Suomenlinna

We didn’t plan to go to Suomenlinna on Wednesday, it happened spontaneously. I too an unplanned day off, and then a couple other unplanned things happened, and we desperately needed something positive, so we went there for just an hour and a half at the end of the day.

It was amazing, as always, and we saw a couple of newly restored buildings, and had a fancy dinner at a restaurant that we didn’t check out for a while.

A Rose Garden

Boris took me to another rose garden – and I thought I knew all of them in Helsinki, at least the ones which are close to the city center. But here is another one – and in walking distance from our home.

And yes, not all of the flowers pictured here are roses, I know 🙂

Now we are finally talking roses!
These ones look so much like the lilac roses in San Jose,just the European size 🙂
Continue reading “A Rose Garden”

Summer Soltis In Helsinki

Helsinki greeted me with rain and barely 60F, but today is sunny, and isn’t it great to be so close to the North on the Summer Soltis?! I do not think I saw any dark last night:). Somehow, 63F seems miserably cold in Chicago but feels perfectly summery in Helsinki.
And the bike paths! And the ability to bike everywhere, and the parks so close to the city center! Yes, as much as I complain about missing out on two weeks of Chicago summer, I enjoy these days in Helsinki – a perfect summer in a different way.

Rainy day
I think that my lake looks more like a sea than that sea 🙂
Pear ice-cream
Goselings

Sinebrychoff Art Museum

On Tuesday, I met with my friend Natasha, and she took me to the Sinebrychoff’s Art Museum.

As the museum site states, the private art collection gathered by Fanny and Paul Sinebyshoff was bequeathed to the Finnish state in 1921. All I can say is that the collection is really impressive; many of the items are real masterpieces. There are some Early Renaissance and Medieval Italian paintings, Dutch and Flemish art, Russian Icons as old as the 14th century, and many other art pieces. I wish there would be more information available in English and more information in general. Many artworks do not have an artist’s name, the origin, or both, or do not have the art school specified. For example, a 15th-century Russian icon can come from different parts of Russia, or an “anonymous artist” of the 18th century could come from different countries, and I would love to know about that :).

Here are some pictures I took in the museum:

We were wondering what this is and what it could be used for. Does anybody know?
Continue reading “Sinebrychoff Art Museum”

Biking

Each time I bike in Helsinki, I marvel at how awesome the bike paths are! I can’t even compare it with Chicago! Pretty much anywhere in the city, the bike lanes are clearly marked, and it is completely safe to bike. And there are so many different routes! In Chicago, if I decide to go biking after work, I have to navigate heavy traffic even if I follow the bike routes, and it might take me up to 30 minutes to reach the Lake Front Trail. Here in Helsinki, I can bike anywhere at any time of the day!

Last Days In Helsinki

My EDB hoodie arrived after both events were over, but it still looks great!

Initially, we planned a short trip to Tallinn on Saturday, mostly for the sake of the COVID certificate for my flight back on Sunday. But it turned out that after most COVID restrictions were lifted, only a small number of cruises provided testing on board, and there was no testing on Saturdays. Fortunately, one of my new colleagues told us about another budget option, “9Lives”, and I used it on Saturday.

They have multiple locations, including the one in Kamppi, and they open every day from 7 AM to 9 PM. I was very happy that I had this option, especially because the weather on Saturday was horrific, with exceptionally strong winds and some flurries. I didn’t want to go for a walk in this weather, but I also didn’t want to sit inside all day long. To have a purpose for getting out of the house, Boris suggested we go to IKEA – since I moved to the city, I lost easy access to the Schaumburg store and had to switch to online shopping. I can order almost everything online, but it’s nice when you can see how things look in real life :). So we went and had lunch there, and then walked from IKEA back to the train station.

This time, I had checked luggage because Boris wanted me to take home a bottle of cognac gifted to him a couple of years ago by somebody who didn’t know (or didn’t believe) he does not drink alcohol. And since I already knew I would have checked luggage, I bought a lot of dairy products to take home.

***

On Friday, one of the Nordic Day participants informed us that he tested positive for COVID. I was in very close contact with him, so I became nervous. Since I expected that something like that might happen while attending public events, I brought four at-home tests with me. Noth Boris and I were negative, and I took the test to enter the US; everything was negative. The organizers encouraged us to keep testing, and I took another at-home test on Monday when I came back home. At that time, I used a test from a different vendor, and I forgot that the colors in this test were reversed. Also, I had to orient the test differently. So at first, I thought that I was positive. I even speculated for a couple of minutes how it could possibly be if I had zero symptoms, and then I realized that there was only one stripe :).

Then, a day later, another participant, this time from PG Day Paris, informed us that she tested positive, and once again, I was in very close contact with her! And again, nothing wrong with me. To be honest, I think there were plenty of other opportunities in Paris to get COVID!
At least now, I think that it will be from some other place if I get it.

***

At the airport, I stopped at the kiosk to get my last cup of Finnish coffee with the last cinnamon bun. The cashier asked me whether I would like to round my total to aid Ukraine. I said – sure, why not, and thought that’s a good idea. The posters about helping Ukraine were everywhere in the city, and I felt that people were taking it seriously.

I am sure I didn’t buy a seat for my flight back, but somehow I ended up being in a preferred seat, which was nice. I sat very close to the aircraft door, and I had extra legroom, and very nice seat, and a kit with toothpaste, face moisturizer, and other nice extras.

However, the ORD was crowded, not even “as before the pandemic” but as ” I can’t remember when I last saw anything like this.” The passport machines were closed again, and there were lines to the border control. I was first sent to one line, where I had to wait a lot because there was a family of six, and then two other people, and then they said that they are closing that line/ And guess what – in the line where they sent me, another family of six just started their process!!! There was even a long line for agricultural control and a traffic jam outside the terminal.

On the positive side, despite the sky-rocketing gas prices, Uber’s cost was a record low.

What A Week!

So many things happened this week; it feels like a month! And I didn’t blog about anything!
Let me catch up on at least something.

My last post was about Suomenlinna, and how I took one of my co-workers on a tour there. Other people started to arrive on Sunday afternoon, and everybody was asking me about the “nice place for dinner.” All Vlad’s suggestions wee somewhere further away from the city center. A couple of weeks before the conference, I suggested Harald for the company dinner, and then I thought that we could also go there on Sunday, and if we don’t like it, we will change the EDB dinner reservation.

Cinnamon beer
Don’t remember half of it, the black things ar reindeer blood pancakes, and salami is bear salami, and the light things are made with cod tounges. Don’t ask 🙂
Reindeer cooked two different ways
Wild-game sword: it looked gigantic, but actually it was mostly presentation that was gigantic
A close-up


We liked it, although I am sure it is not really a “Viking food,” but rather a tourist version of it, it was a good food anyway.

And we also when there on Tuesday after the conference for our company dinner. Usually, when you are at the conference, you try to socialize more with people from other organizations, but since my company is so distributed, we do not meet in person often, so everybody is eager to see each other.

On Monday, I was trying to work, and then meeting with people and showing a little bit of Helsinki again, and then there was a speaker’s dinner in the evening in a different place.

***
Both days, there were lots of talks about the war. I argued with one of my co-workers, who was saying that “we need to support our community in Russia.” We need to make a clear distinction between individuals and organizations. Several IT organizations made statements condemning the war, and nobody destroyed them. On the other hand, multiple organizations received money from the Russian government, not necessarily in contracts, but often as direct financing of their work and research, grants, etc. And now they say nothing.

Many ordinary people are braver than these companies. And to be honest, I do not think they are “afraid.” Nobody would destroy them, they just won’t receive money from the government…

P.S. I know that some would be outraged with the way I combine the pictures from the fancy dinner with the talks about the war, but I am being honest. It was as it was: I live event after COVID, which everybody was anticipating, meeting with great people, having a great time – and talking about the war, and thinking about the war – all that time.

Helsinki Today

Most likely, I won’t have much time to blog anything here until the end of the week, so just a couple of notes:
1) We hear talks about refugees on public transportation, and actually, it seems to be even more Russian-speaking people around than it was recently. The Allegro train started to run three times a day – Helsinki became one of the very few options to get from Russia to the rest of the world.
2) My friend mentioned that people are making three-day water and food supplies and that many people try to take cash out of bank accounts. The authorities reminded people to familiarize themselves with the location of the nearest bomb shelter.
3) It is sunny – in contrast with the past couple of days in Chicago!
4) Exactly two years ago, Boris was unable to come to Chicago because lockdown started. I am happy that I am here today, and I can’t believe it was just two years ago – I feel like two epochs have passed since then!

Last Days In Helsinki

The remaining week in Helsinki was all work. I stayed on my US projects, so I had some free time in the morning and then worked from after lunch until bedtime. I did some clothes shopping on Wednesday morning, and I met with my friend Natasha on Thursday, and Friday morning was all spent trying to get a COVID test.

Although my flight back was not super-early, we both did not feel comfortable relying on the test at the airport and tried to get something in the city the day before. One of the clinics, which is relatively close to Boris’ place, was presumably doing tests for travel for everybody. When we came in, they told us that yes, please go to the lab and take the number. We did and waited in line, and then the nurse said – no, they can’t take me if I am not registered with their system. It was very annoying because we had already spent all this time, and now had to look for another place.

Long story short, I got the test, but I have to pay over 200 euros for it! Indeed, the ferry to Tallinn is the cheapest way to get the test, even with the fare and breakfast! I was tired and upset, but I had to buy some chocolate to take home, so we went to Stockmann, and I barely made it to the start of my workday.

One funny picture from the center of Helsinki – this is granite which is going to be used to mark the bike paths – love these giant “shopping bags” 🙂

Both flights on my way back were half-empty, and the food was surprisingly good. It looks like SAS either didn’t reduce their menu during COVID, or they already returned to the pre-COVID times. It is hard to believe, but I had to take additional layers with me because it was way colder in Chicago than in Helsinki!