Turku

In my home country, I live in city three times bigger than Turku (comparing number of inhabitants), so this semester was like summer in quiet cottage. I expected differences, but few things still surprised me.

First thing- space and greenness. Similar sized towns in my country are more… dense. More concrete and bricks. But here, in Turku there is plenty of green areas, a lot of space; low, wooden buildings- citizen-friend place. What surprised me the most, berries and heathers grow everywhere. Parks, squares, even by main roads- a little piece of Finnish forest is literally everywhere. The fact, that living 20 minutes by foot from city centre, I can pick up berries, just on my way to university,  (of course, there are better places to pick up berries than city) shocked me really hard.

Is it middle of forest or just view from window, somwhere in Turku? Both.

Is it middle of forest or just view from window, somwhere in Turku? Both.

Second- bikes. Bikes are everywhere. Without bike you are no one here. Public transportation is not that convenient, as it could be- but why one should develop it more, if you can get to almost any place in town by bike in 30 minutes? Fast, cheap (which is pretty unusual in Finland) and healthy. Any time, any conditions- Finns don’t have time for caring about rain or ice. They just ride. Also streets are traffic-free. When I see rush hours in Turku I can only laugh. And be jealous, because I’m used to waste a lot of time and nerves in traffic jams in my home city. Here- empty, wide streets. Perfect for cycling!

Third- some more about cars, bikes and pedestrians. As cyclist or pedestrian you can feel in Finland like some kind of ‘ubermensch’, master race over car-driving peasants. Drivers will give you right of way anytime and everywhere, even when you don’t want to cross street, just passing by pedestrian crossing. And it is on almost ridiculous level- sometimes car stops to let you go, even when it is the only car on that street for last and next 15 minutes. Drivers seem not to care, if there is no one after them, if you as pedestrian, can eat three-meal dinner in the middle of the street, beacause it is empty. No, they will let you go.

Fourth- Everyone is calm, everything (ok, almost) is in order. There is no space for chaos on each of 338 424 km² of Finnish land. That makes everything quite clear to understand, predictable, but also hmmm…. A bit boring? Maybe not, I  haven’t experienced boredom yet here, in Finland.

Of course, I can write much more about differences in everyday life I can point. Those four are in my opinion, easiest to see and most characteristic to this place. Finland is great!

Text & photo: Wojciech Lasota

Northern Lights

When I was coming here, I did not expect to see northern lights. In my thoughts Turku was not north enough.  And to be honest- it isn’t north at all, maybe for people from mediterranean  regions. You can imagine my face, when some people told me, that they saw northern lights here, ‘yesterday’. Beginning of September, yeah, surely. Too early, too south, stop fooling me, guys. But then, they showed some pictures- maybe not best quality, taking photos in the night is rather hard, but anyway- aurora borealis was visible. DAMN! Northern lights just over me, and I didn’t see them! For me, a guy who is a huge fan of northern territories, who spend some time during last three summers in arctic, it wasn’t just disappointing. It was painful!

After maybe a week, exactly the same situation happened. Oh no, I won’t miss that for third time. So, weather forecast, aurora forecast- next time I will be prepared. And after few days- alarm. Someone form my floor (5th) saw some green light over city- YES! THIS IS IT! But in the city there is huge light pollution- you can see literally nothing. Fortunately, my friend came here with car- here we go, out of  the city. Some more friends also joined, so with full car we were heading to bridge just outside Naantali- we chose that spot before, no lights, small traffic, quite clear view around- almost perfect. But far. Being very impatient we stopped somewhere in the middle of way, at some field. Lights around were distracting us a little, but the show we saw, was surely unforgettable. Green lines hovering over city, constantly changing its position. Above our heads green and violet lines were dancing- this is the only word I can describe that. Many photos and amusement screams later, we got to the car again and came to our primal spot. Without any lights around, the view could be even more astonishing- but Aurora Borealis as unstable phenomenon, calmed down.  Even though, view of  bridge with green sky in background will remain for long time. Some local guy stopped near to us- he was very surprised, that he saw northern lights in that place (so south) and that time. The fact, that he stopped at the same place ensured us, that this is good spot. Or maybe, he just joined us, seeing, that some group of overenthusiastic youth is walking around bridge, near quite good parking?

Sometimes it is normal, when sky glows green

Sometimes it is normal, when sky glows green

First meeting with northern lights will remain surely unforgettable. Show of nature, similar to nothing. Fantastic conditions, fantastic weather, fantastic company- it couldn’t be better. Another ‘northern’ experience on my ‘to do list’ checked. Finland is great!

Text & photo: Wojciech Lasota

KORPO

Vacation week. Break during semester, great opportunity for some travelling. And something I haven’t experienced before-  in my country there is no such thing.  So, what could I do? My decision was to go for short bike trip, to town named Korpo. Why there? There is nothing extraordinary to see, just regular place somewhere in archipelago. My reason was the name: by word ‘korpo’ in my language’s slang you mean corporation. So, only reason to go there was to send greetings to my older sister from Korpo, just simple word joke, not very complex or smart pun. Weather was right, beautiful and colorful autumn- here I go!

Plan for short trip was simple- around 50 km per day, that makes 3 days on tour. From two existing ways, I chose one going through Naantali and then, with little help from ferries, to Nagu and then to Korpo. Simple way, through many islands and bridges- sightseeing tour!  Plan for today- get to Hanka, where ferry starts, with little luck- sleeping in neighbourhood of Nagu. Backpack filled with some sleeping equipment, food, crappy bike prepared for journey of its life, time to go. Sunny, warm weather and astonishing colours made my trip really beautiful. With every single kilometer roads where more and more empty- after 30 km I was nearly the only user of road- which made my trip more pleasant and safely. Especially, when my tempo was not really high.

My bike has soul. I knew it before and this trip only ensured me in this. Vicious and stubborn, but soul. And it cannot deal with the ‘bike part’ of its existence, which made cycling rather painfull, especially at the end of day. Anyway, its stubbornness work both sides- it made me exhausted, but from the other hand, surprisingly, it did not break down. Or brake at all.

After 4-5 hours of cycling, I get to Hanka’s , let it call, harbor.  Quick look at time table- yay! Ferry should be in 10 minutes! … and half year. Last one was at the beginning of September, now- it is middle of October. Well-made preparation! Changing plans just before leaving and being confident, that every ferry on archipelago works instead of bridge caused little disappointment at the end of that day. Anyway, I found some place to hang my hammock, ate little dinner and went to sleep. Next day was even more beautiful, than previous one. I couldn’t go any further, because Hanka was the end of that road, so my only choice was to move back. Trip was very relaxing, with all those colours and silence broken only by strange noises of my bike. Yes, that was definitely what I was looking for!

Day 67. Still no sign of ferry.

Day 67. Still no sign of ferry.

Well, this is almost the end of this impressive journey. Maybe I didn’t reach my point of destination, but certainly got my main target- to have wonderful time in silence and peace. Thanks to that, I had wonderful mood, which even mistake made by stupidity couldn’t break. Trip was definitely, in some way, successful. Finland is great!

Text & photo: Wojciech Lasota