By Marc and Jordi from www.barcelonahelsinki.blogspot.com
Vappu is a traditional festival held on 1 May in Finland – and it’s a day of celebration! It’s also the time when the people of Finland leave the long and harsh winter behind and enthusiastically welcome spring, longer hours of daylight, and their beloved green fields and forests.
But the festival is much more than just that day – it starts the day before, on 30 April. Traditionally, students always take part in this spring festival too by turning it into a very popular carnival (kevään karnevaali, or spring carnival). A usually calm and reserved country fills with people dressing up as different creatures, with drinks in their hands, sharing them with everyone. And the party lasts until the early hours of the morning!
One of the main events, and one of the most crowded and important, takes place on 30 April, around 6 pm, round the statue of Havis Amanda (which symbolises the city of Helsinki emerging from the sea), situated at the entrance to the Esplanadi park and Kauppatori (market square), in the port, in front of the City Hall. A large crowd of students wearing overalls of different colours, representing those of their faculties, wash Havis Amanda and place a large cap on her head.
The cap is the same one that all the students, ylioppislakki, wear when they graduate. They must keep it safe always, because they only get one. Some people even say that it must never be washed. Vappu is one of the times when people of all ages wear their graduation caps.
Vappu is, therefore, a national holiday, when people take to the streets all over the country, where there is music, demonstrations, different celebrations, etc. On 1 May in Helsinki, family and friends get together to have picnics and brunch all over the city, but especially in the Ullanlinnanmäki and Kaivopuisto parks, in the southern part of the city, next to the Baltic Sea.
The typical specialities of Vappu are tippaleipä, a kind of fritter, served with a type of mead, sima. Another tasty speciality is munkki, a kind of doughnut.
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By Marc and Jordi from www.barcelonahelsinki.blogspot.commore info
Travel to Santa Claus home
But, what and where is Lapland? This is a tough question. This territory, above the Artic circle is divided between Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. However, officially Lapland is where the Sami live. Generally, people refers to Lapland in Finland or Sweden, neither Norway or Russia refer to their territory under this name, and usually Lapland (or Laponian region) is the name used to the union of the Swedish and Finnish areas.
For the matter of this post, we should go to the north of Finland, in the Finnish Lapland. The capital is Rovaniemi, an iconic place in which the line of the Artic circle passes across. This is an area to start wild adventures, among thick forests and wooden houses (mökki) there is the highest mountain in the country, some of its fjords and one of the best places in Finland to see Northern lights and enjoy the amazing view of the sun at midnight.
This area is known for being Santa Claus hometown (Santa in Finnish is Joulupukki). The translation is quite confusing: “Joulu” means Christmas, all right, but “pukki” means, literally, deer or goat. Years ago, people was afraid of him and nobody knows when, eventually, he became the charming elder he is now. The tradition of Joulupukki is from the beginning of the 19th century, even most of the Finnish tradition was lost after the story of Santa Claus was Americanized.
Thousands of letters are sent to the postal code of this town with tones of Christmas whises. They are collected and arranged by Santa’s hard-working assistants, the elfs. Attention! The address is: Santa Claus, 96930 Polar Circle, Finland. When Santa Claus gets to people’s houses he asks "Onkos täällä kilttejä lapsia?" (There are well-behaved kids here?), and kids should answer a convincing yes to receive the gifts.
It’s not only Santa Claus who makes Rovaniemi one of the most visited places in Finland. Around his figure and Christmas traditions, Santa Claus village was built, about 8 kilometers northeast from Rovaniemi. This is a theme park to do some shopping, participate in gifts workshops or simply enjoy a great variety of activities.
You can also visit Joulukka, the place where elves prepare the trip for Santa Claus. You will find out how elves live, you’ll be able to help them bake ginger cookies with Christmas decoration and they will guide you to meet Santa Clause.
Do you want to see what is Santa Claus doing right now? Easy! Santa is so updated on new technologies and he has cameras streaming live his daily work. One camera is outside the office and the other is inside to watch how he gets ready for this special day.
A good option to go from Helsinki to Rovaniemi is taking the high-speed train, which takes only 10 hours. You’ll feel like the main character in the animation movie “Polar Express” who takes this train on Christmas Eve to meet Santa.
But, besides the visit to the land of Santa Clause, there are many other things to do while you are in Helsinki for your winter trip.
Even Finnish people use the sauna all the year, the contrast with the freezing cold outside is the best way to enjoy a hot sauna to get over the cold. Or, for those looking for unforgettable experiences, you should try avantouinti. What is that? There a clubs in Finland to practice ice swimming. They make a hole in the ice of a lake (the hole is called ‘avanto’) and they get in the freezing water after the sauna. They state it has beneficial effects for your health but be careful or you’ll get a cold.
The winter in Finland is the greatest time to take stunning nature photos. The snowy landscapes are unforgettable memories from your trip and the whole country is covered in white most of the winder. Take advantage to the opportunity of practicing winter sports too. Skiing or skating over iced lakes is such a unique experience.
Pictures by Tarja Ryhannen
A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.more info
Rome On Celluloid
The Eternal City is also a city of celluloid. From Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn’s Vespa ride, to Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni’s dip in the Fontana di Trevi, Rome has been the backdrop of some of the most iconic sequences in cinema history. We embark on a celluloid tour of the capital of Italy while recalling the best movies that featured Rome as one of their protagonists.
To Rome With Love (Woody Allen, 2012)
Woody Allen stands out as one of the filmmakers who has most successfully captured the essence of New York. However, in recent years, the indispensable American director went on a pilgrimage that led him to film in London, Barcelona, Paris and Rome. One of the most outstanding movies from his European tour, To Rome With Love, revolves around Monti, a district of Rome which shook off its unsavoury past and became one of the liveliest areas in the city. The film also captures the beauty of other spots, notably the Via dei Neofiti, the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti and the popular Bottega del Caffè.
Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)
A masterpiece of Italian Neorealism, a style which in the first half of the 20th century yielded some of the milestones in cinema history through its stark portrayal of mundane, everyday life. Lamberto Maggiorani, an unemployed construction worker and untrained newcomer to acting, breathes life into the character of Antonio Ricci, who has his bicycle stolen during his first day’s work posting advertising bills. While chasing the thief, Lamberto runs through the popular quarters of Trastevere and Porta Portese.
La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
One of Federico Fellini’s heights of creativity and one of the most accurate cinema depictions of Rome’s character – particularly as it was in the 1950s, with its post-war mixture of glamour and humdrum genre life. Marcello Mastroianni stars as Marcello Rubini, a gossip magazine journalist who follows the great film star Sylvia wherever she goes (especially on her night outings), the role played by a mesmerising Anita Ekberg. Although such landmarks as the Piazza del Popolo, Via Veneto and Piazza Barberini feature in La Dolce Vita, the movie will always be remembered for the scene at the Fontana di Trevi.
The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)
Awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty is the 21st century’s La Dolce Vita. Enveloped in a fascinating surrealistic aura, seldom has Rome glittered so exuberantly on celluloid. You simple cannot help falling for Rome as seen through the gaze of Sorrentino as it settles on the Piazza Navona, Baths of Caracalla, Villa Medici, Palazzo Colonna, the Colosseum, Gianicolo, the Tempietto di Bramante and the Orange Garden.
Night On Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991)
Roberto Benigni plays an eccentric cabbie, the main star of the Rome vignette of Jim Jarmusch’s Night On Earth.This is a collection of five vignettes with stories set in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Helsinki and Rome. In the episode set against the backdrop of the Eternal City, Benigni picks up a priest in the early hours and drives him through some of the best known settings in the city, notably the Colosseum, while making a hilarious confession of his sex life.
Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
Another essential film of mid-20th-century Italian Neorealism. Inspired by the true story of the priest, Giuseppe Morosini, who was tortured and murdered by the Nazis for having helped the partisans. Filmed in the district of Prenestina the same year World War II ended, Rome, Open City lays bare the physical and moral wounds left by the conflict on the streets of the Eternal City and in the spirit of its people. And, amid so much suffering, a masterful Anna Magnani.
Dear Diary (Nanni Moretti, 1993)
With Dear Diary, this Trans Alpine Woody Allen executed one of his most widely acclaimed films. A semi-autobiographical comedy in the guise of a documentary, it recalls the director’s experiences in three chapters – On My Vespa, Islands and Doctors.In the first of these, Moretti rides his scooter through Rome’s everyday settings in August, providing a different take on the Italian capital. One unforgettable moment shows Moretti dancing with his running Vespa.
Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)
However, the prize for iconic scooter tours of Rome goes to Roman Holiday, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. It marks a sublime moment in the history of cinema, particularly the scene on the Spanish Steps or the sequence shot at the Bocca della Verità. The winner of three Oscars, this movie marked Rome’s ascendency as a city of cinema.
Book your Vueling to Rome here and let yourself be bewitched by this celluloid city.