Finnish zoo trip

Today is Saturday! After a truly intensive week we got an opportunity to relax and to enjoy the routine of tourist life. Our trip started at 10 o’clock, when everybody got into the coaches. The day has started with unusually blight sunshine. Half-awake we enjoyed beauty of Finnish pines and rocks in the lights of spring sun. First stop was VMT Shopping Center and Finnish textile “Marimekko”; if you like clothes it should be the right place to shop. Be aware that it’s quite pricey though.

And 20 minutes later we are on our way the first big destination point, Ähtäri Zoo. Familiar landscapes in the windows, relaxing and calming nature of the north accompanied us all the way to the Zoo. One hour later we reached our destination point.

Main entrance and whole building looks modern and fresh: wide building which combines with glass, wood and stone in geometrical aesthetic forms. Right inside the main building there is a Mesikammen Hotel. Even though we had a brief look at the stone halls of hotel, it is impossible to remain untouched by the scale and grace of interior. After really short tour around parts of the building we finally began our journey into the wild. Armed with maps and cameras people split into small groups and went hunting for photos.

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Roe deer, fallow deer, forest reindeer, reindeer, white-tailed deer. All of these are present in the zoo. Who knew there are so many… As a person from central-eastern Europe, most of the animals were new to me. Even species which were familiar to me, were represented here in a larger quantities. Check out our flickr gallery for more.

Two hours later, when everyone got hungry and cold, we boarded the bus. Just half an hour later we arrived to Tuurin Shipping Centre . If you didn’t get any souvenirs, this is the place to do it. Personally I would recommend Koskikeskus Shopping Centre in Tampere, since the prices there are the lowest I could find.

In Tuurin you can shop for everything you would ever need: electronics, clothes, household goods and more. Be prepared for the Finnish structure of Mall. They have a good pizza shop, burgers and buffet inside of the building but finding it reminds of treasure hunt. I made three circles around the complex until I noticed the entrance to the fast food. At least you’ll work up an appetite.

After all the shopping, photos and eating, we got together in the bus again. The day ended with a party in Pub66 where Lantsa performed live (a Finnish band).

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Don’t Scream

In the afternoon we were searching for a nice place to fish and then we saw the house. It looked like it was take out of a horror movie. We took a few photos and went back to the camp. While watching the photos we suddenly realized that on one of the pictures there was a man wearing a suite and a bow tie.

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At the barbecue we told the story to the other people and we decided to go back to the house again at midnight. It was pitch black outside, only the moon was shining through the trees. Suddenly a wolf howled and we decided to run back, but on the run Olli broke through a blanket of snow in a water hole. We had to leave him behind. With just five of us were left and no idea what happened to Olli, we made out way through the forest. We could hear him screaming from miles away.

When we reached the house we remembered what the old Fins told us: during the first ever IP in Virrat a few people were making a campfire when one of them saw a man with white face wearing a suite and a bow tie. Everyone laughed about it, but the next morning one of the girls disappeared. She was never seen again but it’s suspected that she was dragged into the woods. The story felt so real to us, and while lost in the moment we remembered the man from the picture. Fear was spreading but we still walked on towards the house.

Suddenly we heard the sob of a girl… What do you see in the picture? And what do you think what happened?

(This not a real story and of such doesn’t represent the truth)

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“Stand by me” with the Hungarian Team

It was Sunday during the IP, so time to relax.

The weather was really nice so the Hungarian team decided to go to the railway bridge near Lomasaari. We didn´t expected the adventurous tour that followed. There is no traffic on the rail road therefore we weren’t afraid of roaming locomotives.

First, we walked over the bridge, than we headed to the forest. There was much more snow, than we expected. We tried to find the path that would lead us to the bridge but because of the snow we couldn’t find it. We were sure of the direction but without a proper path it seemed challenging. In the end we got out from the forest and in 5 minutes we successfully reached the bridge. The view was unbelievable. Because of the sunny weather and lightly blowing wind it really felt like spring.

View from the railroad bridge near Virrat

View from the railroad bridge near Virrat

After a few hours of sunbathing while lying on the railways we decide to come back.

We were knackered afterwards, but it was worth it.

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Camping for Dummies

First choose a dry place to build your campfire. Snow must not be at the bottom of the fire as it will stop it from burning properly. Moss patches are a great spot. If no such spot is found, remove the snow with the shovel provided.

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Secondly you must create the perimeter of your campsite using logs. Try to create a square or triangular shape. Use an axe to make grooves into the logs in order to make them secure. Be mindful that some logs might have nails.

Third thing to do is to find some tinder and start organizing the fire logs into you DIY fire pit. Bark is usually a good material for tinder. Use the provided knife to collect from surrounding trees.

Forth thing would be to light your fire once the logs are organized correctly. Always place the logs bark-down when at the bottom of the fire and bark-outwards when on the sides of you fire. The completed fire pit should look like tent. Make sure the logs are nicely spread out so that air can get to the heart of the fire. Tinder should be place at the heart of the pit.

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Fifth thing would be to light your tinder with a match and then slowly moving around the log so that the fire is evenly spread.

This should give you a decent fire.

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Locked out again

Finland is a normal country by many considerations; however when it comes to locks things become interesting. At first may sound funny, but later you will probably have some problems with them.

In Finland door locks appear the same as the ones you’re used to, but they are quite different: the door lock has two positions. If you have it in the lower position (unlocked) you’re okay, but if you have it in the upper position you have to be careful. It’s recommended to always have your keys with you. You can get out from your room in any lock position, but if you leave the key in the room you´re in trouble. These doors automatically close, so you can´t get in unless you have another key.

Let´s take this year’s IP programme: the numbers of the people who are in “door-lock-trouble” are increasing from day-to-day. This can be really annoying. If you lock the door in the middle of the night you have to take account of the fact that you must sleep in the living room or pay the standard charge of €50.

This year we actually had our own lock-out record of 10 seconds. The person in question opened the door left his trolley, shut the door, and then realized that his keys were in the backpack.

During you time at IP make sure you don’t lock yourself out.

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The first days in Virrat

You survived your first day and did not miss the bus after sightseeing? Great! Then let me welcome you to Virrat. To give you some idea about Virrat and Lomasaari (that’s the place where you will be sleeping), watch this video on youtube. This is a picture of the cottages at night:

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As soon as you arrive in Lomasaari you will be greeted by Pirkko again. She will hand out your keys, but it would be great to let one person per room fetch the keys. It can get chaotic otherwise! Afterwards you have time to make yourself comfortable in your new home for the next 10 days of work. Have fun!

First things first: Always carry your key with you! The doors are self-locking and cannot be openend without your key. Honestly, always: we had 6 lockouts in the first hour)

Everyday business

After your breakfast (starting at 8.15) the bus will leave for Virrat Library at 9.15 sharp. So better be there in time as it will leave without you otherwise. You can see the route here. In the morning, after a quick greeting from Pirkko, most of the lectures beging. They are followed by a lunch break. In the afternoon there are workshops running until 17.15. They take place in Virrat Library or in a building near the library (check out the path here). Once finished there is a bus waiting in front of the library, again leaving at 17.15 (sharp!) which takes you to a big store where you can buy some supplies. This is followed by dinner at 18.30 after which you will have the rest of the evening to yourself, so enjoy it!

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Welcome to Finland

Welcome to the official IP Virrat in Finland. Virrat is 125km away from Tampere and although it’s considered a town it may seem like a village to you. Virrat has a population of 7000, and finish culture might be very different from your own: fins don’t appreciate it when you interrupt them when talking, they expect you to be punctual, also they take of their shoes before entering the house. Finland’s currency is the € (euro) and most things are expensive although it depends where you are coming from.

Traveling from Helsinki Vantaa airport to Tampere

Tampere has an airport and connections from Helsinki are extremely quick compared to the bus connection. If you can get the flights cheap you’ll save time. If not, go for the bus. It is leaving at platforms 5 (if you arrive at terminal 1) and 13-14 ( if you arrive at terminal 2). The bus journey takes 2 hours, so make sure you have a good book with you! You can buy a ticket directly from the bus driver (~27€) and he helps you with your luggage too. Be on the watch as you must not stand up while he is driving.

Getting to the hotel

If you are staying at the Victoria Hotel, check out the route to it. It is only a short way and it may be good to get there by foot after the long journey!

At the Victoria Hotel you will be greeted by someone at reception. Service is pleasant but be prepared to share a room and choose a bed (some are smaller than others) also the lifts are small and can get busy. The rooms have free wifi, ask for the login details at reception. If you need some recreation the hotel has a pool and even a sauna, which is opened 5-9 pm. The breakfast is from 6am in the morning and it’s an open buffet; They have cereal, bread, salami, vegetables, and everything else you could want. The bus leaves at 9.15am so make sure you give yourself enough time to eat and please don’t leave anything in the room.

During the first day you will have the chance to visit Tampere and have time to wander around. A good place to have a coffee or cake is Koskikeskus, but there are a few places around town including McDonalds, Subway, and Indian restaurants. Prices depend on where you go, but in general they are acceptable. You don’t have much time around Tampere so make sure you take advantage of it. On the way to Virrat you’ll have a guided tour of the city and you will see Tuomiokirkko which is the town cathedral, best know for the paintings inside and architecture.

So enjoy your stay in Tampere and welcome to Finland!

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