Finland!

Here in sunny, sunny Finland it’s light for 20 hours a day and I have yet to see darkness, but it’s cool, too – it’s never reached 70 degrees yet while we’ve been here. It’s nice as long as you aren’t in the shade, though. I spent yesterday walking around downtown Helsinki

getting lost repeatedly. It’s surprisingly difficult to navigate, given the size of things – the peninsula we’re on isn’t more than a square mile or so in size, so nothing’s very far, but somehow I can never find the same road twice without wandering around for half an hour. This is nice for exploration, but terrible for actually trying to get anywhere. I took the camera with me and got some nice photos, which I’ll try to post presently.

Helsinki has a strange feel to it, I can’t quite get a sense of it. I think a lot can be attributed to the fact that’s it’s cold and miserable for most of the year here. Everything’s designed so you don’t have to go outside too much if you don’t want to, which is fine, but it’s also sort of drab in some ways, and not very bright. It looks like a lot of the buildings were constructed right after the second World War in haste, which makes sense since Helsinki hosted the 1952 Olympics. The hotel I’m writing this from, in fact, was constructed for that event. So this all combines to make a city that’s very nice and pleasant, but not terribly remarkable or visually striking. Then again, for a city of only around 500,000, there’s a lot going on and it feels very busy, which is a good thing I suppose.

We rented bikes today and rode around, saw this neat church that’s entirely underneath a giant stone hill, and the Sibelius monument (Sibelius being a famous Finnish composer, who apparently is important enough to have his own monument). The sun was out and bright, which made the day really well suited for this sort of activity. It’s not too hot, and with the sun out and a sweatshirt on it’s not too cool.

Tomorrow we’re flying to northern Sweden, time to visit the Arctic circle and celebrate the midnight sun. This is the part of the trip I’m most excited about, so I really hope it’s as amazing as I think it’s going to be.

Update: Got those pictures from yesterday posted here:

http://www.uni.uiuc.edu/~twiltziu/personal/pics/Helsinki 6-8-06 album

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