Friday, November 14, 2008

Going North

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I've been wanting to get North for the last five years.  Ever since I met a Finnish girl named Jenni, I have been determined to go North.  So finally after years of wanting to go and thinking about going, I made it. 

We arrived in Stockholm around noon.  Looked around at the train station and put our bags in a locker.  Form there we met a fellow couchsurfer who was staying at the same guy's house as us.  He was a cool Canadian that instructed us to go to the Vasamuseet, a 16th century battleship that had been pulled out of the water in the 50's and now has a full fledged museum built around it.  I'm so glad we went.  Then we decided to go walk to the old town and even though it was only 3pm, twilight was setting in.  It's an eerie feeling seeing the moon in the middle of the day.  I wasn't sure if I should feel hungry or tired, but I do know that it was unsettling. 

From there we sat in a cafe and I had some soup (the entire weekend we kept searching for soup) and we chatted with the other guy, getting to know him and see what he was all about. 
Then we headed back to where we would be couchsurfing for the night.  We were staying at a Swedish guy's house for the night who lived about 20 minutes outside of the city.  He was really nice to us and we all cooked a big pasta dinner together and sat and talked, watched English tv series and had a good laugh.

The next day we walked out to Stockholm to do what I call a bit of destiny : we went to the largest IKEA in the world. I love IKEA, I love the obnoxious branding, the quirky items found within, and the immense sizes of the store.  I could spend an entire day looking at home goods, comparing glasses and looking at different couches.  We walked around and did make second favorite thing. We took pictures in the different rooms.  I don't know why I like doing this so much, but there is something utterly hilarious about posing in front of the different rooms in IKEA.
After we had our fill of IKEA, we took the free bus that we had arrived on back to the city center, from there we bumbled around looking for different sites and walked over to the fun and trendy area of Sodermalm. 

After walking around some more, night started falling or just darkness, and so we decided we would go to the Ice Bar.  I thought it would be a good story to say that we stood in a room made of ice and wore the funny jackets, but when we got there the Japanese tourists and the families smiling inside put us off the idea.  We just thought about how awkward and weird it would be, just the two of us in our funny jackets, sipping on vodka, among the other awkward tourists. 

I am in love with Stockholm, there is something so familiar about the wide streets, the perfectly articulated English, and the cute cafes that had made me fall in love with it.  The fact that it is a network of connected islands makes it a fun and exciting city to discover.  I really enjoyed my time there and hope to go back soon ;-). And then we left.

We were off to Helsinki to find one of my favorite people.  She was waiting for us inside of the airport looking all smiley and just like I remember.  She took us back to her government subsidized apartment - complete with sauna - and we went to bed (we arrived at like 1am). 

The next morning we got up to a rousing breakfast of brown bread, cucumbers and cheese (meat for the meateaters as well :-). We walked around the downtown of Helsinki, went into stores like Marimekko and other Finnish staples.  The funny thing about Finnish staples is that they all seem to be home good.  We went to glasses, ceramics stores, and to fabric stores.  Each store had it's own taste of bright colors and patterns.  Each store made me wish I was graduating sooner and decorating my own apartment. 

Then we went and saw two different churches.  Two churches that might explain a bit of the Finnish spirit.  One was a beautiful white church that stood on a large and open square near the port area.  The other, called the "Rock Church" was a bit away from the center up the hill.  The Rock Church looks like a space ship has landed in downtown Helsinki.  Aerial photos prove that point and maybe even allude to a meteor/flying saucer attack.  But inside, the church has an austere charm.  The ornate decorations seen in most churches in France are absent, mostly because this is a Lutheran church as opposed to a Catholic church.  But the ceiling looks like the dissection of a tree trunk, full of concentric circles. It feels divine and a wonderful place for prayer and devotion.  

As night began to fall, I saw my friend Jenni do a curious thing.  She flipped two little circles out of her pocket.  They were reflectors.  Apparently in Finland, there has been a public safety campaign for people to wear reflectors.  This is to avoid cars hitting people in the darkness (a darkness that stands for most of the day in the wintertime).  I found this fascinating and I began to see them everywhere.  The reflectors exist in a variety of colors and shapes, from cute to awkward and big to small.  Some people had them attached to their arms whilst others followed the example of Jenni and had them only in their pockets. I found them to be really cool and decided to grad some shaped like Moomins as a souvenir. 


The next day we went to an island outside of the city center to see some old Finnish houses and other buildings.  It was drizzling outside, a normal November kind of day.  A theme throughout the weekend was that everything was nicer in the summertime.  Every time we got a gust of wind or even saw a pretty site, we were reminded by our little Fin of how much nicer everything was in the summertime.  And honestly I can imagine it.  The city must light up in the summertime.  With green things growing and a bit of warm summer air, the city must be magnificent by bike.  I  love the Russian influences seen in the buildings and I can only imagine how much more beautiful they must seem with sunshine on their walls.  I don't care though if I went in November -I know I'll go back. 

Throughout the 5 days we were their, we ate some great cinnabuns.  I really enjoyed them and have been wanting to share this cinnabun recipe given to me by a coworker.  They are really delicious and so make some up with a good cup of coffee.  I think sugary goodness like cinnabuns keep the people from going insane during the long winter months. 

Henrietta's Cinnabuns : a Scandinavian tradition!
(two dozen round rolls)
1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg dry yeast
1 tsp +1/4 cup sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
230 gr butter, chilled
3 egg yolks
1 cup milk

Filling
1/4 cup butter, melted
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Glaze
1 1/2 confectioner's sugar, (200gr)
2 Tbsp butter, room temp.
1 Tbsp water, a trifle more may be needed to make a manageable glaze

  • Put the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle yeast over. Add 1 tsp sugar, stir, let dissolve for 5 min. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt w/ fork to mix well.cut butter into pieces size of small grapes and add to flour mixture. Using hands or pastry blender, rub or cut the butter into the flour mixture until distributed and there are coarse little lumps of butter throughout.  
  • Stir in the yeast mixture, egg yolks and milk. Beat until blended. 
  • Cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge at least 6 hours,(this dough can be refrigerated for 12-14 hours).
  • Divide dough in half. On lightly floured board, roll out half the dough into a rectangle about 10 by 12 inches.  Spread 2 Tbsp of melted butter over rectangle.  
  • Mix remaining 6 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon together in small bowl.  Sprinkle half sugar mixture evenly over rectangle.  Starting with the wide side, roll rectangle like a jelly roll.  Divide roll into 12 pieces by first cut into 4 equal portions, then each portion into 3.  Put rolls cut side down in greased muffin tin.  repeat these steps with other half of dough.
  • Cover loosely and let rise for 1 hour.
  • Bake in preheated 400F(200C) oven 20-25 min. Remove rolls and put them on a rack set over a piece of wax paper.
  • To make the glaze, sift confectioner's sugar into a small bowl then beat in the butter and water until smooth. 
  • Spoon a little of the glaze over each roll while still hot.


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