After six months of working on my Master’s thesis non-stop, I just had to give in to my chronic wanderlust.
So I hopped on a plane, or two, to visit a friend who emigrated to Oulu earlier this year. No, not Honolulu. Oulu. Or ‘Òhlou’, as the incredibly modest and friendly Finns pronounce it.
It was an amazing experience! Oulu is located about 600 kilometres from Finland’s capital, Helsinki. But it is also the next big city you will encounter when leaving this city. Indeed, Oulu is surrounded by an endless stretch of trees, lakes, and farmland.
The Finns themselves are a delight as well. They are calm, decent, genuine, and almost all people of our generation we encountered, speak English. No unexpected outbursts, ranting road users, or eye-rolling baristas. No awkward silence or mean insults. Just welcoming smiles. Yes, the Finns are reserved and sometimes hard to assess, but if you start a conversation, you’ll be surprised by how warm, open, and sincere they are!
But enough promoting of the dear Finns. Let us just stare at their peaceful country for now!
First, I flew into Helsinki, where I transferred planes to Oulu.
In the distance you can already spot a handful of the billions of trees that cover the Finnish landscape!
It takes only one hour to fly from Helsinki to Oulu, and you can fly there multiple times a day. No wonder I was the only passenger in row 19.
My friend picked me up at the airport, where we took the bus to the campus of the University of Oulu, where he’ll be residing for the next four years in order to achieve his PhD status. So, the next day he showed me around campus and the neighbourhood that surrounds it.
It’s a campus in the woods! The picture shows an activity center and behind it a number of apartments.
Yes, trees are your view when you’re one of these lucky few who get to live in Finland!
Did I just enter one of the Twilight movies or what!?
The next day we had the pleasure to meet Santa Claus. The one and only! We drove up North to the city of Rovaniemi, which is where Santa Claus resides when he isn’t riding his sleigh and delivering presents. But! More about this in a blogpost later this week!
Let’s explore Oulu!
Having taken the bus to the city centre, we walked towards the city harbour. Oulu is on the Gulf of Bothnia and has been a commercial port in the past, but since 2001, is no longer open for commercial shipping. Obviously, as Oulu harbour is an incredibly tranquil place with few boats, but with an amazing view. In Summer, it is probably also a great place to have a picnic!
While some of these little guys keep you company, that is!
Oulu market square, made up of restored salt houses, a market hall, and, usually, market stalls. Unfortunately, the stalls weren’t there when we visited the square. So they are probably only out during Summer.
The market hall is compulsory when visiting Oulu. It features stands with local goods and products, and even in a stand with only gluten-free food! Or, ‘gluteniton’, in Finnish. During my stay we also visited a couple of supermarkets which all offered a wide assortment of gluten-free products. So if you’re on a gluten-free diet, Finland is the place to visit. ;) I’ll write another post on all the (Finnish) food we nibbled away in the course of only a few days!
Finland own as much as different 50 species of wild berries! Many of which I had never heard before. Such as the cowberries (red) and cloudberries (orange).
This big little guy keeps an eye on the market square during the day (and night).
The church of Oulu was only recently renovated!
With more than 250 miles of cycle paths, getting around Oulu by bike is a breeze! Much appreciated by us Dutchies of course! However, most of these cycle paths function as sidewalks as well, so you have to be a bit careful as a pedestrian. Luckily, the Finnish cyclists aren’t as bad tempered as the Dutch, who seem to be in a hurry all the time!
The last day of my stay we explored Hupisaaret, a park featuring lots of cute bridges and squirrels! More snapshots later this week!
The tiny airport of Oulu.
One last look at the Finnish trees… *sigh*
Keep posted for us visiting Santa Claus, exploring the park of Oulu, and for a blogpost dedicated to food! (what’s not to like about that!?)
Did you ever visit Finland? What place did you go to? And what did you think of the Finnish people? Or are you a Finn yourself? Would love to hear an opinion on what characterises your lovely folk!