In continuation from my last post, “Week 12: New weekend new city!”, I continued the trend of weekend trips this past month.

First up, Helsinki for a hackathon. Hackjunction is one of Europe’s biggest hackathons and was organised in Helsinki on 23-25 November this year. Exchange has really been a time of new experiences as this was my first hackathon. Having no teammates, my team was formed over Facebook based on our interests and skills. I’ve never been the outgoing meet new people kind of person, so this was really an experience for me. The most amazing thing was actually winning something for one of the challenges we took part in. Another amazing experience was the Finnish hot tub and saunas in the freezing cold.

Hackjunction team

Next, the Baltic states! This exchange was a perfect opportunity to visit countries near Sweden that I would not normally have gone to. Having covered Denmark, Finland and Estonia, next up was Latvia and Lithuania. I went there with a Portuguese friend I made during this exchange. I would never have imagined in 3months, I’ll be so close to some of my exchange friends I would travel with them. Riga and Vilnius are cosy small cities and Šiauliai was barely a town. But the nature and scenery was spectacular. What I found interesting was that Latvians were much friendlier than Lithuanians. In Riga, some locals invited us to play pool with them and their shop keepers were generally polite. However, in Vilnius, known as one of the grumpiest cities in the world, there were no greetings or replies by shop keepers, even when customers said thank you or bye. They just maintained their grumpy expressions.

Tiago just casually sitting on a frozen waterfall, Sigulda, a day trip from Riga
Amazing sunsets from Sigulda
Hill of crosses, near Šiauliai (the only reason we went to Šiauliai)

Uppsala is known as a picturesque small university town just North of Stockholm and that was where I headed the next weekend. However, the gloomy weather did not permit us to see much of its beauty and it really was a small town. The highlight from that trip was having homemade Nasi Lemak, complete with the sambal. Jarvin met a lady at the Asian Market in Stockholm previously and she invited us over to her place if we ever went to Uppsala. The taste of good Nasi Lemak after more than 3months was simply divine.

The same weekend, my hostel people celebrated Christmas together and it really hit me how soon the exchange was going to end. I can’t imagine saying goodbye to these people when I would most likely never see them again.

Christmas party with the hostel gang

To end this series of weekend trips, was the most amazing one of them all. Lapland. To experience 3 days where the sun never rose. To feel temperatures below -20°C. To see the northern lights. The Swedish Lapland was a magical place of ice hotels, reindeer, cotton candy twilight skies and jumping into freezing lakes after saunas. A landscape of snow and ice. Pictures can’t come close to describing the experience but that’s all I have, any more you must go to Lapland yourself.

Cotton candy skies in Kiruna
Aurora Borealis, the northern lights
A frozen river we walked on in Abisko
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