Lakes, design and coffee

In April I visited my friend in Copenhagen. The next time I arrived at Københavns Lufthavne, I was on my way to Helsinki, Finland. During your Erasmus time you get to know a lot of new people. In May, I decided to book my trip to my Finnish, Riina. So it happened; waking up at 5:30 AM, catching my train at 8, up in the air at 9:30. Suomi, here I come!

Finland is, for the people who don’t know, locked up between Russia and Sweden. It has only 5.4 million inhabitants, which is not that much since the country is around 8 times bigger than the Netherlands (with approximately a population of 16.7 million). The country is famous for its lakes and islands. Just look at the map and you will see what I mean. Moreover, maybe some people know Suomi better for winning the Eurovision Songfestival (2006). Or the high prices. It might not be the ideal place for folks whose wallet is just as empty as their fridge (like me). Except, if you know where to go. With my guide Riina-Malla, aka Riina or Riini, it couldn’t go wrong. Well… it became a similar experience as with our guide in Brno: “I just feel like her”, she said when we arrived in Suomenlinna, the only and oldest fort Finland has. “I don’t what or why all these buildings are here”, referring to our splendid visit to Hrad Veveří (“We don’t know what it means, it might be English, but it might be French as well. We lack funding to do research on the origin of this cupboard” blablabla).

Suomenlinna, by the way, is worth visiting. Just stroll around the island, which is basically one big museum. The only difference is that there are still people living there. The landscape will reminds you of the Teletubbies or the Shire, part from the huge canons and other military stuff which can be found all over the island.
Helsinki has more to give than just one fort and high prices. Take a look in the white Helsingin tuomiokirkko (aka Helsinki Cathedral). Don’t go here on Saturday because every hour, there will be a wedding. Great if you love Say Yes to the Dress or Four Weddings, but not so great if you want to see the inside of the protestant cathedral. The other red brick stoned church, a bit further down the road, is called Uspenskin katedraali (great word for hangman or Wordfeud). From up there, the view is marvellous. But not as marvellous as you can get from the Torni Hotel. Why go there? Because you can have the best shit ever; a toilet with a panoramic view over Helsinki plus its area.

I’ve met Riina during my Erasmus in Vienna. Vienna likes alcohol and so do Finnish people. Unfortunately, alcohol is very, very expensive in Suomi. So what to do? As much Austrian people drink wine, beer and other stuff, Finnish people tend to have more coffee (kahvi)  in their veins than regular blood cells. Don’t expect your favourite cappuccino or sugar sweet lattes; Finnish don’t rape their coffees; they drink it pure and black. Or with a lot of (cold) milk; luckily Starbucks hasn’t opened a branch in Helsinki, yet.  Riina took me to a place called café Regatta (note; when someone says ‘cafeteria’, they mean a café, not a snackbar). The little red house was situated by the shore; a crackling fire, little sparrows twittering around and… good coffee with free refill. For hipster hunters, Helsinki would be an utopia. Finnish design (e.g. iittala) is to be found not only in the Design District, but also in the clothing of the inhabitants. Some creations could go straight to the catwalk and Armani or Chanel couldn’t hardly better them.

Helsinki has surprised me, in many ways. The views, the culture, the people, the nature… Helsinki is beautiful and doable in a few days. But really; make sure you have a local guide. Riina showed me all the secret and hidden places in the city; places where no tourists were there to be found. I ate the biggest soft ice cream of the city; had sushi behind a rock club (Kuudes Linja; lots of metal heads past us), together with 6 other native, blond, Finnish people (iittala cutlery and Ikea table). Of course, you communicate in English because sometimes you need 5 words to translate the Finnish word to English, because the Finnish language doesn’t use prepositions and make endlessly long words which are almost unpronounceable. For example
Kiitos vieraanvaraisuudesta: Suomi on kaunis ja vierailun arvoinen maa.

which means: Thank you for the hospitality: Finland is a beautiful country and worth visiting.



Being a UCM student, I am spoiled when it comes to vacation.  Just a week and a half ago, we got done with our last “reflection week,” so I probably can’t make any claims that I needed another vacation.  Still, it is not often that someone from my small hometown (2,653 people remember) makes it all the way over to Europe.  So when a friend of mine told me that he would be coming to Vienna for a conference this week, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet up with him and to spend a few days in Vienna. Plus, being able to cross another country off of my list of countries visited, feels pretty important to someone who is used to crossing off a list of states visited.
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Christmas holidays

Whether you’re a Christian or not, Christmas is a holiday you celebrate with your family. But I didn’t. For the first time in my life I had decided to spend Christmas holidays away from home. A bold decision but I reckoned that my time in Vienna was too short to waste days on a travel back home.

This decision proved a bit too bold for my taste. The week before Christmas, after a bunch of goodbye parties, I started to realize that my best friends where leaving Vienna for good even before my last month here had begun. In a short period of time I had to say goodbye to some of my best friends and my semi-roommates, my prospects for a nice Christmas became almost as depressing as the tale of the little match girl.

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Studying in Vienna

People who complain the University Library in Maastricht is overcrowded are probably right but they have never been to the WU library.

My current university, Wirtschaftsuniversität (WU) Wien, is situated in a 1970’s building which was built to accommodate a student population of about 15.000 students, currently there are 35.000 students attending classes at the WU and the university is by Austrian law obliged to give every new applicant an equal chance of studying, a lottery such as in Maastricht for some studies is out of the question.

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A pre-Winter depression

Fall had suddenly arrived to Vienna and together with the sun my good mood disappeared. A minor winter depression was already resulting in an inability to produce writings and in an unhealthy drinking habit.

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Living the life

“It’s my life, and it’s now or never.

I ain’t gonna live forever, I just wanna live while I’m alive!

It’s my life!”

Kinda lame to start whit a Bon Jovi phrase? Don’t think so. ESN Karaoke night in Club Loco every Wednesday with happy hour cocktails for €0,50, singing along with the Backstreet Boys, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Ke$ha, Ricky Martin and Aqua shoulder to shoulder to amazing people from all over the world (though mostly Americans) is freaking cool! Sorry to you folks back home who like to think that the weekly ESN night in the Highlander rocks, we have two of those per week in real clubs. Though the weekly drinks in Ride club and Loco are pretty awesome already, my best clubbing experience so far was Thursday night in Praterdome, a five room club in the ‘entertainment district’. A huge bar in the one room, two undiscovered rooms (probably meant for those who want to enjoy a bit more privacy), a Hip-hop and R&B room and some of the sweetest yet kind of cheesy house tracks playing in another room. No need to question what room I stayed in. I and some friends were ruling the crowd from our stage overviewing it all when at 12AM the laser show started. People went insane. Allabonneur – Praterdome: 0 – 1.

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Waking up in Vienna

“Where the hell am I? Is this prison? And what city is this? How come I have such a headache?” Those were the first questions I asked myself when waking up this morning. They were answered quickly when my memory started to work again. I am in Haus Panorama, a student dorm in Vienna and supposedly the Partyhaus. It is also the place to be for any student coming to Vienna for a semester of fun, parties, citytrips, getting to know Austrian culture and the beautiful city of Vienna and meeting friends on the side. It didn’t really seem like the ‘place to be’ when I arrived in the lobby yesterdaynight at 11pm. After I had drank a beer with my buddy Anette, a petite and cute Vienesse, who had picked up my keys and welcomed me in Vienna at a terrace in Vienna, I had taken a cab to Haus Panoram, only a little disappointed that Anette wanted to sleep early (she had had a rough night before). But my arrival in Haus Panorama was not really as I had expected it to be, instead of music playing and students celebrating life, the only other living creature welcoming me was a pigeon which had managed to get inside as well. Not so much of a partyhaus…
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