The sun came out today ,spreading blue skies everywhere, so after a few week of +/-1 under a cloudy blanket, the temperature dropped down to -5 and I reckon it’s going to get mighty cold again!
I bought a last minute ticket to the Kemi Ice Castle last weekend from one of the few surviving Italians, the journey was cool with all us friends together, as it always is with the University-organised day trips, and the castle, which is different every year and carved out of blocks of ice hauled out from the huge frozen lake right next to it, was pretty damn cool. An ice tower, a huge inside rustic hotel, restaurant, chapel and rooms filled with ice statues and slides was all beautiful and, well, unlike anything I’d ever seen before. There were some ice slides outside for little children, so if dutifully had a go, fell off the sledge and got stabbed in the leg by my keys. All in all it was another gem in the bizarre and varied experiences of Finland, and yes maybe a bit small for 27 euros- but what other chance are you going to get to go in to an ICE castle in your life? Everything’s made out of ice mate! Ice ice ice!
I am still going ice swimming every Sunday morning, this time was nice and snowy and it was me, the Greeks, and some Chinese and Japanese guys. The temperature was flittering around +1 /-1 so there wasn’t much ice floating around, but lots of lovely snow to roll around in. I’m getting rather used to having weekly ice hole swimming , it really makes you feel alive , and if I’m not mistaken we’ve all definitely become more accustomed to the cold- in this heat wave of 0 degrees it’s too hot to wear gloves ,jackets ,hats or boots , so it’s back to autumny clothes. Afterwards we went to an infamous pizzeria that serves a forty euro pizza, a massive 1 metre diameter Frisbee of a dish that fed us all.
Despite February being my ‘busiest month’ I have a whole week off at the end of this February, the first week of March, where all the French guys are going to Norway. I want to go to Norway when the Dove returns, so I was planning to go and spend a week living in a hut, Bear Grylls style, in the nearby (40 km away) Rokua National Park. I found a free wilderness hut, a place you can find all over north Finland where you can stay for one or two night for free and in a nice secluded forest area, but upon looking at the ‘easy’ directions from Oulu to the national park supplied by the tourist board, the journey involves a 20 euros train -not too bad, but then a 35 euro taxi drive to get to the national park! 55 euros each way just to see a national park? A bit too rich for my blood, will have to think of something else.
I’m still getting ready for the summer, readying myself to book ahead to make the best of the glorious summer months. I’m greatly looking forward to the return of the Dove in mid-march, and my family’s arrival in mid-April, and hope Finland is still sufficiently wintery and mesmerising. I’m pretty sure this warm spell marks a brief interlude in what will be a longer and blisteringly cold winter, I hope! I’m looking forward to my family’s arrival ,as I’ve never been abroad with them before , and can’t quite imagine what it’ll be like , but I’m sure we’ll have a good time. I’m not too sure what to show them, other people have rented out cars to show their family the whole of Finland, and maybe we should do the same if ten days in Oulu is too much.Let’s see… Day 1.see the snow. Day 2. Nallikari, science museum, the snow. Day 3. University, Tirolintie, Paper factory… day 4…Ermmm…
So I hope it will be nice and cold here, because after all that’s what it’s all about here- the crazy arctic climate!
Oulu is a great experience. Surreal and bizarre, but fantastic. Like a giant episode of the Moomins (a Finnish invention, in case you didn’t realise).On the one hand, the cold, the snow, and the feeling of living in a giant wolf infested forest. The benign, friendly but stoic locals, the stillness , quiteness and greyness of the Finnish buildings , weather , culture. And on the other hand , living in the midst of the most fantastic international party that ever lived, the wild hedonism of the Mediterranean people, the bizarre exams, the miraculous inventive abilities of the exchange students. The huge range of people, language, culture, the caricatures and the surprises. Going Ice hole swimming with Belgians, Germans, French, Greeks ,Japanese and Chinese people, all shrieking and freezing together.
And, I went to Cafe Lingua today, and spoke German for two full hours! Seeing as I knew about five words in German when I arrived in Oulu in September, I’m quite pleased.