become that? Ice-swimming in the Baltic Sea off course!

The best place to do that is in Ruissalo.  Ruissalo is basically a natural paradise where the forest, the countryside and the sea are mixing with the modernity in a shape of a touristic complex, golf pitch, Spa Hotel and a beach. It’s a place much visited as well during the winter as during the summer, because due to all the beauty that you can find in Ruissalo, you can enjoy both seasons to have fun in the island.

We arrived at the sauna place and you can only see the sea there and one sauna. You pay € 4 for the sauna and it’s really worth it. Inside the sauna you meet many Finnish locals. What struck me was that the men in the sauna holding a kind of competition. They’re pouring every second some water on the stones with the result that the sauna becomes almost unbearable. The best advice I can give you is not to sit on the highest bench because it’s hell there!

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After the sauna session it’s time to jump in the Baltic Sea. It’s an unforgettable experience because you’re almost starving when you’re in the water but when you come out of the water it’s the best feeling in the world. You don’t feel the cold anymore and you feel that your muscles are so relaxed.

You have to repeat this at least 5 times (sauna/ice-swimming) and then you’re feeling so good afterwards. I can recommend this experience to everyone and the good thing is that you get a certificate of ice-swimming after the sauna session. A nice souvenir!

Text and photo: Lars Claessens

ESN Lapland trip 2013

Two weeks ago I went with ESN Uni Turku (Erasmus Student Network) to Levi in Lapland. This was the trip every exchange student was looking forward to. We first arrived in Rovaniemi, the official hometown of the real Santa Claus. After standing 20 minutes in the queue, it was time to meet Santa Claus in real life and they took a picture of us with Santa. But he’s a smart businessman too, because for one digital picture you’ve got to pay 49 euros! Maybe bad Santa does exist.

After that we arrived in Levi and we could enter our beautiful cottages. They were all well equipped and every cottage had an own sauna. The next morning we went cross-country skiing. I had never done it before in my life and it was an exhausting experience. We did the trip of 16 kilometers, and for me it was hell. Luckily I was surrounded by a beautiful landscape but after the trip I was whacked.

But I could comfort myself with the thought that there was a karaoke party that night organized by ESN. The party was really nice because there were only exchange students and everybody danced and singed all night long.

The next day we had to get up for the Husky Safari. We arrived there and the dogs were already excited. Unfortunately the trip was only 1 kilometer so we were back very quick. But nevertheless it was again an amazing experience to see how much fun the dogs had by running in the snow. The woman from the Safari told us that some dogs run more than 250 kilometers a day!LarsClaessens1

On Saturday there was the Snowmobile Safari that was the activity I was looking forward to from the beginning of the trip. In the beginning we were taught how to drive the snowmobile. Good thing to know: if you’ve crashed the snowmobile you’ve had to pay 850 euros insurance, so everyone was warned! It was a trip of 30 kilometers in the beautiful nature of Lapland and I can recommend everyone to this once in his or her life. It was so nice to drift in the snow.

The next morning the bus was waiting to take us back to Turku. And everybody was exhausted but satisfied.

This trip was one of the most beautiful trips I have ever done in my entire life. I can recommend everyone to visit this beautiful place on earth!

Text and photo: Lars Claessens