A Travellerspoint blog

Spanish Sunsets and the Baltic Breeze

Hello! Terve!

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!

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Amie in Turku! That's the art museum in the background :)
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The "whale" in Turku Harbour! It was shining so brightly in the sunlight. Amie was so lucky to arrive on such sunny days!
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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!
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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.

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Helsinki Train station - Hey Amie! It's the big dudes with lights!
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Incredible Finnish architecture
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I loved these balconies, they were everywhere!
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The amazing Lutheran Cathedral, with Czar Alexander II keeping watch.
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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
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Inside the Orthodox Cathedral. It was so beautiful and ornate!
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And HUGE!
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Sibelius monument
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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.

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The view from Cayley's flat. I loved eating my breakfast out here in the mornings.
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Crazy busy market full of tourists! You definitely had to keep your wits about you.
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I've been spoiled by this fresh fruit. Nothing will ever taste as sweet!
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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!!
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Somebody just showed up and poured, that's right, poured all of these shrimp onto the table. They were still alive and wriggling!!
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Cayley enjoying a strawberry in Placa Reial
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Street performers were everywhere. Many of them sat there all day like statues. This guy would occasionally drum his fingers, that was it.
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Open air market, with Christopher Columbus in the background!
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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!
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Inside the courtyard of the Catedral de Barcelona
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It was filled with fountains and trees and even ducks! It was really beautiful.
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Inside the Cathedral. Spanish/Catalonian cathedrals are gorgeous.
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We went up on the roof of the Cathedral!
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What a view!
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La Padrera, a Gaudi creation.
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The Basilica Maria del Mar - we actually wandered in during a baptism!
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Placa del Rei. There was a man playing the most beautiful Spanish guitar I've ever heard. It was chilling.
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The sea!!
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Julie's feet in the sea! Hooray!
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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.
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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!

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Sitges was gorgeous. I love Spain :)
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'Chaos' would describe this experience perfectly.
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The oh-so-innocent kids parade. It was just so happy!
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Then, the not-so-innocent night parade.
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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.
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Essentially, it was a great party that we were invited to watch!
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Although, at times I wondered what the heck they were thinking!
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The Spanish sunset at Sitges. Sigh..
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The church at Sitges
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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.

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Sagrada Familia! It looks a little like a cathedral was built, then melted, but either way it's beautiful.
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The other side of Sagrada Familia, designed by somebody else, not quite so beautiful.
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Inside Sagrada Familia. Gaudi used nature as his inspiration, therefore the main pillars are meant to look like a forest!
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It was strange, but pretty.
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Casa Batillo, another Gaudi masterpiece. In fact, my favourite.
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This is a door frame! There wasn't a single straight line in the house!
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On the roof :)
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It was so cool in there!
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Then it was over to Monica's flat for dinner! I love the balcony view
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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.

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Gaudi was so good at making his architecture actually look like nature.
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I think this was my favourite spot :)
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Everything, absolutely everything was covered in mosaic. How long did this take?!
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Just incredible.

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!

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Mom and Dad on the ship, the Swedish flag in the background
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Tallinn skyline from the ship
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Our "ferry"!
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One of the ancient gates to the old city. This one is aptly named "Fat Margaret"
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City hall in the main square
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Olde Hansa. The restaurant was very medieval and cool, :P
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City walls
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Mom and Dad with the Tallinn skyline!
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Look Mom, Sunshine!!
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Happy Mom with the Castle!
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Note the McDonalds on the right. It was so hard to step out of the 14th century into the 21st.
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Amazing knit market! Dad and I got sweet toques :)
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Flower market! Mom figures that Dad ought to bring flowers home every day 'like the Europeans do'. I wonder how that's going?
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"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!
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We went out of the city one afternoon to see the cliffs. Dad's actually standing on the frozen Baltic right now :)
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There were hundreds and hundreds of Swans!
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At the cliffs!
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Back in Tallinn, we sampled, and sampled again, the wonderful Estonian specialty, Vana Tallinn.
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Tallinn was so much like a fairytale-land for me. So amazing.
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This is the best part of medieval towns, nothing makes sense. One street goes up, the other, down. So cool!
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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,

Julie

xox

Posted by jns885 06:20 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona carnaval estonia tallinn sitges Comments (0)

Monster Mondays

Getting comfortable with the Finnish Way of Life


View Julie's European Adventure! on jns885's travel map.

Hello again! Hyvaa Paivaa!

Some lessons learned while in Finland:
1. Never reserve a washing machine for a Thursday morning, you'll never make it.
2. When making plans with someone from Spain, expect them to be at least 20 minutes late.
3. Don't get angry with a Spaniard for their lateness; it's in their nature, they can't help it.
4. Eating lunch does not occur at noon, but at 2. (this may have some Spanish influence)
5. Finns are a curious bunch; they trust people enough to rarely lock their bikes and to always leave their coats on the coat racks provided at the building entrance before going where they need to go.
6. Finns are curiously similar to Canadians: rather quiet and reserved until you get to know them.
7. Finnish hockey teams have cheerleaders. *note - Canadian teams should not consider this option.
8. The Finnish word for "cheers" is Kippis. This is a well used word.
9. The phrase " very good vowels" is pronounced "wery good wowels" according to my Finnish language teacher.

This is but a tiny portion of the things I've been learning on my grand adventures, and I've only been away a month! Life continues to be exciting and unpredictable here in Finland! I'm keeping myself busy going to lessons, meeting new people, a bit* of partying, and teaching dance!

My classes are all really interesting. Two of them are about Finnish history and culture, and I absolutely love them (although the one teacher is a little too monotone for her own good). I even had a guided tour of the beautiful Turku Cathedral as a part of the course and I'm looking forward to touring many other places in the city with the class as well! I am also taking a Finnish language course and a history class about European integration that is actually quite fascinating. And last but certainly not least I'm taking an English class on Mondays about Monsters and Madness in the Victorian novel, which explains my new obsession with Monster Mondays... haha! Homework hasn't been so bad thus far, but I'm going to have to buckle down soon because February will be a busy month! Amie is coming to visit for a week, and Mom and Dad are crossing the pond to spend two weeks with me as well! And, between Amie's visit and Mom and Dad's I have a trip to Barcelona planned with a friend! Hooray!

I should also mention that it is not the Finnish way of life that I'm becoming familiar with, it's the life of the exchange student! Sometimes I wonder if some of the people in my building are really human, or whether they are just robots that run on no sleep and plenty of alcohol... The one thing that Really surprised me when I arrived here was the sudden appearance of a little Saturday, right in the middle of the week. Wednesday nights are the best nights to party, and that I have often found myself a little tired for my Thursday classes.

Needless to say, I've been having a great time getting to know my new Turku family from all over the world! The kitchen on the first floor of my building has become a common meeting, eating, and socializing place for me and many wonderful people I've come to love as an adopted family. Many of them are from Spain, a few from France, one from Turkey and even one from Quebec! It's so nice to constantly be surrounded by such incredible people. Whether it's cooking a common meal, watching a movie, or simply drinking tea all afternoon on a Sunday, the 3A Kitchen family is always ready to have some fun.

On January 24th, a few members of the family and I went on a day trip out to the Archipelago, which is a vast serious of islands off the coast of Finland! The island, Ruissalo, was absolutely gorgeous in the freshly fallen snow. I was so excited to be on an island, where everywhere you looked all you could see was snow, trees, rocks, and the sea! The next Saturday, my friend Monica and I adventured to a professional hockey game here in Turku and it was a blast! It was Monica's first time ever watching a hockey game, and I couldn't have asked for a more exciting game.

I mentioned in the last entry that there was a possibility of me being able to teach dance. Well, it has indeed become a reality! I meet a wonderful girl named Heini once a week for 2 hours where I teach her some new steps and work on her technique while I continue to practice my own steps. Heini is about the same age as me and has been teaching dance in Turku for about 3 years, but she hasn't had a teacher of her own for about 5 years. She's incredibly dedicated to dancing making her a willing and very capable student for me. It's really cool to see someone improve so much in so little time! And to top it all off, she's paying me for lessons! Yes!!

Here are a few more pictures from the last couple of weeks!

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I've mentioned before how much I'm in love with this Cathedral, and the love grows stronger every time I see it. It was so sunny that day (a rarity here) that I had to stop and take some pictures.
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We had a couple days of wonderful snow, leaving the campus in a beautiful white blanket.
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The view from my window
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Looking to the right over the graveyard.
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Looking to the left; the housing office, the shop, and the pub.
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This is the church behind my building, just behind the graveyard.
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The Russian Orthodox church at the top of the Kauppatori (the market square)
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Part of the family at Ruissalo!
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We just wandered around for the afternoon and it was absolutely gorgeous.
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There are soooo many islands. I'm planning on making another trip out here in the spring and go exploring by boat!
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I was so happy to be there!
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Turku's TPS vs. Tappara, it was a great game!
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Monica and I!

So that's about all the updates I can think of, all there is to do now is to say what's next! First of all, I'm pretty excited to be turning 21 this Saturday in Finland! No concrete plans yet, but I'm sure we'll find some kind of trouble to get into! Next on the agenda of exciting news is that I'm going to Russia in April! There's an organization at my University that organizes trips for exchange students and they're offering a 6 day trip at the end of April to visit both Moscow and St. Petersburg! I'm also planning a trip to Stockholm, possibly in March. The city, and the ship that takes me there, is legendary among the exchange students here so I'll have to give it a try!

I think that's all for now, thanks for coming with me on this Journey!

Live, Laugh and Love always,

Julie

P.s. A few people have asked for my address here in Finlandia, so here it is:

Julie Sapsford
Yo-Kyla (the a has two little dots over it) 3 A 27
20540 Turku
Finland

Posted by jns885 11:49 Archived in Finland Tagged finland turku study_abroad Comments (0)

Castles and Cobblestones

Julie's journey through Ireland to Finland!


View Julie's European Adventure! on jns885's travel map.

Hello everyone!

Welcome to my travel blog! Here I will try and keep everyone at home updated with my adventures abroad! So let's begin!

My journey began on December 29th when I left Saskatoon to arrive in Dublin, Ireland on the 30th! Waiting at the airport was the darling Cayley Moffat who would be my traveling companion and friend for my time in Ireland. As many of you know, I've always wanted to see Ireland, and now that I've been there, I want to see more! As Cayley can verify, I did not stop smiling the whole time I was in the country. It seemed that everywhere I looked there was something that I've always wanted to see; castles, cathedrals, cobblestones, and charming little Irish pubs. The hostel we stayed at straddled the medieval district of Dublin and the Temple bar district, so it was perfect :P
We spent a couple of days walking around the city of Dublin, soaking in as much culture and history as we could. We also took in the essential tourist stop: the Guinness storehouse as well as spending New Years in the Temple Bar district with many of the other guests at the hostel.
We also did a couple of trips outside of the city by train; one to Howth on the outskirts of Dublin to walk along the cliffs, and another to Kilkenny to meet some friends of Cayley's. Kilkenny was absolutely incredible. In Dublin we'd only been talking with other tourists and going to all the touristy spots of the city while in Kilkenny it felt so much more 'Irish'. It seemed like such a quaint little town with winding cobblestone streets, hundreds of little pubs, and some wonderfully friendly locals. I think my favourite part of the town though was the Castle. The history geek within me came out in full force while I was in Ireland and I was absolutely overjoyed to step into a real castle and trace the footsteps of hundreds of years of royalty. To me, it felt as though the air shook with all of the experiences that the castle has seen over the years and I felt privileged just to be a part of it.
Yet, I think the trip highlight occurred the night we got back to Dublin from Kilkenny. It was Cayley's last night in Ireland and the friends we had met in Kilkenny had told us that we had to go to a little pub called "the Cobblestone". I am so glad we did! The pub was packed, not with tourists like most of the other pubs we'd been in in Dublin, but with locals who were there to drink a pint and listen to the traditional music being played by a group of local musicians. I told Cayley earlier that I had to dance in Ireland, no matter what, and this was my opportunity. An older man who had been playing the fiddle earlier saw me grinning from ear to ear so he asked me if I played an instrument. I told him no, but I dance! His eyes lit up and within minutes he had cleared a small space for me and had the musicians playing a reel for me! I danced as best as I could in my 2 foot square space, and had an absolute blast! It was so much fun, and you couldn't have wiped the smile off my face if you tried!
I had one more day in Ireland which I spent on a bus tour of the Wicklow mountains. It was nice to sit in a nice cozy chair all day just watching the beautiful Irish scenery roll by while the soft Irish voice of John the driver told stories and sang songs. It was a beautiful tour, despite the snow that fell at the top of the mountains, blocking our view. Nevertheless, I saw the rolling fields of green and fences made of stone, and felt the Irish rain.
It was sad to leave Ireland, but I was excited to get to my new home in Finland! I also know that I'll be seeing Ireland again this summer, so I didn't have to say goodbye forever :P
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Christchurch Cathedral: just steps away from our hostel!
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Cayley and I at St. Patricks Cathedral
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The Brazen Head: Ireland's oldest pub!
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The essential tourist picture :D
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Cayley and I on the cliffs of Howth
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Cayley calls me her Irish pixie :P
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Mike and Josh, our American travel companions in Howth
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The Beautiful Kilkenny Castle
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I get excited about history :P
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Cayley loves castles too!
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I've become known as the girl who hugs castles. I don't mind, the castle always hugs me back :D
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Cayley and I made friends with the bartender at a pub in Kilkenny and he wanted to teach us the proper way to pour a Guinness. Too bad the keg was empty!
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I love stained glass
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Cayley and I seemed to always be thinking the same thing. We even bought matching rings in Kilkenny :D
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Musicians at the Cobblestone
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Dancing!
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The lovely Irish fiddle player who gave me the opportunity to dance :D
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I couldn't believe it, but there is actually a Rider flag hanging next to the Irish flag in the Cobblestone! According to one regular at the bar, he had no idea what that flag was for until I came along, haha!
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Beautiful Wicklow
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Ireland is so pretty, even in graveyards
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Snow in Ireland!! This bridge is also the location where they shot a scene from the movie, "P.S. I love you".
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Still happy in the Irish rain :D

I'd like to congratulate you on making it this far through my blog! I promise next time I'll update sooner so it doesn't have to be so long!

From Ireland I took 2 more planes (hopefully my last, for at least a month) and arrived in Helsinki, Finland! I managed to get myself on a bus to Turku and spent two hours of my evening looking out the windows at the dark and beautiful landscape that surrounded me. Even if I could only see a little ways in the darkness, it was beautiful! I went from walls made of stone in Ireland to 30 foot stone walls along the highway. I was met in Turku by my lovely tutor, Pirkko, who has since been a wonderful friend and a fantastic help. It was so nice to arrive in a foreign country, thinking you know no one, but being welcomed by a hug! I should let those of you in my family know that I've adopted her as my sister :P
Turku is a beautiful city, I think I'm falling in love with it already! My dorm room is bigger than the room I was living in in Saskatoon PLUS I'm enjoying the many benefits of having my very own bathroom! I've met some incredible people here from all over the world and still I feel like I don't really know many people, so it can only get better! I've been having a blast getting to know my new home, taking in as much as I can. I'm only a 10 minute walk from school, and 20 or so minutes for the town centre (or Kauppatori) so I find that I actually walk everywhere!
School has only barely begun, but so far it seems like it will be really good. The language barrier isn't so bad, in fact sometimes I feel that some people who speak English as their 2nd or 3rd language speak better than me!
One surprising thing that happened last week happened as part of campus sports; I saw an Irish dance class on the schedule and even though I knew it would be very basic, I went anyway. Turns out, the girl who's teaching it hasn't had a teacher of her own for about 4 years so she's asked me to give her lessons! It will be so nice to keep dancing while I'm here! I'm also looking into some other dance workout classes or possibly some ballroom dancing, so I'll be trying out something new too!
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The front door of my dorm, the bathroom's to the left.
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My very own bathroom, Yay!
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My desk and bed. The windows look out over a graveyard; very cheerful :D
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And my very own fridge!
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The beautiful Turku Cathedral. I walk by it almost every day. I can't wait to get inside!
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Part of the university campus
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I love how this city was built around nature. Rocks and trees seem to be unplanned, just left in their natural beauty. This photo is on campus as well, and you can kind of see the cathedral in the back. It's very close!
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Monica from Mallorca (in Spain), Julie from Canada, and Pirkko from Finland. These are my sisters :D

I think that concludes this edition of Journey's with Julie! Please feel free to email me and update me on things back home too!
Live, laugh, and love always,
Julie

Posted by jns885 09:42 Archived in Ireland Tagged castles ireland dublin howth kilkenny Comments (3)

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