Moving Abroad – Part 3

How to find a place to live in a new city? Well, it’s simple: in the same way as in any city. First you decide the areas where you want to live. Then post a reply to an ad or post your own ad. You can also use an agency, which costs some money. When you find something interesting, just go to see the place and make an offer.

There is one important rule, which applies to every country and city in the world. Don’t sign or pay anything without seeing the place first.

It takes some time to get to know different areas in a new city. It’s useful to do some research and take a sightseeing tour in your desired area. All you need is to find out an answer to the question: would you want to live there?

Locals usually know the best flat hunting tips, so I recommend asking their advice.

Moving Abroad – Part 2

A new city. Full of possibilities. Lots of challenges ahead. Not a single day goes by without something new to learn. Sometimes everything goes as planned, sometimes nothing seems to work.

Packing stuff and organising a transport is just the beginning. When moving abroad, it is important to find out about the bureaucracy of the target country. Are there any mandatory steps to take? Do you need to tell the authorities? Do you need to apply for a work permit or a visa or can you just step out of the plane and start making money?

When you leave your home country as an expatriate working for the same employer, everything is easier. There’s always the HR department to answer your questions. Your new colleagues can also help. Internet is full of forums and expat groups with answers. There might even be a wiki in the company intranet containing all the important stuff.

In my case the new country is UK, which is an easy place for an EU or EEC citizen. There isn’t huge amount of forms to fill and permits to apply for. In theory, you can just step out of the plane and stay in the country.

In practice, you need to at least apply for a National Insurance Number. Which is one phone call to book a time slot for an interview and about half an hour spent at Job Centre Plus, answering the questions. Plus the unknown amount of time spent while queueing before the interview with other immigrants, of course, and waiting for several weeks to receive the actual NI number.

There is one catch, which is important to understand. In Finland, there is a register of residents that organisations and companies use to get your address details. In the UK there is not. In Finland you just give a notification of move and your details will get updated automatically after a short period of time. In the UK you will often have to prove your address if you want to register to services.

You need a proof of address to open a bank account. You will also need a proof of address to apply for the NI number.

Usually. Not always. It varies a lot.

What is a proof of address then? There is also some variation, but the most common proof is a utility bill sent to you, to your local address. Electricity, gas, water or landline phone bill will do fine. Sometimes a bank or credit card statement will also be fine. Sometimes a letter from an authority is fine. In theory, these documents act as a proof that you live in that particular address. In practice, this is of course not 100% reliable method, but there aren’t any better solutions.

I happen to live in a company accommodation (temporary solution), which means that I don’t get any utility bills. Banks are helpful to list on their websites the documents you need to show to prove your eligibility to open an account. What they might not mention is that in some branch your statement from a foreign bank is not a valid proof of address because that bank is not well known. In some other branch there might be a person who will accept it.

I visited three different banks until I managed to open a bank account without a proof of address, but I have heard stories that it’s not always that straightforward in my bank. It often depends on the position of stars and the Moon on the sky. If the bank you visit does not approve your documents, try the next one.

I also managed to pass the NI number interview without providing any proof of my address. Maybe I was just lucky?

In the next part I will tell my joyful story about finding a place to live.

Customer Service And Social Media

Sometimes we, the customers, need some help with different products and services. Finding a way to contact customer service is not always easy. There might be a phone number or a feedback form on a company website. Modern companies often have a profile on a social media service.

Those are pretty much useless if nobody’s answering the questions customers are posting.

Calling customer service can be expensive and waiting times are long. Feedback forms most likely send the form contents to spam folder because nobody seems to ever get back to you. Social media is often also quiet. Just crickets. Few days ago I posted a question to a large Finnish consumer electronics retail store on Twitter and nobody ever answered it.

But there are exceptions.

Some software companies are efficient in using social media. If somebody asks a question, they will answer. They also pick up keywords automatically to find discussions about their products and services.

Want to let some steam out by bashing on Twitter how bad some service is? They might notice it and ask what they can do to make it better!

Need some help with a mysterious problem with your favorite app? Just tweet your question and they will get back to you.

If your company has an official strategy to have a social media presence, please be active in using it. If there’s a question, answer it. Take part in discussions, ask for feedback, help people who have problems with your products. Because that’s some damn good customer service.

Moving Abroad – Part 1

Most of us have experience in moving. We know what it takes to pack everything we have in boxes and transport them. The distance to the new home and the amount of stuff to transport there defines the difficulty level of the moving project.

The easiest level is moving to the next door with a minimal amount of stuff that you can carry by yourself without any help. The most difficult level would be moving a family of several people and everything they own to the other side of the globe.

Moving abroad is always trickier than moving inside the country and preparing for it requires more time.

I counted I have lived in 25 different addresses in Finland and that is a big number. Moving has become a routine to me. Just find a new flat, sign the tenancy agreement, give notice to the old landlord and start packing. Rent a van, move your stuff, unpack and you’re done. Everything usually happens in one month because the tenancy notice period in Finland is one month.

I didn’t have any experience in moving abroad, but I had heard lots of horror stories. Now I have relocated myself to London and I thought I could document my experiences and share my horror and success stories.

I began preparing for my move by deciding that I will not buy anything I can’t take with me. This was few months before signing the employment contract.

After visiting London and the office, and making decision that I want to move there, I created a list of stuff I have. I noticed that there was lots and lots of things that I hadn’t needed for years. I even found a trailer hook bike rack I had purchased for a move from Tampere to Vantaa and never needed it again.

Everybody has stuff they never need. I recommend getting rid of things you haven’t needed for two years. Don’t buy anything if you need it only once. When you move in the country, it’s easy to just transport the same garbage to the new home and forget it until you move again. When you move abroad, every piece of junk increases the moving costs that are already higher.

Decide what you want to keep in storage, what you want to take with you and what you want to get rid of. I had around 6 weeks time to sort out everything, which is not much. I barely made it and I was not working during the last 2 weeks.

I decided to leave my 500 CDs in storage and to get rid of all the furniture, books and DVDs and everything I didn’t want to keep. I started selling and giving stuff to friends and relatives. I posted ads on and Facebook recycling groups, and shared a table at a flea market with friends. The amount of money I got was not that big compared to the price I had paid. It’s not easy to get more than 10-20€ for an item that cost 100€ unless somebody really needs it now and is willing to pay more. Selling stuff for a decent price requires time.

After two weeks I had no furniture left, but my closets were not empty yet. I scanned all the important documents and threw away the ones that were not important. I even found exam papers from my college years that I had kept for 15 years. I strongly recommend doing a thorough spring cleaning every year. Throw away everything you don’t need. Create scanned backups of important documents when you receive them. It’s much easier than scanning hundred pages in a hurry. Keep your things neatly in order.

Somebody’s rubbish is often somebody’s treasure and other way around. It is surprising how wanted some items are, and how difficult it is to get rid of vases, candle holders and anything from IKEA.

Selling and giving stuff also requires lots of interaction with people. You should create lists what you are selling, to whom and who is coming to get something yesterday, today and tomorrow. Some people don’t introduce themselves when they call or email, which is rude. It is also difficult to keep track on agreed deals if you don’t know who you’re dealing with. I recommend not putting a phone number in your public ads.

Sometimes the easiest way to get rid of something is to post a message on your local Facebook recycling group and give it for free. You might even make somebody happy and receive some good karma.

There are things that nobody wants and you just have to dump them in the trash bin, but be responsible and recycle! Find out where to take old electronic devices, cables and special waste that shouldn’t end up on a landfill site.

It takes lots of time to empty the drawers and closets. I handed out the last item from my empty flat on the last evening before I was flying to London.

The amount of stuff you can transport to the new country is dependent on how much does it cost and how much you have space to store them. I’m mostly transporting stuff that I will need. The transporting costs are often also lower than the price tag on new corresponding items. There are several moving companies that you can use, but they might be expensive. Some small companies and private people are also doing transporting business. Their cost might be only a small part of the price of a professional moving company. Pick the one that best suits your needs. Use the services of Niemi, Victor Ek or some other big professional moving company if your employer pays the bill. Look up for experiences people have had if the company is not well-known. You don’t want to lose your boxes on their way to your new home and I bet you want them to arrive undamaged.

Pick a good and affordable storage for stuff you don’t want to throw away or sell, but cannot transport to the new country. They might be there for years, so choose wisely. I’m using relatives’ and friends’ storage spaces instead of an expensive storage room. I don’t have anything that would be worth the cost, although I don’t want anyone to steal my drum kit. If you are afraid of losing your stuff, get an insurance.

Then there’s everything you need to find out about the country and the city you’re moving to. There are still lots of things that are unknown to me, but I’ll write more about my experiences later.

Hello, world!

Long time no see! I actually forgot that I have a blog, so it’s about time to write a new post.

Yesterday we had an alumni meet-up with the great colleagues from Luxus, where I used to work in 2010-2012. Many of us have worked quite a long time on the web industry, in both digital agencies and IT companies. It was nice to discuss about things from the past and debate about content manage systems and if modern HTML5, CSS and JS are just a new incarnation of DHTML!

We also talked about blogging, as many of us were active in the first wave of Finnish blogging scene. That made me think it indeed was nice to write new posts regularly for the Blogosphere. For some reason, it has been difficult to create any meaningful content after the breakthrough of social media. I’ve deleted so many drafts I never managed to finish. It has been way too easy to just share an interesting link on Twitter or Facebook instead of writing a proper blog post about it.

So, from now on, it’s less social media (read: Facebook) for me and more posting interesting content.

Should I use flags as icons for languages?

Long answer: How to select a language?

This is one of the most common internationalization issues and out there are many websites, which are doing it wrong. Sometimes the designer doesn’t know, sometimes it’s the client that doesn’t know. So I decided to dig some arguments and answers.

Flags represent locations and nations

To make it simple, flags are symbols for countries, autonomous areas and sometimes nations. They represent a location or a nation, not a language.

Official W3C internationalization best practice:

Flags represent countries, not languages. Numerous countries use the same language as another country, and numerous countries have more than one official language. Flags don’t map onto these permutations.

Countries with more than one official language

Each country may have one or more official languages and each language can be spoken in several different countries. There are countries that don’t have any official languages (e.g. USA) and there are languages that are not official languages anywhere.

Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Swedish is the official language in two countries, Sweden and Finland and also in the autonomous province of Åland, which is part of Finland.

Finnish bilingual sites often represent Finnish and Swedish with flags of Finland and Sweden, which at first seems natural. However, Swedish speaking Finns are not Swedes so why should they select their own language with the flag of neighbouring country?

Can you recognize the flag?

Why should American or Australian select English with the Union Jack? Or Brazilian with the flag of Portugal? Peruvian with the flag of Spain? Some Peruvians don’t probably even know what the flag of Spain looks like. Some flags can also be easily confused. Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia have very similar flags, as do Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Chad and Romania have almost identical flags.

Countries without a language named after their homeland

How about Belgians? There are three official languages, Dutch, French and German. Belgian speakers of these languages would have to select the flag of neighbouring country to choose the correct language. In Switzerland there are four official languages and none of them is “the Swiss language”. Romansh language spoken in southern Switzerland doesn’t really have any official flag, unless you consider the Canton of Graubünden flag as one. Good luck getting that look good on icon size.

Offensive? Different dialects?

There may be strong historical reasons, e.g. colonies and wars, why people will get offended if they need to select their own language with the flag of some other country. Some languages don’t even have a home country and sometimes the same language spoken in a different country is actually a different dialect. One example is the difference between US English and UK English. In the US, they spell theater and organize, in the UK they spell theatre and organise. Some languages may have many different local variants.

Let’s take an example

A designer is building a new website for a non-profit organization, that wants to support the development and preservation of languages.

The content will be provided in several different languages, also in small and threatened languages.

On phase one, content will be in Finnish and Swedish. Designer selects Finnish and Swedish flags as icons, because they think it’s the most natural way of representing a language.

However, on phase two, the client wants to add three more languages. Northern Sami, Skolt Sami and Romani. Designer is a little confused, but then googles and finds out that there actually is a Romani flag. For the Sami languages of course Sami flag is the flag of choice. But there are two Sami languages. How to differentiate them with an icon? Our designer just uses the same icon for both languages.

On phase three, the client wants to add Meänkieli and Inari Sami. Now our designer doesn’t know what flag to use. There’s the flag of Tornedalians, but how to differentiate the third Sami language from the two others?

What to do if there will be more Sami languages? What to do if the client wants to have the content in Sign Language or Southern Ostrobothnia dialect? There are no flags for them.

This may not be an everyday example about the problems you will run into when using flags as icons for languages, but it should make clear that using a flag can lead to problems.

How others do it?

Infopankki language navigation screenshot

Infopankki is an information website for immigrants in Finland. Content is in 15 different languages. They are not using flags to represent languages, but local names for the languages instead. Finnish language is written as Suomi and Serbo-Croatian as Srpskohrvatski in the navigation. When you hover the mouse cursor over the language navigation, it shows the name of the language in Finnish, which makes it easier for Finns to recognise the different language options (e.g. in case you need to print the page in Arabic).


BBC Language Selection screenshot

BBC lists language names both in English and in local script, with some exceptions. Next to Spanish it says Mundo, which means The World. Spanish content is therefore global news content in Spanish.

Next to Portuguese, it says Brasil, which means that the Portuguese content is related to location of Brazil, not Portugal. However, the URL for BBC Brasil is Confusing? Yes.

BBC is mixing the language and the location in the same navigation. Sometimes the website is global in that language, sometimes it’s localized.


Reuters language navigation screenshot

Reuters has localized sites instead of languages. When selecting an edition, you are also selecting a location and a language. Latin America and Spain are here two different sites with different content.


Lutron language selection screenshot

Lutron uses a combination of location and language. User selects first location and then language. But why are they listing Japan and Asia as a different location and why is US English under Europe? Confusing? Yes.


SBB language selection screenshot

Swiss railway company SBB takes a little bit different approach and uses two-letter language codes. This method should be avoided, because people may not be familiar with the codes and some of them can be misleading.

Google Translate

Google Translate language selection screenshot

Google Translate uses a simple alphabetical list of languages for target language, while the source language is auto detected by default. The size of this list is very compact, although it contains 66 different languages!

Belgian rail

Belgian rail language selection screenshot

Belgian rail is using a splash screen with four different language selections. Selecting a language is very easy, but in the main site, they are using two-letter country codes, just like SBB. They don’t take much space, but again, all users are not familiar with them.


Ebay location selection screenshot

Localized Ebay sites have a navigation, which uses flags to represent a location. This is a correct way to do it, although sometimes there can be issues with the term country, because some countries are not universally recognized as sovereign states and their status is politically controversial (e.g. Taiwan, Palestine).


H&M region and language selection screenshot

H&M uses a combination of region and language. Some regions have more than one localized sites, while most of them only have one local site. The name of the region is written in English and in available local languages.

Detecting language automatically

There are techniques to detect language automatically and in ideal world this would be the way to do it. User shouldn’t need to select a language.

Too bad that the world is far from ideal and auto detection is very error prone. You could use geolocation to locate the user in Finland and offer Finnish as the default language, but there’s still quite big chance to guess wrong. User can be a Swedish speaker or a foreigner who just happens to be in Finland.

Combination of geolocation and browser language preferences could still be used to narrow down the selection of languages on websites that are localized in several different languages, but a fallback option should always be available. Language selection should be clearly visible on every page on the site.

In this case, the user could get the site in Finnish, because it probably is the correct result in about 90% of the cases, but it certainly is advisable to offer Swedish and English as secondary languages and keep the language selection easily accessible in case where user wants to read the content in some other language.

How you should do it?

There’s no simple answer for this question.

Sometimes the location is more important than the language. Especially web shops are often location based, not language based. Ebay has a Finnish site, but it’s only in Finnish. Swedish site assumes the user is located in Sweden, so Swedish-speaking Finns have to use the Finnish or the international site.

It should be made clear to the user if they are selecting a language, a location or both at the same time.

Language names should be presented in more than one language. Use a combination of main (or active) language of the site together with local script. For English website, languages could be listed in a following way: Finnish / Suomi, Russian / Pусский, Swedish / Svenska.

Avoid two-letter language codes, because they are not familiar to majority of users.

Use alphabetical order. It makes easier to find the correct language and it’s politically neutral.

Place the language selection where it’s easy to find. Site header and footer are common places.

If there are only a few languages, there’s no need to hide them in a drop-down menu. Just print the language names on the page.

For localized websites in different languages, select first a location and offer different languages for selected location if available. All location and language options can also be shown in the same view, as H&M does.

Fear not the length of the list. Google Translate has 66 languages and they all fit perfectly in a small box.


WordPress admin bug with Chrome

I have MAMP PRO (version 2.1.1) installed on my iMac for local web development projects. I recently installed this blog on my development environment to be able to start developing a new theme. For my surprise, everything seemed to work ok until I logged in with Chrome (version 21.0.1180.89). The whole admin interface exploded.

Wordpress admin bug with Chrome

Looks like the cause of this problem was load-scripts.php file, which was not working correctly. It should output JavaScript code, but the output was just gibberish. This explains the Uncaught SyntaxError: Unexpected token ILLEGAL error.

No idea what was causing this weird problem that didn’t appear with Safari at all. Same problem has been described on WordPress Answers and Stack Overflow.

I tried clearing all browser data with no help. I tried reinstalling WordPress, but it didn’t help either. I disabled WordPress plugins, no help. There was nothing weird in the logs, just alerts about missing favicons. PHP (5.4.4) cache is off, but to be honest, I don’t know enough about Apache and PHP caching or configuration to be able to trace this issue there.

Then I noticed this comment on Stack Overflow:

Well this is really strange. I opened the local site with a “incognito window” of Chrome and the problem dissapeared :S

I gave it a try and, ta-da, problem vanished.

Would be nice to know what was causing it. Something I didn’t try, was to disable all Chrome extensions. A faulty extension could explain why it worked in incognito mode.

Update 10.3.2013

The reason for this bug is most likely AdBlock plugin. The WordPress admin interface will load correctly after disabling AdBlock.

Associated form elements and labels in ASP.NET WebForms

The following checkboxes have one big important difference:

Choose wisely, my friend!

First checkbox is associated with its label, second is not. Try clicking them. Which one is easier to use?

Form elements and labels should always be associated with each other using the for attribute on <label/> tag. On the example above, when user clicks the label, the associated checkbox will be checked or unchecked depending on the current state.

Control association has two important purposes: usability and accessibility. From usability perspective, bigger targets are easier to click (or tap). Therefore label is easier to hit than small checkbox or radio button. From accessibility perspective, visually impaired users will not know what the form element does if there is no associated label. Just add the for attributes and everything works as expected. Simple, huh?

Not always. We have this thing called ASP.NET WebForms.

In ASP.NET WebForms the server side label control <asp:Label/> is a different beast. It will render a <span/> by default. I’ve seen many forms that don’t have any semantic labels, just spans. The reason for this is, that <asp:Label/> needs an AssociatedControlID attribute to create association with a form element. Like this:

<input type="checkbox" id="myCheckbox" value="My checkbox"
    name="checkbox" runat="server" />
<asp:Label ID="myLabel" AssociatedControlID="myCheckbox"
    runat="server" Text="<%$Resources:myCheckboxLabel%>" />

This will render a <label/> tag, which is associated with the correct input with the for attribute.

Another way is to use the good old HTML <label/> tag and get the text for it from <asp:Literal/> server side control, which will not render any HTML. It’s just text. However, there’s one problem.

ASP.NET WebForms will modify the id attributes of server side controls so that they are dynamic and unique. This means that a for attribute we define for the <label/> will not work, because the input id attribute and for attribute do not match on client side.

Instead of myCheckbox the id will be something not-so-pretty like ctl00_body_ctl00_someWrapper_ctl00_myCheckbox, depending on the page structure. The problem can be fixed by using the ClientID property:

<input type="checkbox" ID="myCheckbox" value="My checkbox"
    name="checkbox" runat="server" />
<label for="<%=myCheckbox.ClientID%>">
    <asp:Literal ID="myLiteral" runat="server"
        Text="<%$Resources:myCheckboxLabel%>" />

This will render the correct for attribute and the form is more usable and accessible.

More info: W3C: Using label elements to associate text labels with form controls

Looking for Leprechauns

It’s been a week since I returned home from Ireland, so maybe it’s time to wrap it up and write something about our trip.

I already wrote during the trip about the Roger Waters concert and how the audience really makes the show and our visit to Ross Castle, but let’s hear more.

TL;DR version: Ash cloud, Dublin, Roger Waters, ghosts in the castle, up north, high cliffs, wind, whiskey, more high cliffs, back home.

Day 1: Dublin

There was some uncertainty whether our flight would ever leave because of the ash cloud from Grímsvötn volcano in Iceland, but it wasn’t really a problem. Our flight just took a little bit longer than normally. We flew the southern route over Netherlands to avoid the ash cloud over Scotland and Northern Ireland. We arrived in Dublin about one hour late. Since my last visit in 2007, they had completed the Terminal 2, which was very spacious, modern and clean. We rented a car from Budget, but not without trouble getting a suitable car with automatic gearbox. We were supposed to get an SUV with automatic gearbox, but we got a Skoda Octavia instead. Good enough. We didn’t register an extra driver, so I didn’t have to drive. I wouldn’t have minded driving on left hand side traffic, but Tuukka was kind enough to take care of the driving alone for the whole week. Thanks.

We had reserved accommodation near Temple Bar for the first night, but a water leakage changed plans and we were directed to King Fisher, where Ana-Marie in the reception took really good care of us. Say hello if you go there.

After finding a pub, that seemed to be an unexpectedly difficult task, and a few pints of Guinness, we headed towards the O2 arena to see The Wall (read more about the gig).

Days 2-3: Ross Castle

On the second day we packed our stuff to car again, bought some food and beverages (read: beer and vodka), and drove towards Ross Castle. We chose to drive smaller roads to avoid road tolls on the motorway and to see the Irish countryside. The roads were narrow, curvy, and sometimes in a very bad shape with a ridiculous 80 km/h speed limit. 50 or 60 km/h would have been more appropriate. We took a wrong turn in many crossroads that didn’t have proper signs and our Nokia N8 navigator application was constantly trying to reroute back to the tolled motorway, despite the “no tolls, no motorways” setting. Otherwise it performed really well, guiding our way to different places.

After many U-turns and small villages, we finally arrived at Ross Castle, that lies between Mountnugent (insert a Ted Nugent joke here) and Finea in County Meath (read more about Ross Castle).

View to Lough Sheelin from Ross Castle tower

View to Lough Sheelin from Ross Castle tower


I said in earlier post that I didn’t hear or see anything weird in Ross Castle, but that’s not everything. I didn’t actually see any ghosts or hear weird noises, but there was an unpleasant feeling of a presence of someone or something, and some mysterious things happened.

Next to my bed was a chair. When I tried to sleep, I always felt that someone’s sitting on that chair. I didn’t see anything, but still I felt that. On the first night I thought I heard some heavy breathing when falling asleep, but it was probably my own. I also thought I heard whispering (similar to the whispering in the jungle in Lost TV series), but that could have been a dream. No surprise I really couldn’t get a good sleep until sunrise.

There was also a door leading to a small bedroom, opposite to our bedroom door, in the end of a corridor. I closed the door, because I didn’t feel comfortable when it was open. A moment later I heard a sound and when I went to investigate, I noticed that the door was open. No one else was near the room but me. I closed it again and thought that maybe the lock was faulty and air flow had pushed it open, but I was wrong. I had to turn the knob to open the door. It didn’t open by pushing. I closed the door and next morning it was again open. On the second day I checked the door every now and then and it stayed closed. Next morning when I woke up, it was again open.

The cleaning woman told us that she once heard a bucket fall down the stairs in the tower and when investigating, the bucket was standing behind a corner, where it couldn’t have rolled on its own.

Janne told that he saw some kind of an orb and had a powerful feeling of ghost’s presence, but we didn’t hear the noises that most of the other visitors (including Ulster Paranormal Society) had reported in the guestbook.

Spooky place, but worth visiting.

Day 4: To north

On fourth day we headed towards Northern Ireland. We didn’t have any idea how to cross the border, but soon we noticed that there really wasn’t a visible border anywhere. Traffic signs just changed a little bit to show miles instead of kilometers and there we were, in the UK.

Our first stop was in Armagh, that seemed to be strictly divided with nationalists and unionists, because there were their flags everywhere. Otherwise it looked just the same as every Irish town. Near Armagh we had a small walk in the Navan Fort with astonishing 360° open view over the green fields.

After Armagh, we drove via Coleraine to Bushmills, where we spent our fourth night. Me and Tuukka walked to Giant’s Causeway in the evening and barely got back to the main road until nightfall.

Day 5: Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills distillery, Carrick-a-Rede and back to south

In the morning we went again to Giant’s Causeway. We walked around the basaltic columns and climbed to the hills and enjoyed the fresh Atlantic air, although the wind was quite strong. There were signs of recent landslides, so it was quite dangerous to go there in twilight.

When heavy rain fell on us, we decided to leave and head to Carrick-a-Rede, which is a small rope bridge leading to a small Carrick Island near Giant’s Causeway. If there’s something special to see, it’s the view (surprise, surprise). You could even see a distant mountain top on Islay, that is located about 65 km north from the northern coast. I hope to get there some day to taste the smoky and peaty Scotch whiskys in authentic environment. Strong wind made the crossing of the bridge a little bit hard. The personnel measured the wind speed and it was 31 something. Typical, they said. Probably knots, because 31 m/s would have been impossible to cross or even be outside without a shelter.

View from Carrick Island

View from Carrick Island

Next stop was the Bushmills distillery store, where I bought two bottles of Irish whiskey and some other souvenirs.

Then we headed southwest to Donegal via Londonderry (or Derry, whatever). Right before Londonderry there was a brilliant view over Lough Foyle.

The roads on the UK side were in much better shape and I got a similar feeling when going from Finland to Sweden. Everything’s cleaner and just seems to be better. I don’t really want to pick a political side, because the conflict there isn’t my war to fight, but it seems that the UK economy with Pound sterling is much better for Northern Ireland than Euro is for The Republic. Irish people seemed to be worried about the economy and high unemployment. Small towns are dying, because there are no jobs and young, educated people are moving to major cities and abroad. Unemployed people get too much benefits without doing anything and it’s not profitable to get a low pay job. Sounds similar to situation in Finland, except the huge drug problem and high crime rate that trouble Ireland. These facts make it highly irrelevant to argue about unions and republics. There are more important things to worry about.

On the evening of day 5 we went out in Donegal to see the Champion’s league final in a pub. We found ourselves in a local Manchester United fan pub that was filled with local football fanatics. After a few pints of Smithwick’s (if you know where to get Smithwick’s in Finland, please tell me) we thought that it was best to leave, because the atmosphere was becoming more hostile and we were sitting in the lower section of the pub that was filled with Barcelona supporters.

Day 6: Slieve League

On the day 6 we drove past Killybegs and Kilcar to Slieve League, that is the highest sea cliff in Europe. The wind was very strong and it was sometimes difficult to stay on your feet. Even stronger than on Carrick-a-Rede. I climbed quite high on the mountain in wet, grassy terrain, but didn’t have enough courage to go on the other side of the top, because my shoes really weren’t good enough for walking there. Again, the scenery was breathtaking and even the Sun was shining. No rain at all. Splendid.

Slieve League

Slieve League

Day 7: Back to Dublin

The last day was spent driving back to Dublin via Drumcliff, Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon and Maynooth. I was planning to buy a bodhrán, but I couldn’t find one that wasn’t made in China. I’ll probably have to order one from Waltons. After dinner, I was really tired and slept a couple of hours in the car.

Our last night flowed really slowly in the Dublin Airport where we tried to get some sleep in couches. I managed to get two hours of sleep until we were told that we have to leave for cleaning. A little later the check-in desks opened and we dropped our baggage there and went through the security check. After a few hours of wandering in souvenir shops we were heading home, asleep on the plane.

Summary: Great trip. Fun, fun, fun. Can’t wait for the next one.

Post Scriptum

How long does it take to get used to right hand side traffic again?

Ross Castle hospitality

Ross Castle, in the village of Ross, co Meath, a couple hours of drive from Dublin, is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy Irish countryside and hospitality. We spent two nights in this cozy small castle and will certainly return someday.

The building consists of old tower that was originally built in 16th century and rebuilt after destruction in 19th century, and a side wing building that was built in 1960’s on the foundings of older building. One part of the buildings foundations used to be a chapel. The place is filled with antiques, stuffed animals and old books. Definitely worth driving through narrow roads and small villages.

Guestbook is filled with stories from very satisfied visitors and of course, ghost stories.

Many visitors have heard weird noises, knocking on the front door, heavy breathing, footsteps on tower staircase, toilets flushing without anyone being there, seen childrens cradle rocking, glowing orbs and a spirit of a young woman.

I didn’t see or hear anything but a Canadian couple that slept in the tower told us that they could hear lots of ghost noises during the night. This place itself can easily give the creeps to even the most sceptic people; not in a negative way but as an exciting experience in front of fireplace, telling ghost stories to each other.

Food is excellent and the coffee is probably the best in Ireland. The host couple is very nice and we truly enjoyed their hospitality.

I certainly recommend visiting Ross Castle. Spend a night or two and relax.