(Ullan) linna

August 21, 2013


Noun: Fortification, castle


Ullanlinna, a neighborhood in southern Helsinki, is where I’ve made my seasonal digs. The name of the neighborhood comes from Queen Ulrika (Ulla) Eleonora’s castle, a section of fortifications along the southern extent of Helsinki. Tehtaankatu, the main drag through the neighborhood is where my new apartment is located. Tram routes 3, 1, and 1A run right in front of my building, and the 2 is right down the street.


Late night number 3

While not my top neighborhood choice, Ullanlinna is far from the bottom. It’s within close walking distance of Eira and Punavuori and it’s got easy access to the rest of the city by one of the most frequent and late-running tram routes in Helsinki. My pad is a room in a shared flat on the second floor. My room mate is a cool guy named Mike, he’s from Greece. My room is quite large and it’s got a balcony overlooking the courtyard in the back. The kitchen overlooks Tehtaankatu and has a washing machine in unit.


Deck life

While I’m sitting on the balcony I can hear the trams rumble down Tehtaankatu. Yes, I think this will do.


I may not have bed sheets, but I have a couch


Antipodes and Islands

August 19, 2013

With my trusty new passport in hand, I did end up making my way to the airport, and eventually to Helsinki. More than a month later than I was initially expecting, but I’m finally here and I received the very first stamp in my new passport at the Helsinki Vantaa airport.

Rather than spending a measly one month in Finland, I decided to stay in Europe for about five months. With Meredith on the opposite side of the planet (McMurdo Station’s antipodal point is just off the northeastern coast of Greenland, so that’s actually not much of an exaggeration) I didn’t have a hugely compelling reason to stay in Seattle. I’m looking forward to this more extended visit, and it’s providing me a welcome distraction from the fact that I’m not in Antarctica.

Part I: Tammisaari

True to my original plans, I started off my stay here with a kayaking trip down near Tammisaari, about 1.5 hours south west of Helsinki. The proprietor of the kayak shop (little more than a shack on the coast of Gullö island, 18km from Tammisaari proper) was away for the weekend, so he agreed to leave me a kayak and the required equipment for my trip. I took an excruciatingly expensive taxi ride to the kayak shop and began my journey. The journey proved to be more of an exercise in excessively poor planning: (a) I didn’t have enough water, (b) I didn’t have a proper map or tide tables, and (c) I wasn’t really wearing proper clothes. All these things I knew, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to do anything about them in advance. All in all, things ended up working out, but it was a little silly.


Sunset from Järnö

I left the kayak shop and started paddling generally southward, but as a result of point (b) from above I didn’t really know where I was going. I passed many islands and eventually settled on a good-looking one that had a reasonable place to land (many islands I passed had fairly sheer sides, problematic for kayak landings). I spent the night on the island which I later learned is called Järnö. I spent some time the next day exploring the area a bit more by kayak, but it began raining quite hard while I was out, so I battled the current and eventually made it back to my camp site.


Camp site

I took off that evening after the rain stopped and headed back north, I had a crossing that was about one kilometer of open water which proved fairly challenging at the time as the outbound current was around its highest, another problem caused by point (b) from above. I attempted to ferry it, but the current was quite strong and the wind was high, so there was a lot of chop and I kept getting blown east. Fortunately I managed to stay upright for the duration of the crossing, but I ended up quite a ways off from where I had intended to end up. I walked the 18km back to Tammisaari with a full pack. The decision to walk was mostly spontaneous, and the farther I got the less willing I was, through some perverse masochistic sensibility, to balk and either hitch hike or call a cab.


Somewhere on Gullö

Part II: Helsinki and Beyond

I’m back in Helsinki now. I’ve been staying with my couch surfing friend Anne, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of staying in the past. It’s great to have a place to stay, but I’m trying desperately to find some sort of dwelling on my own. I’m checking out a room in a shared flat by Kaivopuisto today, so hopefully that works out. Being in Europe again enables me to plan all sorts of weekend trips to fairly exotic places. For now I’ve submitted my passport to the painstaking intricacies of Russian visa bureaucracy, the likes of which I won’t cover here but they have assured me that it will be ready by the 27th, one day before my trip to Saint Petersburg.


Looking toward Eira, Helsinki

I also booked a one week trip to the Faroe Islands in October. I have wanted to visit the Faroe Islands for quite some time, but due to their isolated location, it’s been a hard thing to legitimize. I was able to find some relatively cheap tickets via Copenhagen, so I’m finally biting the bullet.



Anyway, it’s back to the grind for me. You can expect more updates soon regarding all things Finnish (and indeed not Finnish).