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.


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

The Retrodorm

This week I am heading back to home after a pretty amazing 3 months in Turku. People have started to ask me if I enjoyed myself or what was my favourite part of my ERASMUS exchange. Without a doubt I enjoyed myself, but to try to pin down just one event or experience as my “favourite” just wouldn’t give a fair representation of my time in Finland. What I can say is that my time in the Retrodorm, the 5 floor former nursing home at the top of a hill, has helped to make my 3 months in Turku truly unforgettable.

On first glance upon noticing the dampened pages on the front of the building reading ‘The Retrodorm’, the 6/7cm foam mattresses that greet you when you first open your room and the shared shower areas off the communal kitchen; you would be forgiven for immediately  turning around and looking for alternative accommodation. Despite this however I can happily say that choosing to stay at The Retrodorm was one of the best choices I ever made.

NiallBurke3The famous travel writer Tim Cahill once commented that ‘A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles’. For me, the significant part isn’t that I have lived in a country over 3,000km from home for 12 weeks – what is more important is that I have made some great friends from all over the world; from Belgium and the Netherlands to Germany and  as far away as Australia (to name a few!). I know that I won’t be short of a place to stay no matter where I end up in the future and I think that they know that the same stands for them when they travel to Ireland.

Looking back at the time I spent in The Retrodorm doesn’t make leaving any easier because we all know that the chances of us living in such place again in the future – with that same sense of community and camaraderie – are quite low.

Text and photo: Niall Burke

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!


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