At the end of July, R and I jetted off for 4 days in Vienna. I’ve always wanted to go; it seems like such a romantic city, and anywhere that is famous for a cake is an ideal choice as far as I’m concerned.
I had, however, underestimated just how big the city is. Silly of me, given that it’s a capital city. Big cities aren’t a problem for us generally; however, given that we prefer to explore cities on foot and I’m not exactly at maximum capacity it may not have been the best idea. We still had a great time, but I definitely overdid it. On our first day we must have walked about 11 miles! Predictably, that meant I really just was too tired to enjoy things that I had been looking forward to. It was certainly worth visiting, but I think I may have to go back to get a real feel for the spirit of the city.
Nonetheless, I thought it’d be nice to share a few of my favorite pictures.
At the beginning of July, we had a visit from my German aunt and cousin. My aunt had particularly mentioned Cornwall, and as we’d never been (it’s trickier to get there, particularly the coast, when you don’t drive) we did our best to encourage this plan. 🙂 Another friend from Germany also ended up coming, so it was a brilliant bilingual holiday!
We ended up renting a cottage near Tintagel and going for a brief 3 days. It was absolutely fantastic, though. The weather held out, with no rain and a reasonable amount of sunshine. The cottage was just 3 fields away from the coastal path & 15 minutes to a beach on either side, so a lot of our time was spent right on the coast. It was so relaxing.
I was pretty in love with the gorgeous herringbone stone walls, probably made from local stone as there were a lot of quarries in this area historically.
Look at me, sitting on a gate at 21 weeks pregnant like a responsible mother-to-be.
And of course there had to be a cream tea. The scones were still warm – perfect. We also ate a lot of ice cream while we were there. The best was R’s raspberry ripple. I’m still kicking myself for not going back to get some for myself.
I was incredibly impressed by the water. The color & clarity were stunning. It was quite cloudy when I took this, believe it or not.
It also happened to be the fourth of July while we were there, so we used the cottage’s grill to have a barbecue. Burgers, hot dogs, and halloumi for the veggie friend who had also come with us.
Our trip ended with this perfect sunset. As you can imagine, I’m pretty desperate to go back soon.
I also persuaded my aunt to go to the Eden Project, but I’ve decided that deserves its own post.
Have you been to Cornwall? Where should we go next time?
Though I studied in London, I’m very much a small town/country girl at heart and rarely venture that way these days. This Sunday was an exception. A friend from home who I haven’t seen for 10 years was very briefly in the UK, so I went over so we could catch up (albeit very briefly).
One of the best things about London is that you never have the same experience twice. I started off by having tea with a friend who lives in London. We met at Half Cup, a nice little coffee shop near King’s Cross. If you’re very astute, you’ll know that this is also conveniently near the British Library. The BL is one of my all-time favourite places, so much so that I went on the day I handed in my dissertation for my qualification in Library & Information Studies (yes, you do get a bit fed up with libraries). I was a bit short on time, so I only visited the Alice in Wonderland exhibition. I was very impressed – it displayed content about the creation of Alice, but also its influence. Unsurprisingly, there was a particular emphasis on illustration. What is it about Alice in Wonderland that lends itself to illustration? People have had so much fun doing it & there are so many beautiful examples.
There were still a couple of hours before my friend’s train arrived, so after much internal debate I headed to the National Gallery for a quick look at one of my favorite paintings, Saint Jerome by Albrecht Dürer. Dürer put so much detail into all his work, and I am just astonished at the level of it – in this painting, for example, there’s a butterfly that is about half the size of my pinky fingernail. Whoa. I don’t know much about art, but I do like visiting art galleries for inspiration. I always find the 15th/16th/17th century art particularly inspiring for some reason & this time found myself pondering whether Gustav Klimt was an admirer of 14th century paintings. That said, one of my all time favorite painters is Van Gogh, so clearly I am incredibly inconsistent when it comes to picking favorites.
Then I went around the corner to the National Portrait Gallery. I’m a sucker for the 17th century, so headed straight for the Elizabethan/Tudor/Stuart wing where I looked at portraits of Queen Elizabeth & John Donne (one of my favorite poets). Next stop was the Jane Austen portrait when I saw a sign: “Celebrating Charlotte Brontë“. How could I resist?! I had no idea it was on, but it was great. If you happen to visit London before the exhibition ends in August, I’d encourage you to go along. The NPG has several items on loan from Haworth Parsonage. I got to see the famous painting of the Brontë sisters, and it was amazing to think about the fact that it was just stuck on top of a wardrobe for years with another portrait of Charlotte on sackcloth. They also had one of her teeny tiny shoes! Plus, the first tiny book the sisters ever made was there, and some of Charlotte’s own paintings, and letters from when she was in Brussels, and her husband’s letter to a close friend when Charlotte died. She was very talented, judging by the few pieces there. The captions were also wonderfully detailed. I left feeling inspired to take a trip to Yorkshire, mostly.
At last, my friend arrived. 🙂 She was very keen to go on the London Eye, so of course we went. It was nice to see London from a different perspective, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I couldn’t see Tower Bridge at all! I do think it would have been worthwhile if I’d never been to London before, and my friend definitely loved it. But it speaks volumes that the next day, I almost forgot I went on it & instead focused on the galleries I’d visited. Oops… There wasn’t much sightseeing after the Eye – we went for dinner on the South Bank & took a walk toward Buckingham Palace, then I unfortunately had to catch a train home while she headed to her hotel (she was staying to visit Kew Gardens the next day, which I couldn’t take off work, boo!). I wish we could have spent longer together, but I was grateful for an opportunity to see her at all. She’s also a friend of my mum’s & was a clear influence in my career path, so being able to thank her for her support/encouragement/inspiration now that I’m all grown up was great. I hope we’ll stay in touch more regularly now.
I spent the rest of the week exhausted, but it was definitely worth it. How often do you get to London? Do you find it as tiring/amazing as I do?
All week, my mom has been over in Germany visiting her family. One of the perks of working part-time is that, even in the busiest time of year at work, I was able to take a long weekend to go over for a couple of days. It was lovely! I haven’t seen her since May 2014, and I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen my aunts and mom at the same time. Plus, a good friend who lives in Baria came up and visited me in Lower Saxony as well.
I met up with Mom in Heathrow so we could fly over together and spend a bit of extra time together. As much as I love my mom, I did learn one important thing from this experience: don’t spend 9 hours in Heathrow! She needed to nap, and I am pretty paranoid about the amount of time it takes to get between places so we didn’t end up going into London as we thought we might. Next time we definitely will! We both got so restless, even with crafts and books in hand.
My friend had never been to Hildesheim (where my grandmother lives) so we spent a bit of time doing touristy stuff. The town is celebrating its 1200th (!!!) anniversary, and there also happened to be a farmer’s market on. Also, the oldest church in town, Hildesheimer Dom, was having an open day so we got to go in for free. The Dom was built in the 11th century. Objects in the museum date from around that time, right up through today, with a particularly large number from the 15-16th centuries. They were all staggerlingly beautiful, and in every room I was blown away by the craftsmanship and detail of objects that are so old. It also included lots of books, which as you can imagine I found very exciting. 🙂
The next day, Oma, Mum, and one of my aunts (the other one had to work) took a steam train up the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains. We got incredibly lucky with the weather, so we spent most of our time on the outside train platform. Once we got to the top we were treated to stunning views, as you’d expect at 1142 meters! We finished our trip by going mushroom hunting in the springiest, bounciest forest I’ve ever been in. I’ve never done it before, but my aunt does it often and seems to be a bit of an expert.
Is it horribly consumerist if I admit how much I love finding souvenirs? I don’t mean tat (though not pictured here is a kitschy Christmas ornament, because how could we not buy an ornament in Finland?), but beautiful & useful things that I know will remind me of special moments. For example, when we went on our honeymoon, I bought some lovely cotton yarn & made a cardigan; now every time I wear it I think of Keswick and our first trip as husband & wife.
I guess, for me, getting souvenirs is okay as long as they do serve a purpose and capture the spirit of a place. We got lucky in Helsinki. Like I said, it’s a city that loves its secondhand goods which made for fun shopping! As always, all of our purchases were secondhand (apart from 2 skeins of yarn and a few buttons I found).
To be honest, I don’t know quite what this children’s book is about, but aren’t the illustrations amazing?! We couldn’t resist. I always think it’s nice to have children’s books in foreign languages, as you never know what it might inspire kids to get interested in. While we don’t have kids yet, we have nieces and godchildren and hope to have our own someday.
My crafty purchases were these buttons and this 3-ply hand-dyed Finnish yarn by Riihivilla. It’s gorgeous yarn, a bit redder than it appears in the picture, dyed with cochineal. I think it’s lovely that it was dyed with natural ingredients, though it is perhaps not suitable for vegans. I bought the snowflake buttons in Hakaniemi Market, and found those gorgeous red buttons in a charity shop across the street from the flat we rented. They’re a very lightweight metal and, while I’m not sure exactly how old they are, I think they are from the 1940s or before based on the paper (which has a gold border similar to some 1930s buttons I have). I really like that the buttons somehow capture the Russian side of Helsinki’s history.
Also found in Hakaniemi Market were these two vintage pieces. The dark vase was designed in the 1970s by famous Finnish designer Erkkitapio Siiroinen. I think it was a bit of a bargain, and we do think it’s lovely, though I have to admit it we haven’t quite found the right place for it in our flat yet.
This coffee cup is basically my new obsession. I spotted it looking lonely on a back shelf and was instantly reminded of a couple of pieces I saw in the Design Museum. Surprisingly, it did turn out to be by the same designer, Friedl Kjellberg. Now I can say for the first time ever that I have a favourite designer. The cup is rice porcelain, which is just very thin porcelain with portions carefully cut out with a razor; the item is then glazed to make it translucent yet solid. This particular pattern was made between the 1950s and the 1990s, so I have no idea how old it is. I assumed it would be out of our budget, but (un)fortunately it was cracked so the dealer gave it to us for free! I was unreasonably thrilled about this, because I have to say I love everything about this cup (apart from the crack). It is light, simple, elegant and delicate — all my favourite things. I haven’t collected anything for years, but I really think I might start collecting pieces by Kjellberg. Is that weird?
That’s enough about me. Where do you stand on souvenirs? Do you still get them, and how do you choose them?
Most museums in Helsinki charge for admission; while I don’t have any problem with this, it did mean that I wasn’t able to go to as many as I would have liked (again, Helsinki on a budget is doable, but challenging!). Given that Helsinki was the World Design Capital in 2012, the Design Museum seemed like a natural choice. Admission was €10, or €12 for joint admission to the Architecture Museum. I regret not doing joint admission to be honest, given the quality of the Design Museum.
The museum is in the Design District. It occupies 3 levels and even the building itself has some beautiful details.
The main collection is arranged in chronological order, starting in the late 19th century and running all the way through to this decade. What I found particularly lovely about the permanent displays was what a comprehensive view of the objects they provided. They included narrative about the historic economic context for overall design movements, sketches and finished objects. For example, in the 1950s-1960s room, one of the narrative panels mentioned how the production processes changed in response to international competition and the special exhibition mentioned how the 1970s oil crisis affected designers’ choice of materials. I loved the emphasis on functionality in Finnish design; everything was so practical and beautiful at the same time. I also liked that it took a comprehensive view of design. It displayed homewares, furniture, posters, technology (phones), and clothing. I loved it so much that I actually took notes while looking at the exhibition!
The special exhibitions were great, too. One focused on Finnish fashion, and the other was Wirkkala Revisited. The fashion exhibition was on Level 2 and benefited from a huge amount of space and light which showed off the designs perfectly. I also think it was clever that they put temporary exhibitions in the most light-filled part of the museum; it is very sensible from a preservation point of view. Wirkkala Revisited was in the basement and focused on how he worked. His sketches were so detailed – I am in awe of anyone who can draw, so I thought they were amazing.
Last week R & I went on holiday to Helsinki, hence the lack of posts here. We had an amazing time! I thought I’d share some of our favourite things about the city, just in case any of you are thinking of going. It’s an expensive city, but definitely worth visiting. R & I were on a tight budget, which meant there were some things we had to miss out on and that we had to be quite mercenary sometimes when deciding what to do, but we were there for 5 days and managed to experience a lot of what the city offers nonetheless. I’ll attempt to keep this short, but I did take a lot of pictures so forgive me if I get overexcited. 🙂 I’ve grouped them loosely by what aspect of Helsinki they represent. So here we go, 5 things to love about Helsinki, in no particular order:
1) The architecture
Until 1917, Finland belonged to either Sweden or Russia, and Helsinki’s architecture represents that. The city center is a mix of pastel neo-Classical building and brick buildings with a Scandinavian/Nordic vibe, while the outer parts of the city feel very industrial and Eastern European.
2) The water
What’s not to love about a city by the sea? The air is fresh and breezy, and the water itself makes the whole place feel a little more zen. Helsinki has a beautiful harbor with a great market. It also has lots of lakes throughout the city. We spent a lot of our time walking around these, as they were so lovely. We also took a ferry out to Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage site just out of the harbor. The island was fantastic and had incredible views.
3) The nature & wildlife
Despite being a capital city, Helsinki is still open and natural. There were unexpected pockets of wilderness in the center, in addition to lots of parks and gardens. Perhaps related, there were also a lot of dogs in Helsinki. My husband went into a tiny record shop with three dogs in it! I also saw loads of birds, squirrels, rabbits and bees.
4) The markets & secondhand shops
Helsinki has at least three major markets, and we managed to get to two of them: Kauppatori and Hakaniemi. Kauppatori is the posher of the two, which is to be expected given that it is dead in the center of the city and prime tourist sites. Hakaniemi is about 20 minutes from the center and feels more traditional. On weekends Hakaniemi also hosts a flea market, but unfortunately we weren’t able to stay over a weekend. I really preferred this market, though, and I imagine the flea market’s great. Helsinki is also full of secondhand shops, which we thought was brilliant! Some are charity shops, while others are chains or independent secondhand shops.
5) The food
There’s a bit of overlap with markets here, because we did a lot of our eating in them. 🙂 Food in Helsinki is expensive. I read about it before we went and was still shocked by the prices. Because we were on a tight budget, we didn’t eat out that often. What we did have was delicious, though. There were loads of Italian restaurants, but our favourite was probably Russian restaurant Blini. The salmon dumplings were great.
Stay tuned for my impressions of the incredible Helsinki Design Museum and to see what lovely things I brought back. 🙂
If you’re interested in reading more about Helsinki, I’d recommend Posh, Broke and Bored’s posts about it. While she obviously didn’t approach her trip with a budget as strict as ours, a lot of our impressions of the city are the same.