Tuesday (is it really Tuesday already?), May 21, 2013, 1:44 pm local time (7:44 am EST)
Hello everyone. I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to get back in touch with you and write another "epistle" as mom called it. The last note I wrote was just under 3,000 words, but it still probably was longer than several of the Epistles.
I last wrote Sabbath evening while we were still at Toivoninnan Yhteiskoulu (which, according to my itinerary, is the right way to spell it). On Sunday morning we were given the chance to sleep in, and have nowhere to be until brunch at 10. It was so wonderful! I woke up early enough that I could actually get a (partially) warm shower. Quite lovely.
We loaded the bus and drove about an hour from Toivonlinnan to Turku and were given a guided tour of the city. Turku is the oldest city in Finland, and was originally the capital, until the Great Fire of 1827, which was blamed on a maid. The city has burned 31 times since its founding in 1229, so when it burned in 1827 they picked the government up and moved it to Helsinki. Today, Turku is Finland's fifth largest city with a population of 175,000 people. That number is still less than half of the population of Metro Atlanta. Of those 175,000, some 40,000 are students in the several universities.
We got to see many very interesting things, including a castle and church, both begun in the year 1280!!!!! It dawned on me as I was briefly walking into the castle that 1) it was the oldest building I had ever been in, and 2) it was older than America is now when the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. That just completely blew my mind!
I use the term castle correctly. It was NOT a palace by any means, though it was quite tall and very beautiful. This place was a fortress, though, and not just some beautiful house. It was built to withstand the most common form of battle during the middle ages, which was the siege. The longest siege they ever survived was nine months long.
During the middle ages, people did not drink water because it was not sanitary. Instead, they drank beer with a very low alcohol content. It's probably a good thing they avoided the water, because once someone threw a dead cow into the well an everyone who had any water became very sick (duh!)
Duke Johann lived in this castle during the 1500s, and his (?) Polish wife, Countess Catherine Gekelo introduced the fork to Finland in the 1550s. We are very used to forks now, so there are very few fork related accidents anymore, but when the fork was first introduced to Finland, people would poke themselves in the mouth, and some even died as a result of an infection. That kind of death is almost as bad as Lully's conducting accident death.
From the castle we proceeded to the Turku Cathedral, which was begun in 1280 and finished in 1300. The tower of the church is 101 meters tall, and the aisle is 90 meters long. It can hold about 1,000 people. The actual "business" part of the church is comparable to Collegedale, but there are several extra spaces that make it both longer and wider. Some of the extra space that the church uses is taken up by the 4,500 people who are buried in there.
It is very convenient to be a Lutheran in Finland, though many are officially leaving the church because of it. Instead of paying tithe of 10%, the government takes out a 1% church tax. Because of money being tight, though, many people officially leave the church, even if they still attend. The government also assigns which church you are a member of, even if you choose to worship at a different church.
We got to sing four pieces in the Turku cathedral, though we fought with the organist to be able to. The organist was practicing (too early), and so when we got there for our appointment he was playing. We let him know, and he stopped, for exactly one song. Once we got him to quit playing, we sang our other three in very quick succession.
We sang the three Russian pieces that we've spent a lot of time on this semester, but we also sang a song that is very near and dear to my heart: Beautiful Savior, arranged by F. M. Christiansen. The song begins with a verse that is completely hummed, then it opens to a small group of girls singing
"Fair are the meadows,
Fairer the woodlands,
Robed in flow'rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing."
The song doesn't end there, though. The whole choir opens up and we blend our voices in singing
Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, Praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine."
Looking around the choir, seeing the faces of those singing about their Beautiful Savior was one of the most heart-thrilling moments I have experienced.
After singing in the Cathedral we were given some time to ourselves to eat and then do a little sightseeing if we had time. As Kaiti, Mindy, Joel and I were walking, we saw the familiar red, white and green bunting that symbolizes Italian food world wide. We went in and Kaiti and I split a Marghareta [cheese] pizza. The pizza was about the size of a Papa John's large, but it had thin crust! It was amazing, but I was still hungry!
We spent the rest of the day going to a different little town to sight see, though honestly it was nothing that really interested me, except that I had the best chocolate/vanilla twist I've ever had!
That evening, after exploring, we all loaded on the bus and were taken back to Turku for the departure of our ferry the Viking Grace. It was basically a mini-cruise ship. Originally we thought that there were four to a room, but luckily there were only two. The room could comfortably sleep four people, but it was only the size of a bathroom.
The ship was very expensive. We went to one restaurant (called Frank's), and they wanted 12-16E for a lot of food that I didn't recognize. Mindy and I gave up, so we walked downstairs to the Sweet and Salty, which was somewhat like Golden Corral, but you paid by weight. Not having a clue what 100 grammes felt like, I didn't fill up and I paid 9E for the privilege of doing so.
Mindy and I walked out on deck for a few minutes, and then we went in and I walked her to her room. After that, I just went to bed.
The next morning we had to be up at 6:30 Finnish time for breakfast. We had access to an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, but I didn't fill too far up. I was back in the room by about 7, and within a few minutes a knock came on my door and when I invited them to come in, a small Swedish maid came in and stripped three beds in under 2 minutes.
We debarked by about 6:30 (the time had changed to one hour earlier) in Stockholm, Sweden, and waited for our same bus from Finland (which is actually Estonian) to be unloaded so we could get on and be about our day.
While we were waiting for the bus to unload, I found out that Devin (a fellow baritone), had slipped whilst out on deck and had probably broken his foot. While we were waiting, we had a prayer session led by Jerdie.
Once we got on the bus, we drove to Stockholm's old town and parked at the side of the palace. We waited a few minutes, and then our beloved director began to look for restrooms. Remember, this was still quite early in the day, and none of us had had a change to change any money, and there are very few free toilets in Europe. The men's restroom was open, but the women's required 10 krone (crow-nuh; henceforth referred to as :- (no smiley intend). She even considered using the men's but it was "high and lifted up."
Eventually Caspar, our friendly guide (this is how he introduced himself) came, and took us all for emergency pee break at Stockholm's city hall. From there we toured into a fairly busy shopping district of Stockholm in order to drop Devin (along with Chaplain) off at a clinic.
The city of Stockholm (the Venice of the North), was founded in 1252. It was given the name Stockholm (which means Island of Logs) after it unified the areas immediately around it and started plugging up the river with logs to control who came in by boat and where they went. Stockholm is 1/3rd green, 1/3rd water and only 1/3 buildings. The country of Sweden has 9.5 million people spread out over the same amount of land that makes up California.
While we were riding the subject of Kristina (the Girl King) came up. She was the daughter of Gustavas II Adolfus of Sweden, and she was born covered up with some sort of membrane so it was impossible to figure out of she was male or female. She was the subject of one of the Royal Diaries books that I own. She was raised a Lutheran by her father (who is mentioned somewhere by EGW as a champion of the faith or something like that), but eventually abdicated the throne and moved to Italy and became Catholic.
During the driving tour we passed several different concert houses, including the Berwaldhalen (the home of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus) and the Konzerthuset, where the Nobel Prize is given each year.
The biggest sport in Sweden is soccer, but even more people sing in choirs than play soccer. Caspar sang a folk song for us in a lovely baritone voice, but he makes some of his money as a male alto in a professional choir!
After the bus tour, we went in to a museum and learned all about the ship Vasa (the Sheaf of Grain) that was built over two years of Gustavas II Adolfus' reign and that sunk within 20 minutes of being launched. It's a really sad, but sightly amusing story.
After touring around we saw the changing of the guard at the Palace and then went out to eat to a mall (ish) with a food court with a Mexican restaurant! It was so amazing! One of the girls had her purse stolen in the food court, and several of us ended up as restroom attendants waiting for the suspicious person in the stall to come out. Dr. Kibble was prowling and waiting, and Alex and I (two of the more imposing people unless you know us) stood by a gate that let you in and out of the bathroom area.
I stepped away for a minute because I was going to call her phone ("This is Robert Raney from the US Consulate. We have already traced your location. Come out with your hands up..."), and the thief left, followed by Alex and Chaplain. Chaplain stopped the man, and Alex continued walking into a two-step tackle range and got ready... The man let Chaplain look into his bag, but they didn't find it.
After that adventure we were taken back to the shops near the palace and several of us walked in a group and bought souvenirs and chocolate. Jean bought an ice cream, but only wanted about two licks. I helped her finish it, even if it was coffee flavored.
I bought a present for Lou there, and several of us pitched in for a gift for Mrs. Burrus. After that, we loaded on the bus and continued on our merry way to Rimbo and our home at Ekebyholm. We got there at about 6:30, and ate. Then were assigned rooms and roommates. Mine was Steven Blondo! When I heard, my heart stopped beating for a second... I was tired and wanted to go to bed! Luckily, the following is true: Where three or more are gathered, there will Blondo be loud. He is actually quite a good roommate.
This morning we woke up and were given a tour of the grounds of Ekebyholm, our school in Sweden. It was built as the Prime Minister's palace in 1623. The PM was under Gustavas II Adolfus, who has popped up several times already in the history of Sweden. Gustavas would visit his mistress here at Ekebyholm, and would stay in a room on the uppermost floor. I have pictures.
As best as I can tell, this is the oldest set of buildings in Seventh-day Adventism. They were build in the 1620s, though we didn't buy them for something like three hundred years. This is the oldest place I've slept, and one of the 4-5 oldest places I've ever been!
We sing tonight at Ekebyholm (basically redoing the I Cantori spring concert). Right now I'm going to sign off and go take some pictures!
Please comment or send me emails something! I want to know who is reading my Epistles, and I want to know what's going on with you all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.