Runeberg and cake

Last time, after ranting about the weather, I said I was going to write about the Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg and the cakes named after him. As it turns out, it’s frustratingly difficult to find his poems in English (I’m sure they’ve been translated at some point but I can’t find them anywhere) so the only information about him I could find at the local library, in English, was from a series of essays about Finnish identity. I’ll write my response to that in a later post, as I don’t want this one to get too serious.

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For now, I’ll explain a little more about Runeberg. He is the national poet of Finland, although, as was common for the time, he wrote in Swedish. His most well-known work is The Tales of Ensign Stål (Now I really want to see a redshirt on Star Trek named Ensign Stål!) part of which was used (in a translated form) as the lyrics for the Finnish national anthem. This gave me the only English translation of Runeberg’s poems that I could find:

Oh our land, Finland, land of our birth,

rings out the golden word!

No valley, no hill,

no water, shore more dear

than this northern homeland,

precious land of our fathers.

Your splendour from its shell

one day will bloom;

From our love shall rise

your hope, glorious joy,

and once your song, fatherland

higher still will echo.

 

Aleksis Kivi may be more revered within Finland, as he was the first author to write in the Finnish language, and in modern times Tove Jansson’s Moomin series is famous worldwide, but Runeberg is probably the only poet in the world to have both his own day and a dessert named after him. This is a Runeberg cake:

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Whoops, that one was squished on the journey back from the supermarket. This is what they’re supposed to look like:

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They were named after Runeberg as he supposedly ate them for breakfast every day. His wife might have even invented them. Similar to how Cadbury’s Cream Eggs are only sold before Easter, these little cakes appear in Finnish supermarkets and cafes just before Runeberg day on February 5th and disappear for the rest of the year. But unlike Cream Eggs, they are delicious. I’m not going to attempt to bake them myself, I’d probably just drink all the rum, but if you want to try then here’s a recipe:

http://www.dessertsforbreakfast.com/2010/02/finnish-february-runeberg-cake-aka.html

Good news, everyone…

…I’m still technically alive!

Yesterday I reported on how much of a pain the ice is here in Turku and said I’d write about how I got along going out on my bike to go grocery shopping. Well, I’m alive, that’s one thing. A lot of the ice has melted since yesterday but there’s still a considerable amount still on the ground and no nice soft snow to walk on.

The journey to the supermarket was awful and I ended up either walking my bike or riding through puddles half the way. I thought that the puddles would be safer since the ice had already melted. Even though, like most people, I’m slightly broke at this time of year, I bought more food than usual so I don’t have to go out again for a long while.

The ride back was surprisingly not too bad, since:

  1. The weight of the groceries on the back of my bike gave me more balance.
  2. We did what we probably should have done before and stuck to the main roads which were mostly gritted, even the steep and very long hill.
  3. Those two factors gave me more confidence.

It was only once I got closer to my apartment building that I started having to walk my bike very slowly and carefully and it was then that I realised why I had such a hard time yesterday – Nobody has bothered to grit any of the pavements near my apartment. There were plenty of people around there having just as much of a hard time staying upright as I was.

Still at least it’s the weekend now and my fiancee’s making a cake right now so I can spend the whole weekend watching Star Trek in my pajamas. Next time I’ll write a post about the poet Runeburg and why he has a cake named after him.

Winter’s F***ed Up

This song really sums up how I feel about the Finnish winter right now. At first it was pretty and I got to take a lot of nice photos. But now that it’s constantly snowing and thawing and snowing again here in Turku, the ice is becoming a real problem. Fresh snow is fairly easy to walk on and makes a funny squeaky sound when you step on it, but the ice and slush that comes afterwards is making my life very hard.

All I wanted to do today was go to the supermarket and get some sweets for my fiancee’s birthday. I tried going by bike like I usually do but almost fell over three times in under a minute so I abandoned that idea. But that’s ok, I thought, a long walk will give me a chance to do some story plotting in my head. Barely 100 meters from my apartment door I almost slipped over on an incredibly mild slope.

This went on all the way to the store and back. I ended up going to a smaller store that was closer and stocking up on as many snacks as I could carry with the hopes of hibernating in my apartment until the ice thaws again. But we’re running low on food and I can’t survive off of sour cream and onion coated peanuts for three days so we have to go to the store again tomorrow. Plus Saturday is my fiancee’s birthday and he wants to go out to eat, which we rarely get to do on our own (and I have to satisfy my curry cravings somehow).

I suppose I’m lucky because I work from home but as anti-social as I am, I am still required to leave the house once in a while. Even though I’m assured that it’s very common, I feel like a giant idiot falling over in front of people who seem to be staying up right just fine.

I really hope the ice melts before tomorrow because we don’t have a car to get the groceries home and I’m honestly quite scared of cycling in this weather. I can’t even walk over an ice covered slope without having a panic attack. I’ll keep you all updated on how I manage.

Christmas in Finland

I’ve been lucky to spend this Christmas season in Finland for the first time. In the past I’ve spent New Year’s and Midsummer in Finland a few times but Christmas was a first. My fiancee and I went to stay with his parents in Joensuu, which is much farther North than Turku and has a lot more snow.

I was a lot more excited about it than he was.

I was a lot more excited about it than he was.

It wasn’t that much different than Christmas in Britain, except that we had dinner and presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. I found this a little strange as there was nothing special to do on Christmas Day than laze around. I decided to go out for a walk, like people always talk about doing. It was minus 15 Celsius but I got some great pictures.

You can see the full set of them here, but these are some choice ones:

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I call these snow hedgehogs.

I call these snow hedgehogs.

Yes, I played on the swing even though it was covered in snow.

Yes, I played on the swing even though it was covered in snow.

A few days after Christmas we went to see my in-laws new summer cottage. Well, I say summer cottage…

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It’s being renovated right now but by summer time we should be able to visit and enjoy some fishing, swimming and barbecue.

The house is located on an island which literally translates to ‘moose island’ which is part of a remote archipelago accessed by a ferry.

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It was the first time I’ve stepped on an ice covered lake and I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be. I was worried I’d suffer the same fate as Lester Nygaard in Fargo. But I don’t think I’ll be going ice fishing any time soon.

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It’s been nice to have a break but I also want to get back home and start writing again so I can earn some money for a trip to visit the UK. 2014 has been a huge year for me with getting engaged, becoming a published writer and moving abroad so I hope to do even more in 2015. There’s a lot more I want to do with this blog, including making video posts, so I’ll be back soon.