Monday, 25 April 2016

Heavy Metal Hämeenlinna

It isn’t often that anything particularly interesting happens in this little town. Therefore, it was with great excitement and enthusiasm that our family greeted the news about the new exhibition in Häme Castle, the intriguingly titled “Heavy Metal”, which features arms and armour from the 16th-18th centuries. Since the 17th century happens to figure very strongly in our interests right now, my DH and I couldn’t wait to get to see this.

What’s more, a friend, who, as a historian, is involved in the project, thoughtfully extended us invitations to the opening ceremony. Very exciting! So, we secured a babysitter and made our way to the castle one lovely spring evening. There were several speeches, beautiful clavichord music... and then we got the chance to admire the exhibition among the very first guests. The exhibition pieces come from the collection of Universalmuseum Joanneum in Graz, Austria, and though they’ve toured the world in many popular exhibitions, this is the first time they’re on display in Northern Europe.

There were suits of armour – even a huge one for a horse; very few of those have survived, so this is something special – helmets, swords, polearms, muskets, pistols... all with breath-takingly beautiful detail.


The exhibition is gorgeously arranged, the ancient castle is a perfect setting for it, and the background music... the background music is battle metal from one of my very favourite bands, Turisas! It just really doesn't get better than that.

We returned to the castle only two days later with our seven-year-old daughter, who also loves museums and castles. Our little troop received reinforcements in the form of my sister-in-law, Mina, and together we had a great time. This was the opening weekend of the exhibition, so the visitors were treated to a special programme. There were some merchants and blacksmiths, and, the absolute highlight, a Medieval jousting tournament by the valiant knights of Rohan Stables! We’ve had the honour of seeing them display their skills on Medieval Fairs, but it’s always a pleasure, so we secured front row seats about 40 minutes before the show started. It was cold, but we huddled together for warmth, and it was worth it: we had a great view, and there’s just something about those thundering hooves, splintering lances and courageous knights...

After that, however, we were shivering with cold and needed cups of hot chocolate in the castle café before we could continue to the exhibition. We spent perhaps even more time there now, since my daughter was intrigued by pretty much all the exhibition pieces and, as usual, wanted to see everything. She was thrilled to recognise her favourite song by Turisas (yes, she’s a fan, too), and her other favourites were the life-size horse replicas and the pikemen formation, which is very impressive indeed with the dramatic music and the lightshow.

There were also activities specially for children: they could colour pictures of musketeers etc. and try on breastplates, helmets and medieval dresses.

If you live in or near Hämeenlinna, make sure you won’t miss the chance to see this excellent exhibition. And even if you don’t live near here, I’d heartily recommend visiting the castle anyway (well, it is a castle! They're fascinating!) and experiencing “Heavy Metal”. We're already planning our next visit...

Monday, 18 April 2016

Two years of blogging!

Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of this blog. I was busy with other things (weekend! Sometimes I do have a life ;) ...although, all right, much of it had to do with writing, reading and chocolate) so I didn't manage to post anything then, but here goes.

First, the obligatory exclamation: I can't believe it's been two years already!

I don't know if anyone cares about statistics, but it would seem that my top five posts are... wait for it... chocolate reviews! Yes, each and every one of the five most visited posts in this blog is a chocolate review. This one is the most popular of them all.

The most frequently read posts that are not about chocolate are book reviews of Kelly Gardiner's "Goddess" and Joanne Harris' "The Gospel of Loki", my best reads from 2015 and Valentine's Day feast in Game of Thrones style.

I'll admit that the popularity of chocolate reviews is a surprise; after all, I wrote the first reviews as a bit of a joke... But what's the conclusion we can draw from this? Apparently people like chocolate reviews. And since any excuse to eat more chocolate I am such a good-hearted, altruistic individual, I will continue to help all chocolate lovers and write more reviews. ;) I will likely also keep rambling about books, reading, writing and some completely random topics.

During these two years, I've written 135 posts. It's not that many, true, but it's a lot more than I expected to write. As I mentioned last year, the plan was to just give this thing a try, see how it goes and blog maybe every other week or so. I guess it was more fun than I expected since I haven't given up yet.

Thank you for reading! :)

(Oh, and the chocolates in the picture? They deserve their own post; watch this space for a review.)

Monday, 11 April 2016

April - the month to slash and burn

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
- T.S. Eliot

Often when I think about the word April, I hear the phrase “April is the cruellest month” in my head. I tend to agree. April can be cruel indeed, or at least ugly; usually not the time of lilacs yet up here in the North (this year, it snowed on the 3rd of April), it’s the time of harsh, merciless light; half-decayed trash revealed from under dirty, grey patches of snow... not my favourite season.

But the word April has nothing to do with the Finnish name for this spring month, huhtikuu. What does huhtikuu mean, then?

This is one of the month names where the importance of agriculture is evident; various months have been named after the work that used to, or, indeed, is done then. Huhti comes from the word huhta which means a field created by the old slash-and-burn technique. April was an ideal time to go and fell the trees that would later, once they dried, be burned to create a field – huhta. As fars as I understand, a huhta was a field that used to grow conifers while a kaski was a field from which birch and other deciduous trees had been felled.

Since I don't happen to have a picture of a slash-and-burn field, here's a photo of the first spring flowers! My daughter brought them for me last Wednesday. :)

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Words... where did they go?

Today, words seem particularly slippery... I think I'm battling the onset of a cold which makes my head kind of woolly and my thoughts sluggish, but I happen to have a new translation task that demands some word-wrestling action. So, this is just a short update with a picture of my "view" today:

The lovely mug was a birthday present from a dear friend - alas, it doesn't contain hot chocolate at the moment but ginger tea! And my daughter made the coaster for me for Mother's Day last year; I think you're supposed to use it under hot pots and pans in the kitchen, but I like to keep it on my desk. :)