This Strange Corona Spring

First I thought I’d write my next travel post about a nature destination here in Finland – one which we plan to visit during the summer holidays. I want to present some beautiful gems here in Finland. But before that, I thought I’d write down a few notes about this peculiar and unprecedented time, the corona spring. A few personal observations from this strange period before spring officially folds into summer.

I fully get that the coronavirus and the lockdown period treat people unequally. These exceptional times impact families and individuals very differently. Many struggle to make ends meet when their income is being threatened or taken away altogether; others feel the weight of loneliness during the isolation. Healthcare workers, those who are at high risk to get sick or countless entrepreneurs feel stress that many others do not. And in the most severe outcomes people lose their lives or their loved ones.

And then there are many who can enjoy the slower pace and the simple joys of life or use this time for personal development, maybe even a fitness sprint. But, despite the differences and the divides, there is also a sense that we are in this together. And we’ll get out of this together.

Even though this Spring 2020 has been very worrying globally, I want to take up positive and good things as well – things that have made life happier, brighter, lighter, and more delicious.

First of them is, you might guess, cooking. As we’ve not been able to adventure around the globe, we’ve travelled the world in our very own kitchen. We’ve cooked Melanzane alla parmigiana and lasagne and reminisced our former joyous summer days in Italy, Thai curry, Revuelto (a yummy Spanish take on scrambled eggs) with tomatoes and green asparagus, meat prepared by using the sous vide method (time consuming but an absolutely genius way of cooking) and Karelian stew, a delicious traditional meat dish from Eastern Finland. Cooking is both soothing and yummy. It seems that half of Finland has been baking their own sourdough bread this spring. Or planting their own herbs. Me included. Gardening game going strong: or at least there’s the will to master the art of gardening a bit better one gorgeous day.

Nature has always been my place of focus, quieting down and green meditation. I think that the significance of nature has grown and will continue to grow in people’s lives because of this spring. I anticipate that many will move closer to nature and invest in a community garden patch paired with a cute cottage.

What else? A few selected random recommendations: The miniseries Unorthodox in Netflix – a captivating story of a young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman (played by the talented Shira Haas) who escapes an arranged marriage and the strict and conservative religious community to Berlin. High recommendations, it is shocking and excellent. Second, home workouts. There are many good and free ones on YouTube (I’ve for example done the full body workouts by Pamela Reif). Only 20 or 30 minutes at a time and the powerful feeling of accomplishment will be with you for the rest of the day. Third, having a rhythm in one’s day even if that rhythm is not given by a 9 to 5 job. Fourth, limiting one’s news consumption to one time a day (versus the 10+ times on the day the corona situation escalated). Fifth, mercy: an exceptional time brings forward all types of feelings, both the bright and the gloomy. And finally, talking to your dear ones.

Many say that small things have become big things this spring and that normal life has become a luxury. I’d also say that as a lot of the hustle & hurry of our everyday lives has been stripped away, the good things are highlighted and get more attention and value: a beautiful and colourful breakfast, a good and sweaty run by the sea while sniffing the salty sea air, the bright green birch sprouts pushing their way through optimistically. Puppies. Wild bunnies (countless of them hopping around here where we live). A cup of quality ristretto coffee enjoyed in the garden with a good book. The scent of fresh cut grass and lilacs. Bright Finnish summer nights. Seeing our one-year-old godson after two months and having a barbecue and an abundant brunch with the family.

I can’t wait for things to get back to normal again. But I believe it will be a new kind of a normal which will follow this odd period when we’ve had a chance to think things through and come up with new ways of doing things. A new normal with maybe a new type of a brighter focus. We’ll see.

And then more travel inspo will come, be it here from the Arctic or from a distant corner of the globe!

The Soul of Seoul

Ok, I admit that the title sounds a bit big, huge even – and all-embracing, but I couldn’t resist.

Seoul is a city both quirky and cute. Fascinating, bustling, vast. A megacity of contrasts. And very much about taking a lot of pictures.

Spicy kimchi; the extremely busy Gwangjang market offering everything you could ever think of from black bean pancakes to electronics; shopping malls that are open 24/7; underground shopping malls; nightly food stands that serve late night shoppers; photobooths that are ubiquitous. So many cozy cafes, offering a wide range of imaginative coffee drinks (both hot and cold), such as sweet potato lattes. And divine egg tarts. It is funny that despite the fact that there is a café in every corner, many of them still attract a queue. Like did the 2D Café we visited in Yeonnam-dong 223-14: a hotspot for those who want the perfect IG shot in a cartoon-like setting. Try the red velvet cake: it was juicy and delicious.

I love to observe street fashion and I spotted a very popular trend on the streets of Seoul – and what makes this slightly peculiar was that it was in late December: a long padded jacket (either black or white) paired together with flipflops. No scarf, no mittens, no hat and above all, no socks!

Another unique dressing sight is the hanbok, the traditional Korean dress worn mostly at traditional occasions. It is characterized by vibrant colors and a bell-shaped form. We spotted young people dressed in it at the Changdeokgung palace area and in the Bukchon Hanok Village. There are also plenty of hanbok rental shops, especially near the famous sights, in case you want to try on traditional Korean style for yourself.

What else, what else? Seoul is safe, super safe one could say. We were sitting in a coffee shop (when in Korea…) and a young man left his wallet on the corner of a table when he went to the men’s room. And there it was, exactly in the same spot where he left it, when he returned.

And the food is purely delicious: Kimchi, tofu, Korean bbq, hot pots, the list goes on. I love Korean food.

Seoul is a fascinating combo of history, culture, Korean cuisine, pulsating energy, endless shopping opportunities, cute details and cuter cafes.

Christmas Vibes in Lecco, Lake Como

A pre-Christmas visit to Lecco, located in the eastern branch or “foot” of Lake Como pampered us with sunshine, tasty pizza and the beautiful combo of the lake and the mountain range in the background. The highlights of our extempore yuletide visit included:

A long and sunshine filled Saturday outing which began as a jog, continued as a stroll by the pretty waterfront, turned into an afternoon coffee moment by the lake (tasty freshly squeezed orange juice and espressos in a small café at 6 Lungolario Piave) and culminated in sharing two juicy slices of pizza on a park bench – with the appropriate gelato for dessert. My favourite kind of a workout.

The Xmas spirit created by abundant Christmas light decorations all around town, the  Christmas market on Piazza Mario Cermenati – with booths selling roasted chestnuts, thick hot chocolate, Italian cheeses and ham and knitted wear – and as the most  impressive sight: creative light projections on the facades of the houses in the town centre. And not to forget the classic lake boat ride in Santa’s sled.

And third, feasting on Italian treats, of course. Yummy pizza was found at Il Forno di Nonna Pallina (Piazza Venti Settembre 35). And the best seafood dinner at Mamaioa Bistrot (Via Carlo Cattaneo, 80): fresh and purely delicious. The menu varies according to the catch of the day.

Lecco really delivered. A delicious and sunny getaway on the base of the Alps.