Wow! It’s been two weeks since we started our journey to Finland. High time to tell you what has happened since then. Here’s how we spent our first couple of days at Åbo Akademi, in Turku and around.
A little spoiler, especially for those who follow us on Twitter: It’s not all about eating – but almost! 😉
Welcome to Åbo Akademi
Our ferry arrived on Wednesday evening. The next morning we had a very warm welcome by Jessica from the HR department of our host university. We got our keys, finalised our working contracts and are now full members of Åbo Akademi – how cool is that?
By the way: Åbo Akademi is the Swedish language university of Finland (Åbo is the Swedish name of Turku) and should no be confused with the University of Turku (in Finnish Turun yliopisto). Finland is officially a bilingual country with about 5% of the population speaking Swedish. Surely, we will come back to this language issue in a later post.
We then moved on to the Gadolinia building, where the Organic Electronics Group resides. In our new office we met our colleagues Christian and Mathias. They received us with open arms and showed us around in the group’s laboratories and some facilities of the university.
At the beginning of August, Finland is still in holiday mode. Students won’t be back for another few weeks, so all canteens except for one are currently closed. For lunch our colleagues thus took us to Fabbes Café, a cute little restaurant close to the campus.
There we came across with the first Finnish (or at least Fennoscandinavic) tradition: Pea soup Thursday. This goes back on Catholic fasting orders. Eating a hearty stew of peas and ham every Thursday was considered as best preparation for the fasting day on Friday.
The best thing: Nowadays the pea soup is followed by delicious oven-baked pancakes with whipped cream and jam. The dessert is usually included in the price, as well as a side salat and water. And, of course, coffee. There’s always coffee in Finland. Every time. Everywhere.
On Friday, we had a great discussion with Christian and Mathias about what we are going to do (scientifically) in the next six months. Luckily, there’s a lot of overlap between our research and the topics they are interested in. Or in other words: We have a perfect match.
Later on Mathias took us to a street food and beer festival on the old town square. There we found ourselves sitting in the sun on a Friday afternoon at almost 30 degrees and testing different kinds of craft beer… That’s exactly how you imagined a research stay in Finland, isn’t it? 😉
It took not long to realize that Turku is a vibrant and lively city – at least during summer time. It seems there’s always something to celebrate. After the street-food festival is before the Aura Fest for electronic music, the Night of the Arts, the Turku Music Festival, the Paavo Nurmi Marathon, the Street Festival of Åbo Akademi, …
Come on baby, ride my bike
The first weekend we spent arranging ourselves in the flat and buying some additional stuff. Number one on our agenda: bicycles. Turku is a wonderful place for cycling. Many people are using their bike to get around town, as well as into the beautiful surroundings. It felt like having no legs not being able to participate in that.
However, getting a reasonable bike turned out to be challenging. The second-hand market was almost empty, we were told in different shops. We finally made a find at our third visit at Turun Ekotori, a giant second-hand store for pretty much everything.
Our first bicycle tour was to the beautiful island of Ruissalo. It lies in the mouth of the Aurajoki River, not far from the port of Turku. Ruissalo is a favourite spot of the locals and offers not only charming villas from the 19th century, sandy beaches and Kilometers of bicycle paths, but also has one of Finland’s oldest oak forests.
Inside and outside the lab
On Monday, the work really started. We met Ronald, our group leader, and presented our research projects in the group meeting. Over lunch, Ronald explained us a lot about the history of Åbo Akademi and gave us a formidable campus tour. It’s great to work with someone who has such a strong relationship with his university!
After the usual safety briefings and technical instructions we spent the rest of the week in the lab. First step was to reproduce some of the results we’ve previously obtained in Oldenburg – which can become tricky for organic solar cells. We’ll come back on this in a more science-related post.
Outside the lab we’ve made a lot of unique Turku experiences for the first time. This includes eating some traditional dish made of small fish (as a whole!), using the cute Föri over the Aurajoki and visiting Samppalinnan maauimala, Turku’s most beloved swimming pool. And of course, we spent every free minute roaming through our new home town.
Two trips, one weekend
Up to then, we’ve done almost everything together. So we thought it was probably a good idea for the second weekend that each of us explored a piece of Finland on their own.
Doro went hiking to the Kurjenrahka national park, approximately 35 km north of Turku. The cool thing is that this summer you can take a direct city bus from Turku’s market place to Kuhankuono, from where severel hiking trails through the marshlands start. Unfortuantely, it was the last chance to do it this year, since the summer season has already ended on August 12.
Instead, Sebastian took the train to Hanko (Swedish Hangö), Finnland’s southmost town. As the locals say, it’s also the most sunny one. At least last Saturday, this was true. It was a nice little excursion to the sea.
Sunday we spent together again. Unfortunately most of it indoors, since we caught the first real rainy day since we arrived. We saved the highlight of the day for dinner, when we tried to cook a real Finnish speciality: Lohikeitto, a creamy salmon soup with patatoes. With a slice of dark rye bread it was quite delicious – and not even complicated to make.
So, how could it be otherwise, this post ends with a food photo. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading – and got at least a little hungry. See you soon, when two young scientists show you more about their adventures in Turku, Finland.