After the a few weeks of temporary housing, I moved to an area called Finsbury Park. It’s located north of central London, about 15 minutes tube ride from King’s Cross Station. I chose there because it’s easy to get to by tube or train, and the rent is cheaper than other popular areas in London. I found a nice and small flat on the high street in the area. My flatmate, Nick, is a lawyer in the city, who kept the flat extremely clean and neat. The style is modern and simple, and could be a show room for John Lewis, a British department store known for its quality goods.
I consider myself a very neat and organised person, but my flatmate Nick is in another level in terms of cleanness. The surfaces are always empty and clean. Even the cabinets are organised. I love the neatness of the house, but later I realised it’s not the best setup for my creativity. I was always hesitant to use the shared dining table to draw or paint, because I don’t want him to see that I’m making a mess in the shared space.
Helsinki is the third Scandinavian city I visited, after Copenhagen and Stockholm. They have a very similar feeling with grey skies and the sea, but I had a different experience in Helsinki because I took a sauna bath there.
The last time I had sauna was in elementary school, there was a small sauna room at the swimming pool we used to go to. I didn’t expect I will go to sauna in Finland, but Sauna is actually a very important part of the Finnish culture. It’s a tradition to take hot sauna and jump into the snow to finish, as I learned it in the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki.
I booked a cool-looking sauna place called Löyly. It is a very modern architecture designed with clear lines and is made of wooden slates. It’s just off the city centre and facing the Baltic Sea, so you can have a dip there after the steamy sauna.
One of the two sauna rooms here is made of dark smoky wood. As soon as you walk in, you can smell the smoky air. The Finnish people are all pros and were constantly adding water to make it hotter and more steamy, but I had to close my eyes to protect my eyeballs from the heat.
After a few rounds of sauna bath, I was ready to soak in the Baltic Sea. Although it was only end of August, the water felt very icy and I only ended up dipping my feet.
Copenhagen is one of my first destinations since I moved to Europe. I tried to squeeze as many as possible in my 3-day work trip there. On the night I arrived, I had dinner at a Nordic restaurant called Höst. The restaurant was famous for the “surprise dishes”, so they will offer a couple of dishes that’s not on the menu.
I’ve never had Nordic food before and had zero expectation. I ordered a 3 course meal with juice pairing. It was mind-blowing. Because I had never have Scandinavian food before, I found the presentation and ingredients to be very exotic. The amuse-bouche was three potato chips on a tree on a “stone beach”. I took many photos before realising the edible part is just the three chips on the tree. Everything else is decoration. The presentation of the food is themed around rustic Danish life. For example, the bread was presented in a bowl full of hays, and the stony beach was a consistent element. I also noticed lingonberry, which I’ve never heard before, appeared in many dishes. The lingonberry juice was paired for the cucumber and shrimp starter.
Everything in Copenhagen seems tall to me, from the ceiling and windows, to clothes and bikes. In fact, I felt I was a dwarf there. I heard Copenhagen is famous for its bicycle culture, so I rented an electric bike, thinking that I would be able to go to more places. It turned out to be quite a nightmare. The bike was so tall that my feet were not able to touch the ground, even with the lowest seat level. And because it is an electric bike, it is heavier and harder to control. So I returned the bike after just thirty minutes with it.
Address: Nørre Farimagsgade 41, 1364 København, Denmark
People think that America is a hodgepodge with many different ethnicities and culture. It’s true. With large numbers of immigrants from all over the world, the States has all different kinds of people and culture. But I realised what makes America American is that they all share one value—if you work hard, you will get rewards. It’s the definition of an “American dream”.
On the other hand, when you look at Europe, it’s a much more diverse land. People might look more similar, but everyone has a stronger national and cultural identity. The Italians are passionate and proud of their food. The Brits love their self deprecating jokes. The Poles brag about how much Whisky they can drink. And the Spaniards knows how to enjoy life with their own pace.
There are so many things to see and to learn, I thought.