Hello friends! Today was an adventure, and actually comes in two parts! First, MOOSE MANOR (!!!) and second, meeting a local who has spent time at my home university.
When I first arrived in Finland, there was only a couple things I wanted to do. One of them was to visit this really interesting sounding moose zoo/farm type place. It conveniently is only located about an hour south of Jyväskylä so it looked to make for a really nice day trip. Unfortunately, busses only get you to the city of Jämsä, so you need a taxi to get the rest of the way to the zoo. But I promise it is so worth it!!! Today, I went with the American exchange student group and we had a blast!
It was an extremely early morning. We left to walk to the bus station at 5:15am because our bus left at 6:15. The snow had continued to fall overnight, so it made for a really pretty walk, albeit very cold. Then we rode the bus until 7 where we had a while to wait at the travel station (think like Love’s) for the sun to rise an hour and a half later.
Once the sun was up (about 8:30), we got up to head to the city center. Most of the shops opened at 9 or 10, so we made good time. To give you an idea of scale, Jyväskylä is the largest city is Keski-Suomi (Central Finland – it’s a region of the country comparable to Kansas being a state of the US), and Jämsä is only 1/16th the size. So it’s a small town and getting from one side to the other did not take that long. We visited the farmer’s market in the square and made some impromptu snow men on the side of the streets while the city was waking up. I don’t know if snowmen are a Finnish thing or not, but for today, Jämsä had two!
Finally, it was time to get a taksi to our target adventure. And omg, it was soooooooo worth it! We went to Hirvikartano where we met three moose: Sauli, Jenni, and Annikki. We also met a couple reindeer!
The stories that went with these creatures was so cute, too! Our tour guide told us about how Sauli and Jenni are soon-to-be parent meese, and it’s cute because they share names with the Finnish president and his wife and they are expecting a human baby, too! Annikki is just a grandma moose. She kept to herself. Most of these pictures are actually of Sauli. He was a social, friendly one! The reindeer was cute too, and our tour guide let us feed him moss (his favorite) and get the hay for him and his friends.
When the tour was over, we waited inside for our taxi to come pick us up and it was really interesting to talk to the farm owners. They are a family farm and have grown up in Finland and Sweden up in the arctic circle, where the ocean is to the north, literally in view of their window. They told us about growing up with moose and on farms and about Nordic winters. It was really fun to listen to their stories.
On our way out, they invited us to visit their restaurant, Hilpeä Hirvi (Hilarious Moose), in Jämsä’s city center to try some moose food. So, of course, we did. All six of us got moose burgers and they were yuuuuuummy!
After lunch, we had a few hours to kill before our bus ride home, so we played in the snow and walked around the river until it was time to head out. Over all, it was a magical, adventurous day out in Jämsä.
When I got home, after a brief 40 minute power nap on the bus (to which my friends were appalled – I had passed out about 5 minutes after the bus started rolling lol – anyone who knows me, knows that instant naps are my superpower. Now these people know me. ha!), I had my next adventure waiting for me. The UMC campus minister from ESU (he runs this blog if you’re interested) connected an old Finnish exchange student with me when he realized we were both in the same country and she managed to find herself in my city this weekend. So after a long week for both of us, we met for coffee as her adventure in Jyväskylä came to a close.
Talking with local Finns is always really interesting. But this particular woman is only local to the country, not to this city. So our bonding was more about Emporia and literature. We met at 5:30pm and spent the next hour and a half trading stories, musing about US to Standard conversions, and discussing literature because aaahhhh books! Too soon it was time for her to hitch a ride on the rain.
I love meeting people who are so easy to talk to. Sometimes, when you are connected through mutual friends, when it comes time to getting to know the person for real, it doesn’t meet your expectations. But, man, sometimes it can turn into a real friendship. These are the kind of interactions I hoped for when I decided to travel the world. I wanted to meet real Finnish people and build real relationships. I wanted to discover complexity and relatability in people who on the surface seemed so impossibly distant from myself. Again and again, I hear the quote from orientation: “where you are from should be the least interesting thing about you.” Amen.
“Happiness is the place between too little and too much.” – Finnish Proverb