July 15th, 2010


Jyvaskyla 1

Any con that schedules in a sauna is My Kind of Con.

I had a leisurely morning, packing and eating the hotel's princely buffet breakfast while Ellen Met The Press with Pat Cadigan, and then we piled in Tero's car with Ellen's translator Johanna and set off to Jyvaskyla, where the con is.  I don't have much to say about the drive, having slept through most of it.  I did wake up enough from time to time to notice that the terrain grew hillier, the rocks went from reddish to shades of brown, and there seemed to be more white birch trunks as we headed inland.  But I still can't say I've seen a lot of Finnish countryside.  Luckily we're going to be here for 2 weeks, so I've got time.  So far, I'm reminded of Maine, without the tourist tat and the traffic.  Of course, I can't understand a word anybody's saying, but I rather like that.

We checked into our hotel and unpacked,and then it was time to go to the reception for the Jyvaskyla Arts Festival.  There were ladies in cocktail dresses and fans in tshirts and pretty much every sartorial choice in between.  We were greeted at the head of the staircase by three official-looking gentlemen in suits, and then let loose on the buffet.  There was a lovely roasted salmon with cucumber and yoghurt sauce and lots of salad.  There was a small hill of strawberries, which we excavated gleefully.  There was pink champagne.  While we ate and chatted, a chamber group played Sleeping Beauty and Mozart.  Later, teenagers did an interperative dance to the tune of (I kid you not) "Little Houses On the Hillside," after which we left, because, how could they top that?

Besides, it was time for the sauna.

It was out in the country, in a kind lady's lake house.  I'm not entirely sure who she was, but she's opening her sauna and cottage and barbeque pit to anybody from the Arts Festival crew who wants to use it for the whole weekend.  About 15 of us cycled through the the sauna and out to the peat-brown, brisk lake water, in relays.  It was magical.  I've never been in a proper sauna before, and was a little nervous I wouldn't be able to take the heat.  But in the event, it wasn't bad, as long as I sat on the lower bench.  The lake water was neither too warm nor too cold, but incredibly refreshing and silky.  I trod water,  ducked mosquitoes, and talked to a couple of lovely Finnish fantasy writers whose names have slid out of my brain.  And all this, surrounded by pine-and-birch wooded hills and a lovely, pearly light diffused through clouds that shifted and bunched overhead.

After we were all dry and clothed, we ate tofu dogs and sausages.  Cheryl Morgan contributed 2 bottles of Jura single-malt, which we sipped as we talked about Finnish mythology and SF fandom in Finland and filking and Moomintrolls (who  love grey, cloudy weather).  I learned that "The Wizard's Apprentice" from Troll's Eye View has been translated into Finnish, and am hoping to see it this weekend.  In the midst of all this, just as the coffee was about to be ready, Kati Clements announced that it was about to rain, and we had to get back to the cars (which were parked at the end of a precipitous, unpaved road) Right Now!  So we all pulled ourselves together reluctantly, hiked up the path, and got to the cars just as the heavens opened.

And now we're back in our hotel, relaxed and tired, listening to the rain, enjoying the coolth, and more than ready to turn in.

Tomorrow:  The Con.