Hi, my name is Risto Marttinen and I am the secretary general of AIESEP and an associate professor at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. In this blog I am going to walk you through a few things to know about the upcoming AIESEP conference in Finland.
If you somehow landed here and don’t know what AIESEP is, and you’re in the field of physical education and sport pedagogy, you’re missing out! It is the international association for PE in higher education. It’s a GREAT (I’d call it a family) of scholars who share research and network annually at an international conference. We also have monthly online meetings and SO much more, but this blog is about the AIESEP conference in Finland so let’s get to that!
The next few blogs (also as podcasts here) are going to take you from booking your flight to booking a sauna boat in Jyväskylä.
But in the first blog, I am going to talk a little bit about what I would do in booking a trip to Finland, if you’re looking to explore outside of the academic conference.
First, let me explain my “Finnish credentials” I was born and raised in Lappeenranta Finland, it’s about 30Km from the Russian border in eastern Finland. I went through elementary school in Finland but since then I’ve lived in the USA, outside of doing my military service in Finland when I was 18. I have been to Finland every year that I’ve been alive except for 2003… I decided to spend my spring break money in college to visit my best friend from Finland who was studying abroad in Ghent Belgium…I have no regrets on that.
BUT. That means I have flown into the Helsinki airport A LOT…and I hope that these blogs help you think about Finland and the surrounding areas in a different way. I have a deep passion for travel, so I don’t expect everyone to: 1) travel like me, or 2) think that the things I suggest are fun. So, I warn you, if you continue listening, these are my recommendations based on my life experiences and travels in the Nordic region. Take it for what it is: recommendations from some academic podcast host dreaming of traveling in the middle of winter.
*one major thing to remember, the EU has announced that they will make travel authorization mandatory for like 1.4 billion people. This is similar to the ESTA that Europeans need to fill out before they come to the USA, but just as a heads up, they have said this launches in 2024, so be on the lookout. If you have traveled to Europe before with no extra steps…just remember to expect some extra steps and plan for it.
OK- so the main things to know. You will be flying into HEL (H.E.L.) which is the airport code for Helsinki. Jyväskylä does have an airport; however, at the time of this recording, they are still negotiating flight schedules, and bookings are not yet available. BUT, to be honest, I hope you fly in a day early at least, check out Helsinki and get on a train to Jyväskylä.
The Airport in HEL is REALLY nice. It got some awards as the “best airport for its size” and I have to mostly agree, it exudes Nordic design and has a ton of great amenities (it first opened for the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games). The best thing that happened to the airport around 2015 is rail access. They built a GIANT train system into the rock underneath the airport. When you descend down the escalators, look at the walls and imagine how much carving they did. BUT all that said, you can leave the airport, and take the train to the center of Helsinki or take it through a transfer to Jyväskylä.
To city centrum- you can buy tickets on the platform to the city, or on the app, or online with vr.fi if you’re doing a regional trip right out. But it’s probably smartest to buy on the platform if you’re staying in Helsinki a bit, you could buy a few day pass to get around as the pass works on trams and busses also.
To JYU- getting to Jyväskylä by train is pretty easy. You can go straight from the airport, you’ll take one transfer 8min away to Tikkurila, and then get on an InterCity train, and 7 stops later you’re in Jyväskylä. OR if you go to Helsinki before heading north, you can take the train straight from the central rail station.
It’s about 3.5hrs and the trains are pretty smooth. The website to look for train tickets is vr.fi. the tickets will become available for purchase late January or early February. As I noted in the December newsletter, Finns like quiet cars. There are more social spots like the food cart where people meet to talk. There are kid’s cars also that have playgrounds (which my daughter really loved last year), and there are private cars if you book early, for a small fee you can book a 2 person pod, or a 4 person pod. You can also book bigger seats in business class for 10-20EUR each way. Essentially this is above the food cart and a place to reserve and have a more comfortable seat, better view etc. I’ve booked it only once and it’s a nice ride but the rest of the train is nice also. All announcements are in Finnish, then Swedish and finally in English.
JYV is the airport code for Jyväskylä. They don’t have the times out yet for May, and sometimes the planes don’t really fly at ideal times of the day. But you can look up flights through Finnair and they are operated by Nordic Regional…in April the flights flew INTO JYV at 2pm and 12:40am (not ideal)- leaving and going back to Helsinki there was a 2:20pm departure and a 5:40am departure. That’s all I will say about flights to Jyväskylä-
Ok…let’s get to these side trips! I hope you’re able to spend some time in Helsinki when you are there. There are TONS of things to do and see there and in the blog before the conference in a few months time, I will elaborate on all things Helsinki. For now, hopefully in your plans you’ve carved out some time to visit the nation’s capital. Let’s now talk about another nation’s capital
Tallin-capital of Estonia
You can get there easily by ferry. These tickets you can book now, and you can do this trip one way in 2hrs and the cost is about 30EUR-36EUR each way so look at the links I put in to the notes below for what to book. Tallink, Viking Line and Eckero run combined like 8 trips a day to Tallin.
Tallin is beautiful, it has a medieval city center where cars are banned for the most part so it’s great to walk, lots of great architecture and mostly it’s less expensive than Finland in all areas. I’ve been there a few times and so has my extended family. Even if it is for a day, it’s a great place to check out. Estonia is also rising in the PISA scores (latest results put them at or near the top in Europe and top 8 in the world) and has recently been noted as one of the top education systems in the world. It is also one of the most internet connected societies in the world! And…a fun fact… Skype was invented in Estonia.
The other easy trip is to go to Stockholm Sweden. This can be done in a few easy ways. One (and I think the most boring one) just fly the less than 1hr from Helsinki to Stockholm and visit Sweden.
Now, for the more “interesting” one…is to take the ferry. Look up Silja Line or Viking Line. They do one way or return trips. Usually, they leave Helsinki at 5pm and you spend the night on the boat, eat well, check out some entertainment, go to the casino, and then you wake up in the Stockholm harbour around 8am. The ferry is also kid friendly and tons of families take their kids there. Late at night you may see the ugly side of Finland which is a bunch of drunk people acting stupid, but you can avoid these people pretty easily! You then have until 4pm to tour around and then you go back on the same boat. You can also do this one way- meaning fly into Stockholm and then take the one-way ferry to Helsinki harbor.
There are all levels of cabins, including 4 floors under the deck, where the hum of engines lulls you to sleep (this is what I did as an 18yr old) all the way to the cabins with an ocean view terrace on the top floor and Moomin themed cabins for families.
Whatever you do, if you take the boat that is, make sure you drop your stuff off in the room and make your way topside to take in the view when traveling through the islands of Stockholm (which take longer) or Helsinki. It’s a view like no other.
ALTERNATIVELY you could also go to Stockholm from Turku which used to be the capital city of Finland when Finland was under Swedish rule. Turku’s islands (archipelago) are longer to get through, thus the more pretty send off, and if the seas are rough then it’s a smoother ride from Turku to Stockholm based on the geography and being sheltered by the archipelago.
The other easily accessible city is Copenhagen. Easy, due to flight connections mostly…by land, it’s a long way to get there. BUT, if you’re in Stockholm, there is a train connection that gets you to Copenhagen in about 5hrs – this route takes you through the world’s longest underwater tunnel at 4km and is preceded by 8km of bridges!
But, companies like SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) do take you through Copenhagen to Finland. This is my layover, I booked a 6hr layover so I can do a quick visit to the city. FUN FACT, Copenhagen was the site of the 2013 international summer school that I got to visit as a PhD student and which I’ve based the AIESEP PhD summer school idea around!
So, as a reminder here, the Early Bird Rate is open until January 14th 2024. You can see a preliminary schedule up on the website (see notes).
As a quick overview the conference starts on Monday May 13th with pre-conference sessions, I think for example the TGfU are starting a bit earlier and other pre-conference sessions are later in the afternoon. you can register for these when you sign up. On Tuesday the 14th the first session starts at 12:15 and we finish with a reception that evening. The conference ends at 3pm on Friday the 17th if you’re looking at booking trains etc.
There is a lot of info on the website on hotels also. A brief summary: The Hotel Alba is the closest walking distance to where the keynote sessions are for example, Verso is about a 20min walk, Laajavuori is one of the farthest, this is a Scandic hotel, it’s 3km outside of the university BUT it’s built more into nature, near the lake and there are baths there so it may be more kid friendly?
OK- so that’s it for this part of the overview. In the next blog I am going to tell you more about the conference itself and things to think about in Jyvaskyla
Secretary General of AIESEP
AIESEP 2024 website https://www.jyu.fi/en/events/aiesep-2024
Helsinki to Tallin Ferry:
Helsinki to Stockholm Ferry
Silja Line and Viking Line