Archive for the Travelling Category

December 22nd, 2017

Christmas time in North Carelia

We’ve been spending the last few Christmas seasons at our home, but this year decided to go to my parents in North Carelia. After spending the first night in Polvijärvi at my younger sister’s old room, I strongly feel that we made the right choice. After a hectic autumn, the tranquility here is just awesome. Also, there is so much of snow here that it feels refreshing after slush, sleet, and rain in Helsinki.

We plan to go downhill skiing in Koli for a day on Christmas Day and just hang around with the family for the rest of our stay. We’ll drive to Taivalkoski to Sanna’s parents on the day after Boxing Day. The plan is to drive to Ruka and Iso-Syöte for a couple of days of skiing. And finally we will drive to Oulu for New Year and then back to Helsinki.

During this trip, I’ll pop over to my company’s Oulu office for a couple of days to keep things on rolling – the end of the year has a lot of actions required due to closing of the books. But other than that, I’ll try to keep my eyes off from work.

November 30th, 2017

Slushy season in Finland

November is the hardest month in Finland – it is cold, dark, and wet. And when it is not raining, there is sleet coming from the skies and slush on the ground. The Finnish name of the month – ‘marraskuu’ – means the month of the death. Isn’t that lovely?

Anyhow, the weather outside has made our family to look for trips to sunnier places, but unfortunately we haven’t found any yet. Maybe all the other Finns are doing the same and thus there is no point to lure anyone with offers, as all trips will be sold anyhow.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday were both quite disappointments, no decent offers anywhere.

Instead of going to south, we decided to head to north once again in Easter. We booked eight nights in Ylläs and will travel there using night train to Rovaniemi and then driving the rest of the trip. The car will travel in the train, too.

Our usual landlord had sold out the whole inventory, and I sort of panicked to find a new flat. Fortunately the new flat is on a higher floor and the rent is cheaper. Sometimes it is good that you are forced to look around.

October 29th, 2017

Madrid + Vilnius

I’ve been collecting interesting places to my must go places list from late 20th century, and it has gradually shrunk over the years. Not every year, but like six cities in a decade. This month I multiplied the pace by visiting in two places, first a week in Madrid, Spain, and then two days in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Madrid trip was our family’s autumn holiday. The schools closed for a week this year – the length varies from year to year, next year the length is probably three days – and we got an excellent deal from Norwegian to fly to Madrid. This combined with a centrally located, spacious, and inexpensive AirBnB flat made the week very lucrative financially. And it was not bad in other fronts, either.

Numerous Finnish families had selected the same flights, Friday from Helsinki to Madrid and then the following Friday from Madrid to Stockholm and finally to Helsinki. Seldom I’ve seen so good prices for holiday seasons.

The flights were peaceful, too, mostly due to the fact that our sons purchased Nintendo Switch console a month ago. It is an ultimate silencer – the games are true Nintendo quality and they entertain several hours without raising anger levels, unlike most other console games.

The kids continued to play the Switch for a limited period of time also in the Madrid flat, but we limited the amount to 30 minutes per day. Otherwise we might been stuck inside the flat for the whole week.

The week was low on action, as both I and Sanna have had very busy weeks in work, and there was no point having the same stress on a holiday. So, mostly we had only event per day, such as visiting a park or museum.

We toured the major museums – Reina Sofia, Prado, and Thyssen Bornemisza – and visited two parks. Then I and the boys watched Real Madrid playing against Tottenham Hotspurs in Champions League – besides being a good match, it was a thrilling experience to hear around 80 000 people roaring, singing, and yelling during the game.

I also met a few open source people both privately and in a Drupal meetup.

All in all, very good holiday in a truly nice city.

The trip to Vilnius was a bit different. I was selected to spoke in DrupalCamp Baltics that was organised for the first time ever in Vilnius – earlier locations are Riga, Latvia, and Tallinn, Estonia. I’ve been part of the organisation committee for Tallinn camps, and as the next year’s camp will be in Tallinn, it was good to be there to see how things are organised in Lithuania.

The camp was an excellent experience, a lot of good sessions, and very good discussions with people from all Baltic states. My own sessions were about how open source creates meaning to people’s lives, and how Drupal companies should focus more on growth.

As I’ve never been in Vilnius before, I took a later flight on Saturday and strolled around the city for a few hours before it started to rain. The old city is huge and nicely layers different eras. It was surprisingly worn, especially when compared to Tallinn or Riga old towns that are almost spotless nowadays. Sort of felt like being sent 10-15 years back in time.

There were way more cafes and churches than in the two other Baltic capitals. Maybe the climate is less harsh or people are more outgoing in Lithuania. Religiousness seems to grow in Baltics when you travel from north to south.

The Vilnius airport was one of the smallest ones that I’ve seen for a nation’s capital. Only fourteen gates in very compact area, a few shops and cafés, and that’s it. Walking it from end to end took like five minutes. Without Finnair’s successful Asian strategy, Helsinki airport could be of same size – but now it felt really humongous, and it is constantly being expanded.

August 31st, 2017

Autumn is travel season

August is ending and my hiatus with travelling seems to be over. I visited Tampere today, enjoyed my company’s Tampere office family day, and will fly to Oulu for a couple of days early next week.

Then there is DrupalCon Europe, as every autumn. This year the event takes place in Vienna that I’ve visited last time several years ago. It is a good time to come back to that city. Albeit I won’t be seeing it too much, as most of the time is spent inside the exhibition center.

And in October the whole Kalliola family will be visiting Madrid during the school autumn holiday. None of us have been in Madrid yet, so we are expecting a lot from that trip – museums, cafés, some shopping, and hopefully a football match.

July 31st, 2017

Visiting Tarto, Estonia

We have had a tradition for several years to travel abroad once during our summer holidays. This year, we decided to do some local travelling and visited Tarto in southern Estonia.

As Tarto is quite near, we decided to take our car over the gulf and drive there. The other considered option was to take train from Tallinn to Tarto and back. Probably it would have been cheaper, as the trains are very inexpensive in Estonia and we didn’t really need the car for anything on our trip – it was parked in a garage for the whole time we were in Tarto.

We had reserved a suite with a separate bedroom in the newest hotel (V Hotell) in Tarto. It has also the very first indoor hotel spa in the town, so this was an obvious choice for family with children. We ended up visiting the space every morning and evening. The spa had several pools with all kinds of fancy water streams, hot tubs, and four saunas.

The children would have spent the entire vacation in the spa, but we ventured out to the science center Ahhaa and the newly opened Eesti Rahvamuuseum – Estonian National Museum. Both places were just excellent. I’ve always admired how Estonians use the latest technology in their museums in non-introsive, almost natural way, and these were no exceptions. For example, in Rahvamuuseum, the descriptions of exhibits are on e-ink displays that switch language using a NFC key that we got with the tickets. Boys had such fun to change the language.

The exhibitions were also excellent. Especially the origins of Finnic people was organised so that you never felt having too much to see or digest. This meant also that children were able to focus on the exhibition instead of chasing each other around.

The only disappointments in the museums were their cafeterias. They had very Estonian set of dishes and cakes, and it was somewhat hard to find something to eat for the children. Almost every cake had sour cream and all salty dishes tasted quite bland – except for the salmon bread that had enough saltiness.

Besides the museums, we just strolled around the city. Tarto is surprisingly small town, everything in the centre is reachable by walking a few hundred meters. We visited the old fortifications on the nearby hill, saw the university, and enjoyed good food in upscale yet affordable restaurants.

The trip was also a good for improving my Estonian skills. I’ve been studying the language for five years – slowly – and can handle short conversations on familiar subjects. In Tallinn, everybody responds in English when I speak Estonian to them – my accent gives me away. In Tarto, everybody answered in Estonian and I had sometimes hard times to understand what I was being told. But it was an excellent refreshment of my active Estonian language skills.

While driving back to Tallinn we visited a nature reserve in Tooma. The reserve is a big swamp with duckboards and an observation tower. Very tranquil place, except for finding the right path to the swamp. I thought several times that we are lost, but fortunately Sanna was more level-headed and we walked through the farm to the actual scenic trail. Worth the visit, but you better read the instructions carefully to find the trail.

On the same route, we stopped by Põhjaka manor to have a very delicious lunch. Estonia is full of manors – owned by the Baltic Germans in the past – and they are in varying conditions. We saw a couple of very pristine manors while driving, but Põhjaka was in more “romantic” condition. Not rundown per se, but age was showing through.

June 30th, 2017

Working hard at the summer cabin

June went past so quickly. In the past years, June has been a month that Finland gradually settles into holiday mode, as the traditional Finnish holiday season starts in midsummer. Recently, the holiday starting dates have been moving towards central European tradition and this week was one of the busiest I’ve ever had. Fortunately due to good things only.

When I’ve not been in working in Exove, I’ve been busily doing minor construction work and wood chopping at our summer cabin in Lohja. The cabin itself has been ready for a year, and now the builders are working on the sauna by the lake.

We have focused our efforts to the yard, planting plants and bushes, hauling rocks to the shore to stop erosion and make it look better, and cleaning the place after construction workers. And yes, I’ve been chopping a lot of wood lately. My shoulders have been on fire at the evenings, but the results and also the workout has been worth of it.

No travel, though. My holiday starts next week on Thursday, and I’ll have a short 22 hour cruise from Helsinki to Tallinn and back with the kids. Sanna will go to a knitting festival (or something) in Jyväskylä, so I’m alone with the kids the whole extended weekend. The kids have been yearning to go to a cruise ship, so it will be mostly an adventure tailored for them.

The first full week of the holiday will be spent in Helsinki Cup, both boys are playing there for a few days. After that we go to Tartu, Estonia, for a few days. I’m surprisingly excited about that trip, even if it so close and only for four days.

May 27th, 2017

Drupal events

After the previous update, I’ve attended to numerous Drupal events as an organiser or speaker or both.

The first one was the main event in the Northern America, DrupalCon Baltimore. I’ve been helping Drupal Association in Europe several years by being a track chair for the business track, and this was my first American DrupalCon as a track chair. And also my second American DrupalCon overall, the first one was in Chicago in 2011.

There are no direct flights from Helsinki to Baltimore or Washington DC, so I flew to New York and took a train to Baltimore. I was able to combine a couple of business meeting in the Big Apple, so it was not just a detour.

The con itself was pleasant, as they always tend to be. I met a lot of acquitances and friends, and also make a few new ones during the week. I skipped most of the evening activities and parties due to time difference and also because I had to divide some of my attention to Finland during the week – waking up at four o’clock in the morning, spending a few hours working, then breakfast and to the con.

Boy, I was tired after the last meeting on Friday in New York. Fortunately my flight was on Saturday, so I could have a long stretch of sleep on Friday evening – went to bed before eight. I had transferred some of my Amex points to Finnair and upgraded to business. It was actually my first transcontinental flight on business and I will sorely miss the experience when I’m flying next time in economy on a night flight.

Less than two weeks later I was in the next event, this time speaking in DrupalCamp Nordics organised in Helsinki. I was also in the organising committee, albeit had very limited possibilities to do much. At the end, I was able to spend only two hours at the location due to meetings and other hassle. My session went well, at least I think so, and got a few compliments from the listeners.

Fast forward one week, and I was flying to Frankfurt via Stockholm to deliver the same session in the European Drupal Business Days. My speech was on Thursday as a part of the CXO event and again I saw number of familiar faces and had good time in general. This time I was able to stay most the two-day event, had a fancy (albeit slow) dinner at the top of one of the Frankfurt skyscapers with magnificent views. I flew back via Riga, and it was surprisingly straightforward route with minimum hassles – actually my first experience with both Air Baltics and Riga airport, and I could see myself using their services again.

I was quite exhausted after such extensive conferencing. Fortunately the weather was excellent back in Finland and I could enjoy our summer cabin with the family; including also doing manual labour for five to six hours a day…

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.