Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Moomins

I don't know why I haven't written about Moomins so far. I was reading all the books about them already as a child, and now my sons love the Moomins as well.  
The Moomins are characters of a series of nine books and a comic strip created by Tove Jansson within years 1945-1970. Tove Marika Jansson (1914 – 2001) was a Swedish-Finn novelist, painter, illustrator and a comic strip author. She has also illustrated the Moomin books.
m1.gifThe Moomins resembles white hippopotamuses. The main characters are Moominpappa, Moominmamma, Moomintroll,
the Snork Maiden.
The non-Moomin characters of the series are a.i. Little My,  Sniff, Snufkin, Stinky, Hemulens, the Groke and the Hattifatteners. Each of the characters has its own character and sees the world in its own way. The Moomins and other characters live in Moominvalley somewhere in Finland and have many amazing adventures.
The stories were written for children but I know many adults enjoying reading them. The Moomin World charms with its unique atmosphere. The stories include admirable insights for life, friendship, understanding, feelings, dreams, courage and pondering what really matters. 
All the Moomins books became very successful and have been translated into over thirty languages. The Moomins got also their movie, TV series, theatre, radio, opera and comic strip versions. There is amusement park based on the Moomin books - "Moomin World" in Naantali near Turku, and the Moomin museum in Tampere. 
Below are some of my favourite quotes from the Moomin stories:
"You can't ever be really free if you admire somebody too much."  
"I like stars more than anything else.I watch them as I fall asleep and wonder who lives on them and how to get there. The night sky looks so friendly with all those little twinkling eyes."
"Moomintroll closed his eyes and surmised: How different we all are, really."
"When one’s dead, one’s dead… This squirrel will become earth all in his time. And still later on, there’ll grow new trees from him, with new squirrels skipping about in them. Do you think that’s so very sad?"

(photo nr 1 from photo nr 2 from the book: 'Muumilaakson tarinoita')

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Angry Birds .. they are everywhere

In December 2009 Finnish company Rovio from Espoo (nowadays Rovio Entertainment Ltd.) released a video game for the iPhone called Angry Birds (AB). The success of this game is enormous. It has since been downloaded so far over 1 billion times worldwide. There were created many versions and special editions of the game, but the birds became successfull not only as a game. The characters are extremely popular and used for the TV shows and animations. There is "Angry Birds land" in Särkänniemi amusement park in Tampere and "Angry Birds Activity Parks" arranged by Holiday Club).
The AB character playing hockey was the official mascot of the 2012 Ice Hockey World Championships. The Angry Birds brand market has grown like crazy over just few years and it looks like spreading the brand image still goes ahead.
I will list here only the products I have come across in Finland: there are Angry Birds board games, books, puzzles, playing cards, various kinds of toys (plush, plastic, rubber), clothes, rucksacks, bags, school accessories, belts, caps, bedclothes, towels, mugs, plates, shampoos, soaps, table-cloths, serviettes, party costumes and masks, helmets, sledges, sweets: candies, chocolates, chewing gum, lollipops (link to Fazer's AB offer) ... and Angry Birds advent calendars.
Angry Birds-branded soda drinks (offered in four flavours) got in Finland more consumers than Cola and Pepsi last year. Helsinki OP Bank has in offer credit cards with pictures of the Angry Birds characters. Finland’s leading coffee company Paulig has introduced the Angry Birds coffees (Early Bird and Explosive Espresso).
I decided to write about the Angry Birds' phenomenon after seeying the Angry Birds doughnuts in the corner grocery store ... 
(Here's link to a web page with the Angry Birds Inspired products)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

National symbols of Finland

Flag of FinlandI was thinking about the Finnish coat of arms - a crowned lion holding a sword. Why lion in Finland? I have just checked that it was created in the 1580's after King of Sweden John III became "Grand Duke of Finland" and the lion became linked with the grand-ducal coat of arms. While looking for these information I came across the other symbols of Finland. Quite a lot of the more or less official ones, take a look:
Finland's national flag: a blue Nordic cross on a white background,
national anthem: Maamme (eng. “Our Land”),
national epic: Kalevala,
writer: Aleksis Kivi,
poet: Johan Ludvig Runeberg,
composer: Jean Sibelius,
animal: Brown Bear (fin. ruskeakarhu),
bird: Whooper Swan (fin. laulujoutsen), (displayed on the Finnish 1euro coin),
fish: European perch /fin. ahven),
tree: Silver Birch (fin. rauduskoivu),  
flower: Lily of the Valley (fin. kielo),
fruit: cloudberry (fin. lakka, hilla, valokki or suomuurain),
stone: granite (fin. granitti),
insect!: seven-spot ladybird (fin. seitsenpistepirkko). It is also symbol of the Finnish Swedish People's Party, 
musical instrument: the Kantele, 
horse: Finnhorse (fin. suomenhevonen), dog: Finnish spitz (fin. suomenpystykorva), 
and the last but not the least ... a national personification of Finland is The Maiden of Finland
(fin. Suomi-neito). Below: Suomi-neito on the picture from 1906, and the famous painting by 
Eetu Istoby, Hyökkäys (eng. Attack) presenting Suomi-neito fighting with the Russian eagle. Painting comes from 1899, time of Russification in Finland.

Monday, April 15, 2013

in the middle of April

This is my 10th winter in Finland and on the basis of my observations I can say, that there was not extremely much of snow this year, but temperatures were too low too melt it. It is just cold all the time.
I went to Espoo today (unfortunately without camera) and I saw few persons walking on the ice on the bay. I would say it was risky. Temperatures are not enough low to keep the ice strong anymore. Daytime temperatures are over zero.
In the pictures: Koivukylä, Vantaa
in the middle of April ...

Friday, April 12, 2013

about golden hand, green thumb and the redheaded women

There are people who can repair anything, and to make a wooden table, build a summer cottage, connect electricity, whatever. In English such person is called 'handyman' or 'jack-of -all-trades', in Poland we have phrase 'golden hand'. I used this term to describe someone in Finland and no one knew what I meant. I was sure it was international saying. In Finland 'handyman' is called 'repsikka' and 'jokapaikan höylä'. So I checked what kind of similar sayings are in use in Finland.
First what came to my mind was 'a green thumb' (vihreä peukalo), what I heard also in English in version of the green fingers or a thumb. If someone has a green thumb it means that he has talent for growing plants and flowers. I do not have a green thumb and when I put seeds into soil, I get few straws of sth in few weeks. Our neighbour has a green thumb and gets amazing flowers on his balcony every summer (for example 2m high sunflower last year despite his balcony gets less sunlight than our).
I have found most popular English colour idioms here. Part of them seems to be international like the green light, to be green with envy, black sheep.
Here's few Finnish sayings that include colour, which I found interesting:  
- harmaa aine literally 'grey substance' (software) term for knowledge and skills, refers to the brain's grey matter, (brain cells).
- mustasukkainen means literally 'in black socks' and this is not idiomatic but the main word for 'jealous'. There is another Finnish word containing 'black' (musta) for being jealous: 'mustankipeä'. 
I wonder why black?
There is popular saying, that forest is Finland's green gold (metsä vihreä kulta). Writing in a nutshell: the three-quarters of the land area is forest, forestry and forest industries have crucial importance for Finnish economy. (more on this subject in English I found here and here)
Continuing with colors ... 
There is Finnish saying that redheaded women do not go to heaven (punatukkaiset naiset eivät pääse taivaaseen). 
I have been thinking where this came from, there some articles in internet. Most of the hypotheses about this saying is combined with redheads' reputation of being a fiery-tempered.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Flag days in Finland ... and few words about Mikael Agricola

There are many days in year when I see Finnish national flags flown from the public buildings and at the numerous flag poles around. There is one flag pole in our yard, and it seems like every week I see the flag there. Today also. I have just checked how many flag days are in Finland and I got this:
By law, the Finnish flag must be flown from public buildings on the following days:
February 28, day of Kalevala and Day of Finnish culture, May 1, Vappu, Second Sunday in May, Mother's Day, June 4, birthday of C.G.E.Mannerheim, also Day of the Finnish Defence Forces, Saturday between June 20 and 26 June - Midsummer Day - Juhannus, and Day of the Finnish Flag, December 6, Independence Day, + Days when Finland holds elections or a referendum, and the day the President of Finland is inaugurated.  
Days when flying the flag is an established custom:
February 5, birthday of J.L.Runeberg, March 19, birthday of Minna Canth, Day of Equality,  
April 9: on this day Mikael Agricola died and Elias Lönnrot was born, and today Finland celebrates the Day of the Finnish language.
April 27, National War Veterans' Day, May 9, Europe Day, May 12, Day of the Finnish Identity, Third Sunday in May, memorial day for the war dead of the Finnish Civil War and World War II.
July 6, Eino Leino Day, and day to celebrate poetry and summer, October 10, birthday of Aleksis Kivi and Day of Finnish literature, October 24, Day of the United Nations, November 6, Day of the Swedish Identity, Second Sunday in November, Father's Day, 8 December, birthday of Jean Sibelius and Day of Finnish music.
So today there is Day of the Finnish language. Mikael Agricola - 'father of the Finnish written language' died 456 years ago. He was incredibly intelligent, pre-eminent and hardworking man.
I would like to write few words about him.
He was born in Pernaja (Pernå). He was very gifted and eager to learn, and already as a young boy he was sent to the Latin school in Viipuri (Vyborg). He continued studying in Turku (Åbo) and in Wittenberg in Germany. He was i.a. student of Erasmus of Rotterdam and Martin Luther.
In 1554 Agricola became the bishop of  Turku. In only 3 years! he translated the New Testament into Finnish and wrote the prayer book and hymns for the Finland's Church. This work was a basis of the Finnish orthography and spelling. He published nine books of altogether ca. 2400 pages
- in only 10 years. He died suddenly in 1557.
HERE's good link to detailed Agricola's biography in English.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

so we have April

Yes, we have. I attach a photo taken from our kitchen today. The flowers fit to the month, and pay attention to the multi-coloured sun rays above!
I would like to see different middle of the picture of course but spring is obviously coming no matter the snow. It just feels in the air.
This year the whole Europe experiences very cold spring. In Germany March this year was the coldest since 1883. Storks were on their way to Belarus as always in March after wintering in the South but this year they came back to Israel to wait for the warmer weather. The Polish storks seem to be more persistent - most of them already came back but many of them are weak. They have problem to get food as there is still much snow and cold temperatures. Problem with finding food have also bears and badgers who have already woken up from hibernation.
So this year also Poland and the other European countries experienced the 'White Easter'.
Hope it will repay with a beautiful long summer:-)

fot.1 me, fot.2 Patrick PLEUL/PAP/DPA