There were silver birches lining the way in. There were slate stone plates for bread and black lava salt to go with the grassy delicious olive oil. There was a wonderful taste journey from Norway to Iceland to France to the UK. And to finish there was the softest creamiest skyr I have tasted, both chilled and frozen. And when we thought the journey was over there were warm, soft pistacchio madeleines, cinnamon truffles, and Fisherman’s Friend macaroons, all tucked into a little moss-covered bowl.
And just as we were about to leave, someone pushed little pouches with more cinnamon truffles into our hands. Oh yes, I think the Icelandic chef of Texture has many new friends in my taste buds.
(Texture, London, United Kingdom; March 2015)
Goodbye Copenhagen, hello lovely London. Hello congested tube stations swept by a hot stuffy wind. Hello amazing street artists. Hello scones with clotted cream and jam, and hello Liberty department store. Five months without you was barely bearable.
(London, United Kingdom; March 2015)
One stormy March day I am dreaming of cherries in bloom across the globe in Kyoto. I am forgetting place and time while I learn about the mysterious lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon, the author behind The Pillow Book. I am forgetting my country while I experience Japan through the writing of a Finnish woman who left her job to discover a soul sister who lived 1000 years ago and who loved making lists of things that made her heart beat faster.
And I am trying to imagine that world 1000 years ago, where one’s respect was measured by one’s skill to write poetic verse. Where one’s beauty was measured by how many layers of kimono one carried on top of each other. And where women were never seen in public, and seldom even within their own house. Except for Sei Shonagon, who did not care much about what was thought of her.
(Helsinki, Finland; March 2015)
At 15 it is a privilege to be invited to come along. At 35 it is a privilege to not invite anybody to come along. And sometimes, just sometimes, there are friends with whom it is possible to share a moment and at the same time have room for oneself, too. (Långvik Spa, Kirkkonummi, Finland; March 2015)
From time to time it is important to remember to sleep, breathe, and enjoy the spring sun. I am quite confident that nobody is better at savoring the present moment than a cat. Or perhaps two cats, together.
(Helsinki, Finland; March 2015)
Gliding over deserted Saltholmen island towards Copenhagen airport I think of how this flat country requires equal flatness of expectations. All peaks of success are evened out – and so are the lows. If you are good student you are expected to help those who are not equally successful. If you become rich you are expected to pay for it. Celebrating success is not encouraged, and neither is standing out as a total failure.
Once upon a time in a Norwegian book there was a Danish little village called Jante. The people of Jante abide by a number of laws which all boil down to one thing: you are not better or worse than anybody else. Do not expect it – nobody else does, either. Just fit in and you will be fine.
In the midst of this competitive world, in the heart of every Dane there lives a little villager from Jante. And not a month passes that I do not wonder whether the Norwegian author mistook the location of the village: the law of Jante ensnares the Finnish spirit, too.
As we float past the Öresund bridge rising from the bottom of the sea I wonder if it would be possible to keep the cake and eat it, too? What if we decided to keep the supportive lifting towards the mean for those who need help, and allow celebrating success and individuality? Why should the mean be the limit when it is possible to reach the stars?
(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2015)
Did you ever find you never got to do that simplest little thing you always wanted to do? Or how you haven’t got a single step closer to a big dream that always hovers so close but not close enough to do something about catching it?
I always wanted to complete a coloring book from start to finish. The past three years I have been yearning to see the French Riviera in spring. I still have not experienced the (relatively) new Helsinki Music Center, and there are many books my friends have recommended that I still have not read.
Until this spring. This spring I have read all Moomin books, completed a coloring book on horses, gone back to Kathmandu, and seen a concert at the Helsinki Music Center. I also have a trip to Cannes in my calendar, an Indian head massage scheduled, and I have read 3 books out of 20 that my friends recommended to me. All thanks to Day Zero Project. 101 goals in 1001 days.
What an adventure it will be to stay a night in a treehouse, go to St Helena with the Royal Mail liner ship, and learn to make Limoncello. Why not live a little with me? List your goals and live today.
(Helsinki, Finland; March 2015)
See the puddles on the frozen fields? Spring is gaining foothold every day, even in Norway!
(Norway, March 2015)
For centuries we Finns were born in the sauna, and it was there that we entered the next world, too. In the meantime we cleansed, meditated, and nursed a cold in the same little hot room.
Today it is intended for us to be born and die in a hospital. We are not nursed by shamans but we still nurse our colds in the sauna. We may not believe in midsummer magic but we still bring leafy fragrant birch branches into the hotness. We may buy our beer in the store but we still store it either in the sea or lake or in the cold water bucket on the sauna floor.
And we city-dwellers may not have access to a sauna by the lake or sea every weekend (unless we flee to our summer houses). But each and every apartment building in this country has a sauna, and many apartments in them, as well. There is no living without a sauna, not even today. Not even for me.
On a Friday night, kindly do not offer me a night out in town. Rather allow me to enjoy the last condo sauna slot of the evening. A companion and a cold cider, or a book and just me. Delicious hotness seeping into the bones. Then slowly inching into the cool pool and a few laps, listening to the water splashing against the rim. Finally more heat until the muscles let go of whatever they were worried about.
Is there such a thing as a collective soul of a people? If there is an ancient, cultural core that is still alive, the sauna would be the vehicle that takes us Finns to that ancient source. Not understanding why we love the heat and the cold shocks, or why we bat each other with birch twig bunches, perhaps we are connecting to the consciousness of that ancient people who speak a language almost nobody understands, and whose geographic roots are shrouded in mystery?
As I twiddled my toes in the turquoise pool water, I could not help but wonder how tightly cultural heritage is entwined into our DNA. From lake water into pool water – into something else, will we still have saunas 200 years from now?(Helsinki, Finland: March 2015)
Here is a suggestion on how to waste our resources and grow your carbon footprint: stuff a garbage bag full of kids’ winter clothes. Honestly intend to send them to Nepal, for kids who battle against survival each winter up in the cold mountain plateaus. But first, fly the bag from Aarhus (Denmark) to Copenhagen. Then take it from Copenhagen to Helsinki. Next check it onboard a flight to Stockholm. And finally, after this little tour of the Nordics, ship it to Nepal along with the next group traveling.
Some wasteful clothes… fortunately there can be no price limit on saving children’s lives.
(Around the Nordics; March 2015)