Koli conference begins
After 18 hours of travelling, I was pleased to arrive in Koli up in the northern Karelia region of Finland, especially as there was a thin layer of snow on the ground. The temperature was well below freezing and my body was just happy to have a shower and go to bed. I was very hungry as the only food I had eaten all day had been on the flight: KLM food, what more can I say? My housemates had advised me to bring instant noodles, but I hadn't, and even if I had there was no kettle in the room — some of you know what I mean!
I woke up early, very hungry, and I was one of the first up for breakfast. I had half expected (and half hoped) that we might have had some special hot continental breakfast. As I think Karl Popper would agree, learning only occurs when something unexpected happens. I have learnt that you should never underestimate the Finnish need for bread and cheese at any time of day. However, I did manage to brew myself a half decent cup of tea — with milk! I also discovered some warm porridge which, when taken with tea, was enough to start my day. I ate breakfast overlooking the trees and lakes surrounding Koli. This is one of the highest places in this region and, on a clear day, you can see trees all the way to the horizon. When I went back to my room and opened my curtains, I discovered that I had a lovely view too.
The morning session of the conference passed quickly with some excellent talks, and I was ready once again when lunchtime arrived. I am not really sure what it was that I ate, but it involved mash potato and salad. After my carbohydrate fix, I set off in the cold to walk up to the summit of Koli, just a short walk from the hotel. It was particularly pleasant even with the small amount of snow that was covering the trees. My hands were a bit cold as I didn't bring any gloves, so when I got back to the hotel I had to buy a pair, also at great expense.
The afternoon session was long, and unfortunately my presentation was the last of the day, by which time everyone was getting quite sleepy. I think a few people were conscious for a few moments of the talk. Anyway, after that it was dinner, which was another feast of carbohydrates for us vegetarians. My main course consisted of potatoes, swede and carrots, with a tiny amount of sauce that appeared to be the leftovers from the mushroom soup we had for starters. Warwick people: I am dreaming about eating rice with you on Tuesday already!
After the meal though, we went to do what Finnish people do best: saunas. I discovered that there are as many saunas in Finland as there are women. I spent an hour moving between the hot sauna and the cool jacuzzi — it was great. Most people were drinking beer, but I was happy just to enjoy this chance to relax. After my body was completely shrivelled I retired to my room for the night.