Morning, or good day, or some other greeting, fitting to your timezone whenever you might see this post. Here are today’s chill-pics!
As mentioned in the previous post a while ago, Spring often brings along with it not only the warmth of the soon to arrive summer, but for many people the sudden enthusiasm towards household chores. A phenomenon first mentioned in 1857 (Merriam-Webster), spring-cleaning is the task of doing a thorough cleaning of a place. I already did some cleaning here on my page, but now it was time to go to work on my picture folders and take out the trash (so to speak)!
This spring I have been heavily occupied with my Bachelor’s thesis ( which is nearly finished, thank you for asking), but I still managed to go out and take a lot of pictures, which I sadly didn’t really have time to work on in photoshop…that is until now. Seeing that even in the coldest corners of the world (ok, Finland is still relatively warm) the sun has done its magic and scorched the earth so efficiently that snow is nearly a thing of the past, I felt it was also appropriate to get the “snow” out of my picture collections. I devoted an hour today to go through my folders like a raccoon going through trashcans, finding eventually some bits and pieces worthy of my time.
This week I’ll be serving up a couple of cold pictures from late February each day till Friday so as to not overload people with sudden feelings of “chillyness”. To start the week off here are the first few cold pictures to remind us, when we complain about the “not so warm” weather that it could always be worse.
It’s been a while since I last wrote here, me being mainly preoccupied by other things in my life. Probably the biggest change that has happened during my “radio silence” is that I no longer reside in Germany, but in Finland, yet again.
I left Berlin on the 23rd of December, arriving in Finland nearly directly for Christmas. The last weeks that I spent in Berlin were without a doubt one of the most, sentimental or tough ones I had yet gone through, because it really felt, and still feels, that I merely left behind 1,5 years of my life in Berlin. Living abroad I can say, cheesy at it may sound, changed me for the better. I was already a rather independent person as well as outgoing, but being able to live in a new country and moreover being able to integrate into that culture was something I will never forget. I truly started to feel like a Berliner, not a random tourist living in Berlin, but a Berliner.
It is an odd feeling when one returns to their “own culture” and country, these “reverse cultureshock” symptoms are very familiar for people who have lived abroad for a period of time. I myself luckily was preoccupied with a bunch of things, when I returned to Finland, not having time to sink into my own thoughts about this sudden change in my surroundings. The Holiday season kept me from thinking about the life I had in Berlin and comparing it to my life in Finland. It is only now that I am here, back in Helsinki, writing this that I have had the time to fully start to understand my experiences abroad, and actually that was the plan. During this Spring, whilst I am writing my Bachelors thesis, I will also have a critical look on the Finnish culture and see whether I really want to spend the rest of my life in this country or would I consider living abroad again.
My initial feelings being back up north ( as in North Europe), are a bit mixed. To a certain extent I enjoy how clear and easy everything is, considering everyday issues such as bureaucracy since here everything can be done swiftly online, whereas in Berlin I had to queue in physical offices often to get things done. This said, the whole “efficiency” of everything also brings to mind a very “black and white” society. What I mean by this is that, everything is regulated and there is no “middle ground” in anything, or so it feels. Laws and rules are to be followed to a T, and while this is a mostly a good thing, preventing our “peace loving” society from going into chaos, it does also make the whole country feel a bit dull.
During my stay in Berlin I learned to understand more fully that up north, as in the Nordics, people are not trusted as much to make decisions by themselves but there are laws and guidelines to tell them what they should do and when. Me being a young student, the most notable difference is the alcohol legislation. In Berlin if a person wanted to buy a beer, it was up to them to decide when they wanted to buy it or if they felt like going to a club later than usual and leave in the morning they could do so. In Finland, alcohol is sold between 9 AM and 9 PM, after which if you want to have a casual beer, you have to head to a pub or a bar, which close at 1.30 AM or at latest 3.30 AM. Now I understand that the culture here is very different, but it just takes time to realise again that I am living in a country with very strict control from the state. Control does not always have to be associated with negative thoughts, the state here has a lot of control over people, but on the flip side of the coin the state also helps its citizens a lot. For this I do love Finland. Nevertheless, it will take me a bit of time to get re-integrated into my own culture, if I want to do this that is.
It is funny to see how many stereotypes about cultures actually are rather true. I was for a walk in the city center, here in Helsinki, and started to notice that people rarely look each other in the eyes, but rather keep their heads low and tried in all situations not to draw attention to themselves. Now, I am not saying I would be terribly different from said street dwellers, but I just found it funny how silent we indeed are as a people. The culture itself is not going to change, that is up to each and every individual themselves to decide how they want to act. Finns will for a long time be the silent, “shyish” but trustworthy people of the North.I at least will try to challenge myself to continue breaking those stereotypes, striking conversations with strangers and being even more polite, to begin with.
Only time will tell, where I will find myself after this spring. The biggest challenge for me this spring is to write my thesis and start to wonder what to do next. I am strongly considering applying for masters programmes here in Finland and at least in Germany, but beginning a working career would not be out of the question either if the right opportunity were to come along.
The next blog posts will be far more “lighter” topic wise, as I will try to get back on track with taking photos and such, but I will also be heavily preoccupied with my thesis work, so we will see how often I am able to post stuff online.
To end the first post of the year, here are a couple of pictures taken during the past month, one being the last one from Berlin and the others depicting my up north home-town.
“Be Yourself Days” or Karneval der Kulturen, as they say here.
Every spring when the sun has started to become a frequent friend and the temperatures are rising like a souffle in an oven, Berliners living in Kreuzberg clear the streets of cars, not in fear of them getting burnt as usual, but to make space for the 3 day street party that is the Karneval der Kulturen.
I could go on and on about how the whole carnival got started, but to be honest my timetable doesn’t really enable me to research the party in too detail. All I can say for sure is that it started in 1996 to celebrate cultural diversities or a multicultural city as it is. The concept seems to be that people of different unifying factors form floats which then parade through the streets of Xberg and spectators walk along the roads digesting culture through every single sense they can.
Whistles, techno, samba, hiphop, punkrock you name it, you heard everything whilst walking behind other people as if you were a big herd of happy zombies enjoying the awesome weather and good company. Since I’ve been here in Berlin I haven’t seen a gathering of people so large except at Brandenburger tor during the Einheitsfest, but even there people weren’t filling the streets in such lengths as they did this weekend in Kreuzberg.
If you happened to have Kohle (trying to be hip and use German lingo for money) there was sure enough places where you could get rid of your excess cash. Cocktail kiosk, beer booths, grills and obviously the most necessary kiosks of them all: the funny hat/wig stands. Personally I only used the services of one grill to buy myself a big ol’ steak in a bun. Sadly though, I ended up having a rather bloody steak which was impossible to eat thus ended up enjoying a mere “steak flavoured bun”, which I kept telling myself was all I actually wanted and didn’t care for the steak anyway.
The numerous “official” parties were also accompanied by seemingly popup house parties on literally every corner, and yes these parties were not invite only! Not only were people jamming to their pop tunes coming out of their home stereos, own grills were also set up on the street or porches near the said parties, giving the mini-fests a nice smokey aroma.
If you happen to be a more of a “I know I can dance guy”, there was plenty of room on the streets to get “jiggy with it”, as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air once sung. Probably one of the coolest streets was Zossnerstrasse, just off the main parade road. At times it truly seemed there that we were in a massive outdoor disco, it was ridiculous, in a good way!
The fact that people can have so much fun, without causing disturbances or trouble even when enjoying alcohol, is for a Finn almost unheard of. During the whole time I was there (roughly 8hrs) I did not witness a single fight or other violent behavior, maybe it was just luck, but I’d like to imagine it’s something else, it’s the culture. I believe this to be the best part of the Karneval der Kulturen that if it indeed is possible, Berlin felt even just a notch more tolerant than normal which is really impressive seeing that this is by far the most tolerant and peaceful city I’ve been to so far. During these 3 days people could not only come to the streets and be themselves to the fullest, but furthermore they were encouraged to do so, which I can only say is pretty damn awesome.
Summer in March
We Finns love Saunas, partly because they work as a sanctuary for the ever quiet Finns to speak about their feelings, worries and other issues, however we are also attracted by these “human ovens” because of one simple thing : Warmth. Yes, if you haven’t lived your whole life out of the reach of media coverage and information on my beloved native land, you probably are well aware that Finland isn’t found on Google searches made with keywords such as; hot climate, warm climate, beach holiday destination. Nay, Finland is only given a short time of warmth during the year and this period of time is usually referred to as Summer. Since this so called “summer” usually starts around late May in Finland, I have never before in my life had to ask myself the question in the morning ” shorts or slacks?”
Apparently Europe (or mainland Europe to be precise) gets a head start on the Summer and believe it or not I am not complaining! It’s a pleasant change to see on the thermometer a “+” instead of a ” – ” in front of the 20 degrees. Waking up to the sunlight blazing through my dark blue curtains, I cannot but feel that it’s a sign from mother nature saying to me ” get up and go out you lazy kid!” (somehow I always hear that with the voice of Howard’s mom from The Big Bang Theory http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaeY8N4T7Do ) . The fact of having +20 degrees, sun and plenty of free-time on my hands has lead to me making some small urban ventures within the area of Berlin.
One of these Indiana Jones- like ventures took me even so far as a couple of kilometers from my home in Schöneberg. Initially I had great plans for this particular day, but probably due to the pleasantly shining sun taking away all of my energy, I stepped out of the S-Bahn already at Yorckstrasse, a relatively nearby stop on the trainline, and decided to continue my day by walking around the area of Kreuzberg, in search of something cool to see or capture onto the memory card in my camera.
I walked for roughly an hour without seeing anything worthy of taking my camera out of my backpack and gathering attention by being the ever stereotypical tourist taking pictures of seemingly non-enthusiastic objects. Even though, I thoroughly enjoy the whole city of Berlin and especially Kreuzberg, as one foot went in front of the other for another kilometer, I began to think if today I couldn’t actually find anything that would spike my enthusiasm for taking photos. Just as the 7th kid in line for a soda from a 6-pack I too started to realise that I might not get what I wanted today.
As I continued to walk, still with a smile on my face ( partly thanks to a new mixtape going through on my player), I saw a large shadow on the pavement in front of me. I glanced to my right and realised that there was a rather large hill with some sort of monument on top of it. Water ran from top to bottom and everywhere I looked, there were people chilling and enjoying the weather. This was a place I too wanted to relax at and took out my camera and headed up hill.
I walked straight up to the monument ( to be honest I was too excited about the nice view and the weather to pay any attention to what was written on the monument) and took my time to take in the sights, after which I started to slowly descent back from the top to the street level. I followed the water running down the hill, in order to see whether I could take some pictures of these “waterfalls” in the midst of Berlin. I was able to capture some simplistic but satisfying enough moments to quench my thirst for pictures. I can only imagine how touristy I must have looked, as I nearly went in the water in effort to get a better photo.
Having taken photos of the same spots by the water for nearly half an hour I decided to call it quits and perhaps start to navigate back to my humble home in Schöneberg. I packed my stuff, hopped happily down the tarmac leading down the hill and decided to make one more necessary detour before treating my photoshop with some new photos: enjoying a Kebab at Mehringdamm.
Here are some of the pictures from that day, rather repetitive but hey, I did say I spent nearly half an hour at the same spots.