"This blog is not necessarily for lovers of art, it includes a variety of topics and whatever. I'm a painter who likes to know what's really going on in the world today. So you might find anything from Shamrocks to Salmiakki mentioned here on my blog. There will of course be some boring, factual and informational posts, but I'll keep them to a minimum, I promise!

And I might get a bit nostalgic now and then.

So you have been warned!"

- Alan Hogan

Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holidays. Show all posts

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mayweather in Finland!

I just wanted to throw a blogpost in quickly as it seems the winter in Finland may finally be over, well at least until after autumn. And no, this post has nothing to do with the recent boxing fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas, so apologies to any boxing fans who stumbled onto my blog here. I hope it was a good fight. I didn't see it myself unfortunately, I was fast asleep in bed!

Getting back to May-weather, last Thursday saw the arrival of Vappu, Finland's annual Mayday celebrations which actually begins on the 30th of April and can continue until May 1st or even longer for some folk depending on whether or not you have a strong head! It's traditionally a very Finnish affair with students past and present wearing their white graduation hats. I've been told that in the past students also had a blue hat which was worn during the winter months and then swapped for a white version on Vappu to celebrate the arrival of spring, summer and happy days. There are various styles of hats symbolising which area, academy or field you studied. For example if you qualified as an engineer you would normally have a long string and tassle attached to your hat. I think I prefer the normal white sailor type hat myself.

The traditional Finnish student hat

Of course as I studied in Ireland myself I don't have this white student hat. To my knowledge students in Ireland don't have student hats, maybe one or two junior schools wear them as part of a uniform but definately not used as graduation wear for Secondary School (High School). Nope, all we received was a certificate and a jolly good wave goodbye! Some third-level colleges and universities may have special graduation garments and hats similar to those found in the United States of America. These are usually rented though, so you would never see them worn annually on May day.

Anyway, with the absence of a white hat I decided to grab my old school tie instead and throw it on just for Vappu. Don't ask me why I still have my old tie, just a bit of nostalgia I suppose! I wasn't going to any Vappu parties so it didn't matter if it offended anyone or looked silly. With my striped-maroon St. David's school tie fitted on and a few drinks ready for some cocktail-experimentation I felt a bit like Harry Potter. My first trick was the exploding champagne bottle!!! Maybe I've just started a new trend for expats, wearing an old school tie on Vappu!

This years Vappu weather couldn't have been more confusing. I was planning a nice garden barbeque with friends for last Thursday, but then after a few pleasant sunny days this arrived on Wednesday morning and continued for most of the day. The final snow show!


With no option but to cancel my bbq plans I decided simply to enjoy a bottle of bubbly and some drinks indoors. This didn't stop those in the big cities from partying hard though  and to everyone's surprise the snow melted away like magic and sunshine brought joy to the land of Moomin and trolls. From what I heard there were actually a few new trolls crawling the streets of Helsinki on Thursday night! But overall throughout Finland people had a great day out. Lots of fun, balloons, good weather and of course champagne! Here's a video by a young mexican lady who went to the Vappu outdoor celebrations in the town of Lappeenranta in eastern Finland. She's explains what Vappu is all about in a more photogenic way than I could ever do!

You can read more about Vappu in Finland on my previous blogpost called 

Vappu! - May Day in Finland

Simply click on the image below!

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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter Eggs: Irish v Finnish eggs

As it's the Easter this weekend I just wanted to post a quick blog on Easter eggs.

As a kid growing up in Ireland the best thing about Easter was receiving chocolate Easter eggs. It's customary for Irish children to get an egg from their parents and they often get a few more from relatives also. With lots of nice and kind relatives I usually got around five or six eggs in total!

The eggs themselves vary in size from the smallest 12cm to the largest being around 20cm in height. It's possible to buy much larger eggs, but these are usually expensive and popular with husbands buying for their wives. Most eggs are made from either milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate. Inside your average Easter egg you can find a bag of chocolate sweets or candy
depending on which brand. 

Most eggs are packed in boxes and foil, some come in very large boxes! The lower-priced eggs (without a box) are usually made from a chocolate-candy, and not as tasty as the real chocolate eggs. Some popular eggs when I was younger were the 'Buttons', 'Flake' and 'Milk Tray' eggs all produced by Cadburys. The famous Milk Tray box of chocolates has been around for as long as I remember and is an old favourite in Ireland. .... James Bond has nothing on the Milk Tray man!

I may be wrong but the large-sized Easter eggs don't seem so common in European countries outside Ireland and the UK, although a few can be found in shops such as Lidl and Aldi. When some Finnish friends of mine were presented with eggs while visiting me when I lived back in Ireland they were quite surprised at how large the typical Irish Easter egg was.

In Finland the eggs you find in shops are usually small. The most common ones I've noticed are the Kinder Surprise egg with a small toy inside. There are many other egg brands of a similar size such as Minnie Mouse, Transformers and of course Angry Birds. I consider the Kinder egg to be like the Cadbury's Creme Egg, and not quite an Easter egg due to the fact that they're both available all year round, at least I think they are. 
For me the best Easter eggs in Finland are the Mignon eggs. These are something special, and nothing like anything you will ever find in Ireland.

The Mignon Egg

The Mignon Egg is produced by the Finnish food company Fazer, one of the largest companies in Finland. This egg is the second oldest Fazer product, dating back to 1896 and is considered to be the quintessential Finnish Easter egg. The most notable feature about the Mignon egg is it's resemblence to a normal everyday hen's egg. This is because it is indeed a perfectly natural egg which has be drained of it's contents, cleaned and then filled with a blend of delicious nougat and chocolate. The natural egg look is then enhanced by it's real egg-box packaging. The result is a piece of chocolate art and what I would call an adult's easter egg!!! In other words, it's sitting in my fridge now waiting to be devoured! 

Of course, for those who don't like chocolate here in Finland there is also another customary dish which can be found well-stocked on supermarket shelves this Easter. This is called Mämmi (pronounced Memmy in english). 

Mämmi is an acquired taste and will only appeal to some. For me it was a big NO!! NO!! the first time I tasted it. But as I am a fan of Guinness (a sort of liquified version of Mämmi) I may try tasting it again someday. The Finns consider Mämmi a dessert, but I would rather compare it to a potent energy power-breakfast. Here's a video of what sounds like a Scottish guy describing this Finnish Easter dish in detail !!!
 ... Warning! Viewers discretion advised!!!

Thank you for visiting my blog and Happy Easter from Finland!!!

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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan


Thursday, July 3, 2014

From Clare to here

I just found this impressive video online today which I have to share. It shows the western part of County Clare off Ireland's west coast, featuring the village of Kilrush, Loop Head, the Bridges of Ross and the amazing Cliffs of Moher.

This video is made by Alan Magner Photography and should be watched in HD quality. It's a fine example of good photography and a nice slice of Ireland's natural beauty. This is one big thing I really miss about not living in Ireland anymore. While Finland has it's own unique natural beauty, it does not have the same geographical aspects that Ireland has to offer. Living within the landscape of another country can often remind a person of the beauty of another land which they once took for granted for so long. It's great to get back to Ireland whenever possible, and even greater if one is lucky enough to visit places such as those in this video. Being a Dubliner this isn't always possible as family visits always come first and holidays can often be too short. So it's always great to find such wonderful videos on the internet to remind us of Ireland's magnificent landscape, especially when living so far away.

Last summer I had a fantastic holiday in Ireland including the west coast. The weather was amazing and I got some great photo shots of my own. You can check out my photos by clicking on any of the links below.

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Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends.

You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan 


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vappu! - May Day in Finland

In Finland, Walpurgis day (Vappu) is one of the four biggest holidays along with Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, and Midsummer (Juhannus). During Vappu one can find big festivals held on the streets of Finland's towns and cities. This celebration which begins on the evening of 30 April and continues to 1 May, involves an all day party with consumption of sima (mead), sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages.

Student traditions, particularly those of the engineering students, are one of the main characteristics of Vappu. Since the end of the 19th century, this traditional upper-class feast has been appropriated by university students. Many lukio (university-preparatory high school) alumni (who are thus traditionally assumed to be university bound), wear a cap. One tradition is to drink sima, a home-made low-alcohol mead, along with freshly cooked cakes called Tippaleipä. The first time I saw these cakes I thought they looked like fish-bait. But like anything new it must be tried at least once, so I tasted this worm-like delicacy. My verdict was negative. The taste was likened to that of a dull donut, and the cake was a little awkward to eat as it crumbled apart into small pieces on my first bite. In conclusion, it's now near the bottom of my cake list along with carrot-cake!

Tippaleipä and Sima (Mead)

Since I've had all my education back in Ireland I don't have a Finnish cap to wear on this day. I usually celebrate Vappu with a few Finnish friends at home in my garden, depending if the weather is nice. My friends always wear their student caps as is the custom in Finland. During the first few years living in Finland I used to feel a little out of place or somewhat unbelonging for being the only person not wearing a cap at these parties, but this feeling has since disappeared thanks to good food, good company and the joyful consumption of alcohol!

A typical Finnish student cap

I was at one large Vappu party a few years ago where I had an interesting and fun night. Lots of dancing, Finnish food, balloons and even some salmiakki!! It was back in Dublin long before I moved to Finland at a special Vappu event organised by the Irish-Finnish Society. I remember it well as it was held in a place called 'The Garda Club', a recreational venue owned and run by the Irish Police. That was the first time I saw the now familiar sight of the white Finnish student cap.

The main event as far as Vappu is concerned in Finland is the placing of a student cap on Havis Amanda, one of Helsinki's famous statues.

Havis Amanda statue and fountain
in Helsinki, Finland.

Here's a clip of Finnish students placing the cap on Havis Amanda in 2013. The weather was just as it is today here, blue skies and sunshine. A nice start to the new Spring!

I'm not sure what my plans are for tomorrow 1st of May, but for tonight I shall be having a quiet night in to celebrate Vappu with my own brand of Sima from Bunratty! And who knows, I might end up wearing my own student cap by the end of the night (ie. the cap of the bottle!)

Hauskaa Vappua!!!
Glada Wappen!!!
Happy May Day!!!

Lá breá Bealtaine agaibh!!!

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Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends.

You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan 


Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day in Finland .... not just for couples!

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Hyvää Ystävaänpäivää!

It's Valentine's Day once again, probably the biggest Hallmark holiday of the year. For those unaware, the term Hallmark Holiday originates in the US and refers to the greeting card manufacturers Hallmark. I'm not aware if the term is used here in Finland yet, but we commonly used it while I was living in Ireland. 

Anyway, the title of this blogpost is directed at Valentine's Day in Finland or as it's called here Ystävänpäivä. This long Finnish word literally means Day of Friendship, and that's exactly how it is perceived. So it's probably more common to receive a small token of friendship from a close friend rather than a partner. It's only a young tradition here in Finland which began in the 1980s, and still remains with the idea of friendship as it's core value. Here however, especially among young people I have noticed a slow increase in the influence of the US version of Valentine's Day. The same is even more evident in neighbouring Sweden. More and more restaurants seem to be taking 'romantic' Valentine's Day bookings and I have noticed an increase in newspaper adverts. Although don't be surprised if you still get an invite off one of your friendly Finnish inlaws!

Before I go, here's a nice photo of a Valentine's Day cake. It's made with raspberries and blueberries, yummy!  
The Finns have a cake for everything!
The recipe can be found by clicking the photo, but it's only in Finnish... sorry!!

This is my second Valentine's Day blog, my first back in 2011 was called The Unexpected Rose

Thank you for visiting my blog!!!

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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan


Monday, September 16, 2013

Tervetuloa Kilkenny!!!

This is the sixth and final blogpost looking back at my holiday adventures in Ireland, and this time it's all about Kilkenny
It's probably a name known to a lot of people worldwide for being a distinctive red-coloured beer of the same name. But there's a lot more to Kilkenny than just beer. For example, when I hear the name Kilkenny I immediately think of the black and amber colours of the county and the great history Kilkenny has in the sport of hurling. If you are not familiar with this sport here's a short video clip to give you an idea.

Not forgetting also that Kilkenny refers not only to a city in Ireland but also to an entire county. It was here that we set as our next destination having said farewell to beautiful Kinvara and the west of Ireland. It was also a chance for me to meet up with my brother and his young family who made the trip down from Dublin. We all arranged to stay at the same hotel for a night in Kilkenny. 

Before we reached Kilkenny city we decided to stop somewhere for dinner. A popular place to go eat in Ireland is the pub, where the food is usually very good and value for money. We had been sampling several pubs for their food during our trip and our next pub was one of the best we found. It was called Delaneys Bar in Clomantagh, County Kilkenny. The owner was very friendly and the food was fantastic!

(Click all photos to enlarge!)

Delaney's Bar and Restaurant, Clomantagh, County Kilkenny

Great food at Delaney's Bar!

Having had a good feed we drove straight towards our hotel in Kilkenny city and checked in. The hotel we stayed at was called the Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel and we were not disappointed.
We had a wonderful stay with a very comfortable and spacious room. Our Finnish friends were upgraded to a superior executive suite which was a nice surprise and we also received a big discount on parking. The hotel itself and it's facilities are without fault, and the cavery breakfast was delicious. What impressed me the most however was the way the staff treated us having arrived back late after a long day's stroll around the city. With the hotel's restaurant closed and their chef gone home for the evening, the manager and some staff prepared an inexpensive platter of pizza/chicken goujons/salad and chips for all of us (six adults and three children). Good customer service!

Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel

As I mentioned, we all had a nice stroll around the city. This isn't too difficult to do in that Kilkenny city feels more like a small town and most of what needs to be seen is condensed in a small area of space.
The main attraction and most famous landmark in the city has to be Kilkenny Castle, with it's wide open lawn and impressive gardens. The weather was fabulous yet again, so we had a nice walk around the castle grounds. It was a perfect escape from the noise and traffic outside the castle walls. My brother's kids were happy to find a kids play area nearby also. On our second day a few of us took a tour inside the castle. As we walked around inside, apart from all the wonderful art and interior features we were oddly impressed that they had free Wifi available, especially given the fact that the castle walls are extremely thick inside. A Finnish friend was also impressed by the greeting he received as we walked through one of the castle hallways. An old woman working as a guide kindly said hello and asked my friend where he was from. On his reply of "Finland" she then replied by saying "Tervetuloa!"(the Finnish for Welcome!). This was a bit special I thought. With so many tourists coming through this building every day, I only expected the lady to perhaps know greetings for the more common visitor languages, eg. French, German or Italian.   

Kilkenny Castle gardens

Entrance to Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle and lawn

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Walls of Kilkenny Castle overlooking the River Nore

The River Nore and John's Bridge in Kilkenny

Another way to get around Kilkenny is to take one of the small train tours like the one in the photo below. It's a fun way of getting around to see areas outside the city centre. On our little train trip we found more examples of Kilkenny's fine churches and we also got to catch a glimpse of the famous St.Francis Abbey Brewery.  

The Castle Express, Kilkenny

St.Mary's Cathedral, Kilkenny

St.Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny

Kilkenny City Town Hall

After our trip around the city it was time for ice-cream and sweets from Kitty's Cabin sweet shop. This is an old style sweet shop which isn't something I frequent everyday. They had a huge selection of sweets, some old favorites and some new ones with crazy flavours! I decided I had to fill up my pockets with a few bags to take back to Finland. Let's just call it a bad case of Wonkavision!

Kieran Street, Kilkenny

One last thing I must mention about my short visit to Kilkenny was a piece of street-art I discovered. It was situated at an empty building plot on Kieran street in the heart of the city. The title of the artwork was 'Alice', but it featured images of a woman called Dame Alice Kyteler, the first woman in all of Europe to be tried by the Church for crimes of witch craft. The whole piece created by artist Mick Minogue was cleverly presented and very eye-catching to passers by. To view the full artwork and read some more about Mick Minogue, simply go to my next blogpost by clicking here or the image below.

Mick Minogue Made This!

Dame Alice Kyteler by Mick Minogue

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This is part 6 of a set of 'Ireland' travel posts here on my blog. Click on the destinations below to read the rest!

Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends.

You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan 


The Art Garage, Finland

The Art Garage, Finland
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