Thursday, January 18, 2018

Winter Museum Activities

I wanted to add a note about Hogmanay - New Year's Eve before moving on. We don't usually do anything for New Year's Eve as the kids have been too young and grumpy to stay up late in the cold, but this year I noticed they had an early kids' firework display in Kansalaistori in the centre of town. I'm not sure if it's a new thing, but it was new to me. 

There was a fire juggling circus act beforehand by the Maria Baric Company which was actually more interesting than the fireworks to me. Only two issues I had with it: one all the websites said it would start at 4.30, so we got there just before and found an good enough spot to watch it. And then had to wait, standing in the cold for a half hour for the performers to arrive. We weren't cold as I dressed everyone doubly warm, but the kids were bored waiting around. I'll come back to the second problem in a minute. 

It was cool and very different to most kids' entertainment here, the performers not only juggled fire, but breathed it, wore it on dresses and head pieces and did acrobatic stunts with it. 

My pictures aren't great, but it really was quite spectacular and they timed it just perfectly that the song 'Finlandia' finished just as the fireworks took off behind us. 

I've included the last photo with the red smoke to show my second complaint. They surrounded the stage with flares in buckets so there was this stream of red smoke, almost constant as they kept renewing the flares. This was ok if you were in front of the stage as the flares were postitioned and the smoke moved off to the sides, but if you were at the side of the stage, like us, you got facefuls of smoke and it was sometimes difficult to see. This isn't great for kids, especially sensitive kids. Luckily they weren't too bothered by it and enjoyed the show anyway. So notes for future kids' performances: show up on time, don't drown the little ones in smoke. If it wasn't advertised as a kids' performance I wouldn't be so picky, but as a parent you have extra considerations. 

The fireworks started around 5.30 and only lasted maybe 10 minutes at the most so we were home just after 6pm. Not bad for a first attempt. I think the kids enjoyed the fireworks enough to maybe attempt a longer, later show in the future. 

Now to other activities. We don't do a lot over the Christmas break but we have a few regular things we like to do. If the weather's up to it we skate and sledge, but it really wasn't this December and until today in January. Constant wet and gray, so we aimed more for museums. 

Heureka, the science museum is our regular treat over the break. It's expensive, but you can spend all day there. And it's open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and most of the holiday period. It always has new and interesting exhibitions. This time there was one about germs and diseases. Also little stations where you could build a wooden car and figure out how to make it go faster over sloped track by weighting it, you could work with simple electrical loops to turn on light bulbs and fans, make floating swirly things, build with blocks. General crazy fun. And we always get the coins made with our faces, we have at least one from almost every year we've been in Finland. Great souvenirs. 

We also went to the Children's Town Museum. Not as many activities here, but the kids still find things to keep them occupied for a few hours. 

We also had our regular house guest again this last weekend and if I thought October was hard to find things to do in, January after the Christmas season is even harder. So I bit the bullet and we did a road trip to Tammisaari (Ekenäs in Swedish), a town about an hour west of Helsinki although almost everything seemed closed near by: the Raasepori castle, the nature museum, the recommended restaurants.

The EKTA Museum was at least partially open. It is a collection of Swedish-style houses around a courtyard. The main building was open and this had a exhibition on the artist Helene Scherfbeck, another on the history of Tammisaari and a third on the history of the local military garrison Dragsvik.

I really enjoyed the Scherfbeck exhibition. She's a native daughter of the area and lately her art work has become considered one of Finland's major offerings to the art world. Her self-portraits are especially mesmerising, how they changed over time.

EKTA wasn't big, but it did have enough to keep us occupied for a few hours; costumes to try on and lots of screens to read or watch. Not everything is translated into English, but enough that you can enjoy the museumm as a foreigner. The one lady working there was especially helpful, happy to talk about the area and musem. And give Pudding free gingerbread biscuits. As the other buildings on the site were closed I can see us returning to explore more. Tammisaari in general looks like a good summer destination, it's a pretty Swedish-speaking town on the water with several nature centres and outdoor restaurants. It would be a great day trip. 

The snow and cold weather has finally arrived, so hopefully I'll have more outdoor winter posts soon.


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