Winter has come, Finland is literally covered in snow and temperatures are almost constantly below 0 (celsius). And as soon as the days become below freezing for enough days in a row, man-made ice rinks are built and made all over the cities. This is one huge benefit of being a Finn, because they are provided by the city, they are maintained by the city and there are so many of them all over the city, it's a great and easy form of fun and fitness right outside everyone's door. And for me, it literally is right outside the door.
Our local ice rink can be seen from our apartment windows and every time I look out, there is always someone on the ice. Maybe it's some adults playing an impromptu game of ice hockey, maybe it's some kids hitting pucks against the walls practicing, maybe it's some very small kids barely able to walk skating and falling, skating and falling. But since there are so many rinks all over the city, they are never crowded. There are two 'huts/shacks/boxes/houses' where you can walk inside, sit on benches, take off your shoes, put on your skates and leave your shoes and blade protectors while you skate. The rink can be used at anytime in the day, it's completely public, and at night the entire place is lit up so you can skate even when it's dark. Which, at the time of writing this post, is 3:30pm.
An explanation for non-Finns. Ice rinks are not built on lakes. People do not skate on lakes (that I know of or have seen, anyway). Despite the fact that Finland has more lakes than any country in the world besides Norway, all the rinks are built on fields. In the summer people play soccer, basketball, tennis or just play, in the winter it's all ice. To show this, I have made a series of photographs so you can see the ,building of an ice rink.' Enjoy!
August. The tennis courts are open. The basketball courts are behind the tree. A tall wire fence surrounds and borders the next door soccer field where goals are set up. People play tennis often, kids play on the soccer field daily and now and then team matches are held.
Later in November. The border to the hockey rink is built.
January. Temperatures stay below 0. One day hoses are brought out and sprayed all day onto the ground, forming a thin layer of ice. The ice is not yet able to be skated on; it is too thin. This process is repeated for a few days and every night, the rink stays empty, waiting for the ice to harden and the Finns to take a first tentative skate on the ice.
Then one night some hockey players try to start a game out on the ice. They play for a couple of hours. Niko and I go out that night after work. They hockey players are leaving the ice as we get ready to get on; they have been kicked off-their skates are too rough and some of the ice has patches and holes. We go out and skate and some kids come in with their hockey sticks and pucks and slam pucks against the walls. Niko and I skate around for about half and hour and then leave, so that the ice patches can be repaired. It was a great time skating and we will definitely be out there often.
The ice rink needs constant maintenance. It snows often, so the snow plow goes out almost hourly to clean the snow off the ice. The ice is maintained by more water from the hoses and scraping and smoothing with tools and machines. The funny thing is, the ice rink seems to be maintained more often than the roads. Interesting priorities.
Sometimes the snow doesn't even stop the Finns. They pull out shovels and make space enough for them and their family to skate. Or sometimes they just skate through the snow.
Hope you enjoyed the post, it's time for me to go skating now!