Friday, October 15, 2010

Seeing the Ruska (Tracy’s translation: Leaf Peeping, literal translation: Seeing the Fall Colors)

On Sunday, Mike and I ventured out of the city to go leaf peeping and to see what we could see.  Ever since moving to Connecticut in 2004, fall has been my favorite season because of the explosion of fall colors.  It is one of my absolute favorite things in life.  We hoped to be able to continue the tradition while living here.  We had a successful trip, and are sticking with the theme of “things are different, but OK.”

We drove due west a little over an hour outside of Helsinki.  We probably passed at least 10 speed cameras on the way.  The use of speed cameras is very popular in this area, and since tickets come with a big fine, you really do have to pay attention to your speed.  Luckily, they do post a sign ahead of the camera, though I suspect if you are driving too fast, it may be too late by the time you see the sign.  Our GPS also notified us when we were approaching a camera.  Somehow, as the cameras are fixed to the roadside, Garmin knows where they are and even prompts us when we turn the GPS on to download the current speed camera locations from their website.  Now, that’s useful technology!

The first place I have ever seen "Moose Crossing" signs!  

An additional driving related item that is quite different here than home are the drunk driving laws.  To be considered impaired, it means you blow a .05 on a breathalyzer.  Basically, if you have more than one drink, you’re toast.  Well, when you think about it, how many times have you actually been pulled over and given a breathalyzer test?  Since we have been here, we went through a check point at the airport when a taxi was dropping us off and on our way to Fiskars Village we went through a checkpoint.  Just as you’d see at home, a couple of cops stopping each car that passes by the point.  They greet you, hand you a tube, and tell you to blow.  It was all in Finnish, so we assume that was what they said!  Luckily, as it was only 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon(!!!!!) Mike passed.  It’s pretty sad to think that there are actually people who probably don’t.  Seriously, though, 12:30.  On a Sunday.  Some Finns would tell you it’s not that they are looking for people who were just drinking on Sunday morning, it’s people who are still drunk from the night before.  I guess those people know how to party!  It’s just something we have to be very cognizant of while we are here.  If one of us has a drink, the other has to drive or is limited to only one drink.  I guess since I am the one pregnant, I get to be the designated driver for 20 more weeks, but man, will Mike owe me after that!!

Our destination was Fiskars Village.  You may be familiar with Fiskars already.  Anyone who has owned a pair of orange handled scissors has probably owned a pair of Fiskars.  They look like this:

 Fiskars Scissors - I can't remember a time when my Mom didn't own a pair of these!

Fiskars makes a lot of other products, and actually owns a number of other companies, as well. 

The village we visited was home of their original ironworks and is now a popular tourist attraction.  Some of the old buildings are set up as small museums to show how things were originally done, and some of the buildings are set up as craft shops.  There are also several restaurants.  Unfortunately, most of the museum buildings and shops are only open on a seasonal basis, so we were only able to see a few shops.  Everything is open June through September, and then again towards the end of November and December for holiday shopping.  We enjoyed browsing in the few shops that were open and we had a very nice lunch in the restaurant that was open.  We knew before we left home that most things would be closed, but still thought it would make for a nice afternoon, and it was.      

 Outside the restaurant at Fiskars Village.

The leaves here are definitely changing, but there aren’t nearly as many deciduous trees.  Many more evergreens and pines than leaf droppers.  Another big difference between Finland and Connecticut are the actual colors.  I did some research on this, so please bear with me!  In Europe, most of the leaves change to shades of yellow, while in North America, you get some yellow, but with a lot more red and orange mixed in.  Apparently, this is due to an evolutionary process that started 35 million years ago.  The red leaves ward off insects, which was needed in North America due to how the mountain ranges are situated (north and south, like the Rockies) and because the mountains in Europe (primarily the Alps) are on an east west axis, insects migrated in a different pattern and trees that couldn’t survive died and are no longer part of the various tree species.  Sorry for getting all science-y on you, this is the most science I have done in ages.  For more, and much better explained, info, click here to the short article I read.  To net it all out – red and orange leaves are really, really pretty and I really, really miss them.  We saw some, but very few.  

 Lots of yellow leaves.

After Fiskars Village, we drove a few more kilometers to a town on the sea (that’s what everyone here calls the water that is along the coast, technically, it’s the Baltic Sea, so I guess that makes sense!  I’m just used to calling it “the ocean”!).  In Raasepori, the sun was out and it was a beautiful afternoon.  Nothing was open, which I think is a combination of two things – it’s a little seaside town that is quite a popular destination in summer, the rest of the year not so much, and it was a Sunday.  Outside of Helsinki, and maybe the other bigger cities, most places do not open on Sundays.  In fact, that just changed in Helsinki in the last few months.  The laws are similar to the “blue laws” you see on the east coast of the US and govern when places are open and when certain things (like booze) can be sold.  We’ll definitely have to go back to Raasepori next summer and check it out.  

 Raasepori on a beautiful fall afternoon.  Notice the leaves in the background, lots of yellows.

After that, we headed home and had a pretty drive.  The sun was out most of the way and as we headed into Helsinki, it started to rain, but still sunny in places, though.  That meant rainbows.  2 of them.  A double rainbow.  I have seen more rainbows here in the last 6 weeks than I probably have in the last 6 years.  Kind of cool.

1 comment:

  1. They do speed cameras here in the same manner. I have yet to get a ticket so I guess I've been alright. Sure is handy that the SatNavs mark them for you though!

    I thought that really interesting about the leaves. There are a ton of yellow leaves here as well and I always stop to admire the orange and red. But I never thought that there was a scientific reason for this. Thanks for enlightening me!