I'm afraid this entry is going to be a doozer ladies and gents! It's been a crazy month filled with adventures in 3 different countries! It was such a great month! Yet, I am actually thoroughly enjoying spending This weekend back here in Turku doing some catch up work and being entirely lazy. It's a nice change :D
So let's begin! I left you last time right before my 21'st birthday, and I'm sure you've been on edge for a month wondering how it was! Well wait no more! It was truly the most unique birthday experience I'll ever have. And, the most Finnish. A group of us went out to Ruissalo Island for an afternoon of Sauna! What happens is, you sit in a little room with wooden benches while a large Finnish man (usually) continually pours water over the red hot rocks, laughing a little to himself as the rest of us foreigners nearly pass out from the heat. You sweat. And sweat. And you keep sweating until you can't take it any longer. At this point, you walk outside in just your bathing suit, walk to the edge of an icy dock, and jump into the Baltic sea, watching the ice float around you. We discovered that it is only this moment, the one where your insides shriek with cold, that you want to die. However, once you're out of the water, it feels oddly relaxing, and you calmly walk back to the Sauna, where you repeat the process 4 or 5 times. Truly the most amazing birthday ever. We were all so exhausted after the sauna that we all went home and went to bed. Didn't party for my birthday at all...
Not long after, I had a new adventure to look forward to! Amie arrived on the 15th from London to spend a week in Finlandia with me! It was so nice to see a familiar face! We spent 3 days in Turku together exploring the Turku Castle, cheering on the TPS Hockey team, and eating delicious soup at my favourite indoor market. We tried to go to Sauna as well, but unfortunately it was closed when we got there! We had fun walking on the frozen sea though, so it was worth the trip!
Amie in Turku! That's the art museum in the background
The "whale" in Turku Harbour! It was shining so brightly in the sunlight. Amie was so lucky to arrive on such sunny days!
Turku Castle! It was originally built in the 1300's or 1400's I think, but it was almost completely destroyed in 1940 when it was bombed by Soviet Russia. Nevertheless, the reconstruction is still pretty amazing!
The Frozen Baltic at Ruissalo! There were some slushier bits too, so Amie can now say that she's dipped her toes in the Baltic Sea!
From Turku, Amie and I caught the train to Helsinki, where we found a buzzing city waiting to be explored! Our hostel was actually inside the 1952 Olympic stadium! I was pretty excited about it :P Helsinki was amazing. Since most of Turku burnt down in 1827, it seemed so much older, and of course, so much bigger! The architecture never ceased to amaze me. In fact, I had taken Amie to a lecture in Turku about Finnish architecture on the Tuesday, and by Thursday, we were seeing it for ourselves! We both felt pretty smart being able to point to a cathedral and name it's famous architect.
Helsinki Train station - Hey Amie! It's the big dudes with lights!
Incredible Finnish architecture
I loved these balconies, they were everywhere!
The amazing Lutheran Cathedral, with Czar Alexander II keeping watch.
Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The intricacy of the brickwork blows my mind. Also, the steps outside of the cathedral are dangerously icy. I had proof on my arm and hip for a week or so :P
Inside the Orthodox Cathedral. It was so beautiful and ornate!
Inside the monument! Sibelius is Finland's national composer, so I ask you, if the wind blows, does his monument sing?
Friday morning we had a fabulous breakfast at a Lonely Planet recommended cafe, and then, lo and behold, I was off for another adventure! While Amie spent the afternoon doing some more wandering about Helsinki, I was off to the airport where I met my dear friend Monica and we jumped on a plane heading for Barcelona! Most of the conversation on the plane went something like: "Julie! You're coming to Barcelona! I can't believe it!" "Monica! I'm going to Barcelona! I can't believe it!". As the plane landed I spotted palm trees and I knew it was going to be a great holiday. Monica and I parted ways on the train, and I continued to meet Cayley Moffat once again! Who would have thought we'd be able to spend more time in Europe together?! I'm so glad we did! It was so nice to have her flat to go back to every night instead of a hostel, not to mention having my own personal tour guide through Barcelona! I think I was instantly in love with this city. The warm air, the bazillions of balconies strewn with laundry, the awe-inspiring architecture spanning hundreds and hundreds of years, and the Sea! The beautiful Mediterranean Sea! We saw it all, and I loved it. It was so cool to wander to the market and buy the freshest oranges I've ever had the pleasure to taste, then stroll through the narrow streets marveling at the beauty of the city.
The view from Cayley's flat. I loved eating my breakfast out here in the mornings.
Crazy busy market full of tourists! You definitely had to keep your wits about you.
I've been spoiled by this fresh fruit. Nothing will ever taste as sweet!
Yummy fruit juice to start the day. Locals also looked at me like I was crazy because I wasn't wearing a jacket..it was at least 14 degrees every day!!
Somebody just showed up and poured, that's right, poured all of these shrimp onto the table. They were still alive and wriggling!!
Cayley enjoying a strawberry in Placa Reial
Street performers were everywhere. Many of them sat there all day like statues. This guy would occasionally drum his fingers, that was it.
Open air market, with Christopher Columbus in the background!
Not sure what this is supposed to be, but it reminded me of the puzzles that Grampa Sapsford always had. Somehow, he'd figure out how to get that ball off!
Inside the courtyard of the Catedral de Barcelona
It was filled with fountains and trees and even ducks! It was really beautiful.
Inside the Cathedral. Spanish/Catalonian cathedrals are gorgeous.
We went up on the roof of the Cathedral!
What a view!
La Padrera, a Gaudi creation.
The Basilica Maria del Mar - we actually wandered in during a baptism!
Placa del Rei. There was a man playing the most beautiful Spanish guitar I've ever heard. It was chilling.
Julie's feet in the sea! Hooray!
Some beautiful handmade Carnaval masks we stumbled upon. Hand painted on leather. Even if I wanted to I couldn't afford to bring one home.
Rosa, Cayley, Monica and I outside of the great restaurant where we had dinner!
Barcelona was amazing enough on it's own, but throw in about a million tourists and costumed Catalonians, you've got Carnaval! The city was so alive! People everywhere were dressed up in the spirit of Carnaval. Unfortunately, Cayley and I didn't have any costumes, but we celebrated nonetheless! We took a train out to the little town of Sitges, where it seemed the entire city of Barcelona had emptied to. The tiny, winding streets were filled to the brim with people, music, food, and drinks. Talk about atmosphere! It was amazing! We got there just in time to see the kids parade where it absolutely rained confetti, then wandered around Sitges until much later when the adult parade began. It was so much fun!
Sitges was gorgeous. I love Spain
'Chaos' would describe this experience perfectly.
The oh-so-innocent kids parade. It was just so happy!
Then, the not-so-innocent night parade.
They use the same floats and costume 'themes' as the kids parade for the most part, but now, the floats do double duty as a bar, constantly refilling the cups of the people in the parade.
Essentially, it was a great party that we were invited to watch!
Although, at times I wondered what the heck they were thinking!
The Spanish sunset at Sitges. Sigh..
The church at Sitges
This is the queue waiting for the 10:30 train. There would not be another train back to Barcelona until 3 in the morning. It was insanity! when the train arrived at the platform it was push 'til you get on, or you don't get on at all. We were just starting to think that we weren't going to make it when a policeman blew his whistle in my ear then started yelling in Spanish. Cayley grabbed my hand and started running, telling me he was saying there was room at the end of the train. We ran as best we could among the crowd, I had to jump over a full size dog in the process, but we made it!
Monday morning, it was back to adventure mode as Cayley went to school for the morning and I spent the day exploring Gaudi's architecture.
Sagrada Familia! It looks a little like a cathedral was built, then melted, but either way it's beautiful.
The other side of Sagrada Familia, designed by somebody else, not quite so beautiful.
Inside Sagrada Familia. Gaudi used nature as his inspiration, therefore the main pillars are meant to look like a forest!
It was strange, but pretty.
Casa Batillo, another Gaudi masterpiece. In fact, my favourite.
This is a door frame! There wasn't a single straight line in the house!
On the roof
It was so cool in there!
Then it was over to Monica's flat for dinner! I love the balcony view
Dinner with Monica, Rosa, Cayley, and the rest of Rosa's flatmates! Rosa even baked a gluten free dessert for me. I think I'm going to take her home with me.
I stayed at Monica and Rosa's that night, saying goodbye to Cayley yet again. Though we won't be able to meet up again in Europe this summer, we've promised to continue our adventures in Canada once we're both back! Tuesday morning I was starting to get a little sad, knowing we would leave Spain behind that afternoon, but we made the best of our day, visiting the last of the Gaudi creations in the city; Park Guell.
Gaudi was so good at making his architecture actually look like nature.
I think this was my favourite spot
Everything, absolutely everything was covered in mosaic. How long did this take?!
With that, I said goodbye to the Spanish sunsets, and let the Baltic breeze whisk my away. It was barely two days after I got back from Barcelona that Mom and Dad arrived in Finland!
Good gracious, I need to write these more often so they're not so darn long. Take a break, go have a coffee, come back and finish reading this later! Don't exhaust yourself!
Ok, so lets continue. Mom and Dad arrived very late on the 26th, tired, jet-lagged, and full of hugs! I toured them around my new home for a few days, showing them my Cathedral, the castle, and while I was in class, they explored the markets and did some shopping. It was so cool to be able to show them the city that I've learned to call home. Show them my school, my favourite place to buy fruit, the best tea shop, my flat, and of course, the Sauna at Ruissalo! Believe it or not, Mom ACTUALLY jumped into the Baltic sea! Twice! Dad did too, but Mom! Wow!
The coolest part of the visit by far though, literally, and figuratively, was our trip to Estonia! We took the train from Turku to Helsinki, where we caught what they call a ferry, and I call a ship, to the magnificent city of Tallinn! Walking through the Medieval gates of the old city was like stepping back in time, it was so cool!
Mom and Dad on the ship, the Swedish flag in the background
Tallinn skyline from the ship
One of the ancient gates to the old city. This one is aptly named "Fat Margaret"
City hall in the main square
Olde Hansa. The restaurant was very medieval and cool, :P
Mom and Dad with the Tallinn skyline!
Look Mom, Sunshine!!
Happy Mom with the Castle!
Note the McDonalds on the right. It was so hard to step out of the 14th century into the 21st.
Amazing knit market! Dad and I got sweet toques
Flower market! Mom figures that Dad ought to bring flowers home every day 'like the Europeans do'. I wonder how that's going?
"Linda" - When her husband, the mythical founder of Estonia died, she went a little crazy and piled so many rocks on his grave that Tallinn was made. This is supposed to represent her immense grief. Mom and I couldn't help but notice her voluptuous bottom. We thought Auntie Linda would be proud, haha!
We went out of the city one afternoon to see the cliffs. Dad's actually standing on the frozen Baltic right now
There were hundreds and hundreds of Swans!
At the cliffs!
Back in Tallinn, we sampled, and sampled again, the wonderful Estonian specialty, Vana Tallinn.
Tallinn was so much like a fairytale-land for me. So amazing.
This is the best part of medieval towns, nothing makes sense. One street goes up, the other, down. So cool!
Mom and Dad relaxing on our last morning in Tallinn before catching the ferry back to Helsinki.
All in all, it was a fabulous adventure and I'm so glad I got to share it with Mom and Dad! It was pretty hard to say goodbye at the train on Tuesday though. Five months is a long time to wait before we see each other again!
Well, congratulations, you made it to the end! It's been a great month, as you can probably guess, and I'm so happy that this is where my life is right now. I'm still teaching dance, in fact, I'm teaching a couple of workshops in the coming weeks! Classes are going well; I've finished one of them already with good marks, now just 4 left! Next on the travel agenda is London with Amie for Easter, then Russia after that! And there are plans in the works for Poland and the lakes district of Finland in May! Hooray!
With that, I must be off. I've spent the better part of the afternoon doing this, so it's probably time to get some homework done!
Live, Laugh, and Love always,