• BLOG
  • Life Begings on The Other Side of Despair

    ,Maybe all the very good things require extra effort.

    Around the end of March last year, I worked the last days of my seasonal job of that winter. Which wasn’t a great time to finish a temporary contract with no new contract waiting.

    Right then, pandemic happened and most of the country (Switzerland) went into lockdown. Which meant closed shops and tourism and distance requirements (this rule should be kept though, pandemic or not; greetings from an introverted Finn). To make things even worse for me in person, also my permit was tied to the previous work I had. This solved eventually just fine, but required way more paperwork and innovativeness than in other circumstances. 

    During the pandemic, I haven’t been entitled for any additional support nor helping adjustments; except the help (and bikes) I got from my family. (Extremely grateful for them and very aware what kind of privilege I now have.) For me, there wasn’t any kurzarbeit (the Swiss/German system supporting the firms and workers in a crisis like pandemic). Nor was I entitled for unemployment benefits. I also didn’t have any holidays previously not taken to allow me to take a breather. (I would have really needed it. Then and now.)

    From Big Plans To Small Victories

    Spring of 2020 and the following year was a difficult one. Although the pandemic didn’t affect me the worst. Pretty far from it. After the year, I may even say that the year was one of the best I have ever lived. Challenging, difficult and tiring, yes. But also exciting, rewarding and full of pretty nice moments.

    Apparently, over the years I have effectively build up a good resilience reserve. And may I say, a bit of native sisu as well. 

    2020-2021 helped me to grow and develop my person and skills tremendously, and it helped me to see that I really was, and still am, on the right path for me. In 2020 I also managed to make enough effort for the requirements of a more permanent residence permit and my official Master’s degree. Though as the global style went, no big parties for those achievements.

    Last year in February/March, when the pandemic started, I had big plans  – or may I say wishes – for the year.

    I wanted to make big steps. I wanted go visit Lapland in spring, to ski nordic and celebrate my dad turning 60. I also planned to make a second, a bit longer, visit to Lapland in summer. To run and volunteer in Jukola orienteering relay under the midnight sun in Rovaniemi, near the Arctic Circle, and to make an inventory on my things still in a storage in Lapland, to finally get the last essential pieces to Switzerland. And in Autumn, I was planning to celebrate the wedding of my dear friend in Lapland, and see the many babies born to my friends in 2020.

    Well, as you may easily guess by now, none of that happened. I still have my stuff in the storage in Lapland and haven’t seen the babies, who by now are already boys and girls walking around.

    In 2020 I also hoped for many things to happen in Switzerland.

    In summer, with my new road bike, I wanted to bike few Alpine passes or at least the Grosse Scheidegg in Jungfrau Region. With my mountain bike, I wished to make trips to Lenzerheide and Flumserberg.

    On foot, I was planning to run, if not the whole Via Alpina across whole Switzerland then at least some stretches of it, and stay a night or two in the mountain huts on the way.

    More than else, I waited 2020 to gift me with free weekends, or at least Sundays. To have more free days together with the person in these pictures. (For a year before the spring of 2020 I had worked basically every weekend and holiday, while he was and still is mainly working on weekdays and having the weekends and public holidays free.) 

    Well, also those things didn’t happen. I executed very good plan b’s though, and between the springs of 2020 and 2021 managed to do many great adventures. I biked, hiked and ran many nice tours, and even swam few times in the lovely Swiss lakes. I also got into sauna once, despite not having my own and the public saunas closed for the pandemic reasons. And I celebrated my first proper Christmas in Switzerland, free from work with my dear Swiss family.

    Most happy I have been, despite all the challenges, about how I also managed to work enough for my money. First, it required me to do some random babysitting gigs. Then, it required switching my German studies to a whole new level; intensive and practical learning alongside working when I was happy to spent a busy summer waitressing (without any proper education and just a few days of previous experience). In autumn, I did a brief stint in remote sales project work in my home office in the mountains (yes, for a while I was also part of that trendy group of people working in the mountains during pandemic).

    It Could Have Been Worse

    With those random jobs and ad hoc schedules – on top of the pandemic – it was impossible to realise my initial dreams and plans for 2020. 

    But when I write this in the spring of 2021, when I again for about a month have had mostly free weekends and extra uncertainty similar to last spring, I can’t help thinking that there’s been certain beauty in everything. I don’t support the all positive vibes bs, nor the idea that every good thing requires hell a lot fight and struggle. No pain no gain works sometimes, not always.

    In my life, I am now mostly grateful for what I have and have gotten; to experience and to keep. Which is pretty damn lot, in a global picture at least. I mean, I have also have managed to live this far without the virus in my body.

    And during the two March 2021 skitours in the pictures I really realised how I really know how to live my life well. Also, I understood that while it’s all the time becoming more pain in the * to ski with the over 10 year old ski-binding-boot set-up, it’s on the other hand very sustainable, responsible way of skiing. Especially if and when combined with powder turns well earned by skinning and bootpacking instead of carving groomers after a lift assisted uphill. 

    And how that living well most of the times requires the effort, the challenge, the tiring uphill and scary unknown causing stress and worry. One time you are rewarded with a fluffy powder run and a cold beer after sauna. Another time it’s a dream job and a new language learned (my latest learned language comes with the ability to chat comfortably with the local population, and that’s great). 

    Funnily enough, I also found myself in Lenzerheide this spring. Though not with bike (yet) but with nordic skis and permission to visit hammam. Grateful for that, yet hoping that this year doesn’t turn as challenging as the previous. So that I finally get to Lenzerheide with my bike and that I get to spent more weekends with this butt. 

     

  • BLOG
  • Same Same but Different – Obersee Bike Tour

    rapperswil biking

    It’s spring and it’s bike season. And funny how similar they are, my longer – once or twice a week – bike routes in the current home in Switzerland, and the past in Lapland.

    Here in Switzerland, the route goes around Obersee (linked to the Zürichsee, around which goes my a bit longer – max once a week – route). It follows gravel roads by railways and the lake itself; rolls through more or less cute villages and towns; offers detours over hills and through forests; and passes patches of agricultural land and farms.

    In the distance, the Alps show off majestically when the weather is clear, and on the lake and fields swans look like they couldn’t care less. On the Seedamm, from Rapperswil to Pfäffikon SZ, it also lets me ride on a narrow bath of land between the two lakes, and it’s not just one good hot day plunge place I know along the way. 

    The scenes and scents aren’t much different in Lapland, where my usual tour route winds around the lake Kemijärvi. It doesn’t offer a beautiful castle and old town like Rapperswil, and up north the season for these tours is way shorter than in south. But there are the lake and the roads, the damm between the lakes, fells instead of Alps, and water so clean that on a hot day I happily take a midway plunge. And for the summer also the whooper swans return to the lakes of Lapland. (Some of them like to spent their winters as far as in Switzerland.)

    On top of the similarities, the adventures in Lapland also built me a good base for many great adventures; the bike tours in Switzerland included. Without the 20 to 40km tours, the 50km+ tours around lake Obersee wouldn’t go this smoothly. (Especially since in Lapland I biked with a heavy switchless city bike, with rough and wide tires. While here in Switzerland I now bike with the light road bike tuned a bit, but just a bit, to the gravel type.)

    It’s also the tours like these which are the summer version of nordic skiing. Both perfect exercise and meditation, the cycling works as an alternative restorative therapy. The movement itself is a bit monotone, flowing movement which resembles a dance choreography. And with the fresh air, changing landscape and focus on what lays ahead (in seconds and meters, not years and kilometres) it helps to clear the head and root for my surroundings strongly (though extreme rooting in a way of crashing isn’t advisable).

    I can’t say the head clearing is needed for too much work, but I admit that the recent creative sprints and challenging deadlines on top of the pandemic uncertainty (including the fact I still don’t know when I get to visit Lapland again) do built up some extra need for these tours. 

    The best “cure” ingredient though is the coffee or gelato stop (or both) before the last few kilometres. It’s the reason I do my Obersee tour counterclockwise and my a bit longer Zürichsee tour clockwise.

    For the best gelato with the best views one gets from Rapperswil. Just so you know. 

     

     

  • BLOG
  • Winter Tale

    In November I said goodbye to my mountain hideaway in Engelberg. My possessions in the van, packed neatly* we drove to the more urban settlement I call home now. It was nice in the mountains, but it’s nicer to share the pandemic everyday and weekend adventures with family.

    I expected the move to be a goodbye to a proper winter. The elevation dropped from over 1000m to just a bit over 600m, the winter rain here comes more likely as water than snow. Also, phenomenon called hochnebel –  high fog – makes the winter here more grey than sparkly. But like many things in this pandemic, the reality didn’t meet my expectations. Better so, luckily.

    The past winter in Schwyz was one of the warmest and snowiest in decades. (Please note that you don’t make me laugh asking where’s the climate change now with the winter so cold – for just a short intensive period that was.)

    This winter, I got to shovel snow more than I have shovelled the last 10 years combined. (I am sure though, nothing can beat the amounts of the snow I shovelled in Lapland as a kid. Nor what my mom shovelled this winter.) I also skied –both touring and nordic – more than I have done in many many years. Despite living further away from the mountains and not really traveling further than inside a circle with a radius of about 20km.

    It was great. Nordic skiing made sure I got enough of effective physical training (also it kept me fed with a job in the nordic ski rental). Of course, the shovelling was great training too (I think I have arm muscles now).

    Hopp Schwyz – My Pandemic Paradise

    This winter, I also got to explore properly ( read: a lot) a Swiss region new to me. Outside German speaking Switzerland and the Catholic Church (read: The ones who know the Einsiedeln Abbey), Schwyz is pretty unknown. While for the Zürich crowds our adventure destination of the pandemic (also kind of a paradise) is the closest and the most whole family friendly there is close by. (Beware if going, the traffic is busy in weekends. Especially in good weather.)

    On the downside, for a liberal young woman like me, it’s a region with very conservative and traditional to the extremes character and voting habits. But for many winter activities, when there is snow enough, it’s a pretty nice place. It has the Nordic skiing areas in Einsiedeln, Rothenthurm and Studen,  and small ski resorts (though we kept away from resorts this winter) as well as good skitouring areas in Brunni and Oberiberg. Not to forget, the remarkable mountain of Mythen and the good restaurants and cafe´s in Einsiedeln, when no pandemic restrictions around. 

    Microadventures On Skis

    From previous experience, I already knew how fun skitouring and nordic skiing is, far away from the lift lines, crowded slopes and noisy afterski bars. But if I have understood right, for my companion it took the pandemic winter to properly get how good it is to suffer more and enjoy less. Or well, it’s not really suffering and I always enjoy a lot on these tours as well. Except when I am “a little” tired and my old boots cause blisters and achy footbeds. Which always happens.

    But really, it’s very nice to move forward and upwards one step – or in this case slide – at a time. And repeat. And repeat. Listening the sound my skis and poles make with the snow, or the occasional talkative passer by. And finally, reach the flow in the middle of beautiful nature or on top of the mountain and the great powder run down. Mix of a fatigue and a great achievement.

    And skate skiing <3 which is basically dancing on snow.

    Right now, after a very springy period, the winter is back with proper March snow. Or as it’s called in schwiizerdütsch: Märzschnee. I haven’t yet packed away nor sold my skis and seems like there is another good winter adventure (or two) waiting this weekend.

    It’s a shame though the restaurants and cafe’s – and especially the terraces now in spring – have to keep shut still. Because they are the third best thing in the Swiss winter sports, after the mountains and the snow. Though another good thing I have noticed the past months is that Lapland prepared me well for not just all the shovelling but also for all the touring adjusted to the pandemic rules.

    No problem to carry my own snacks and water. No problem to have snack break on my skis, breathing in the fresh winter air, with the beautiful nature right at my fingertips. And really no problem when the Swiss winter sun shines, the birds sing and other people keep the proper distance.

    Wilderness has it’s perks, but so does this kind of Schwiiz (Schwyz) winter.

    I just wish I had sauna too.  

    pandemic winter tiina kivelä

    skitouring mythen

    skitouring wooden skis

    soulskiing

    skier

    winterwonder

    winter drive

    nordic skiing

    skate skiing

    nordic track

    einsiedeln

    einsiedeln

    mythen

    mythenregion

    skitouring

    soulskiing

    views

    retkellä

    hello

     

    skitouring 2021

    mythenregion 2021

    winterwander

    vanlife winter


    *All the neat packing is done by Swiss in the family, since I have not reached that preciseness and order of the average Swiss. Though I am becoming close with my excels, trello boards and nicely stacked and labeled storage units both here in Switzerland and Lapland.