PINCH ME – I MUST BE DREAMING!

On Sunday evening, I have finally arrived in New York City, but I still can’t believe that I will actually be living here for half a year! It simply feels like being on vacation.

But let’s start from the beginning:

The night before leaving Germany, I didn’t get much sleep. It was the birthday of a friend of mine and I hadn’t finished packing before. So when I walked downstairs to the bus stop at 8:30 in the morning, I was excited and tired at the same time. Unfortunately the journey took longer than expected due to a snow storm in Iceland (“A snow storm in Iceland??? How does this affect a flight to New York?”, you might wonder… Well, I took a cheap flight with a budget airline from Iceland, resulting in a layover in Reykjavík. So a snow storm in Iceland in fact had a huge influence on my schedule, as it delayed every single of their flights that day), but after 19 exhausting hours of travelling, I could finally sit down on my very own comfortable bed in New York City and relax.

The next two days I still had free time, as my internship starts on March 1st. I used this time to do some sightseeing: I’ve been to the Central Park, visited the 9/11 Memorial, the Freedom Tower and the Oculus station, watched the Statue of Liberty from the Battery Park, walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, strolled over Times Square and along the High Line Park. Meanwhile I saw starchitecture from Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Norman Foster and Sanaa, but also so many more beautiful buildings.

So these two days I essentially did the “basic-tourist-program”, including having my camera out, snapping every single thing, and keeping my head up towards the sky(scrapers) the whole time. But from time to time I had a silly smile one my face when that one thought stroke me again, and I had to tell myself once more, what I still can’t believe: “You will be LIVING here!” (Maybe, I am over-dramatizing this, but I have always been a fan of NYC, but had never been here. So this is actually a huge thing to me.)

Today I have also passed by the office where I will be working the next couple of months and I met my colleagues and my boss. They are super-kind and I am looking forward to joining them tomorrow.

MERRY BELATED CHRISTMAS!

It’s mid-January already, which means that several weeks have passed since my internship in Finland has terminated just before Christmas. Still in this blog-entry I want to focus on my last weeks in Helsinki, and later I will add another one about how this journey will continue.

Christmas in Chicago

ALA Architects has the awesome tradition to take their whole team on a christmas-excursion every December. This time, they chose no other city than Chicago for this and we interns were lucky to be invited too!

DAY 1:

We arrived around noon and had the rest of the day for us. We enjoyed the fantastic sunset-view from the John-Hancock-Center and had a nice evening walk.

pictures of day 1

DAY 2:

The day started early and we had a full program ahead: A walking tour around the city with over 50 sights to visit, including Mies’ Lake Shore Drive Apartments, the Poetry Foundation, the Cloud Gate and Gehry’s pavilion next to it, the Aqua Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago by Renzo Piano and so much more. In between the group separated several times, people got lost constantly and were found again later. Arriving at the Willis Tower as final stop, we were all exhausted, but happy.

pictures of day 2

DAY 3:

This day a bus helped us rest our feet. We visited the legendary Farnsworth House and theIllinois Institute of Technology with buildings from Mies van der Rohe as well as Rem Koolhaas. In the evening we had a delicious christmas dinner and afterwards went for a beer with the whole crew.

pictures of day 3

DAY 4:

Before heading home, we had free-time in the morning of the last day, which I used to shop some presents and send postcards. It started snowing, which perfectly added the christmas atmosphere to the trip.

 

Christmas in Helsinki

Christmas-time in Helsinki was very busy for me. We worked on a competition for a sports complex and I believe that we ended up with a quite interesting concept. But as competitions always are, we didn’t really have much free-time. I even had a friend visiting me, but could rarely see her. My last day in the office was the day of turning in the competition. We managed to get it printed and sent in the last second. Two days later I had to leave Helsinki already.

 

Christmas in Germany

I hope you all had nice holidays! I spent Christmas, New Year and my birthday with my family and friends back in Germany, where I currently still am. But soon the journey will continue…

IT’S BEEN 3 MONTHS…

I can hardly believe it! I arrived here the 8th of August, so by today 3 months passed by already… 3 MONTHS! Last Friday would have been my last workday, but I am lucky that I got offered to stay until Christmas, which I will do.

(Once again) it’s been quite a while since my last post on here, so I guess it’s time for a little update (Hopefully I will find the time to add photos to some of the stories soon):

I got visited!

It was a pleasure for me (and this might have been the main reason for the long posting-drought) that some of my friends and my family decided to visit me. We had great times together and I think I am officialy a Helsinki sightseeing-expert now. I still love this city and I highly recommend a visit here!

I lived the “Finnish Dream”!

I don’t know if it is the Finn’s dream, but it’s definitely the dream that everybody has about Finland: For a weekend a friend and I rented a tiny timber cabin right next to the Baltic Sea! We enjoyed our personal sauna heated by a fire that we made on our own, jumped into the freezing cold water together, roasted salmon on a barbecue enjoying the sunset, kayaked to an island and had a biking trip… Do I need to say anthing more?

I went hiking!

In Finnish there actually is a word for the period in which the leaves turn red: “Ruska” (and No! That is not just called fall! Fall is a season, ruska is a period in nature… Look it up!). Obviously this time is most-enjoyable in the forest. And this is why a couple of colleagues and I went hiking together to the “Nuuksio National Park” close to Helsinki – beautiful!

I’ve been to more saunas!

Additional to the personal one in the cabin, I’ve been to another public one. Still I feel like I hardly partake in this part of the finnish culture… Which is a pity, especially because – unlike my expectations – I really enjoy going to a sauna. I need to do it more often!

Seasons have changed… aka: THERE IS SNOW!

Whereas ruska hardly had started while I wrote the last article here, overwhelmingly fast we already moved on to winter. And by winter I mean real, serious winter! With sub-zero temperatures and snow – lots and lots of snow that actually stays! Not that this would stop any Finn from biking to work or from running outside…

 

Hopefully not another season will change before I write my next article here. And – as the end of this experience quickly comes closer – I wish that by that time I will already have a closer idea about where I will continue my journey. Till then and “Moi Moi”!

GETTING THE FINNISH-FEELING

So much time has passed since my last post here, yet it felt like only a minute! Although another architectural competition has consumed way too much of my lifetime (sounds like a complaint when actually I enjoy it – it’s the purest form of architecture), I was able to get all the finnish feeling in my freetime:

Eating Reindeer Meat:

Although I tried it on a Finnland-Trip before, it still feeled like a new experience having it in an original finnish restaurant, deliciously prepared and in a reasonable amount this time (contrary to last year).  It was very tasty!

Reindeer Meat

Sauna-ing (is this even a word?):

I actually feel bad that until now I managed to go to a sauna ONLY ONCE! Fortunately it was at the Uimahalli – a marvellous public swimming hall from 1928. And it has 5 saunas (wood, steam, infra-red and two electric ones) – absolutely recommendable!

Uimahalli

Discovering Design:

Scandinavia (and Finland*) are known for being far ahead considering design objects. No wonder that the “Helsinki Design Week” was well attended – also by me. Design Market, Design Fare, “Showroom Walk” (with delicious appetizers + free wine!) and “Open (Architecture) Offices” were only a few of the highlights. Exciting & Inspiring!

Design Market

Feeling the cold coming:

In my first weeks it was sunny and we had daylight until like 9pm. Though it didn’t feel like August, it was still nice (autumn-)weather. Unfortunately it didn’t stay like that. Lately temperatures are sinking and days become shorter. To be honest: Thinking about winter here scares me a little!

 

*According to different definitions, Finland is very often not counted as “scandinavian” and some Finns seem to be allergic against being called scandinavian, while others consider themselves as such.

 

TALLINN-TRIP

Every architect or student knows how exhausting working on a competition can be. So after spending one full weekend in the office, my fellow interns and I decided to balance this with a weekend-trip to Estonia’s Capital right after turning in everything on Friday.

Unfortunately that last day became longer than planned (as always…), so that we left the office not before 10pm. No 10 hours later – at 7 in the morning – we already boarded the ferry. Though less recovered than expected, we still managed to have a good time on Saturday with a full sightseeing program. Only the pub crawl madness at the end of the day (some would say “the main reason to visit Tallinn”) had to be shortened due to energy deficits. Still it was a very nice evening.

The next day started with delicious pancakes followed by an interesting walking tour. Being really lucky with the weather we even were able to wear shirts and sometimes had to search for shadowed spots! After lunch and a beer at the seaside, enjoying the great view over the bay, we already had to board the ferry to go back home.

All in all it was a great trip, highly recommendable! The only fly in the ointment (I hope people actually say this… I just looked it up) was that, coming home at 10pm, we were at least as exhausted as we’d been before.

ONE-WEEK-RESUME

A week and a day have passed by since I arrived here in Helsinki so it is time for a short summary:

It feels like yesterday that I stranded at the central station. Having relied on knowing the city from the last visit a year ago, I neglected doing research in advance on how to get to the hostel. Standing at the central station with nothing more in my hands than the hostel’s adress, I realized how foolish that was. [Note: I have made the very same mistake when I started my year abroad in Seville… And it feels like I have learned absolutely NOTHING from it!] Unfortunately there wasn’t even any info-point (opened) where people could have helped me. So I decided to drag myself and all my luggage to a well-known fast-food-restaurant, supposing to find WiFi there. I did. After a small research  and imbiss I could finally head towards the hostel. After checking in, I spent the rest of the day with searching for flats and contacting countless landlords until heading to bed not too late at night.

In contrast to the arrival-failure, the next day was rather succesful. I found the office at first try and everyone was really kind. All in all I had a perfect first workday at ALA!

In the evening I planned to visit two flats, but after communication problems with the first landlord, I went directly to the second… Or at least I tried: I got lost on the way to the bus stop! [Note: I am not such a mess as it sounds like – I swear!]. But in spite of the fact that I arrived half an hour late, the couple renting the place still chose me as a renter. Which got me into even bigger trouble: The flat was way further from the city center than I planned to live, but on the other hand very beautiful. Besides I didn’t want to waste too much of the few time I have in Helsinki staying in the hostel searching for flats. All the evening I tried to decide. In the end I decided not to take it and called to say no, but somehow ended up saying yes. The same night I signed the contract and on Wednesday I moved in already. I am still getting cozy here, but overall I don’t regret my decision.

The rest of the week had its ups and downs, but ended perfectly with a beer at the seaside, together with the other ALA-interns. All in all it was an exciting first week and I can’t wait for the next adventures to come!