From Festival Hopping to Street Basketball – Ten Urban Activities for August

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Finland is in a festive mood all through August providing music and the most fascinating theatre and visual art events for all tastes. Helsingin juhlaviikot (Helsinki Festival), Tampereen teatterikesä (Tampere Theater Festival) and the Nordic countries’ coolest and one of the most unique music experience, Flow Festival entertain the culturally attuned.

Go see national monuments or museums to explore the history of Finland throughout the centuries. Medieval castle of Turku (building started in 1280), Olavinlinna castle (1475) in Savonlinna or the ruins of Kajaanin linna (1604), the smallest stone-castle in Europe and the northernmost castle in the world, provide a glimpse of Finland’s history under the Swedish rule. The Senate Square in Helsinki, most of which was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel in the neoclassical style, with the Helsinki Cathedral and the statue of Emperor Alexander II, take us back to the days when Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire.

Visit the Sibelius monument or Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki to discover the importance of art in constructing the Finnish national identity before and right after the independence. Ateneum has the country’s oldest and largest art collection telling a story of Finnish art – have a look at masterpieces here, online.

sprinter-640_mediumThe soul has been nourished – it is time to long jump, triple jump, high jump or just run around the track! Every municipality, big or small, has a well-equipped sports facility, open and free for everyone. Anyone may borrow javelins, discuses or shots, but should bring the equipment back as it’s for all of us to enjoy.

Street basketball is a great way to meet locals. Almost every town has a street basketball court as well as a disc golf course (frisbee golf in Finnish). In a rainy day, a sporty traveler might prefer diving into a local swimming pool – the pool etiquette is published online and in multiple languages!

pilvet-320_smallFor a lazy day, or to gather ideas for a travel or photo journal, I’d recommend you to pop in a local library to read magazines, newspapers or listen to the music. On a sunny day, enjoy a picnic in the park and watch clouds!

And don’t forget to inspect the local market, usually located in the center of the town, and have “pullakahvit” – coffee with a Finnish style (blueberry) bun.

  1. Visit a national monument.
  2. Visit an exhibition.
  3. Play street basketball.
  4. Try all track and field disciplines.
  5. Play disc golf.
  6. Visit a local library.
  7. Write/draw/photograph a journal.
  8. Enjoy a picnic in a park.
  9. Watch clouds.
  10. Visit a local market.

Ten Low-cost Nature-themed Holiday Activities for August

chalet-640_mediumAugust is the best holiday month in Northern Europe. Locals are about to start a new academic year, yet the weather is still warm, and the mosquitoes are already gone. Blueberries and raspberries are ready to be gathered in the vast forests, water in the thousands of lakes is smooth like silk and as warm as the summer evening breeze. Nightless, and therefore sometimes also sleepless, nights are over; in August we Finns admire sunsets and stargaze.

deer-640_mediumAnyone, Finns and foreigners alike, may explore Finland’s forests or countryside freely thanks to a legal concept, Everyman’s Right,  unique to the Nordic countries. Picking wild berries and tasty mushrooms and fishing with a simple rod and line are allowed to everyone, but making a campfire or driving a motor vehicle off the road will require landowners permission. Fish and hunt are only allowed with appropriate permits. With rights come responsibilities – respecting others and nature!

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National parks are Finland’s national treasures and ideal sites for hikers, climbers and animal spotters. All forty of them have marked hiking routes, nature trails, information boards and picnic sites. Only a few national parks and popular recreational areas have particular trails designated for mountain biking though, and off-road cycling is generally not permitted to prevent harmful erosion. The photo was taken at Hiidenportti National Park in Sotkamo.

cycling-640_mediumRegardless, Finland offers excellent opportunities for biking in diverse and changing sceneries. A unique nationwide network of well-maintained and uncrowded roads is highly suitable for bicycle touring. Visit Finland’s Pyöräillen Suomessa, a website dedicated to cycling in Finland offers a vast amount of information including guides, maps, and biking routes. Pedaling is an economical way of moving around and sightseeing!

Another fun activity in nature for all ages is a modern treasure hunt – Geocaching. All you need for this fun sport are a device or a smartphone suitable for GPS positioning and a web connection. Anyone can register free of charge at the website of the worldwide geocaching community at www.geocaching.com. In case you’d like a tech-free holiday, search for geocaches with the help of a simple map is a viable option.

A well-liked activity of us northerners including a map and a compass is orienteering. Orienteering clubs arrange recreational orienteering events mainly from April to October. More precise information on these events can be found in Rastilippu service at www.rastilippu.fi. You need to create a user profile in order to use the service.

  1. Pick berries or mushrooms.
  2. Go fishing.
  3. Hike in a forest.
  4. Visit a national park.
  5. Bike.
  6. Go Geocaching.
  7. Try orienteering.
  8. Swim in a lake.
  9. Admire a sunset by a lake.
  10. Stargaze.

A Modest Summer Bucket List

fruit-640_mediumThis summer, I’m officially a summer bucket list follower. A dear friend of mine told me about the challenge – a collection of wonderful tasks that helps kids stay away from the screens and not get bored during the break. Reminding us all about the small things in life that matter, not to speak of helping us parents to figure out some creative, yet fun, summer assignments for our children.

It’s not always necessary to travel to the furthest corner of the world to make the vacation memorable as running through sprinklers in mum’s old hometown on a hot summer day is a blast!

repair-640_mediumSummer vacation at its best cuts us away from our everyday routines at home. Kids can enjoy outdoor activities and dive into their relaxing summer reading, and in one of Finland’s multiple lakes,  instead of wrestling with their homework or playing Fortnite in a tiny Parisian apartment. We, adults, can communicate in our mother tongue rather than mumble in multiple foreign languages.

Decelerate, breath and actively engage in purposeful activities; Granddad’s well-equipped garage provides an ideal venue for fixing a second-hand bike. This red devil is ready for the adventurous summer rides!

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Astonishing sunsets, home-made pizza,  and visiting the ice cream truck, Jätskiauto, have been the mouth and eye-watering experiences of July. Trying some tie-dye techniques and painting the story rocks will be the creative actions of August, not to mention familiarizing with all track and field disciplines, swimming in different lakes and visiting the local library.

 

Out of the Box Thinking

colorful-640_medium“Creativity is more important than knowledge.” I’ve loosely quoted Albert Einstein to my children. “Does it mean that we don’t need to go to school but we can just build lego or play computer games instead?” Why not, if somehow through that play, the basic concepts and rules of math, sciences, and living in a society would be transferred to you. School, in general, provides a wide variety of information: we learn the basics of math, sciences, languages, history and geography. We practice our social skills by being a part of a community; We learn discipline and to respect the rules. An excellent school also provides nurturing for the curious minds and makes them want more.

Knowledge can thus be acquired by learning from books and from people, but when the imagination steps in the new inventions are born. Creativity is our inner quality that can be fed and knowledge provides nourishment for the innovation. Without knowledge, there is not much to innovate on. Hence, learning is a key and creativity will define the door it will open.

What Did You Learn Today?

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I have two children from whom I ask the same question(s) at the dinner table almost every night. I’m interested in their lives in many ways, but quite prominently in their school and learning. I insistently repeat myself with the same question, “what did you learn today?”. Answers vary from “nothing” to considerably detailed explanations about French method of calculus or the rise of the Carolingian dynasty.

My kids like to learn, and one of them is always eager to demonstrate, in detail, the pieces of data she has accumulated throughout the day. I most often enjoy listening to the lengthy explanations and wish I would also have so many bits to share every day. I do, however, sometimes hope that she was more concise with her comments, but being brief and comprehensive is a difficult skill to learn, and not required in this setting.

According to Joseph McCormack, who helps leaders craft a clear and concise message, over explaining, under preparing and missing the point are the tendencies that hinder us to deliver a terse message. My child who likes lengthy discourse doesn’t miss the point but over explains; She wants to talk and monopolize the conversation. She doesn’t do it deliberately, but because she is yet to master the skills of compressing her confession.

On the other hand, son’s feedback, “nothing,” is another extreme and simply a disappointing return. Even if real-life situations demand straightforward messaging, and brevity – concise and exact use of words in writing or speech – “nothing” is not enough and most probably, as a reaction to the title question, not true.

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“Nothing” shows a relaxed attitude and uninterest in the exchange. It may tell about negligence in the classroom or an unwillingness to share with others, for whatever reason. It might also signal fear, overconfidence, insensitivity to people’s feelings or disregard just like sharing too much information and overcharging people with superfluous details.

Luckily, Mr. McCormack supplies a do-it-kit for condensed communications that could help both expansive and reticent talkers. In his book “BRIEF: Make a Bigger Impact By Saying Less,” he advises mapping the message before communicating it. Just draw a circle around the central point and few connected bubbles around it. The ideal communication should only consist of the facts stated in these bubbles. Nothing more, nothing less. He also suggests telling a story by talking and showing rather than controlling the conversation. Everyone likes a short statement explaining who, what, where, when and why. We also like to get a chance to process, participate and react; To feel and be part of it.

Communicating what you’ve learned is as important as learning itself. Tonight, I’ll have information to interpret – in perfect brevity – I hope. I’ll tell my family about succinct communications, and I’ll follow the method of Mr. McCormack when doing so.

Learning is Key and Terminal is Life

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“Learning is key, and terminal is life” states my son’s command line banner in big green letters. He is curious – like a twelve-year-old should be and has no fear of mistakes.

I witness every day how his daring attitude and eagerness to solve problems boost his learning. He finds answers to his questions through trial and error, characterized by repeated, adjusted attempts which he continues until success. He rarely stops trying, and that’s a key to his progress.

I love to learn too, from books and people, and transferring that knowledge is meaningful to me. I’m not as daring as my child though and that, sometimes, hinders my gain. But, I’m willing to let my inner child bloom.

According to Julian F. Fleron, “The creative adult is the child who survived after the world tried killing them, making them grown up. The creative adult is the child who survived the blandness of schooling, the unhelpful words of bad teachers, and the nay-saying ways of the world. The creative adult is in essence simply that, a child.

No wonder the great women and men seem never to get old; Only a creative adult would launch his red Tesla to Mars.

First and foremost, all of you adults out there, find your inner twelve-year-old. Then, let’s learn from our children and with them!