(You might take this with a grain of salt being that it’s coming from a fairly reclusive American whose social life consists primarily of walking to the market occasionally.)

Now that we’ve gotten through the definitions, let’s get into the heart of the matter. Many people agree on the idea that Eastern Europe is more “romantic” than Western Europe, but certainly not in the traditional sense, mind you. Push them harder, however, and you’ll likely find it’s difficult to get a straight answer regarding what appeals to them about Eastern Europe. I tend to think that the whole attitude is cultivated from the unique geographical placement and economical situation of the region, and I don’t think a lot of people would argue with that. Most of the countries have not been particularly well-off for a majority of their developed histories, perhaps recently things are getting better, but still not for a lot of them. That tends to create a people who are more concerned with things on a much more human level, rather than the professional and shrewd populations of the Western World. This is immediately noticeable in the general openness of the people.

Add to that a history of ethnic tension and even war, and you have a sort of “team attitude”; a propensity to set aside differences to make it through hard times. One area this is very visible is the subject of sharing, bear in mind that these are just my personal observations, and as such, you’re entirely able to disagree to your heart’s content. I’ve noticed that Eastern Europeans are a lot quicker to break in half whatever they’ve got to help you out. Oftentimes, in the cutthroat Western society from which I come, the only time you see this sort of thing is between close friends or family, hence the term blood runs thicker than water… you feel more like family among Eastern Europeans.

On the contrary, I find it difficult to see what Eastern Europeans are actually feeling. Again, coming from the United States, we tend to be very direct with our feelings. We tend to not beat around the bush, we speak up if something is bothering us. I’ve noticed a very different trend in Eastern Europe, punctuated by passive aggression. Perhaps it’s the polarity between an urge to treat an outsider like family and basic human nature that gives rise to the passive aggression, or maybe it’s something else entirely, I really don’t know, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed.

Keep in mind there’s no particular value placed on the statements herein, just observations. People are obviously more comfortable surrounded by similar traits, whatever those traits may be.

The term Eastern Europe alone can conjure up many feelings, often wildly variant depending on the person hearing it. Everybody who has traveled in both Western and Eastern Europe immediately knows the distinction, largely based on “feeling” rather than anything else. While the two certainly are geographical concepts at their most basic level, there is an underlying attitude between them that creates a schism through Central Europe.

First, I’m going to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of borders before I move onto the second part of this post. There is a band that runs north-south through the center of Europe that encompasses a few countries. Countries within this band are often categorized as Central Europe. To the east of this band is Eastern Europe, and I’m betting you can guess what lies to the west. Geographically, the countries that comprise this band are Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary. The first thing you’ll notice is that this is not a clear-cut definition: The width of Poland occupies all of Central Europe while stretching easily into Eastern Europe as well; Hungary is just as far east as Serbia or Macedonia yet it’s typically considered Central Europe rather than Eastern Europe; Greece is considerably further east than Montenegro, yet it’s often lumped in with Western Europe in guidebooks. The list goes on and on, and serves as a good reminder that the distinction between Western and Eastern Europe is not purely geographical, yet the Ukraine is undeniably Eastern while France is undeniably Western… the gray area is in the middle.

The best way to define whether or not a country is in Eastern or Western Europe is to go there and see for yourself. Don’t pay attention to where it is on the map, just see what it feels like. Warsaw, for example, feels much more Eastern European than say, Budapest or Vienna, but they’re all in Central Europe. The previous few paragraphs are essentially a really long-winded way of saying that Eastern Europe is a socioeconomic rather than a geographical construct.

I think, at one point, EU borders would have been a fairly good distinction point between the two zones, perhaps pre-1995 EU, leaving out Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and all those “Eastern” countries. Nowadays, it’s not really feasible to say that EU countries are Western Europe. Walk the streets of Bucharest or Sofia and you might be shocked to discover that they are indeed EU capitols.

In my next post I’ll talk about what I think it is that makes Eastern Europe what it is.

This is a guest contribution for http://www.travelwithpapino.com/ recounting a story from Summer 2009.

Our trip started in Biogradska Gora National Park, a little south of Mojkovac in Eastern Montenegro. It was slated to be about seven days from there to Kučka Krajina with a few day trips in between. First, southeast from Biogradska Gora, then saddling the border with Albania southwest until Veruša. The national park has some pretty modern facilities for camping close to Biogradsko Jezero. There is quite a bit of tourist traffic to the area during the day, so they even have a restaurant and souvenir shop. We chose to set up our tents a ways up the hill, out of sight from the rest of the grounds. We spent two days camped there, each day going into Mojkovac to gather supplies. Our expectations of Mojkovac were slightly optimistic, it’s little more than a small town with a few shops. It did, however, afford us basic food materials like dried meat and peanuts, which was essentially the corpus of our diet for the seven days in the mountains.

We got an early start out of the campground and headed up the switchback road to the east that leads up to a few settlements in northern Bjelasica. The Bjelasica mountain range was to be our general path for the first several days, leading us to Komovi, near the border with Albania. The most difficult part of the day was definitely the climb up the seemingly-never-ending switchbacks. Once we reached the top, it was a leisurely and beautiful walk along the high ground. What looked to be a day’s journey on paper was surmounted fairly easily by early afternoon, so we chose to pass up a good-looking tent site at Šiško Jezero and push on. The day was starting to wear thin, so we kept our site-identifying eyes open. Nothing near the trail was looking particularly good, so we dropped our bags and ventured off a bit in search of some flat land. There was a large hill to the right of the trail, up the hill a bit was a promising looking dip that both shielded us from view of the trail as well as protected us from the westerly wind. We lugged our gear up there and pitched the tents. There were some ominous-looking clouds on the horizon that were being carried with shocking speed in our direction, so we cracked open our much-needed peanuts and meat. Rain in Montenegro tends to be either torrential or non-existent, so I knew what we were in for. At the first sprinkle we leapt into our respective tents to wait out the deluge. The sky certainly opened up, with rain pouring in unbelievable amounts accompanied by a cacophonous thunderstorm. As suddenly as it had started, it stopped. We heard whoops and cries off in the distance growing nearer, a few local boys on horseback rode up to our site, invariably interested in the signs of foreigners. We spoke briefly about where we were from and things of such merit, they left us be to get an early night’s sleep in preparation for our second day.

About mid day on our second day we came to a crossing with a country road. A bit down the road was a big wooden A-frame where a man made food to be sold. It had only been a few days of camping, but we were certainly in the mood for something warm, or least something not peanuts and dried meat. We got a few local specialties, and of course, the guy broke out the homemade borovnica (brandy made from blueberries — a common spirit in the mountainous portions of Montenegro)… the rakija flowed freely for a few hours, and we were quite drunk by the time we convinced him we had to leave. Unfortunately the next portion of our trip was a difficult one. It was back up out of the valley which held the road and onto high ground again, and then onward to Štavna, the ridge leading up to Komovi. After a wobbly and unsettling 10 or so kilometers, we made it to the beginning of Štavna. There were a few katuni (mountain huts frequently-encountered in the Balkans) marking the area, and there was even a little shack which sold snacks and had a few cans of beer under the table. We picked a spot to pitch our tents in the shadow of Kom Vasojevićki, the peak I was to hike the next day. Fortunately there was a spring nearby, because our water supply was entirely out and our hung over bodies were badly in need of some water. We refilled our water and waited for somebody willing to sell us beer to come open up the shack/shop. It was a good few hours before that happened, but the hours following were considerably easier. Again, the clouds came rolling in and unleashed a considerable downpour. We stayed in our tents for the rest of the night and caught up on reading.

The next day we awoke at a reasonable hour. I planned my route up Kom Vasojevićki, Taylor’s feet were badly-banged-up due to the shoes he was wearing, so he sat this one out. It was a pretty tough ascent, and the way was littered with tombstones for unfortunate climbers who had fallen to their deaths (there were quite a few vertical drops fairly close to the trail, and extremely high winds near the top). The weather was a bit capricious that morning and I was really hoping I could avoid another rainstorm like the night before. Sure enough, as I neared the top, the clouds and thick fog gave way to a beautiful blue sky. The summit imparted some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. There was a metal ammunition box at the peak which contained, among other things, a small flask of rakija and a signing book. I took a swig of the rakija, signed the book, and pondered my existence for a good few hours while taking in the amazing scenery. Taylor was catching up on the details of the route ahead when I got back. We scraped together the remaining money we had (we didn’t bring much considering we were going to be out in the middle of nowhere) and spent it on more beer. This time, the rain hit when we were at the shack. We were invited in with the locals and had a raucous and drunken time exchanging stories.

The next day we got our things together fairly early and plotted our course between the mountains of Komovi. This was probably the most challenging day of the hike, there were a lot of tough ascents and a fair bit of trekking deep into dead-end valleys. We reached our highest point by mid day and began to descend and follow a fairly well-established trail. Our knees were punished by the end of that, and paused for a break at a small church isolated in the mountains. We continued on to a confusing crossroads, one which wasn’t very well-covered by our maps. We spent several hours walking down each fork until we were convinced it wasn’t the right one, then turning back and starting all over again at the crossroads. There was a katun several kilometers down one trail, out in front of which the inhabitant was sitting. I asked where Maglič (a fairly well-known peak which could get us on our way) was. He said he didn’t know, but mentioned an old shepherd on the other side of the crossroads who would certainly know. He accompanied us in that direction. We spotted the man and his flock of sheep up a switchback leading the other direction. Our friend called out to him repeatedly across the ravine at the top of his lungs: “Koji put za Maglič?” The old shepherd came down, he was toothless and missing a few fingers with a rifle slung on his shoulder, he was carrying a piglet. I had little luck understanding his particularly strange dialect of Serbian — he apparently had lived in that same place his entire life — but after much pointing we were able to discern which peak was Maglič. He told us about an old shepherd’s path which led a more direct, if relatively unused, path to our destination. The path led us several kilometers through a dense forest and promptly disappeared. After much searching and consulting our topo map, we concluded (shakily) that we were meant to cross a rocky clearing and ascend a steep slope. We spotted remnants of our not-so-trusty shepherd’s trail several times along the slope which made us slightly more confident in our chosen route. The slope abruptly evened out to a shelf on the side of a ridge that held the CT1, Montenegro’s main hiking trail (although you couldn’t tell, by the look of it). After a few kilometers of flat along the shelf (with a very threatening drop to our left), we made it to Maglič and immediately set up camp off the trail a ways next to a gulley. The day had gotten to us and we were ready for some food and a good rest.

The next morning I awoke to the sound of passersby on the trail, locals I presumed. I stepped out of my tent and greeted them. We exchanged pleasantries and they asked where we were headed, and if we knew how to get there. Friendly fellows, they were. I confirmed and they went along their way. We packed up our gear and headed down the side of Maglič, we passed a few katuni on the way down, a dirt road led down from them which we followed. The dirt road met up with several other paved roads at the bottom of the valley, this is were things started getting really confusing. None of the roads showed up on our maps, we really hadn’t the slightest idea where we were supposed to go to get to our final destination of Bukumirsko Jezero. We ended up flagging down a few cars and asking directions, eventually we sorted ourselves out and headed off in the right direction. We had to follow a switchback dirt road up and over one of the walls of the valley. At the top we saw Bukumirsko off in the distance. On the other side of the ridge we split off from the road and followed a trail back into Kučka Krajina, which is essentially a dead-end valley surrounded by high mountains. We found a spring and some nice, flat ground next to a forest on the west side of the valley, it was nicely secluded from the rest of the valley up on a bank. We spent the rest of the day lazing around the surrounding fields and relaxing.

We had a leisurely start the next day and headed off in what we though was the direction of Veruša, a small town where we could catch some sort of transport into Podgorica and then on down to Petrovac (where part of my family is from). We knew Veruša was 12 kilometers from Bukumirsko Jezero. After we had walked about 18 kilometers, I asked an old man on the side of the road where Veruša was. He pointed back in the direction we came, he said it was about 30 kilometers that way. Great, so we just walked 18 kilometers in the wrong direction. I asked what lay in the direction we were heading, he said Podgorica, but it was another 40 kilometers. Taylor and I stepped up the pace considerably and concluded that we’d make it all the way to Podgorica by foot if we had to, but that we’d hitchhike in either direction. After a few more kilometers we ended up narrowly convincing a man in a van to give us a lift back to Bukumirsko Jezero, the man was visibly put-off by the fact that we had no cigarettes, but he grudgingly motioned for us into the back of the van. The ride was bumpy on that old suspension, but it was better than walking 40 kilometers. We confirmed from the driver after he let us out which direction Veruša actually was, and headed off again. After all that, the 12 kilometers seemed more like 30, but eventually we made it. It turned out that there were two buses from Veruša to Podgorica per day and we had just missed the last one. We made our way out to the main road and stuck out our thumbs. About an hour went by before somebody stopped and offered us a ride, his car was small but we squeezed in. He was a nice guy in his late 20s on his was back home (Podgorica) from his uncle’s house. He stopped on the way and picked up a few beers (insisted on paying as well), cracked them open and continued driving. The scenery along the way was beautiful, and you couldn’t have asked for better weather. He dropped us off in Podgorica and we made our way to the bus station. First things first, we picked up a couple burek from the shop in the bus station. Never in my life has bus station burek tasted so good… that was clearly just because I’d been living off dried meat and peanuts for the past week.

We hopped on the next bus to Petrovac, and boy was the coast a beautiful sight.

People who are easily-bored need not continue reading.

Orthographically, Hungarian doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. When it comes to alphabets, internal consistency is king; creating an easy-to-remember and -use alphabet depends on following a consistent pattern of symbol-to-sound mappings, Hungarian doesn’t do that.

Hungarian uses some strange (a relative term, of course) digraphs and single letters to represent a series of fricatives. Consider the following table, note that the leftmost character is the IPA transcription of the sound, while the character(s) in parentheses is the Hungarian transcription:

(Click the table to see it larger)

Clockwise from upper-left, the sounds are as follows: “z” sound like in “zulu”, “zh” sound like in “pleasure”, “sh” sound like in “shout”, “s” sound like in “sierra”.

The first thing you’ll undoubtedly notice is how by default, an “s” represents a “sh” sound. That’s not where my gripe begins though, the symbol-to-sound mapping of an alphabet can be entirely arbitrary, for all I care, they could write “t” and mean “ɮ” (a voiced alveolar lateral fricative… it’s a weird sound) as long as it’s internally-consistent!

As you can see, Hungarian uses a digraph to convey a voiceless alveolar fricative, a digraph to convey a voiced palato-alveolar fricative, a single graph to convey a voiced alveolar fricative, and a single graph to convey a voiceless palato-alveolar fricative. The only thing these digraphs have in common is that they’re fricatives, they’re similar neither in location of articulation or voicing. Likewise, the single characters share no similarities aside from being fricatives either. Why not relate them in groups when they have so much in common?

If it were up to me, I would do something like this: z (zs), ʒ (z), s (sz), ʃ (s). That way, both palato-alveolar fricatives (regardless of voicing) are single characters and the alveolar fricatives are both digraphs. But alas, it was not up to me.

When in Rome

January 18, 2011

Jess and I decided to run away for the weekend. The thought came about initially because she was done with work but still in Budapest, and I, as per usual, had a three-day weekend. We were thinking maybe Bratislava or something nearby that neither of us had been to, but we opted to check cheap plane tickets that matched up with our schedules first; good call. Only afterward had we realized that the weekend we decided to leave was also her birthday, but hey, it turns out that a birthday weekend in Olevano Romano isn’t so bad after all.

We found some 60 € tickets to Rome that meshed perfectly with our time off. Both of us had been there several times already, but Tom’s (the benevolent half-owner of The Loft in Budapest) family was generous enough to offer for us to stay in their summer flat in Olevano Romano (about an hour outside of Rome).

Getting there was perhaps the most epic wiener melange ever experienced by me. We rented a car at the airport (Fiat Panda represent!) since driving was really the only practical method of getting there when we got in (fairly late at night). You know how they say “all roads lead to Rome”? Well, it turns out they totally do. Getting from the airport to somewhere that’s not Rome (or Florence) is extremely difficult, and the signs are all very misleading (and in Italian). We spent at least 90 minutes driving randomly on the huge circular road that surrounds Rome. Finally, by sheer chance, we stumbled upon the exit we were meant to use. Then it was several more hours of aimlessly driving dark, country roads before we finally came to the place.

To really get a feeling of what this place is like, you’ll need to check out the pictures on Facebook, it is really quite stunning. The town is situated on a hill outside of Rome. It was very Mediterranean, with super narrow alleys and winding stone stairways surrounded on both sides with very old stone buildings. The old town, in which we stayed, was pedestrian-only and was very charming. The actual flat was something entirely different. After walking through the alleys for a bit, we found the entrance to our flat: a very steep stairway leading up into the rocks to a door. The woman next door had left us a set of keys under the mat, so we were able to get in even though it was well after 1 AM.

The next day was Sunday, and going along with the whole Catholic Mediterranean vibe, everything was closed. We finally found a quaint little restaurant with a panoramic view overlooking the rest of the town and the valley below. We got some pasta which was pretty damned good. We went on a drive later (renting cars is fun!) and explored some of the other towns nearby. Everything around there is amazing, but we settled in Tivoli for a few hours, then headed back.

We left the next day, but had most of the day to explore Olevano itself. We walked up to the castle at the peak of the town and got some pretty amazing pictures. The view from up there is epic.

While there, I was reminded very much of Montenegro and the little cobblestone towns laced with narrow alleyways there. I’m going to make it a point to purchase a little flat somewhere around the Bay of Kotor to use as a summer getaway, or really any-time-of-year getaway, I suppose.

This is Part 2 of the Helsinki Double Feature.

What started as the most awesome airport experience ever (free Wifi in Helsinki) quickly turned into one of the worst, and then not-so-quickly turned back into the best.

When I arrived in Warsaw to catch my connecting flight back to Budapest, I left the gate to go get my new boarding pass. The screen not only didn’t display my flight, but it didn’t display any flight to Budapest at all! I went back and forth from information desk to information desk, nobody could really explain what happened. After a few hours of that I found one other person who was in the same boat as me. Apparently Malev (Hungarian Airlines) canceled the flight several days before but failed to keep us (I think it was just us two…) informed. The Malev office was closed at this time, so they told me to come back in the morning.

I was getting settled into the idea of spending the night at the airport when I went on a quest for some free Wifi (or even not free Wifi, as long as the instructions weren’t in Polish!). Eventually I found a pretty cool little 24 hour cafe with free Wifi (and plugs to charge my computer) and figured I’d inform the masses of what had happened. On Facebook chat I found a Polish friend of mine. I thought she lived in Krakow, but it turns out she was just across the city in Warsaw. She and her room mates (both of which are super cool!) were kind enough to house me for the evening, there was much drinking and smoking of shisha. All things considered, it was probably the best time missing a flight I’ve ever had. That certainly doesn’t do the experience justice though, as it was a good time by any measure.

I had never been to Warsaw, so I was able to get a brief look at it as well. It’s a pretty cool city, it feels quite Eastern European and has a lot of charm. I’d certainly like to come back and have a proper visit at some point.

Anyhow, I’m back at the airport now waiting for Malev to sort my situation out. Hopefully they will get me on the plane to Budapest at 1730 this evening. Whether I like it or not, this should be the end of my not-epic turned-epic visit to Helsinki.

This is Part 1 of the Helsinki Double Feature.

I love Seattle, but Helsinki is giving it a run for it’s money.

I was planning on mulling over the experiences of this weekend for a bit before posting in order to twist them into some sort of enthralling epic of northness, but again, circumstances prevailed. Instead, I think I’ll run through an overview of the pros and cons of this city (which I’m still in, for the record), followed by a brief recap of what was done. Of course, we’ll start off with the cons, leaving the best for last:

1) No blow dryers in the airport bathrooms. This may not sound like a big deal, but after walking around in tennis shoes in a city that has been snowed on like crazy for who-knows-how-long then thawed for two days… let’s just say my podiatrist would be livid. If I die of trench-foot, please inform my next-of-kin.

2) The metro is only open until midnight. This is pretty silly for such a city. They certainly have the wherewithal to operate at least until the wee-hours of the morning, if not 24 hours a day. I’m assuming there is some functional or practical hurdle in the way. Hopefully this will be taken care of when the western extension is completed or when the system is automated (slated for 2013). The surface alignments (trams and buses) run much later.

3) I was sick. That honestly has nothing to do with Helsinki. It should not be held-accountable for me being sick, since I got sick before I even arrived. It still sucked though.

How about the pros? (In no particular order)

1) Architecture. The architecture of Helsinki is quite a thing, stay posted on my Facebook for a slough of pictures to see first-hand. The buildings all over town are beautiful, it’s a strange mix of Art Nouveau and Soviet-esque minimalism, throw some Northern European in there and it ends up being quite pleasing.

2) Public Transportation. I don’t even really know where to begin here. The design and routing is pretty optimal (if not a little sparse in places). The metro provides a reliable and fast backbone with very short headways while the more-numerous trams ply the less-demanding locations around the inner city. Where both of those fail, buses excel.

3) Location. Helsinki’s location right on the Baltic Sea is really cool. It’s got a ton of smaller islands surrounding the city seaward, and the entire bay freezes over in the winter. The visibility was a bit low while I was in town though, so it was hard to see what the coast is like in summer (I’ll surely be back though). It’s also at about 60 degrees north, so the hours of daylight vary wildly depending on season; this may not be your thing, but it’s certainly mine.

4) Language. I know that the Finns didn’t have much of a choice, but it’s still awesome. Uralic languages have always been pretty cool in my eyes, but I’ve got to say Finnish takes the cake among them (among them that I’ve heard, at least… I can’t speak on Khanty or Nenets or anything). It has very few consonant clusters and, like other Uralic languages, vowel harmony, so it ends up sounding very nice when spoken. It looks pretty nutty written as well. The phoneme length is something that is surely going to take some getting used to though. I’m not even going to get started on how cool the grammar is.

5) Immigrant food! I can’t even count the number of Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, etc, etc restaurants I saw. I didn’t try any of them, so they might all suck… they looked pretty good though. There were also a number of stores dedicated to ingredients used in such cuisines.

6) People. Finns often get a bad rap when it comes to personability. I guess Seattleites do too though, so I might be biased. At any rate, I thought they were quite friendly. They weren’t overly-talkative or weird in any way, just comfortable to be around.

7) Free Wifi at the airport. This may seem like pretty standard fare, but it’s amazing how many don’t in Europe. All things considered, it was a shrewd business decision, being that it is allowing me to blog about how awesome Helsinki is FROM THE AIRPORT! Good move, guys.

The list goes on-and-on, but I think I’ll cut it there. I spent most of my time simply wandering the city, I didn’t do much museum-visiting or structured-sightseeing, rather, I rode the public transportation around and got off at places that looked cool. This afforded me quite a good overall view of the city, but lacked in anything particularly invasive. I’ll save that sort of tourism for next time. The entire center of Helsinki is great, but the place that really caught my eye was Ruoholahti. It’s at the end of the current metro line right on the southwest side of the city and the number 8 tram runs through it, so it’s really accessible. Looking at the surroundings, it’s one of those industrial-turned-gentrified neighborhoods that are so popular with the young middle class. It’s on a bit of a peninsula that used to be one of the active ports in the city. It has seen a large increase in residential and office real estate since the port was moved. The neighborhood is home to some pretty swanky condos and office spaces for the more “alternative” start-ups (you know the type: t-shirts, foosball table, beer fridge, funky furniture, etc). I’m certainly going to be keeping my eyes focused on housing availabilities around there.

Anyhow, I’ve got a plane to catch. Stay posted for the second installment of my Helsinki Double Feature!

הארץ המובטחת

January 4, 2011

Or ha-Aretz ha-Muvtachat (The Promised Land).

Many of you have probably heard a bit about my recent obsession with Finland. And for those of you who haven’t, but know me well enough, you’ll know that these things tend to come and go with me. I get really interested in something for a period of time, then lose interest after awhile. That trait can be interpreted as a bad thing, but since it’s more-or-less unavoidable, I try to make the best of it. For example, I see no harm in becoming really interested in say, a particular chemical process, learning all about it, then moving on. The experience and knowledge I’m left with at the end undoubtedly exceeds that which I have not pursuing the interest at all. In short, I follow my heart, man!

Right now, my heart seems to be leading me to Finland. I have a number of reasons why I’ve recently become interested in Finland, but in the interest of not boring you (har har!) I’ll leave them out of this post. I’d be more than happy to divulge them if you wanted to talk about it out-of-band though.

I haven’t actually been to Finland yet, though… That brings me to my next point. I have a flight booked to Helsinki for this weekend. I’m going to be couch surfing with a seemingly nice Chinese exchange student/axe murderer (I’m not sure about the second part).

I’m really excited to finally make it there! Check in mid next week for a debriefing and outsider’s review of Helsinki.