Map of Italy pointing out Rome

Take A Wider Look At Rome!

On my previous post on Rome, I declared my love for the city and its history as a world leading nation. Today, I’d like to further spread the love by offering a wider look at Rome’s popular sights. These are all iPhone6 panoramas, but in the future you might be seeing DSLR versions – not of Rome but of other places.

Let’s start off with my favourite, Forum Romanum (and the Palatine Hill)…

Forum Romanum

Forum Romanum

Forum Romanum

Forum Romanum

… and the nearby ColosseumColosseum
Continuing the same colour theme, here’s Castel Sant’AngeloCastel Sant'Angelo
And what about Pantheon, how does it look from the inside?
Pantheon

Pantheon

Pantheon
Let’s conclude with something a bit more modern, Fontana di Trevi (1762) – one of the cooler fountains I’ve ever seen. Such minimalism!

Fontana di Trevi

Panorama is such a wonderful way of showing more and it’s great that smartphone cameras have made taking them so easy that anyone can do it. I’m definitely a fan and try to remember to take more panoramas in the future, both with my phone and my other cameras. How about you, do you like panoramas? 

Stamps of my postcrossing cards

Postcrossing Brings The World To YOU

I’m quite sure most of us don’t get to travel as much as we’d like. We might be unable to visit our dream destinations and some of us might be in situations where travelling is simply impossible. While the infinite world of Internet can help treat (or indeed, worsen) travel fever, I’ve found there’s a better method for it. It is more concrete and helps tackle another “problem”, the lack of traditional mail. I mean, real paper mail that the postman – or woman – delivers to you. Even many of our bills are in electric form nowadays, so there’s not really much to look forward to after a work / school day.

I miss real mail and even emails (nowadays it’s only advertising and notifications from different sites) – I get so much more satisfaction from receiving “real” mail than a message on Messenger or WhatsApp. I believe many people are like me in this sense but at the same time we’re part of the problem. I mean, do I ever send mail? Not really. Maybe an occasional Christmas card or a Valentine’s but that’s it. No wonder I’m not receiving anything!

My Postcrossing Stats

The red lines are my sent cards and blue ones are the ones I’ve received via Postcrossing.

Actually, I was lying there, but just a little bit. You see, things have changed recently and now I get postcards from all over the world! This is because I came across something wonderful: Postcrossing. Simply put, the idea of postcrossing is to send postcards to strangers around the world and for every card sent, you will receive one.

The system is very simple: after registering to the site, you can request an address from the system. You will then be assigned a member to whom you’ll write your card. You’ll get to see that person’s profile and see if they have any wishes regarding to the cards they’d like to receive. Of course you can send whatever you like but I personally try to take people’s wishes into considerations. For example, many members ,including myself, love country / city cards or would like you to write a word or two in your own language. Anyway, with the address, you will also get a code that you must write on the card, so that the receiver can register your card to the system once it arrives. When your card is registered, your address in turn will be given to someone. This way, people can’t cheat by requesting many addresses but not actually sending anything – because if you do that, you won’t receive anything yourself.

postcrossing4

Cards I’ve received from Latvia, Germany and Russia.

Postcrossing cards

My very first card from Japan with my fourth from Canada.

I started postcrossing on January 22nd and I’ve already received 5 cards. My very first came all the way from Japan! For me, pne of the coolest things about postcrossing is to get cards from countries I haven’t visited before: it’s like getting a piece of that country and city to your home. The other cards I’ve received have travelled from Germany, Latvia, Canada and the newest one came from Russia today. I myself have had the pleasure to write cards to the U.S., Russia, Taiwan (/the Republic of China), Germany (twice), Ukraine, Belgium, South Korea and the Czech Republic.

Finnish Stamps

The Finnish Valentine’s and iconic rock & metal band stamps.

There’s much to love about postcrossing. I happen to love stationery, so merely the fact I get to use pretty pens, shop for beautiful cards and find the coolest stamps is joyous to me. Receiving cards is of course fun but writing them is equally so! At best, postcrossing is cultural exchange, not just sending and receiving random cards. It brings the world to you and enables you to travel without leaving your home. For the enthusiastic postcrossers, the community offers a discussion board where you can take part in different kinds of card swaps and discuss everything related to snail mail and postcrossing. For example, there’s a thread for sending cards written in the receiver’s language – now that would certainly be fun and I’m sure to participate sooner or later!

Postcards and pens

Some cards that I will be sending around the world.

Postcrossing – who is it for?

I’m so bold as to claim it’s for everyone. However, we’re talking about international mail here, so patience is in order. It may take weeks for you cards to reach their recipients and vise versa. Cards can also get lost and in some countries, the postal systems are painfully slow, some examples being Russia and China. Interestingly enough, my card to Russia has been on it’s way for a month where as the one I got from St. Petersburg today has been postmarked on 10.02.2016, which means it arrived in a week.

A nifty thing about postcrossing is that you can quit it or take a break from it at any time. Just remember to inactivate your account, so your address won’t be dealt forward and if it already has been but you’re travelling, or otherwise unable to participate, then the sender knows why you’re not registering their card. So, the inactivation feature should be used during longer trips and/or other periods of I don’t want to write or receive cards right now.

Have you ever heard of postcrossing and what do you think about it? Or are you perhaps participating in it yourself? What got you into it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

PS. Happy postcrossing everyone!
PPS. This February is actually an international letter writing month, read more here.

Stockholm For Friends & Lovers

Alright folks, it’s Valentine’s Day, so I thought I’d share with you some things to do with your love or friends in Stockholm, the city my heart is currently most strongly tied to. Here in Finland, Valentine’s is called ystävänpäivä, literally Friend’s Day, and in Sweden it’s alla hjärtans dag meaning All Hearts’ Day – so we focus a lot on friends, too, which is why I didn’t want to come up with something super romantic only. But let’s see what I’ve come up with!

Love Your Body – Stretch Those Legs

Sunset

A view from Monteliusvägen.

Whether you’re in a mood for a morning, afternoon, evening or a night stroll, Stockholm is the city for you. It is safe by many standards and in many ways compact enough to allow for pleasurable walks. One of my personal favourites is the gentle climb to Monteliusvägen, where you have an unobscured view of Stockholm to the east, west and north. Sunset might be the best time to take a stroll up there but really, with a city like Stockholm, any time is fine. It’s going to be beautiful.

Sweets

Picking up some sweets for Valentine’s is always a good idea.

A walk around the city is also an opportunity buy some sweets that are a big part of Valentine’s Day for many people. There’s no shortage of candy stores in Stockholm, so you’re bound to find one. Try Söderhallarna indoor market in Södermalm or one of these places.

The Classic – Movies

I know, I know. It’s hard to get more unoriginal than heading to the cinema on Valentine’s Day but it doesn’t mean it would be a bad idea. In Stockholm you can make going to the movies an experience, whether you’re going with your significant other or a friend to two. There are many theatres to choose from, but for a special occasion I’d go for Rigoletto. Opened in May 17 1939 and refurbished in 2014, Rigoletto is arguably one of Stockholm’s finest cinemas. The seats are comfortable and for a special occasion like Valentine’s or a birthday, topping the movie experience with VIP tickets is worth doing. It costs an extra SEK50 per ticket, so about 5,30€, but this gives you an access to a VIP lounge where you can buy drinks (yes, that means alcohol) and chat before the movie. You can, of course, take your drinks also to the salon – the VIP seats are on a balcony where the seats are wider, there’s more leg space and you have more room for your snacks and drinks on the arm rests. To add a touch a personality to the movie showings, instead of showing a video about silencing your phone and all that, in Rigoletto a staff member comes to make this announcement. It’s a small thing yet a nice touch that separates this theatre from others.

Rigoletto's VIP entrance. © Paula D.

Rigoletto’s VIP entrance. © Paula D.

Rigoletto
Kungsgatan 16

An alternative for shopaholics and movieholics alike is the brand new cinema Filmstaden Scandinavia located in the Mall of Scandinavia, the biggest shopping centre in the Nordic countries. Their movie theatre is also the first – and currently only – to feature an IMAX salon around here. Filmstaden Scandinavia also boasts a restaurant and out of the 15 salons, 4 are titled VIP – they have less seats (37-51), more space, adjustable seat, designed to accommodate wheelchairs and you’re allowed to bring food from the theatre’s restaurant.

Filmstaden Scandinavia
Mall of Scandinavia,
Solna

The Way To Anyone’s Heart – Food

Unless you have stuffed yourself with popcorn and sweets while enjoying yourself at the cinema, a dinner could be in order – or maybe you’d rather have it before the movie. However you decide to go about it, there are plenty of top notch restaurants in Stockholm and there are countless lists and reviews of those floating around the internet. I’m not going to compete with them since my eating out experiences are rather limited but I’ll have my say on some options anyway.

Indira

Decoration in Indira. © Indira

Indira has been part of Stockholm’s food scene for 26 years. It’s a cosy little Indian restaurant that serves tasty food with reasonable prices. Every time I’ve eaten there, I’ve had to face to difficult struggle of whether to keep eating or give up, thanks to the generous portions. The naan bread here is divine and I’d definitely recommend ordering it.
And what’s best, Indira is located close to Rigoletto, so continuing your evening will be effortless.

Indira
Bondegatan 3B

Another Indian alternative is Indian Garden. I personally haven’t eaten in any of their restaurants yet but I’ve heard so much positive things about them that the situation is about to change soon. For your convenience, Indian Garden can be found in multiple locations, for example they have a restaurant in the Mall of Scandinavia, in Södermalm and so on.

Indian Garden – brasserie & bar
Multiple locations

 

Hydration – Alcohol, please!

I must admit I’m not the one out there partying every weekend but I wouldn’t say no to an invite, especially on a special occasion like Valentine’s. As it is with restaurants, Stockholm is packed with clubs, bars and pubs. Many of them are quality places and it can actually be fun to go barhopping – that’s what I’ve seen many people do and sometimes partaken in myself. For a more defined drink moment, head to Himlen. It’s a high-class restaurant and cocktail lounge & sky bar located at 25th & 26th floors of Skrapan (“the Scraper”) in Södermalm. The 360 degree view of Stockholm is pretty magical, so dress up and book your table to the restaurant or hop straight to the bar for a luxurious drinking experience.

Himlen
Götgatan 28

For more casual drinking, Wirströms pub is a Gamla stan favourite. It’s an Irish owned pub that’s been around for an incredible 200 years. With 26 tap beers, craft beers and whiskey, what’s there not to love?
The ground floor of Wirströms is dedicated to sports but downstairs in the cellar you can enjoy the special feeling of drinking under Stockholm. The best part is that the cellar can offer privacy because it’s comprised of several rooms and vaults.
Wirströms also offers pub food, free live music and quiz nights.

Wirströms pub
Stora Nygatan 13

Looking for a more rocking place? Then head for Anchor Pub, the rock & metal bar in Stockholm. Although some feel it’s too mainstream, it’s still the most popular rock bar in town and is favoured by tourists and locals alike. Like any good pub, Anchor offers food but also live music, karaoke and special nights like “Whole Lotta Led” (100% Led Zeppelin).

Restaurang & Pub Anchor
Sveavägen 90

 

Home is wherever I'm with you

Anyone else find this accurate?

That’s about it for today. I’m sorry for the lack of photos, I have apparently lost a folder containing material from Stockholm. I hope you enjoyed this post anyway, even with the nonexistent visual material and not so innovative suggestions for what to do. The thing is, I tend to enjoy these type of things and as they say, the devil is in the details!

2025 Years Of Rome

I have been fascinated by history as long as I can remember. In primary school, history was among my favourite subjects and I developed a keen interest in antiquity and medieval times. I still regret taking only the mandatory history courses in high school but fortunately there are plenty of other ways to go about digging and discovering the past without any dedicated courses. My favourite method, not very surprisingly, is to get face to face with history, as paradoxical as that may sound, and that’s exactly what I was doing in Rome last weekend.

Yours truly @ the Forum Romanum. © Noora

Oh Rome! I wonder if the magnificence of your history will ever fade out of memory’s reach? The history of the city and nation of Rome is so vast, complex and thoroughly astounding it’s hard for me to even begin to comprehend… and the fact that we can still today marvel at the handiwork created some 2000 yeas ago..!

Needless to say, I fell in love with Rome. I love how the influence of different eras of the city’s 2525 year history can be seen and felt all over the city. I love how beautifully the years of decay have painted the old monuments and buildings and I love that I can experience all this while enjoying the soul warming Italian foods. I love how full of art and culture the city is and the way the modern times have adapted to work around and with the city’s history. Simply put, I fell in love with the spirit and vibe of Rome. 

Rome is unique to me. While there, I was simultaneously travelling back in time and observing the present. I was able to distance myself from the chaotic Roman traffic and focus on the things that mattered to me. I only wish I had had more time – appreciating hundreds of years of history is simply impossible in three days.

To celebrate the city’s ancient history, I thought I’d share some of the historic buildings and monuments I had the pleasure of visiting. Expect no wonders, these are all very typical touristy sights in Rome – but in my opinion, well worth the visit.

 

Some remains of the ancient Rome

Pantheon (25/27BCE, 110-139AD)

Pantheon

This rather well preserved Roman temple was originally dedicated to pagan gods but was later turned into a Christian church by the Pope Boniface the IV in the year 608.

Temple of Saturn, Templum Saturni  (497BCE, 42BCE, …)

Temple of Saturn

Not much of this temple located in the Forum Romanum remains even though it’s been rebuilt several times. It’s one of the oldest sacred places in Rome and besides being used to worship Saturn, it has also housed the public treasury during the Roman Republic.

Colosseum, Amphitheatrum Flavium (72-80CE)

Colosseum

This iconic entertainment centre, as everyone likely knows, was used to host animal hunts, gladiator fights, public executions and the like, holding up to around 50,000 spectators. The building of Colosseum was part of a greater construction plan designed to restore Rome to it’s former (!) glory after the decline caused by civil wars. The project was started by the emperor Vespasian in 72CE.

Mausoleum of Hadrian / Castel Sant’Angelo (139CE)

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo, or the Castle of the Holy Angel, was built as a mausoleum for the reigning emperor, Hadrian. The building has   also been used as a prison and by popes and has a passageway that connects it to Vatican. Nowadays Sant’Angelo hosts a museum with various exhibits.

Ponte Sant’Angelo (134CE)Ponte Sant'Angelo bridge

The bridge of the Holy Angel was constructed by the order of Hadrian to connect his mausoleum with the city of Rome on the other side of the river Tiber.

Arch of Septimius Severus (203CE)

Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimius Severus was built to commemorate Rome’s successful campaigns over the Parthians at the end of the second century. It was a richly decorated piece of Roman vanity and although now badly damaged, it’s still a spectacular sight on the Forum Romanum.

Baths of Diocletian, Thermae Diocletiani / The basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (306CE, 1562)

Baths of Diocletian

The Romans are/were pretty famous for their baths. The Baths of Diocletian are arguably the most pretentious ever built in Rome spanning over 13 hectares and accommodating 3000 people at a time. Today, the remains of the baths house a church of S. Maria Degli Angeli e dei Martiri – a church dedicated to Christian martyrs, designed by Michelangelo – and Museo Nazionale Romano (National Roman Museum).

I feel like having a grasp at the history of the country, city and places you visit can greatly enhance the overall experience. I’m sure I’m not the only one who likes to have an understanding of what I’m looking at rather than just visiting sights for the sake of them being famous… for what? Exactly! I’m not saying one has to read a ton of history books – a little googling can set you off to a great start, especially if you’d rather explore historical places alone without a guide.