Notes from Quebeck City 
Tuesday, 31 .May, 2005, 19:07 - English Entries, Travel, Photographs

Greetings from Quebec City, Canada, where I arrived yesterday evening and will stay until Friday evening.

The flight yesterday was very relaxing - no hurries, no troubles, just go to Vantaa airport, check in, fly to Munich, change the gate, fly to Montreal. I took a car and went from Montreal to Quebeck city in something around three hours. The street was straight, the music good, the night fell gently and what was visible from the land gave the eye enough room to let loose any wrong thought into the far distance.


Note: This is still (somehow) Canada...


...but certainly not a typcial Northern American City

Today I have one of these inbetween days. The meeting starts tomorrow, the working day ended in Europe when I opend my eyes. Looking down from the 20th floor, where my room is located, on the world showed me that everything here is golden in the sunlight. There seemed to be also enough wind to move the flags in an adequate way for taking pictures of them.


The Parliament

After a long breakfast I took a walk into the old city and sat down at the promenade that follows the river Saint Laurent. An couple was singing jazz songs, the guy played the saxophone, people were walking. I started wondering whether my mind got severly damaged at some point, as the last weeks had so many nice days, but then decided that such illusions arise from the beginning of the summer time. Knowing that everything was fine with my mind helped me to walk the promenade further down.


The Promenade and View from it

There are certain questions that come to my mind. One is, why do people work. I know there are some smart answers to this question - they better exist - but I just forgot them while strolling around through the park here. Our ancestors worked for tens of thousands of years. On days like these it seems time for a big break - just some two hundred years of leaning back and forgetting about the skin cancer that one can get from sun rays and all the other things that extend our lives until we all feel miserable and fall off the tree. Let's just rot in the sun.


Local Artists

Time did not move forward. The sund stood for several hours at its highest point and only the pages of the book, that I currently read, turned over the minutes.

People are talking French here in a way as the Americans talk English. I do not speak French at all, but the language sounds different here than in France.

There is more to come - but don't hope for anything reasonable.


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Theresa visits Helsinki - part 2 
Sunday, 29 .May, 2005, 19:06 - English Entries, Helsinki, Finland, Photographs, Family

Yesterday we were able to fulfill the most important task of the whole week. We again walked to Seurasaari and looked out for the crazy squirrels. First they did not show up and a major desaster was already approaching the little island and our day. After a coffee I was finally willing to go to the center of the island. I first refused to do so because ... well, we were there the second time in a week. Anyhow, we went (of course) and found the squirrels (of course) and after a little training Theresa was able to feed one of them (wow!!).


Feeding Squirrels

Also on Seurasaari we saw a men who fed the birds from out of his hand. He just stood there, whistled, held his hand full of nuts out and the birds were coming and picking the nuts. He was really happy and surprised about that, he told me in Finish and although I do not speak the local language it was obvious what he was trying to say.


Feeding Birds


Windmills of my mind

We went by bus (#24) to city center, where I bought a set of cycle maps at Stockmann - the biggest department store in Helsinki. They had exactly what I wanted and the day became better and better. We had sun, a little bit of wind - everything was perfect.

During the next hours we walked around 10 kilometers through Helsinki. From the Esplanad, where we saw and listened to a xylophone player, to Eira and into Kaivopuisto. We tried to eat in the restaurant in the park, but it was looking so expensive that we escaped, further along the shore until we reached Karuselli where we eat sandwiches and I had coffee.


Music in the streets

But the Karuselli could not hold us - on we walked, right through the middle of Ruholahti until we reached the Hietaniemi cementary. Theresas feet began to hurt and we made another break. She was brave and when we came to Hietaniemi beach every pain was forgotten and we made it happily to my home in Töölö.



All around Helsinki


On the Beach

After that we both know all the hidden paths and secret ways through Helsinki - we walked where no bike has ever gone.

The evening again was filled with musik (Avril Lavigne - sk8er boi, Beatley - Help and Penny Lane, Abba - Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, Mama Mia and Money, Money, Money, Tocotronic - Pure Vernunft darf niemals siegen, Die Welt kann mich nicht mehr verstehn und Es ist einfach Rockmusik) and long talks about cycling tours and other religous phenomenons.

Unfortunately I thought Theresas plane would leave around 16:00 today. It left already at 13:25 and so we were in quite a hurry in the morning. But everything went well and I brought her to the airport in time.

It was a great time - everything was just right and the sun gave her blessings.


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Theresa visits Helsinki - part 1 
Friday, 27 .May, 2005, 19:04 - English Entries, Helsinki, Finland, Photographs, Family

My bike went to the bike shop for repaire on Wednesday - it will be ready on Tuesday June the 7th, which is two days after I'll come back from Canada. Fine fine.

I'm currently on holiday. My daughter Theresa (12 years) is visiting me and we are both taking loads of pictures all over Helsinki. These will go into a separate German blog - but some I decided to put here with a short report.


Theresas Arrival at Helsinki Airport

On Wednesday we visited Seurasaari, an outdoor mueseum on a beautiful Island in Western Helsinki. We just had a relaxed day there. The squirrels there are very daring and Theresa enjoyed feeding them.


A lake on Seurasaari and our contribution to the Einstein Year 2005


Some wooden houses on the island of Seurasaaari

Afterwards we went to Hotel Torni, which offers one of the best views over Helsinkis city center.



View over Helsinki from Hotel Torni

Thursday the weather was good but very windy and therefore quite cold. We went to the Suomenlinna sea fortress by boat and took a walk over the island. It was nice, but after two hours we felt tired from walking around all the time and decided to go back home.


Inside Suomenlinna Fortress


Anybody home?


The young girl and the sea

More Information about Suomenlinna can be found on the Suomenlinna Website. Impressive picutres of the seafortress, with Helsinki in the background, can be found here and here.

Today the wind had more mercy and we went to see the Zoo at Korkeasaari island. A good place to visit not only for children. Again we went by boat there.


Korkeasaari - Another beautiful Island


The Watchtower on Korkeasaari


Sourrounded by Dangerous Animals


A real Kangoroo (I did not see one in Australia)

Helsinki in summer: there's no better place to be!


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To Porvoo and somehow back 
Sunday, 22 .May, 2005, 18:59 - English Entries, Finland, Cycling, Photographs

Yesterday, on Saturday the twenty-first of May 2005, I fixed my bicycle and did a first one-hour round in Helsinki. I went from Töölö, where I live, to Lauttasaari and back via Ruholahti. Somewhere along the beach between Hietaniemi and Meritalli I took a break, gave the evening sun a chance to shine on me and ate an apple. The world can be such a nice place.

Today when I woke up I knew that I would go furhter than just around Helsinki. I took out some maps and looked and thought and decided to go towards the east. For three years I have had no training with the bike, therefore I was not sure how long and far I could go, but I knew that Porvoo would be the furthest. At 12:30 everything was prepared, my sunglasses jumped into my face and I went down and found the day much more hot than expected. Ok, that's acceptable - back to the flat, exchaning long jeans with short bicycle trousers. Perfect and off we go.

Content of my little bag, that can be fixed to the handlebars (German: Lenker) – in order of priority:

The famous bag I was king of that road

It is not easy finding your way of Helsinki with a bike, even if you have the outdoor map that you can get at every tourist information. Helsinki has very good cycle paths, but most of them show you only the next hop and not some bigger destination. So you can read "Pasila 1.5 km", but if you never have been there beofre you would like to know if it is in direction of Kulosaari or not. Ok, that's part of the adventure, I agree and Helsinki has enough good looking inhabitants that are worth stopping and asking for direction, even if you maybe already know your way.

I went through Pasila to Kulosaari, further to Itakeskus and then along Itaväylä. The cycle paths there are very good and it is not problem to go quite fast without killing to many pedestrians that all run around with boxes of twelve beer Lapin Kulta or Koff beer cans and sometimes also a folding chair.

A typical wooden house - somewhere on the way to Provoo take me down to my boat on the river

Road 170 took me further and further away from Helsinki, the sun was shining and I knew I would not need the sweater that I brought with me. Soon I found out that Finns are very modest when they talk about their countrie. They say it is nothing special, but it is very beautiful. But they also say they do not have any hills or mountains in the south. Ha ha. You might not care about the ascents when you drive a car, but when you are on a bike you feel them in your legs and after some time also in your arms (always grab the handlebars tight when going up a hill) and finally in your butt. But of course that was why I was here – destination exhaustion was calling for me and I followed its siren-like sing sang.

Also I learnt that a valley is not only the thing between two hills, it is also the place inbetween forests. You immediately notice you are entering a valley when the wind blows from the south. In my case it came only from the side, most of the time and it was bearable. But wind can be a bad companion on such trips. Anyhow, there is always the next forest visible in front of you when you go through Finland. In fact they do not have several forests, they only have one – the whole country is covered with it. At least this is how it looks from the air.

entering Porvoo area Speed Limit, also applies to bicycles

After 25 or so kilometers I felt a little exhausted, but at that point more than half of the road to Porvoo lay already behind me – it was only logical that nothing would hold me back from going there. The road was esy to drive, the directions were excellent, the sun was hot, my mood was perfect.

The ride brought me all the way through one of the bigger mainly Swedish speaking regions of Finland. All the signs show first the Swedish name of the locations and below it the Finish name. Unfortunately I was not able to talk to anybody in Swedish, as nobody could keep up with my speed.

There were other cyclists of course. I could not stand that any of them was in front of me, most of them were only Sundy cyclers, i.e. an easy piece of cake. I did not even need to speed up to make them feel miserable by passing by. Nothing could stop me. A filling station came up – I bought two 0.33 liter bottles of water and a snickers, my body said "thanks a lot" and I told him that it was a pleasure.

I never saw one More than half (of the way there)

Altough from a certain point on there was no cycle path anymore and I had to go on the main street it was all not a problem. The speed restriction on the road is 80 km per hour and most of the Finns stick to that, as it is written on these round signs that are placed next to the road. Finnish people do not obey rules, they just live them. Germans obey them and then they feel miserable from all the heavy obeying and just break them and say thinks like "Scheiss drauf" or pretend to just this time cross the traffic light when it switches to red. Finns do not have to think or do such things – they do not even believe in the rules, they just follow them and it is all easy and cool. Why would one like to break them? Why would they be here, if they would not be good? Right – it's a very lovely attitude, as long as the rules are simple and people here are pretty smart: they know when the rules turn against them. So don't worry.

You can guess that every car that breaks the speed limit has either a foreigner or a swedish speaking Finn as a driver. There were only few anyhow and although I tried, I did not manage to go over 80 km/h. Only close to.

Porvoo And again Provoo - it is really worth a visit

Around 15:30 (for those of you not familiar with the way how some people in Europe measure time, this is 3:30 pm – it can easily be calculated: 15:30 – 12 = 3:30 – always good to know such things, isn't it?) I arrived in Provoo, a little exhausted but very happy and I sat down by the river and made some pictures with my mobile phone and sent some messages to people who I thought would never believe that I went that far by bike. After a short break I looked at the maps again and as my mood was good, I decided to go back not the same way as I came. That was the beginning of the more interesting part of the journey.

Boat on Porvoo river The wooden houses of Provoo

The map showed the eastern kings road (Itäisen Kuninkaantie as it obviously is called in Finish language – you pronunce it as it is written, letter by letter and you stress the first syllable. Try it. Yes, it really sounds that way.), which goes north of road 170. The sun was shining, the river was flowing, I ate an apple, drunk most of my water and then went on my bike again.

The road to Kiala Entering Kiala

Already leaving Porvoo in the right direction was a major problem. The map showed Kiala as the next bigger town, but there were no signs towards it. An elder couple finally told me how to go there, but even with their help I was not sure whether I was right. The feeling of insecurity came by, sat on my carrier (German: Gepäckträger) and dangeld its legs. But who cares, the sun was shining (did I mention that already?) and after few minutes I found the alley that the couple talked of and entered in Kiala – a beautiful village with some big farms and a huge villa on the top of a hill.

The Villa in Kiala ...and one of the farms

Leaving Kiala brought me to the railroad tracks and the map told me not to follow them. So I followed the country lane quite a while south, a little bit longer and further into the wide and colorful fields around Kiala, until I reached a dead end. Smiling about my inability to find the right way I rode back and found shortly afterwards what I thought to be the trail that was in the map. Well, I drove several times into directions which were not the right ones and finally I gave up and decided to follow just the railroad tracks – the map showed that the kings road anyhow later on would go along them and so that was for sure save. For sure.

There was no asphalt on the trail along the said railroads and there were some bumps. Then these bumps invited all their family and I went through the finish miniature of Grand Canyon – my bike started vibrating at an uncomfortable frequency and I was sure that if I lost the way I would never meet anybody around to ask for help. I lost the way shortly after, when the trail went away from the railroad and I reached the next dead end – a big wooden house with three cars in front of it. They must have built these cars there on their own, because it is impossible that they ever made it along the railroad trail.Two guys were playing a ball game in front of the house and they told me to cross the railroads, I would reach the main street there. I thanked and praised them, crossed the railroad and went on.

The main road also had no asphalt but less bumps. And it had not signs either. So I followed my instinct and decided to go West, because that was were Helsinki should still be. With a Bob Dylan song on my lips (Isis, oh Isis) I road on along and came to a collection of houses that were distributed into the open space by a random number generator. They were all beautiful and I road on. Now the street made a curve, but a smaller path went on straight along the railroads. Not having learnt anything, I kept my railroad fixation and went straight. Straight into the next dead end. Back on the guaranteed asphalt free road I looked out for somebody to ask.

The houses I rode by had all cars in front of them, but the people had either not moved in or were sitting inside, worshipping the air condition. During that phase of the journey the feeling of insecurity tipped again on my shoulder and asked whether I would like some water. Yeh, for sure mate. But the water in the bottle was nearly gone. That was maybe also the moment when I thought that the sun could dim down a bit.

There was another small path to the West, I followed it and what I found was of course a dead end and a very funny looking broken car, of which I decided to take a picture. I took the picutre whilst riding my bike of course - anything else would have been weak and unefficient. The front wheel of my bicycle came across a pile of sand that I had not seen. There was not much to do - my phone was still in my hand, the other hand trying to steer the bike, the front wheel was blocked by the sand and based on these circumstances it seems natural that I got off across the handlebars.

Last picture before falling

Things going through my mind while falling:

  • Scheisse
  • Will I break my arm?
  • I should wear a helmet
  • I should have stayed at home
  • My keys, my keys
  • How should I get back?

I lay there, cursing in different languages. As that surprisingly did not help I came up after a while to investigate the details of my luck. I have to admit, I was really lucky. My right elbow was bleeding a little bit and the skin on the hands was greased. Nothing worth mentioning. But at that moment I did not feel happy about the fact that my bike still was working properly and that I could ride it without any problem. Some items had fallen out of the bag and I collected them in order of their priority, starting with my notebook. While taking up my stuff from the ground, a thing, which was originally meant to become a feather duster but turned out to be a dog during a genetic engineering experiment, showed up and barked at me. I barked back. It looked at me with a certain amount of surprise and stayed that way until I left. Most likely it is still there and tries to come up with a single thought.

It took me several more trials until I gave up on the main road and just drove back until I reached some asphalt. In fact, I came out only few meters from the place where I left Kiala an hour before. My mood went not directly to the skies when I noticed that. Soon I saw a sign that told me that Sipoo was only 25 kilometers to my right. That town was on my way and I turned right, letting a cycling couple go first that came from the other direction and also wanted to go there. I would anyhow pass by them in some minutes. They were not very fast. The road went up a small hill and I heared a strang noise. It took me a while until I noticed that it was just my breath. It would be a lie to say that the couple slowly put some distance between them and me – they just drove off and away, left me more and more behind them, feeling as if I was hiking, not cycling.

Signs indicated that the next town, named Hinthaara, was eight kilometers away. Good, there I would get some water, something to eat and I could also clean my wounds. The first four kilometers took long, the next four even longer and then I found out that Hinthaara was not a town but just a ... a ... "§%/"%"§$%. It did not even have a filling station, at least none that would have been placed next to the main road. They hide their filling stations in Hinthaara. They have plenty of them, but they hide them in order to kill poor German cyclers.

Sipoo was only twelve kilometers away. My tongue was bigger than my right hand, my lips were dry as a well in the Sahara desert and my thoughts circeld around some essential issues about this day and why I ever wanted to go to Porvoo. I made a stop, kicked the feeling of insecurity from the carrier and killed it shortly behind Hinthaara. It was a good feeling to do so, but some minutes later my brain searched again for all the songs that I knew, that talked about water. Laurie Andersons "Muddy River" was my all time favourite on the road to Sipoo.

Here a city starts (you need the sign, else you do not notice) Blurry picutre of a church

During these twelve kilometers I remembered, that this was not the first and also not the worst time I was in such a situation on my bike. Still I was not excusing to a higher power – in which I do not believe when I am not running dry while cycling – for my miserable life. Maybe I got older, wiser and harder. But that was unlikely, besides the age related part.

At last I reached Sipoo, which was not indicated as Sipoo anymore from a certain point on, but as Nikkilä. That is very helpful for somebody who lives there and does not find his way home in the middle of the night. For the rest of mankind, especially for creatures like me, it was just breathtaking. I came to crossroads where I had to decide whether I go to Korsoo, Nikkilä or Tamptadingsdabumsda – all of them I could not find on my map. My map showed Sipoo. The streets were carrying cars, but nobody was there whom I could ask. Ah yes, the sun was shining. In deep delirium I finally found Nikkilä on the map and went there.

There was no sign that this is a city. I became doubtful. Would they have a filling station? There was a hill and I became anxious. Would this terrible ascent kill me? What about my loved ones? I crossed the hill and saw several supermarkets dancing some hundred meters away and in the middle of them stood an Esso filling station, waving towards me, tears in its eyes about my visit. I could not just go by – I had to make a stop.

A liter of Lähdevesi and a Tupla later I could no resist and ordered a coffee, two Twix and a Snickers. The supermarkets stopped dancing. The sun shifted some clouds between her (the sun is female in German – I always thought of her as female. Hope I made my point clear here) and a fresh wind came up. A refreshing wind. There was a sign to Helsinki. I kissed aunt Esso good-bye, jumped on the saddle, sang a great song with an impressive voice to celebrate this day and cycled towards the last 35 kilometers of my little trip. It was 19:00 (that's seven pm) by then. Nothing could stop me anymore.

Besides the combination of my map and the cycle route indications of Helsinki. I must have been literally everywhere between Sipoo, Vantaa and Espoo without ever finding a clear signal that told me: This is the way to Helsinki Keskus. I followed main roads, but the cycle paths went away from them – I told them not to, but they were ignorant. I gave them names, they just led me further away from my flat. I asked taxi drivers and they said "you have to go right" but never got more clear on this issue. There was so much right all along the way that I just could not decide which right was right. I asked beautiful females and they told me to ask somebody else. I smiled at them and they walked away. Then I found another bicycle rider and he was able to show me on the map where I was. Somewhere Norteast of Itäkeskus. He told me how to get through a park and it all worked out.

and tomorrow Lahti ... but I have to work on Monday

I passed by Itäkeskus and went on and there was a hill and I switched the gears and then something moaned and before I could recognize the voice of my bike, my back wheel already blocked. As I was slow I this time did not need to go off via the front of the bike.

My bicycle is around six years old. I took me all over souther Bavaria, we had a ten day trip through Austria and I also showed him a little bit of Espoo, when I still lived there. And now, after this little excursion to Porvoo, the gear switcher on the back wheel broke. It was not the chain – it was the gear switcher who decided to break into two parts. Right in the middle. Dissident! Self-centred miserable object! Monstrosity of an ill Engineers mind! Malicious incarnation of a erroneous blueprint! Oh my lovely, my beloved bike. The back wheel was destroyed.

I leaned over it and smiled. This whole day was too good for being angry about a broken bike. I took it, went to the next taxi stand and arrived home around 22:00 (now you should be able to calculate the pm-time on your own).

Lessons learnt:

  • never trust a map that makes you think the way is easy to find
  • if you want to know the way, ask somebody with a bike
  • no asphalt - no go
  • civilization is most missed when absent
  • never trust a smiling taxi driver - he does not lie, but what does that mean?
  • if you are in doubt which way to go, follow the bigger road
  • take the complicated way when going there, not when going back

That's all. I'll soon let you know how it got fixed again.


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