Tag Archives: architecture

Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 2

The introduction to this post can be found in the previous post, Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 1, where I explained that I used to work in Ukraine from 2005 to 2006 and that I visited the eastern part of Ukraine many times for work.

Eastern Ukraine is a region of incredible mineral resources and it is no wonder that it was once the heart of the Soviet Union’s industrial production. I could visit factories that employ more than 10,000 people, meaning an entire town. The physical scales were huge, but so were some personal egos, too. I got a feeling that the region was home to some extremely powerful men, who made or broke the lives of the rest. In describing the region’s relation to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, unity and co-operation were not the words I would choose.

This is the very same region that has been making headlines for too long now, the very same region that has been transformed into the latest battlefield of Europe.

Join me again to discover this region by photos I took during my visits:

Orthodox church in Donetsk.

Orthodox church in Donetsk.

"Metallurgical cinema": Soviet-time movie theater in Donetsk.

“Metallurgical cinema”: Soviet-time movie theater in Donetsk.

Donetsk, the city of metallurgical companies and mines.

Donetsk, the city of metallurgical companies and mines. Now a self-claimed People’s Republic…

I wonder what these women think of today's situation?

I wonder what these women think of today’s situation?

The main square of Donetsk has a big Lenin statue. What would he think of the current developments?

Lenin, standing on the main square of Donetsk just a few steps away from my hotel, became my object of observation.

Every other night I would go for a walk from my hotel and see demonstrations. Always supported by Lenin.

Every other night I would go for a walk from my hotel and see political demonstrations. Always supported by Lenin.

When this young man wore a shirt saying "For Ukraine without Yushchenko", little did he know that things would get much more serious....

When this young man wore a shirt saying “For Ukraine without Yushchenko”, little did he know that things would get much more serious than just getting rid of the President….

Any thoughts these photos brought to you?

Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 1

As you know, my blog is not about politics. However, these ongoing events in eastern Ukraine have stopped me many times, bringing some vivid memories from the times I visited that region for work. The region is very different from the rest of Ukraine: very industrial and very Soviet. Some say Russian. Polluted and grey. My visits took place after the Orange revolution and before the global economic meltdown, during the period of optimism. I met some wonderful and fascinating people, drank a fair share of vodka in meetings, and appreciated the chance to get to know the region. But I always felt that there was something very “wild east” over there.

Today I went through some old photos and I decided to publish some of them.

I suggest you take this blog post as a photo reportage and as an opportunity to look into the life of a region that has become a battlefield between the East and the West, and who knows what else. As an opportunity to time travel and revisit the period when Lenin was well alive and celebrated. As an opportunity to put a picture to the news you read every day.

Statues like this are not rare in eastern Ukraine.

Statues like this are not rare in eastern Ukraine.

During the winter months the region is cold and grey. This was once the heart of the Soviet Union's industrial production.

During the winter months the region is cold and grey. Once upon a time it was the heart of the Soviet Union’s industrial production.

Enormous factories often employed entire towns.  Something that still happens in China I guess?

Enormous factories often employed entire towns. Something that still happens in China I guess?

A ghost factory somewhere between Donetsk and Luhansk.

A ghost factory somewhere between Donetsk and Luhansk.

Can happiness exist when there is so little color?

Can happiness exist when there is so little color?

Soviet wall frescoes remind us of an other era.

Soviet wall frescoes remind us of an other era.

Any thoughts you would like to share?

 

The Old Market Hall in Helsinki

From The Market Square by the sea in Helsinki my little good bye tour of Helsinki continued to another wonderful market, the Old Market Hall. This beautiful building, open to public in 1889, is one of three covered market halls in Helsinki and another must place to see when visiting the Finnish capital.

The Old Market Hall opened its doors in 1889. This is when Finland was an autonomous state of Russia named the Grand Duchy of Finland.

The Old Market Hall opened its doors in 1889. This is when Finland was an autonomous state of Russia, the Grand Duchy of Finland.

The Old Market Hall has some of the best choices of food in Helsinki, from oysters to snails.

The choice of food is outstanding and includes fresh oysters, snails, crayfish and best cuts of meat, among many others.

I had already had strawberries and coffee outside by the sea, and it was now time for salmon and more coffee. A typical Finnish breakfast (just kidding!).

My mission was to overdose on Finnish delicacies before catching my flight a few hours later and I had decided there was no better way to do this than buy slices of marinated salmon and eat them with fingers!

Salmon with different flavors at Fish Shop Marja Nätti. My paradise!!

Salmon with different flavors and ways of preparation at Fish Shop Marja Nätti. My paradise!!

When in Finland, make sure that you taste other fish like white fish, too. The variety of fresh water fish keeps impressing me, so don't stick to only salmon.

When in Finland, make sure that you taste other fish like white fish, too. The variety of freshwater fish keeps impressing me, so please do not stick to only salmon!

I purchased a few slices of marinated salmon from Fish Shop Marja Nätti that I got to know during my food tour in May (Helsinki by Food), and entered a fish heaven. I have no problem eating salmon for breakfast, as long as it tastes good, and the rosé pepper flavored salmon was just from heaven. Not only it tasted divine, but I was also boosting my Omega 3 levels… Perfect! Ready to leave Finland soon!

The Old Market Hall: http://vanhakauppahalli.fi/en/

The Market Square by the sea in Helsinki

It was my last day in Helsinki. Well, to be precise, I only had a few hours remaining. My husband had left on an earlier flight and mine was in the afternoon. I hopped on the tramway, got off at the railway station, and begun my own little good bye tour of Helsinki. The sun was shining, it was 27C and the more I approached the place where I would have coffee, the more I could hear the seagulls.

The Market Square is a lovely place by the sea in the center of Helsinki. The farmers sell their fruits and vegetables next to vendors specialized in souvenirs such as reindeer skin. The square is always full of locals as well as tourists, many who stop by for a cup of coffee or salmon soup.

The Market Square is located on prime location by the sea, next to the Town Hall of Helsinki and the Presidential Palace.

The Market Square is located on prime location by the sea, next to the Town Hall of Helsinki and the Presidential Palace.

You should visit the Market Square in the morning to find the best products.

Like everywhere in the world, visit the Market Square in the morning to find the best products.

I ordered take-away coffee and begun walking around. The breeze was lovely. People were happy and I felt excited as a first-time tourist in Helsinki. There was an abundance of berries, potatoes, smoked fish and girolles. I bought strawberries for breakfast. Talking about natural sugar!

Finns are crazy about strawberries in summer and I was not an exception.

Finns are crazy about strawberries and I was not an exception.

While I was enjoying these local delicacies something struck me. I sort of went crazy and purchased blueberries, strawberries, salmon and girolles to take back to Paris…. as if Paris didn’t have them –of course it does! However, my moment of craziness was moderate, I think, because I did not buy potatoes and onions….  and not even dill!

Even if this dill looked amazingly tasty (nothing like one finds in Paris), I didn't buy it. And guess what? I regret I didn't!

No, I did not bring potatoes to Paris… even if they looked delicious and so clean!

Pleased with my purchases, I started walking toward the Old Market Hall (The Old Market Hall in Helsinki). I don’t know if they have always been there, but for the first time I noticed some boats in the harbor, between the Market Square and the Old Market Hall. The boats were very cute: small and inhabited by individual farmers selling few selected food products (fish and potatoes, of course). I almost wished that I could sail to one of the many islands of the Finnish archipelago with them.

These small boats had sailed from the archipelago to sell vegetables and fish in Helsinki. Cute!

These small boats had sailed from the archipelago to sell vegetables and fish in Helsinki. How romantic!

The Market Square is a lovely place to hang out, to buy food, to drink coffee or eat salmon soup and other Finnish delicacies, so make sure you make it your stop when visiting Helsinki!

PS This is where most of the archipelago cruises depart. The Suomenlinna ferry that I took in winter (The Best Part of Public Transport in Helsinki) can also be found in the proximity. If you hold a valid public transport ticket, do not miss this great opportunity!

A chapel of design

This summer I discovered something in Helsinki that I found absolutely fantastic and incredible: a very simplistic, curved-shaped chapel made of wood in the heart of the Finnish capital. Let me present you, the Kamppi Chapel of Silence! One of the world’s most stylish chapels:

Would you have guessed that this is a chapel?

Would you have guessed that this is a chapel?

The Chapel was completed in 2012, the year when Helsinki was World Design Capital 2012. This urban and spiritual project was designed by K2S Architects Ltd, who describe the project like this “This small wooden chapel introduces a place for silence and peace in the lively commercial centre of Helsinki. The chapel space is located in a sculptural wooden volume. The interior is warm and enclosed from the surrounding urban life. Indirect toplight enlightens the wooden chapel interior.”

My first impression was very powerful. I loved the outside design. Even if the Chapel somehow looks like nothing and could-be-anything at the same time, it is very elegant. It is one of a kind. I loved how the sun rays touched the wood (wood that was glazed with wax by using nanotechnology, says the brochure of the Chapel).

The wood used in the chapel has been glazed with wax. Nanotechnology was used in this method, but do not ask me in what way.

The wood used in the chapel has been glazed with wax. Nanotechnology was used in this method, but do not ask me in what way.

I was sort of nervous to walk in. Would the inside match the beauty of the outside?

Judging by these photos, I am sure you will agree with me that it did. It was at the same time imposing and down to earth. Quiet and present. Difficult to describe.

If you haven't found the type of church you feel comfortable in, try the Kamppi chapel in Helsinki, Finland.

If you haven’t yet found the type of church you feel comfortable in, try the Kamppi Chapel in Helsinki, Finland.

During the time of my visit there were numerous tourists from France, Russia and Japan, but I could also witness young children popping in, alone, on their way from the sports to home. In some ways I felt happy that a religious place managed to attract the younger generation. Even if they didn’t come in for spiritual reasons (but what do I know, maybe they did!), they came in, stayed quiet, looked around, observed, took photos and left. It seemed like they appreciated the place and the feeling in it, and to me this represents the most powerful “recognition of success” the architects could ever receive!

The Kamppi Chapel attracts many kinds of visitors: photographers, architects, tourists, but also curious locals.

The Kamppi Chapel attracts many kinds of visitors: photographers, architects, tourists, but also curious locals.

Even if you may have very little time in Helsinki, make sure you visit this chapel only 5 minutes away from the railway station by walking. It is open from Monday to Friday 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. and from Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To be found on Facebook here: Kampin kappeli.

For more information:

K2S Architects: http://www.k2s.fi/
ArchDaily article: and http://www.archdaily.com/252040/kamppi-chapel-k2s-architects/
..and lastly, a photograph of the Q&A I took in the Chapel:

This Q&A may answer your additional questions!

This Q&A may answer your additional questions!

A Virtual Blog Tour

A Virtual Blog Tour is a project that asks each participant to compose a one-time post to be published on a specific Monday. Its purpose is to introduce different bloggers through a series of questions about the creative process and what inspires us to do what we do. The same set of questions will introduce a blogger to another blogger’s readers, as well as the wider blogging community.

***

Last Monday Vasilis from Traveller’s Tree sent me an invitation to join a Virtual Blog Tour and here I am, one week later, participating (see my answers in the end of this post) and about to introduce the next participant, Sarah from

However, before moving to South Korea where Sarah lives, a few words about Vasilis. Vasilis introduces himself as “Dad bitten by the wanderlust bug. Exploring the planet with his family”. He is a Greek man born in Athens who after studying paleontology in Japan made it to the other side of the world, Finland. I don’t know much about Vasilis, but what I know is that he takes cool photos and that he has interesting comments and analysis about Finland, my country of origin. He moved to Finland around the same time when I permanently left Finland, and I admit being intrigued by his life in Finland. Or rather by his observations should I say! Life of an expat is always interesting to another expat… So, thank you Vasilis for inviting me to a Virtual Blog Tour, keep Traveller’s Tree growing and be happy in Finland!

Finnish lake somewhere in the Mäntyharju district (Photo copied from An ode to a Finnish lake at Traveller’s Tree)

***

Now, let’s move to the other side of the world, South Korea, where Sarah has been writing her blog since March 2011. When I first saw this photo of her I said to myself “she looks like a kind, happy person”. And I started following her. IMG_3641-001

Similarly to Vasilis, my relationship with Sarah is purely virtual. I know very little of her, but I like reading her posts because she is another expat living abroad. She writes about food, restaurants, travels, weekend visits, her husband and friends. These photos below are from her 4th of July diving trip to the East Coast of South Korea. Beautiful shots, aren’t they!

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Ever since I tasted my first bibimbap in Paris I have been fascinated about South Korea, so through  I get my weekly dose of a country I have not yet visited. I appreciate the fact that Sarah is a regular writer and that her posts are quite lengthy. I don’t mean to say that blog posts should always be long (mine certainly aren’t!) but I admire the fact that Sarah finds time and energy to create long posts and at a regular basis. We all know that writing is not always simple and it certainly doesn’t come without effort. Even if I may have some idea about her motivation, I am curious to know more about her and I am looking forward to Sarah’s answers to the questions below (where you also find my answers)! Welcome Sarah!

***

1. What am I working on?

I am working on moving my mind from Finland to France. My body was transported to Paris last Saturday night but my mind is elsewhere and resisting. Our holiday in Finland was really very lovely and the summer house is one of those places where one can get lost forever; get lost in the rhythm of sauna, swimming, wood cutting and cooking (what else would one need in life?). Unfortunately I had to return to Paris but I would have liked to stay longer (tears).

In terms of my blog work, I will write more posts about the summer house and Helsinki because Helsinki is a fantastic capital to visit, ansd because our summer house is a paradise on earth (quoting a young French boy who visited it some years ago)! Some posts from last year can be found here: The Midsummer Weekend in Finland and more is to come!

Midsummer, Finland

I also want to finish my series about my first trip to India, Rajasthan, and write more about my fourth trip that took place in April this year (especially about Fabulous Ayurvedic Treatments).

I  love India and I hate when people observe this huge, diversified country purely through violence and you-know-what. I want to show that nothing in India is so black and white as it seems, and that beyond the surface that we think is brutal, dirty and primitive one can find extraordinary beauty, wisdom and sophistication.

I am also working on other personal projects but let’s limit this answer to the blog world.

2. How does my work differ from others in it’s genre?

Pearlspotting is a travel and lifestyle blog. I have traveled in more than 70 countries (and worked in many of them) and my writing is based on the accumulative experience of visiting the world and everything it contains. Happiness, joy, sadness, astonishment, beauty, cruelty, injustice, etc.

For living I write about economic development of emerging markets, and I believe this professional experience provides me with a good foundation to understand other sectors such as for example tourism.

In my blog, I do not really list typical places to visit –there are enough of those guide books. I try to guide people toward experiences and feelings; towards some kind of a fusion where travel becomes lifestyle and lifestyle becomes travel, and where travel doesn’t always need to be geographical…

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

In the beginning Pearlspotting was about a desire to create (a basic human need!) by writing and taking photos. Very soon I realized that having a blog makes me very happy. Writing about food, wine, restaurants, travel, design, architecture, religion etc. in a positive light sort of became a self therapy, and as my husband now jokes, Pearlspotting has made me fall in love with Paris again!

wedding in Paris by the Seine

So, to put it simply, living abroad is not always easy but writing a blog has made it nearly wonderful (lol).

Secondly, I also write because I want to memorize experiences I have had around the world. Sometimes it is a way of showing respect and gratitude toward people I have met during my travels. For example, The man who lived is a sad story about someone I met in Sudan and who passed away. On the happier end, I wrote a post about lovely Cretan bakery owners I met last summer. They were so kind and their products were so delicious that they had to be immortalized in Sfakian delights.

4. How does your writing creative process work?

First of all, I write about positive things. If I eat at a bad restaurant, I do not write about it. It is rare that you find negativity in my blog. You may find sadness and longing, but not a lot of criticism. Why? Because life is hard enough as it is and I want to focus on positive aspects! In the beginning this positivity aspect was not so conscious but I do now keep it in the back of my mind every time I write a new post.

I know that I should probably schedule my posts to be published at 9 in the morning but I am a night person… I often write in the evening and I often publish at night (like tonight).

I always read over what I have written, but I rarely wait until the next day. Some posts take longer than others, like for example the aforementioned story about my friend in Sudan, and Understanding Finland by Art and Helsinki by Food.

Sometimes I just take a look at the view from our balcony, see a beautiful sunset, take a photo and publish a post with a short text (for example That Parisian view). It depends!

Parisian balcony in spring

I try to write as much as I can, sometimes every day and always at least once a week.

***

Well, my answers became longer than planned but I hope you liked reading about my thoughts. It is now time to send this post out so that Sarah from can start preparing her post! Good night for now.

PS Do not forget to follow Pearlspotting on Facebook and Instagram!

Adventurous Arrival in Varanasi

If you read  you may remember that our departure from Delhi was a bit adventurous, to say the least. Instead of Khajuraho we decided to fly to Varanasi and this was decided two hours before the flight’s take off. We do regret skipping Khajuraho, the site of famous erotic temples, but will certainly do it next time.

Flying toward Varanasi, the holy Hindu city along the Ganger River made me a bit nervous. I tried to get a glimpse of the sacred river from the airplane, but it got dark too soon. Seeing the Ganges River would have in some strange way assured me (of what?).SpiceJet from Delhi to VaranasiUpon landing we got talking to a young Indian man, living in the US, who had brought his grandmother to Varanasi. He started making phone calls to different hotels (we all agreed that the point of staying in Varanasi is to be located by the river). We got two rooms at Scindia Guest House, recommended by Eyewitness India Guidebook, and jumped into a taxi. Varanasi, here we come!

The ride to the guest house was long and polluted. It reminded me of Hyderabad –a fantastic city in many ways but oh so bad in pollution! We must have driven for more than an hour and the Ganges was still hiding from me. Suddenly the car stopped and the driver pointed “walk that way”. We were puzzled and asked which way exactly…. After some negotiation he agreed to show us the way, and we begun a 30-minute walk.Cows in VaranasiI don’t know how you say cow shit in a polite way, so excuse my language, but as we were walking and pulling our luggage, I did wonder if local laundry service would accept to clean our by-now-very-colorful-luggage. Don’t we all just love cows? But what would India be without them?

Eventually, after turning about 500 times left and right (we would have NEVER found the guest house alone) we arrived. Scindia Guest House stood there, right in front of the Ganges River, as Eyewitness had promised. It looked very run down, but we had no choice. It was very dark and very late. My husband and I got a river-side room and ordered two rice plates. Scindia Guest HouseWe were told to be careful when opening the balcony door because apparently “the monkeys like to come inside if you leave the door open”. Wow. Imagine waking up next to a monkey! Or two! I was still feeling a bit sick but the idea of monkeys excited me. Little I knew that upon our arrival the monkeys had already been watching me from all over.

After a well-rested night I visited the balcony but the monkeys were nowhere. All I could see was the majestic Ganges River. Varanasi, the Ganges RiverMeanwhile my husband went to the reception. This is when I started hearing screaming noises. Is someone being killed was my first thought. I opened the front door and I saw them: monkeys and more monkeys! There was a metal fence between me and them, which was good because they were big and did not look happy. Some of them were in the middle of their beauty treatments.Monkeys in VaranasiI joined my husband at the reception and had a chat with one of the hotel workers. I thought that his features were very different from other “Indian” features that I had seen before. Mentality wise he felt different, too, and somehow I felt closer to Calcutta. I was definitely visiting a new region, witnessing once again the diversity of India. Man in VaranasiThe moment I tried to go outside of the hotel, this elderly gentleman warned me “please be very careful of the monkeys”. Scared but curious I took a careful look outside and everywhere I looked (left, right, straight, down, above) there were monkeys. Not only entire monkeys but also monkey arms and legs hanging above the door etc.

For several reasons (monkeys, lack of a proper restaurant and customers, run-down building, etc.) we decided to move to another hotel. After negotiating a water taxi we said good bye to Scindia Guest House and moved to Alka Hotel, also located by the river. Later on we were told that Scindia Guest House had illegally built more rooms (and a terrace for the restaurant), and that the local authorities had torn a large part of the construction down. This explained the sad look. Scindia Guest HouseAfter a rough start we learned to love Varanasi. We spent a total of five nights there, exploring Hinduism and Buddhism. We loved the old town –one of the most charming old towns I have ever seen, and felt that Varanasi is indeed inhabited by many old souls.

In fact, Varanasi left such an impression on me that I will definitely write more about it. When the time is right.

Other posts about Varanasi:

Second part of the trip begins in Varanasi