Archive for the Travelling Category

April 17th, 2017

Skiing Trip

We’ve just returned from our traditional Easter skiing trip from Ylläs – the biggest skiing resort in Finland. We spent total nine days on the slopes.

As the trip takes around fifteen hours by car, we took night train to and fro. The resort is quite distributed and using own car is a must, so we took it with us in the train. The ride took fourteen hours one way and we arrived in Kolari train station surprisingly well rested on Saturday one week before Easter.

We had rented an ski-in apartment next to the fell, and cooked most of our meals by ourselves. The kids are picky eaters and there is no point to go to restaurants to eat just french fries for a week. Thus, we visited the local grocery stores, even one in Sweden – it is very conveniently located, less than a kilometer from the Finnish border. We bought some Swedish specialties there and the bulk of the food from Kolari center before heading to the fell.

The week itself was nice but sort of uneventful in that sense that most of the days were very similar: wake up, eat breakfast, go to slopes, eat lunch, go to slopes, eat dinner, spend time in the flat, go to sauna, go to bed – rinse and repeat.

Our family friends arrived on Tuesday evening and we spent three days in the slopes with them, on and off due to little kids in both families. On Saturday they went to cross-country skiing and we decided to visit another skiing resort – Pallas – around 60 kilometers to north. Pallas is located inside a national park and thus it has not been developed actively – in other words, it still has the original Lappish feeling.

It was a fun trip. The slopes were in excellent condition and we skied as a family some part of the day, before the boys started to feel itchy skiing as slow as their youngest sister and then they continued on their own. The resort has only two T-bar lifts and nine slopes, but the views were spectacular. Unfortunately it was so cold on the summit that I decided not to take any photos to save my fingers from the biting wind.

In Ylläs I also tried going backcountry skiing by climbing to the smaller Ylläs summit – Keskinen laki. The distance is only a few hundred meters, but I got the taste of going upwards with muscle power and it felt nice enough that I could do it again later. Need to ponder on this and also think which kind of gear I would need – some of my current stuff is okay for backcountry stuff, but much should be bought, too.

Another big thing for me personally happened on the morning of the last day – yesterday – when I bit the bullet and ride my snowboard from the top of the fell, around 450m vertical. Before those two rides – couldn’t do more, my abs were hurting like hell – I’ve rode only on slopes for kids and beginners. Despite falling over multiple times, it was fun. I’m still sore, but happy.

We boarded the train back to Helsinki in yesterday evening and I felt promptly asleep a bit after nine o’clock – as well as the rest of the family – to woke up around seven in the morning. After getting back to home, we’ve unpacked the car and washed a load of laundry. Tomorrow is a working day, so need to get things done today.

March 17th, 2017

Visit to Viimsi Spa

My travels for the past five years or so have been either with the whole family or alone on work trips. I and my wife haven’t got the chance to spend some quality time together abroad since our trip to Amsterdam probably eight years ago.

So the expectations were quite high last weekend, when we dropped off children to my younger sister and headed to Viimsi Spa in Estonia. We took a fast Tallink ship to Tallinn and then drove with taxi ten kilometers or so to Viimsi peninsula north of Tallinn.

I must have been quite loyal customer to Tallink, as they send me a coupon to redeem business lounge seats for two people with eight euros per person per direction. The price without the discount would have been whopping 410€ and now it was merely 32€ – the discount was around 92%!

The business lounge is a secluded space in the ship with surprisingly plentiful and tasty buffet food and drinks service. And it was quiet, no announcements from PA. Especially on the return trip the lounge was extremely nice, as we were travelling on a brand spanking new ship Megastar – that had been sailing less than two weeks. Very airy and light compared to the old ships, way better looking materials and design – overall, not just in the business lounge.

In Viimsi Spa we had a normal hotel room, which was too cold and dark. I tried to set the thermostat a couple of times with no luck. The room also lacked lights, big time. There was one ceiling lamp in the corridor before the actual room and then two bedside lamps. Nothing else – except a led strip in ceiling that shoned indirect light through the ceiling and factually did not help at all. I’ve always wondered who designs the lightning in hotel rooms, as the rooms are almost always too dark and the light sources are far and between. I need to turn on all lights and still the result is mediocre at best.

Despite the room, we had excellent time in Viimsi. The normal spa is quite small but okay. There are several saunas which is always plus. There is also adults only spa that has more serene atmosphere – no kids splashing and screaming. The entrance costs 20€ per person for hotel guests, but it is worth the experience. I can also recommend participating in sauna rituals, had very fun and also surprisingly intense moments in sauna during a ritual.

We also visited restaurant Noa, a couple of kilometers from the spa. Highly recommended! Very good food with affordable prices. They should have a nice sea view, but unfortunately we arrived so late that it was dark. Maybe next time.

All in all, very good trip and a lot of activities – jogging, sushi, going to movies, etc. – squeezed in less than 48 hours.

February 28th, 2017

Skiing trip up north

The last week was a winter holiday week in the southern Finland, and our family spent it skiing – both downhill and cross-country.

We decided to skip the traffic jams and left Espoo on Saturday. The first destination was Häkärinteet near Jyväskylä in central Finland. It is quite low hill with dozen slopes or so, so it was perfect as a starter and also very nice for our youngest who is still learning the ropes in skiing.

We skied a few hours and deftly left Aapo’s skis there – just forgot to pack them in the car. This was found out on Sunday in Koli where we were next skiing together with my younger sister’s family. Aapo was, of course, quite devastated at first, but fortunately agreed to use rented skis.

Koli is the highest ski resort in the southern Finland and very conveniently located near my parents’ house. We spent the whole day there. Also decided to skip the usual trash food and opt for the á la carte option at the hilltop hotel. I ate one of the best burgers ever – highly recommended.

On Monday people went to cross-country skiing. That is not a sport for me, so I lounged at my parents’ house and fixed their PC and smartphone issues. The next day was a travel day to Taivalkoski. We split the trip into two parts by visiting Ukkohalla ski resort in Kainuu region. Never been there before, but it was a good choice. The slopes were nice, not crowded at all, and there was enough powdery snow in the woods and edges of the slopes to enjoy my backcountry ready skis.

Taivalkoski was in middle of our road trip, 800 kilometers behind and also 800 kilometers to go. We spent a few days with Sanna’s parents – their house is conveniently located a kilometer or so away from Taivalvaara ski resort. Our boys skiid there every day, also on the day we visited Iso-Syöte, a way bigger ski resort 35 kilometers from Taivalkoski.

They even went to ski on Friday morning and got a couple of hours of slope time before we headed to Oulu for a couple of nights with friends.

January 31st, 2017

Tallinn trip

I visited Tallinn, Estonia, on business on last week. The distance between Helsinki and Tallinn is mere 80 kilometers and ships that I frequent take two hours each way. And they leave every three hours from both Helsinki and Tallinn, so there is plenty of options.

But not during the last week, as Tallink put one of their ships to docks for repairs. They are bringing a new ship to the route, but it made its maiden voyage on Sunday and I had to be in Tallinn already on Thursday. Maybe it is a slow season now and they can cope with a single ship, departing every six hours.

I needed to be in Tallinn early in the morning and until evening, and the timetables were really bad. So I decided to take a slower ship and spend my night at the ship.

To be honest, I was quite dubious, as most of my overnight travels on ships have caused bad sleep, both in quantity and quality. But man has to do what man has to do.

And it was surprisingly pleasant experience. I embarked the ship in early evening in Helsinki, put my stuff into my cabin, and went to enjoy their hundred (or so) course buffet dinner. That was also better than expected.

There were some drunk young Finns roaming the cabin corridors and I could hear disco pounding one or two decks above me, but fortunately not too loud. There was also a decent wifi connection in the cabin, so I could do some work before dozing off.

The disembarkation started at 8.00 on Thursday morning, and I walked to my company’s office and started the day way fresher I thought.

November 27th, 2016

Christmas Parties

My company Exove has five offices, and we have a local Christmas party in each of them. So, I’ve been travelling lately on joyful manner.

The Christmas party season was kicked off in Oulu a week ago. I flew there together with my family that continued to Taivalkoski while I stayed in Oulu for the day and took the last plane back to Helsinki. I wouldn’t have been able to go to Taivalkoski on that evening anymore and it would have been pointless to visit there for a day.

The Oulu Christmas dinner was in restaurant Hugo. The food was exceptional and the service was very timely – until we were leaving and wanted to pay the bill. The guys had a lot of fun watching me trying to wave to the waiters with no avail. After ten minutes, I got someone’s attention and could proceed with paying. We fancied of just running out, but decided to act in civil fashion.

As the family was in Taivalkoski on the following Saturday, I spend the first part of the day in Helsinki. I’ve been quite busy due to work – positive busyness, though – and not had the luxury of just strolling around. I did some purchases for Christmas, enjoyed a good meal in a local sushi buffet, and then drove to our summer cabin in Lohja. Did mostly nothing there, too, and then on Sunday drove to the Helsinki airport to pick up the family.

For some reason, we have had bad luck with Finnair flights to Oulu. First, Sanna’s earlier attempt to go to Taivalkoski went bust, as the plane broke before take-off and she decided to get the money back and come home. On this trip, all three flights were late at least half an hour, some of them even more. This has never happened when flying with Norwegian.

The next Christmas dinner was on last Friday in Tallinn. No flying, but a very full ferry to Tallinn. There were a huge amount of Jokerit – a Helsinki based KHL ice hockey team – fans on the ship on their way to Riga to see a game at the evening. Fortunately, they were not too drunk yet, and I could focus on working the whole trip.

Tallinn is always a nice destination for dinners, and this was no exception. The restaurant was The Able Butcher, located in the newly opened Hilton Hotel. The food was good here, too, and the service was very swift. From time to time you could see that the restaurant is new. Minor blunders and confusion, but fortunately nothing major or drastic.

I took the last boat back to Helsinki and was somewhat concerned about the trip beforehand. Typically, the last ships are full of drunk Finns making a lot of noise and flocking all the places. But not this time. The ship was almost empty and it was really pleasurable sailing back to Helsinki.

October 31st, 2016

Family Day in Oulu

I visited Oulu briefly during the weekend to participate on Exove’s family day at our Oulu office.

Due to the prices of the flights and other practical stuff, I left Helsinki after business hours and arrived to Oulu just to have a burger and then do rest of my work at the hotel.

The family day was on Saturday. We met at our Oulu office that got quite cramped due to number of kids, spouses and parents present. It was so good to see some of the most important people of our staff and to discuss with them. Once again, this gives a lot of meaning to me.

After a short speech and a couple demoes accompanied with coffee and buns, we left to Superpark. The lunch at the park was surprisingly good and it gave a lot of energy for the people visiting the activity park itself.

For those who don’t know anything about Superpark: the indoor activity park has number of different areas to do various activities and it is guaranteed to get sweat out of you.

After the family day was over, I walked around in Oulu center, fascinated by the new shopping mall Valkee and especially its grocery store that had excellent selection of all kinds of delicious stuff.

I tried to get hold of a couple of my acquitances in the city for a quick drink, but as they have families and last-minute ideas on Saturday evenings are somewhat hard to put into action due to family reasons, I ended eating alone in Puistola. I had an excellent burger at the restaurant in summer 2015, but unfortunately something had changed and frankly I would have got better fare at the local premium fast food joint.

As there were no cheap flights available for Saturday, I spent another night in Oulu and then flew back to Helsinki on Sunday morning. Nothing to report on that.

September 30th, 2016

Dublin Travelogue

I’m writing this on No. 1 Lounge in Heathrow, in between flights from Dublin and to Helsinki. I’ve spent the past week in Dublin, participating in the annual European DrupalCon.

I’ve visited Dublin once before, in 1998. Back then, the city felt quite drab and expensive. Now, it felt fresh and somewhat expensive. There has been a huge amount of new buildings erected near the docks area and the conference happened to be there – so lot of new and even futuristic vibes.

I arrived on Monday after spending my weekend with junior hockey players in Leppävirta in eastern Finland. Travelling with 43 eleven years old players and around ten adults for two days (and nights) takes it toll. I was dead tired on Monday morning after woking up 5.20 in the morning – I had spent seven hours at home between trips.

Monday was a Business Summit day that I combined with a quick visit to Acquia Partner Day and then the opening of the expo floor. The Business Summit was awesome and way better than I would have expected. Didn’t learn that much, but we had excellent posse on our table and thus had loads of fun.

My company Exove and One Shoe from Netherlands organised a Drupal CEO Survey together with Drupal Association. We got over 70 responses and analysed them before the DrupalCon. A shared press release and detailed analysis was made. We presented the analysis on Drupal CEO Dinner on Wednesday, and discussed about the results with Drupal Association. People welcomed the survey and its results so warmly that we’ll do it again in 2017.

Other than that, DrupalCon was quite normal experience. Met a lot of old friends, made a few new ones, and had numerous good discussions. The venue was the best since Munich and its location near the city centre unrivalled by any DrupalCons I’ve visited from 2011 onwards.

The event ended on my behalf on Thursday evening at the DrupalCon volunteer dinner. I was this year global track chair for the business track, helping the my local counterpart to build a comprehensive and well-balanced track of sessions. There would have been Drupal Trivia Night after the dinner, but I was so dead tired that I decided to hit the bed.

Today has been a day of wading through emails and travelling back home. The first flight was from Dublin to Heathrow where I needed to change terminals. I got nice instructions from Heathrow’s website stating that the transit time is 75 minutes. I got through in less than 30, so I’ve got plenty of time to enjoy the food here and write this entry.

July 31st, 2016


Our whole family was on holiday during July. We had bought inexpensive flights to Pula, Croatia already early in the spring and set off on Saturday right after the last working day.

The trip was excellent. The flight was short and we could spend some quality time in Helsinki airport lounge and enjoyed their surprisingly good food before buying some candies and drinks for the flight. We had booked an airport transfer to and fro the hotel, so there was a guy waiting for us at the airport.

We had booked a duplex apartment with a sea view from Park Plaze in Verudela, a small peninsula a few kilometers from Pula city centre. The pool was close by and there were also several restaurants, a good grocery store, and an excellent ice cream parlour in the area. So we ended up staying all but two days in the area, just splashing in the pool, lounging in the sun, and reading books.

The first excursion was to Pula centre. There is a Roman era amphitheatre and it was truly worth the visit. Very well preserved and not crowded. After visiting it, we just strolled around. Had a good meal – all meals were good in Croatia – and enjoyed ice cream. Got back to hotel and went to pool.

The second trip was to Rovinj, a medieval town about 40 kilometers north from Pula. It is exceptionally beautiful town, narrow streets and breathtaking views to the sea. Again, excellent food in a local pizzeria and the best ice cream during the whole trip. And then back to the pool after the trip. We did swim in the sea, too.

Croatia is a good destination to visit. It is inexpensive – not cheap, but inexpensive – food is good, and service is great. Not just courteous, but quick. No waiting, no hassles, no touting. Works very well with children.