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Friday, November 25, 2011

It's starting to sound a lot like winter

During the week I was in Texas, Helsinki moved from early to late autumn. (I'm not yet calling it winter because the Finns would laugh at me, but by SC standards, it's winter!)  The leaves fell from the trees, the air took on a bite, and the greyness began to settle in.

These are the gravel walkways where I usually take Ted for his shorter walks.  Good thing I know there's a path under there!

What also makes all of this so impressive is the size of some of these leaves.  Let me give you an example.

Now, I've focused on the leaf immediately to Ted's left, but as you can see, there are leaves like that one scattered all around him.  I swear this thing was a good 8 inches across.  To give you a sense of proportion, those "small" leaves around it are the size of normal oak leaves.

When you add that to the end of Daylight Savings Time (yep, the Finns do it, too) and, therefore, sunrise at 8:30 am and sunset at 3:45 pm, I can definitely see the place moving into its winter mode.

So far for me and Ted that really hasn't been much of an issue: I have the obligatory shorter, black, wool coat and, for when it gets regularly below freezing, the down coat that makes me look like I've wrapped myself in a big, wine-colored duvet.  Meanwhile Ted looks even more like a furry bear than normal.

I mean, look at that belly hair and the ruff around his deck!  His hair on his tummy goes halfway down his front legs and the hair on the back of those legs is a good 5-6 inches long.  Yes, he's set for the snow.  (Don't quite know why he looks so guilty, though.)  And, yes, it really is hair; you can feel his ribs under that.

So far, though, we've only had 2 evenings below freezing, days in the upper 30s, and no snow whatsoever, something that I understand can happen in Helsinki this time of year but is unusual.  So what's the most striking testimony to Helsinki's winter approaching?

Snow tires!

From the minute I got off the plane in Helsinki on Halloween, I heard the telltale sound of snow tires crunching down the road.  It turns out that the Finns don't have laws like they do in Germany and, from what I understand, some parts of the US that prohibit people from putting on snow tires until there actually is snow on the ground.  Being used to sudden changes in weather and snowy winters, it appears that Finns make November 1 the beginning of snow tire season.

Funnily enough, I actually like it.  When I stand at the tram stop in front of the main train station listening to the snow tires going by and looking at the lights in all the windows, it feels pleasantly northern European and, therefore, a little exotic to this wandering Californian.  I mean I get the sound effects of winter without the dangers of ice.

Pretty much the best of all possible worlds, no?

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