Thursday, July 19, 2012

Visiting Candy Land

Just a quick post...we leave Finland for Chicago tomorrow, but I still have a few more posts about our trip to St. Petersburg and our final days in Helsinki!   

While in St. Petersburg, we visited the Church of the Spilled Blood, or as the kids called it, "the blood church." It is also referred to as the Candy Land Church.

church of spilled blood full view

Too bad it was not a very nice day the day we visited! The photos don't show the beautiful colors of this church.

churchof spilled blood side

Personally, I think the inside of this church is far more beautiful than the outside!

mosaics inside

Every single "painting" that you see on the walls of this church is, in fact, not even a painting. They are all mosaics.

mosaic window light

The story of Jesus' life is recreated on the walls of this church with millions of tiny little stone tiles.

mosaic perspective

The effect is simply breathtaking.

mosaic dome

I loved to look up at the inside of those onion domes.

mosaic dark ceiling

mosaic column detail

Here is a closer look...

mosaic close up

It's sort of a shame to throw a post together for such an incredibly beautiful place, but...


mosaic 6

mosaic 7

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

St. Petersburg, Russia--The Hermitage

Do you know what the largest museum in the world is?

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

hermitage cloudy

This is just the main building--the Winter Palace.

hermitage sunny 2

The museum owns over 3 million pieces of art and less than 1/3 of it is on display.

From floor

hermitage floor

to ceiling

hermitage gold room ceiling

this place drips with opulence.

hermitage gold hall 2

and a LOT of gold too! 
hermitage room

We were warned to pick one floor, or one period of art

hermitage painting

and just focus on that part of the museum.

Did we listen?

Did we attempt to see almost every one of the 1 million items on display?

hermitage lily painting

Did we succeed?

Did we almost die trying?

We did heed the advice to eat before entering!

hermitage hot dogs 2

Unfortunately, on this lovely summer day in St. Petersburg, we were not the only ones to have the idea to visit the largest museum in the world.

hermitage line

I don't know if you can get a feel for that line, but it is LONG. Like 1 1/2 hours waiting in line long. My kids were troopers.

See those people breezing by on the left side of the photo? They purchased their tickets on-line. (Smart.) I tried to do that before we left Helsinki, but I couldn't purchase youth tickets and I didn't want to pay more than I had to--foreigners already have to pay 4 TIMES what Russian Nationals pay to enter the museum!

Guess what?

Kids are FREE.


My advice (should you find yourself at the Hermitage Museum in the near future)?

1. Buy your tickets on-line before you go.
2. Eat before you go in.
3. Don't try to see it all.
4. Hold your childrens' hands.

Apparently, it is NOT cool to touch centuries old artifacts or artwork. 

It is also NOT cool to use a flash.

Also, if you are going to hand over your camera to your eldest child because you are on sensory overload and not feeling well, make sure you give him the sticker that indicates you paid to take photos inside, or said camera might possibly get confiscated.

generals quarters sunny

The General Staff Building sits in front of the Winter Palace. Together, the buuildings of the Hermitage complex form a large central plaza.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Changing Tastes

It's funny how your tastes change the longer you've lived somewhere.

We've only lived in Finland for seven months, and still, my tastes have changed.

I already loved Marimekko when I arrived in Finland. In fact, for many years, I've had a piece of Marimekko fabric hanging in some part of my house.


That iconic poppy print hanging in the window (printed in many, many shades) is loved by thousands around the globe--me included. The question is...did you know Marimekko is a Finnish company?

I wasn't, however, immediately in love with the Iittala glass products that are ubiquitous here in Finland.

ittala votives

The clean, simple lines sold at steep, steep prices just didn't do anything for me.

That was then.

This is now.

I have converted.

yellow ittala glass

After sipping wine out of beautiful Iittala wine glasses, or sneaking cookies and candy out of Iittala candy dishes, how can you not come to love this glasswork that is oh-so-Finnish?

ittala candy dish

I especially love the Aalto vase.

"Since its unveiling in 1937 at the Paris World's Fair, the Aalto vase has been an international sensation. Its mysterious shape has been the subject of much speculation; some say it is based on Aalto's sketches entitled, "The Eskimo Woman's Leather Breeches." Others speculate that the fluid shape might be inspired by the lines of the Finnish landscape."  (from

For me, the vase reminds me of the islands scattered around the Baltic Sea.

ittala vases

If you want to know how the vase is made, click here:

A little boat ride...

Finns are BIG boaters! On the one hand, it makes sense since there is so much water surrounding the country and so many lakes within the country.  On the other hand, it's a little surprising to me due to the fact that there are really only two or three good months to be out on the water. But I've decided that Finns are much heartier than, say for example, Chicagoans. I used to sail and there is no way I would be on the water on some of these cooler Helsinki days!

But I was pretty excited when one of Rob's colleague's at the University invited us to take a little ride on his boat with his wife and him.

veccas boat

When I saw the boat, I was a little concerned our family of five wouldn't fit--but never fear...

lily on boat

...with the kids and Laina in the front and Rob, Veka and I in the back, we all fit!

sam on boat

There are so many islands to visit in Helsinki! It's so much fun to just motor from one big rock to the next! But you really need to know what you are doing. Some of those rocks barely break the surface of the water!

rocks in water

(Of course I had visions of us hitting the rocks and all being catapulted out of the boat into the water!)

We stopped for a little while on a "public" island.

view from beach

The view, as always was stunning--see all of the islands?  That's one of the things I love about Finland!   

I guess the view in the water was pretty interesting too! 

sam on dock

Thanks to our hosts for a lovely afternoon!

vecca and wife

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


No words...

fjord 1

fjord 4

fjord 5

fjord 16

fjord 18

fjord 21

fjord 26

fjord waterfall

voringsfossen 7

voringsfossen 5

fjord 10

The kids loved dancing at the front of the boat as the wind was quite strong up front!

kids dance 4

We took this boat trip on Joey's 12th birthday.  What a lucky boy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beautiful Bergen--gateway to the fjords!

bergen from mt 2

This is some seriously gorgeous country around here.

bergen canoe

I didn't know that Bergen is usually cloudy and rainy.

bergen water scene

We had a cloudy day (and a half), but mostly, it was just stunningly beautiful.

bryggen sun 2

I think I could actually use the phrase "achingly beautiful"--whether the weather was cloudy, or not.

bergen cloudy day

We took the funicular to see the city from the top of the mountain,


funicular path

(Can you see the path and the station at the top of the mountain?)

We were treated to beautiful views, excellent hiking and even a little bit of canoeing on a mirror-like lake.

bergen boys in canoe

We hiked back down to town on foot.

potty break

(Potty break.)

And then explored Bryggen.

bryggen sun 5

These (really old) buildings are shifting and sinking, but they are being preserved as well for their historical importance and beauty.

bryggen sun bldg

Check out the condition of this doorway.

joey in crooked door

Our hotel was right across from Bryggen (the old buildings), the fish market and the souvenir stalls.

fish market

The kids weren't too thrilled with the fish market and the whale steaks, 

sam and fish

but they loved the souvenir stalls!

joey in hat

I think we are ready for crazy hat day at our house!

crazy hats