Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winter wonderland

Breaking news: Finland is cold!

Winter is in full swing already here.  It's different than the winter in the US, where the ground stays warm enough that the first several snows melt away, assisted by the diligent salting of every horizontal surface within reach.  Here the cold came early, so a couple of blizzards came through and we've pretty much got snow that will likely be sticking around for some time.  In the Midwest the snow was a fairly annoying but temporary visitor, which showed up for a couple of months, stuck around long enough to make everyone drive badly and whine a lot, and then by March you would be pretty sure you were well on the road to spring.  Here, the snow shows up all at once, kicks its shoes off, settles down in an armchair and gives the general impression that we warmbloods are actually the visitors here...

Unlike in the US, where every square inch of ice is carefully removed to avoid lawsuits from clumsy pedestrians, only the main roads are salted and the rest of the driving and walking areas get a treatment with a little bit of gravel.  In some areas the only way to tell where you drive and where you walk is the shape of the tracks furrowing the surface.  The snow falls and life continues on top of it; snow removal in November would be a waste of effort here.  There's ice of course, and where the gravel is sparse it's easy to slip and fall.  Finns seem to take a shit-happens approach to walking around on ice: "We don't sue people, we just punch them in the face" as one friend said.  Do people use ice cleats for walking?  "Old people do..."  So yeah.  I use mine when the ice is bad (I don't have to fall down until I'm 60 years old to figure out that those might be helpful) but while venturing out without them, I fell a couple of times but since we've had some fresh snow, it's a little less icy.  Like driving in the winter, it's good to go a little slower.  It's a dry snow, the kind that actually shifts around and blows into dunes with the wind, so that you might be walking one some level hardpack one moment and the next, your feet are churning through powder up to your shins.  And it's beautiful, it really is - the piles of snow on the rock formations, the balcony chairs upholstered with snow, and the big patch of ice on the river.  I lost my bus pass on Monday so I've had plenty of time to enjoy it on foot for kilometers at a time, up close, late at night when there's almost no one else out.  Many times it feels like living in a postcard.

This weekend we're supposed to get some real chills: -15 to -20 C.  In Lapland already there's -30, and it's only November... thankfully, so far so good with my heavy duty winter clothes, including a new hat I got for 1 € from the thrift store: it's a gloriously huge fur cap made out of badger or fox or wolf or Father Christmas or something.  It would look ridiculous in any warmer climate, but it's perfect for this weather and I love it.


  1. Just a couple from my apartment, since we had about four seconds of sunlight. And you can see the tuomiokirkko in the skyline:

  2. Voi että!

    Tämä blogi on parasta luettavaa pitkään aikaan! Sinä näet monet asiat toisin, kuin me Suomen 'alkuasukkaat'.

    Lukiessani olen välillä nauranut Suomelle ja suomalaisille, välillä vähän sinullekin =) Mainio, ihana blogi!

  3. Kiitos paljon! On vain pieni "näkymä ulkoa"... mutta minusta on hienoa, että sinä nautit jostakin siltä. :)

  4. I've heard a lot about Americans and their custom of suing people, so I was just curious, do people in the USA actually sue someone for not having enough salt or rubble in the walkway and falling, or was that just an extreme example?