All posts by Elina Hinkonen

Greetings from Sofia

Hello! I live in the capital of Bulgaria – Sofia. My stepmother is Bulgarian and she has been getting me acknowledged with Bulgarian culture and traditions, so to improve the language skills and general knowledge of Bulgaria. I have many friends and relatives here, caring about me. I never feel lonely, yet sometimes I want to be alone, as there is always someone next to me. They care about me too much, and are afraid, that something may happen, as it is not safe to be alone on the streets of Sofia at night.
When it comes to my local school – National Academy of Music ”Pancho Vladigerov”, it reminds me of the Soviet Union, in a way. They have very strict teachers, each specialising on one specific musical instrument. Students have no right to speak their own opinions out loud and have to be absolutely quiet when teachers speak to the class. It seems that every student is always afraid to speak out or to do something wrong. I had such fear as well, so I did my best during my violin practice, in order to master it to a desired level.
I was treated the same way as native students; I was not an exception. Apparently, it is because I am Russian and come from the Slavic origin, just like Bulgarians. Perhaps, it was also because of how well I spoke Bulgarian; even looked like one. Meanwhile, I had friends from another parts of Europe attending the very same class, who were treated more kindly than us.
When it comes to my spare time in Bulgaria, I used it well, travelling around the country as much as I could afford. I had been to many places including: Kavarna, Varna, Dobrich, Burgas, Selistra, Blagoevgrad, Pernik, Mezdra, Plovdiv, Pazardjik, Haskovo, Starazagora and Banke. They all were, in their own charming way, special to me. And yet, I spent the most of my time in Sofia with one Bulgarian family, who are close friends of mine.
One of my favourite places to spend time was at the mountains. Out there, I enjoyed speaking to God, as it is such a peaceful and quiet place for a prayer.

When it comes to educational difference between Bulgaria and Finland, it seems harder to study in Bulgaria, as you have less freedom of choice when it comes to what to do and how to do, strictly following your professor’s orders. For example, during the aural training, teachers are the ones who pick individual singers, and you have to obey at once, if you are the one who is chosen, with no right to express your opinion or decline. In Finland, you may choose, whether you sing in a group or by yourself. However, in my point of view, Bulgarian students are more developed than Finnish, due to such strict orders and discipline.
I like it to be here, even though it is difficult. I have a great deal of old and new friends here. Everything is great! 

A hint of Finnishness

Part 1: No rush

Despite the fact that I had been in many various countries all over the world, there is no such place where I feel just as relaxed as in Finland. If you are a tourist from, say, New York, London, or Moscow, you will be astonished by the significant difference of the atmosphere of Helsinki in comparison with those capitals. During my life in Finland, I’ve never seen even a hint of rush on the streets. Finns are taking their time, peacefully working their way towards their deadlines and it is a rarity to see someone in hurry in Finland, with an exception of foreigners, perhaps.


Part 2: Nature

With a population of 5.439 millions of people and a size of 338,424 km², Finland retains a relatively small number of inhabitants for its area. The vast majority of the country is covered with dense forests and lakes. 78 percent of forest and 10 of lakes to be precise. Even the capital has trees all over the place, not to mention the high amount of parks, hence the exceptionally fresh air. In their brand new report, The World Health Organisation claims that the air in Finland is the third cleanest in the world. It seems as if Finnish people did not lumber their woodlands at all!

Another interesting fact about Finland is that their tap water is one of the cleanest in the world and absolutely drinkable, as it’s taken from pure groundwater sources. Besides, its taste is astoundingly good too!

Having all those things affecting you: the calm atmosphere in the cities, as well as the freshest air and the crystal clean water, there is a high chance to receive an urge to relax and move towards your daily targets at a slow pace, as if your whole day is a chilled stroll.


Part 3: Icy Winters

There are numerous reasons to spend your winter vacation in Finland. Everyone knows that this snowy wonderland is the home of Santa! But, that’s not everything. Despite the occasional temperature drops below -20 centigrade, it doesn’t feel as cold as one may think. The dry climate of Finland would make you feel much warmer during winter than climates of the countries of central Europe. Besides, there are several guides throughout the internet that could help you to prepare for the Finnish winter, such as, for instance.

So, yes, there will be a thick layer of snow around, as well as shorter daylight hours, not to mention the unusually low temperatures. In other hand, there are less tourists, stunning snowy landscapes and various winter activities that could not be discovered in warmer destinations! You may go chasing down the Aurora Borealis, also called the Northern Lights, ride a husky sledge, visit a traditional sauna, or even take a selfie with Santa himself! The choice is broad.

Just make sure that you’ll arrive in time to experience those events and activities that depend on snow, such as in January or February. Nevertheless, if you came here at the beginning of spring, there is still a chance to enjoy the atmosphere of winter and snow related activities with an only difference of extended daylight hours.