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I have arrived back in the U.S. and have a ton of information to post about Helsinki including photos, video, cool shopping places and more restaurant reviews. It is going to take me a couple of days but I wanted to let everyone know that there is a subscribe via email link on the bottom right of this page where you can be notified of new posts so you don’t need to keep checking back. RSS subscriptions are also available. See you soon!
I have a link on my contact page to reach me using Skype but I just wanted to make sure people were aware of the benefits of skype, especially while traveling out of your home country. To keep in touch with people from home you may invest in calling cards, international cell phones or things of that nature but if you are going to have access to internet where you are going via laptop or desktop where you can download skype you must invest in use skype. It is CHEAP and, you can talk to people from home almost free (or charged at their regular call rates from home or cell phones).
You can talk to anyone anywhere from computer to computer for free where you can also use video conferencing if you have a webcam. You can also set up a phone number and voicemail and enable what Skype calls Skype in and Skype out.
Skype In allows you to RECEIVE calls from land lines or cell phones to your computer. The catch is that you can buy phone numbers in whatever area code you choose that skype offers. For example, I have Skype in enabled with one number right now on (651) area code so whatever it would normally cost a person to dial a 651 area code number on their phone that is how much it will cost them to call me on my computer (my brother can me and we could talk for hours at no cost because he has a 573 area code with free long distance on his cellso it actually doesn’t matter these days). Skype in also comes with voicemail so if someone calls you and you aren’t online, they can leave you a voicemail. This is good especially with a big time zone difference so people can reach you when it is convenient for them (and it is nice to hear friends and family voices). This is charged at a flat fee of $38 for one year (no charge to those who call you as mentioned above) or $12 for 3 months- this is the plan I am on because I am traveling abroad right now for just a month. I am going to invest in the year plan when I move to Minnesota because I will most likely be living in a smaller apartment and talking through my computer will be so easy and saves on a your cell phone bill! Skype in will also come in really handy for my boyfriend when he wants to talk to his family in Finland. Get a skype in number with the Finland area code and they can call from Finland to U.S. through skype for whatever their normal cell phone rates are, pretty cool!
Skype out is another service through Skype that allows you to call phone numbers FROM your skype software on your computer. This works great with skype in because I will call my mom of friends back home for just a short phone call to let them know I am online and then they call me back for free. The cost is about 10cents/minute. You can also send text messages through skype to cell phones- local and international- this was the best feature while being in Finland because I didn’t have to make a phone call when a short text message to let people know where I was or what I was doing was perfect. Really, really handy feature. Highly advise skype.
For the icing on the cake- do you hate talking through your computer or don’t want to feel like you have to stay in front of your computer- you can talk through skype on a bluetooth enabled wireless headset (if your computer also has bluetooth) or through a skype phone. I have been using a bluetooth headset that works great most of the time. I haven’t had the opportunity to use a skype phone yet but when I do I’ll write a review! For more information check on the links below. A review can only do so much, if you have used an instant messenger client like Yahoo or MSN before Skype should be a walk in the park so just try it out!!
I read this magazine religiously and they recently wrote an article about traveling that I wanted to share because it fit in with the topic of conversation. Enjoy!
Source: Women’s Health Online
Q: How can I fly to Europe — or anywhere international — without going broke?
A: Take a U.S. airline out of the country and transfer to a low-fare, bare-bones carrier that flies shorter routes. Say you’re heading to Venice from New York City. Fly to London, then pick up a budget flight from Ryanair. Total cost at press time: $1,096 versus $1,480 for a direct flight. Just leave enough layover time to change planes — and, in some cases, airports. Pack only what you can carry or roll while sprinting to your connection. Once aboard, order a Bloody Mary and enjoy the rush of beating the system. For a directory of cheap flights within foreign countries, visit Flybudget.com or Which Budget.
Q: How much should I tip hotel staff?
A: Give bellhops $2 a bag — more if the place offers high-end service or your suitcases weigh a ton. Valets get $2 every time they fetch your car. Housekeeping gets around $5 a night, depending on the quality and size of the room and whether you’ve spilled nail polish on the bathroom floor. Spot a concierge $5 for small stuff like dinner reservations or up to $20 for custom requests like tracking down a store that carries your favorite running shoes.
Q: Do ratings matter?
A: It depends on the place, Greenberg says. Stars and diamonds are often granted for minor extras like cable TV and secure door locks…
So, Rovaniemi, Finland. There are a lot of things you need to try or see. You need to try cider, you need to get a big bag of candy, you need to experience the middle of winter when the sun doesn’t come up and the middle of summer when the sun doesn’t go down. But, over every thing else, you need to have Kotipizza. When I come to Finland this is on the top of my list. Forget Pizza Hut or Papa Johns or Dominos or any other place you get pizza! If wasn’t afraid the large billion dollar pizza market in the U.S. would crush a smaller pizza chain like Kotipizza I would be opening up franchises everywhere. It is a lighter pizza with a thinner crust (no pan or deep dish pizzas here) that wins you over with less cheese and more toppings. The crust is thinner than thin pizza but it is softer allowing the pizza to fold over. The topping combinations, however, are a little strange and you’ll be in for a treat if your palette is adventurous. my favorite combo is chicken, mushroom and pineapple (I added pepperoni before and it was also good). You can personalize any pizza the way you want but they have about 15 pizza combos that will not resemble your traditional fare. Tuna, blue cheese, reindeer, fried egg in the middle…little strange if you ask me. But, they look at our sausage and pepperoni as strange so I guess it is all relative.
I’m working on getting my hands on an Kotipizza English menu to upload but until then you can look at the pictures (or learn Finnish to understand it!) And if you ever find yourself in Finland, you must put this on your list!
So, I tried packing light this time because I was just coming to Finland work on my thesis and visit friends and family. That worked fine on the way here but heading back to the U.S. has created a small problem. I have quite a few items I’m stocking up on from pastries to cider and candy….and running out of space in my suitcases quickly! Word to the wise- even if you pack light on a trip, if you are allowed two suitcases, TAKE TWO LARGE SUITCASES. Weight becomes an issue. Those who aren’t aware, weight limits have decreased and they hold you to it on those flights in the U.S. and heading out. You get 50lbs per bag which seems like a ton BUT, candy and cider are heavy it turns out!! So, even if you don’t need them, it hurts no one, TAKE THE EXTRA BAGS!
Here are some helpful links for traveling abroad:
I have been in Rovaniemi, Finland for about three weeks working on my thesis as I lounge and enjoy the culture and I feel the need to mention a local coffee shop that has been home to some very productive work visits not to mention a great atmosphere for spending a Saturday night. The name of the place is Kauppayhtiö and it is in downtown Rovaniemi, Finland (I wrote it in the headline with and without the two dots over the o at the end so hopefully you’ll be able to find this review by searching it both ways- those of you who can’t type the o with two dots on your computer keyboard). It is located next to a Chinese Restaurant on Valtakatu street. The atmosphere is that of a retro themed cafe with old artifacts and memorabilia. You are greeted in the entry way by two old fashioned candy dispensers, you walk in and there are round tables with old, plastic, bucket chairs, you can find an ancient Playboy Pin Ball machine in the corner, an old juke box, old, organge and grey fuzzy couches, a pool table and tons of old memorabilia from Finland hanging on the walls and placed throughout the cafe. View the pictures below for a more visual experience:
Courtesy of flickr user yourbartender
Courtesy of flickr user orion
Something to note about why this place is so cool, in addition to the atmosphere and a really good menu selection, you can buy anything in the shop. the concept is set up that whatever isn’t nailed down is yours for a price. I had my eyes on an ancient looking teen magazine showcasing the talents of a former boy band member (no, I’m not gonna embarrass myself by saying it) but it was really tempting to buy. The tables, the couches, photos on the wall, magazines lying around…if you see something you like, ask the price!
I can’t talk a lot about the food because I only had coffee, red bull and yorgurt smoothies but I did see a ton of people buying the sandwiches that looked pretty good (If I didn’t have such good cooking to come home to each night I would have tried one myself!) The banana yogurt smoothies though are GREAT. And, it is one of the cheapest places to buy coffee compared to the rest of the city. One and a half euros gets you one cup that you can refill one time so it is like 75cents a cup and it was REALLY good.
The music was very indie, soft rock type of sound. I liked it a lot, had the classic, home feel of a coffee shop that is way too cool for its own good but you can’t help love it there. You have to try to really understand. For a mid to upper 20s and younger 30s it is a must but I saw a ton of older people in there at all hours so there is no limit on who can check it out. I went with some friends last night (about 10/10:30pm) and they had a DJ, lots of people coming in from graduation parties (last day of school in Finland was yesterday). Later into the night, the music got really loud but with the no smoking law going into effect last Thursday I had no reason to leave other than getting tired. Really, if you want a great, trendy, hip coffee shop, check out Kauppayhtiö. They have a HUGE ice cream selection if you aren’t sold yet!!
I should have started these from the beginning because I have traveled so much and there are a tons of dos and don’t and recommendations/suggestions I have for future travelers. I’ll start off today with medication and pharmacies because I had to get pain medicine and a tooth cream for a sore gum (you can’t get them in the grocery store or walmart like you can in the US. Any of those products are at the pharmacy.) Anyways…no English on any of the packaging all Swedish and Finnish. So, if you are traveling to Finland, make sure you have everything you need (or a good translator of the native language like I do). I was able to get eye solution (I left it for its size and knew I could just buy it here) but in an eye place or pharmacy, there is similarities in some packaging like saline solution so you know what you’re buying. Also, pharmacies in Finland treat you like you just walked into Best Buy or a similar large shopping store, immediately “can I help you” “what do you need?” If you catch one who speaks English, get over the aggressive nature of waiting on customers and ask questions about what you’re looking for, they’ll find it. Also, in Finland you can’t return anything unless you don’t leave the premises. I needed to get some tooth cream as I mentioned above, bought what I thought was the right stuff, got to the car, it wasn’t it so we went back in, got the right stuff and the cashier had to check to make sure I could return it- still in box, we never left but because I had already bought it they weren’t sure if they would take it back (America has spoiled me in that sense…you can make returns months after you purchase something- but that is also because of chain stores…Finland doesn’t really have that). It was okay but…you are for warned. Same thing goes with clothes, you buy it they are yours. And electronics. I think you have maybe one day to take it back…Pack all of what you need medically. Ladies, get all your makeup, hair shampoos and conditioners, don’t wait to buy them especially if you think you use something of high quality and maybe not that common (I always hit the Mac Makeup counter before I leave to come here!). I’m going to follow up this post with a tip on traveling overseas with electronics! Then one on travel gear and airports. Enjoy!
It wouldn’t be a Finnish post without a mention of the Finnish Sauna! This is the one requirement my boyfriend has of our future home in the U.S. or Finland. A Finnish sauna is not a steam room just to make sure everyone doesn’t think it is something that is isn’t. It is a dry sauna. In the traditional sense a Finnish sauna is heated through a wood burning stove as you can see below in the video of a wood burning sauna being lit from start to Finnish.
Today, in Finland most saunas are electric. Electric saunas are easier, more convenient, faster to heat up and take up less space. I have experienced both electric and wood burning and wood burning is so much better. Wood saunas have become a luxury nowadays because it takes more time to build, it is measier because of the wood and the room has to be bigger to hold the stove but they create a better sweat and are less vicious. It is a calmer heat- for me, someone who has experienced for a few years and not my entire life, saunas took a little while for me to get used to. REALLY hot! It wasn’t until my second trip that I started making requests for saunas! Now I love them, especially in winter when I can’t feel my legs!! To note, a Finnish tradition is to run from sauna to snow/water and back to sauna. They call it the 200 degree club (with a little bit of fluctuation depending on the temp in the sauna and temp outside. I did this once…never again. I think parts of my body are still cold and it was three years ago. Many people are familiar with the Polar Bear running clubs…imagine starting in about 150 degrees F and heading out into -20 degrees…makes you want to cry!!
If you want to read more about the Finnish sauna check out the websites below. There are more photos on my flickr account and a video is on its way of Matti and I starting up a Finnish sauna. I’ll provide a link in the post when it is ready (or you can check back to my video page in the next couple of days!
Finnish Sauna, an Introduction
Wikipedia and Finnish Sauna
Sauna, A Finnish Institution (courtesy of Virtual Finland)
Since Columbia, MO (where I am from) just initiated this I thought it would be of interest to mention the spreading trend here in Finland.
Article from Helsingin Sanomat (Friday June 1 Edition)
Cigarettes to be stubbed out in Finnish bars and restaurants tonight
Mixed feelings among users, but most anticipate it will not affect their restaurant visits
Cigarettes will be stubbed out once and for all in nearly all Finnish restaurants and bars at midnight when the amendment to the law on smoking in public areas comes into effect.
Only a few Helsinki restaurants have applied for a two-year transition period over smoking or for a permit to construct a designated smoking booth. In the entire country, only around 100 restaurants have applied for a transition period.
Clients Anna-Kaisa Tuomi and Marjut Ruokonen are satisfied with the amendment to the law, as all their friends are non-smokers and they always choose the smoke-free zone anyway.
“Considering the health of the restaurant workers, it is fair and just that the law was amended”, Tuomi and Ruokonen conclude.
Read the rest of the article on the Helsingin Sanomat Website