Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Snow in Iceland (and Fall in Finland)

















Since there was already a post called Snow in Michigan I think I'm entitled to break my 7-9 posts a month streak with this Snow in Iceland sequel. Why it isn't called Snow in Reykjavík can be justified by two different reasons, firstly because the previous post was named sloppily Snow in Michigan instead of the more correct choice Snow in Ann Arbor and secondly, because the picture in this post is not from Reykjavík but from Þingvellir, where we were on Sunday.

Þingvellir is a place between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates where the oldest still functioning parliament was founded in 930. I have again hudreds of pretty cool pictures from there and from the other stops during the Golden Circle tour that we took on Sunday. That's the classic tour every tourist in Iceland takes so if you've been here you've probably seen it all already. But I think we had the greatest weather.

It had been rainy and windy and grey for a long time but during the Sunday night the cold and dry weather from the North finally beat the warm and wet weather from the Gulf Stream and in the morning the whole land was covered in the pure thin layer of the first snow that was preserved by the gentle frost and illuminated by the clear sunlight.

So now the picture queue contains pictures from Þórsmörk and from the Golden Circle tour and there will also be collected random pictures from Reykjavík (but these I'm posting first when I'm back in Helsinki just to make sure that I get them all in the same folder).

But while you're waiting for the Icelandic pictures, check out some Finnish ones. Namely I've finally gone through the pictures from Kirsi's birthday party, that was held just before I came here. The collection features among other things the autumn leaves I was previously complaining about. The subtitles are in Finnish this time, though, but you can still find my Cinderellaean family: my dad Leevi, my step mom Kirsi and my step sisters Miina and Mari. The place is Villa Kivi by the Töölönlahti lake in the middle of Helsinki.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The View From Our Front Door






















This is the view from the front door of our building. Every morning when I step out I look down to see how the sea and the mountains are looking today. They have different colours every day and they change feeling even during an hour while I go jogging or to the grocery store.

Sometimes the sea is silvery light blue and the mountains are beige and the clouds in the sky are purple and the sky is clear blue. And sometimes the mountains are yellow and reflected on the sea and the sky is light pink. And sometimes everything is the same strong transparent blue but in quite different qualities.

And sometimes the sea is stormy green and the mountains are deep blue and the sky is dark and grey above them. And sometimes you can see the shores on the other side glowing in almost golden ocra. And sometimes there are white seagulls flying and sometimes there are black birds swimming in the sea.

And sometimes the clouds sit like hats on top of the mountains and sometimes the mountaintops are white with new snow that always melts for the next day. And sometimes there is a rainbow that starts from the small island in front of the beach and while you run along the beach it streches all the way back to the root of the mountains.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Today

Today I hate the weather here. It's the kind of day when you'd hate any kind of weather. Sunshine you'd scorn for being overly cheerful and clouds would be there just to make you more miserable. And to make it even worse it really is miserable here. It's rainy and windy and umbrellas are of absolutely no use at all. Yesterday it was worse though. I was sitting in a cafe and watching the rain on the street. And when I got back home I was soaked.

The comforting sound of water drops on top of your hood can only make you feel warm for so long. And then you are cold and wet and the only thing you can come up with is to go and buy some more chocolate even though at the same time you feel that you should have been induced to work even harder.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday Tea

Hello. This is Saara's Saturday Post from Barinn, Laugavegur, Reykjavík. It is quite cold today if you plan to take a lot of pictures in the town without gloves on. Otherwise it's quite a nice day, cloudy and windy, but no rain to be expected. At least not right now.

Last night we met some nice Icelandic historians who told us that if you don't like the weather in Iceland, you just have to wait for five minutes. It'll change.

After meeting old and new friends yesterday we slept quite long today. Afterwards I've tried to do some shopping, but the art shop where I hoped to find some drawing paper had closed already at two and the store I hoped might have been able to sell me a blanket to keep me warm in our drafty apartment was closed and didn't have any opening times on the window.

There's a music festival called Iceland Airwaves here this weekend. Somebody is playing upstairs, I kind of like it. I soon need to walk back home though in order to get to the grocery store before it closes for the day. But before I go I'd like to send my love to all our friends in Ann Arbor and to all our frinds thinking of our friends in Ann Arbor. You're on my mind.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Happiness = Soaked Clothes, Aching Muscles and Wading in Icecold Water

On Friday we had the most fun we've had in a long time. We went to an excursion to Þórsmörk, literally "Thor’s Woodland". It's a valley between three glaciers called Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjallajökull and Tindfjallajökull. The surrounding glaciers create a special climate and low birch trees cover the hills and valleys.

The excursion wasn't really what we expected from the brochure and so we didn't quite have the right gear but the trip was really way better than we could ever have hoped for. Our guide Oli was simply terrific.

On our way to Þórsmörk we had to cross several glacial melt-off rivers. Here's a video of us crossing one on our way back. Of course the bus is no ordinary minibus. You can see the glacier Eyjafjallajökull in the background. We were told that the rivers may change quite quickly from small creeks to wide torrents and sometimes the water reaches the windows of the bus and sometimes one can't cross at all.

video

During the trip we saw three big waterfalls, the boarder of one glacier, endless mountains and valleys in beautiful autumn colours, numerous rivers and creeks and thousands of rocks in all shapes and sizes and above it all rainbows rising from the valley.

To see one of the waterfalls the name of which I've forgotten (close by the famous waterfall Seljalandsfoss) we had to climb up a bit and on the way up our guide informed us that two people die there every year and that we had to be very careful and hold the chain. But we got to see the waterfall quite close up by climbing up a makeshift ladder and leaning over a cliff. Afterwards we figured that probably somebody had died there once but hardly two people a year, otherwise they wouldn't take us there, would they?

We got quite close to the glacier Eyjafjallajökull. It was really windy there and when we climbed up a sandhill it was hard to stand up and we got sand in our eyes and in our shoes and when we got back home I realized that my hair was full of sand even though I had the hoods of my hoodie and my jacket both tightly tied all the time. Our guide showed us where the boarder of the glacier had been just a few years previously and it was a terribly long way to the current boarder from there.

We also went to see a waterfall inside the Stakkholtsgjá gorge. We walked there and on the way we had to cross several small creeks from the waterfall. The first we managed by stepping on stones and lucky or unlucky jumps but the next was so wide that after running up and down the stream and wading repeatedly over and back again in his rubber boots our guide announced that there was only one way to do it: "You have to take off your shoes and socks and wade". And of course we did. The water was ice cold (well, it's coming from the glacier) and the sharp stones hurt quite a lot on our freezing feet but we got to the other side. We crossed three streams like this I think.

The waterfall cascaded inside a narrow and deep gorge into which we climbed and everybody decided that it was totally worth the difficult hike and soaked feet. On our way back our guide decided to take another route that meant crossing a wider part of the river and he carried us all seven over.

In Þórsmörk we climbed up a hill and had an amazing view across the valley and the mountains and the rivers and the yellow and orange of the autumn leaves and the brown and red of the birch trunks and branches.

On our way back we saw an arctic fox running up a hill and then disappearing behind it. It was quite small and the guide said that although it's quite rare, this is the time to see them since the small ones start running around by themselves and they don't quite know where to go yet.

I promise that there'll be a photo account of everything in time (although I didn't get a photo of the fox) but it'll take a while since I took 745 pictures in all during the day.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Last Summer Picture Update

I'm writing this in Barinn, a cafe/bar on Laugavegur, the main shopping street in Reykjavík close to where we live. This is of course because we don't yet have internet at home but I feel quite fashionable all the same. Like the fancy people in movies who sit in cafes with their laptops and drink coffee. Of course I'm drinking tea.

This is just your average post, though, to inform that I've added two folders of summer pictures to my Picasa account. And who would be interested in boring Finnish pictures when there are exciting Icelandic ones to come (and I promise you there are)? But bare with me with these first and then I can add some more recent pictures. So there are two sets: From My Mother's Garden and Ahlfors Conference.

From My Mother's Garden contains pictures, will you guess?, from my mothers garden during the summer. Looking at these you'll maybe understand why I like Ann Arbor so much. Käpylä is my home district and I've spent most of my childhood there. My mother and grandmother still live there.






















Ahlfors Conference contains the few pictures I took during the Lars Ahlfors Centennial Celebration in Helsinki in August. There aren't many and it's so long ago now that I can't come up with anything funny to say about the conference. Suffice it to say that it was mathematically the best (or most suited to me) conference I've been to so far and that we had a lot of fun and afterwards I was really exhausted.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reykjav­­ík

Today I'm wondering why there are no comments on my last mysterious picture post? Maybe it wasn't mysterious at all? I agree that it's rather flat but I don't think it's boring...

It means of course that I'm in Reykjavík. The picture is from the bus ride from Keflavík Airport to Reykjavík. I arrived on Monday. Yesterday we had rain and today we're having wind. Maybe tomorrow we'll get them both.

I love it so far. Here are my first impressions:

1) It looks like Amerika. Because everything is designed for the cars: wide streets and parking lots and strip malls.

2) It smells like boiled eggs. Because all the hot water comes from the hot springs and contains sulfur.

3) It is too expensive. Because I'm quite broke and we live close to the main shopping street Laugavegur with all the fancy boutiques.

4) It is extremely honest. Because to get the access card to the department at the University of Reykjavík the only thing you need to do is to spell your first name.

5) It is yummy. Because I simply love skyr.
6) It is wonderful. Because there is Weather and Sea and Clouds that constantly change their shape and Blue mountains and raw Air.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Social Inequality

















Since there's no need for secrecy regarding the party decorations any more I can post this shocking news on social inequality in Helsinki. Some of you have heard me promote equality for all balls. But now that I think about it I have to come to the conclusion that also people should be able to enjoy equality.

When planning Kirsi's party we decided that we wanted maple leaves as decoration since the theme (Yes, we had a theme!) was fall. The leaves would be placed on top of everybodys napkins on the tables. So they needed to be neat and pretty. But all the maple leaves in Pasila are full of ugly black spots. And so are the ones in Kumpula and in Käpylä and in basically every middle class neighbourhood in Helsinki. I was almost desperate for a while but then my mum suggested (mums are always right!) going to Kaivopuisto which is the most southern part of the Helsinki mainland where all the richest embassies and the fanciest apartment buildings are.

And it so happens that all the maple leaves in Kaivopuisto are big, beautiful, perfect and totally devoid of any annoying black spots or other defects. Now is that fair, I only ask? The leaders of the city should really look into this! It is totally unjust that the rich get not only more money but better parts of nature as well.

The pictures are from Kaivopuisto. No maple leaf pictures from Pasila since they would just be ugly.

Pasts and Futures

Yesterday was Kirsi's birthday. She turned 50. So she was born on the day when Sputnik was launched. She's my stepmother. We had a super fun great party. Hence the silence and the brief update.

During the party I got to talk about Reykjavik with old Icelandic friends and also with a new Finnish friend, who just arrived from there. And my neighbour at the table told me that she'd been to Ann Arbor when she was younger, which I didn't previously know. I hope I didn't bore her with my hype. I didn't especially talk about Helsinki with anybody but we certainly were there.

There might be some pictures coming from the party later. We'll see. Also there are post ideas queueing. Let's hope they don't go off before I get round to them.