Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Helsinki all year round!

I've been traveling around the world since I was just a toddler. While I love to see new places, I love even more dearly my country, Finland, and always remember to tell all the great things about it to people I meet around the world. If you've been reading my blog, you have probably noticed me mentioning Helsinki quite often. But I think I've never taken the time to give a proper introduction! So here goes.... Welcome to HEL!

Helsinki in a nutshell

As I'm more than biased, here's in stead how my travel bible, Lonely Planet, introduces Helsinki:

Helsinki is cool without - as yet - being self-consciously so. Unlike other capitals, you sense that people go to places because they enjoy them, not to be seen. Much modern décor is ironic and humorous, and achieves stylishness by daring to differ rather than trying too hard. 

While not an ancient place, much of what is loveable in Helsinki is older. The style of its glorious Art Nouveau buildings, the spacious elegance of its cafés, the careful preservation of Finnish heritage in its dozens of museums, restaurants that have changed neither menu nor furnishings since the 1930s are all part of the city's quirky charm.

It has a very different feel to the rest of Finland, partly because before the days of the hi-tech society it was the country's sole point of contact almost with the rest of the world. Like all of Finland, though, Helsinki has a dual nature. In winter you sometimes wonder where all the people are. In spring and summer they are back again, packing green spaces and outdoor tables to get a piece of blessed sun, whirring around on thousands of bicycles and kicking the city's nightlife into overdrive.

Helsinki Market Square and Cathedral - the icons of the city.

Facts: Helsinki (est. 1550) is the capital of Finland, stretching along the country's southern shore and bordering with the Baltic Sea. It is Finland's political, cultural and business center; it's where most people live, study and work, and you'll find the highest concentration of services and activities in Helsinki.

In international surveys Helsinki is continually ranked among the top ten cities to live in the world. Life is safe, clean and highly enjoyable - despite the fact that us Helsinki citizens love to complain about it. About 600.000 people live in Helsinki, altogether about 1.4 million in the metropolitan area that includes cities Espoo and Vantaa. This is the largest urban area in Finland. Though when you look at it from above, it doesn't look all that urban but in fact surrounded and scattered with green areas and water. The city center is compact and manageable by foot with public transportation available everywhere, connecting the city and its surroundings from all corners.

Helsinki city center and islands, from above.

You will find in this post:

Helsinki mapped and interesting parts of the city
  • Center
  • South
  • East
  • North
  • West
Helsinki by themes
  • Architecture, historic sights and landmarks
  • Eating in Helsinki
  • Drinking in Helsinki
  • Dancing in Helsinki
  • Culture and entertainment
  • Shopping
  • Helsinki al fresco and active
  • Helsinki tours
  • Best views of Helsinki
Practical information
  • Getting around
  • Public holidays
  • Climate

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In the flow part 2: zouk flow (with flowing videos)!

 Continuing from the previous post:

Why is it that so often we zoukers go on about connection, the art (and mastery) of leading & following, musicality - and now about flow?

Perhaps it's because these things are the essence of zouk. They're what makes zouk so great, so magical... do I dare even to say unique? At the very least, these are the things what many of us identify in zouk and fall in love with.

Monday, July 7, 2014

In the flow - The magic of dance flow: how to reach it and why?

It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. 
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Flow is a moment in time when you’re both challenged at the activity that you’re doing, and when you also have complete autonomy in the task you’re conducting.
Everett Bogue, in The Hidden Art of Achieving Creative Flow.

Have you experienced flow?
Dance flow? Creative flow?

I have. One thing that's so great about dancing - and dancing zouk is what I'm writing about here in particular - is the flowing motion. When you're in the dance flow, you will certainly have one of the most pleasurable moments on the dance floor (or anywhere).

To me, simply put, flow in zouk is when one move follows the other in an effortless way. You and your partner dance seamlessly together, with a gentle lead & follow or even without touch, and - as it feels like - without thought.

But what makes flow happen?