History and Wine Part 1: 717 Convicts...

This is the first of two posts that I’m writing about wine, history and convicts! And I must say, that this topic is my newest fascination addiction. So let me introduce you to the “717 Convicts”wine. Made by Darren and Suz Westlake of Westlake Vineyards. They run a small, family operated business in the heart of the Barossa Valley, South Australia’s wine country. And their range “717 Convicts” is one of their brands, and is a tribute to the First Fleet, and tribute to Darren’s ancestors. The story starts back in the county of Devon in England where Edward Westlake was tried for stealing 40 pounds of mutton to the value of 10/-., back in 1786. He was found guilty, and was sentenced to 7 years transportation, along with his father in law, John Mortimer and brother-in-law Noah Mortimer. All three got their “free ticket” to Australia aboard the “Charlotte”, which one of the 11 ships in the First Fleet., which left England in May 1787. You can read more about the ships (and the convicts ) here. Edward, John and Noah were just three of the 100 males, 32 females and 30 crew aboard the “Charlotte” for a total of 252 days – that’s an incredible 8 months, 1 week, and 1 day. I’ve been on cruise ships and by day 12 I tend to get stir crazy – and that’s pure luxury compared to the conditions that these ships would have been, so there is no comparison. After all they were prisoners, and were treated like it too. Anyway all three survived the voyage to New South Wales (not everyone did), and by March 1788 all three were then transferred on to Norfolk Island, as part of...

Everything is Instant

We live in an instant world. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that statement. Our food is instant, our communication is instant, our coffee is instant, and entertainment is too. But from time to time I am reminded about how much we rely on power and automation to make our life what it is. And I’m thinking that maybe I don’t think quite like everyone else, as I like to think about what it was like ‘back in the day’. Back in the era of my grandparents, or even great grandparents. So even just getting up and ready for school or work would have been an entirely different routine to those in today’s era. Just think about it these days: – you can flick a switch, at the lights go on, or when the power is out we have torches (none of this lighting candles just to move from room to room) – and we can turn the knob on the stove, and it heats up – push some buttons on the microwave, and tea is ready in a few minutes – open the fridge or freezer door and you have nicely cold food and drinks – if you’re cold, just pop the heater on – or if you’re hot put the airconditoner or fan on – the washing machine just needs a few buttons pushed, and wallah, it’s all washed for you – and the same goes the dryer – want hot water? No problem. Just turn the tap. None of this having to heat up water in the kettle or copper – want toast for breakfast … just pop a slice in. You don’t have to have a fire to get doing, to then toast the bread – and...

Finland Day 11 & More: Pen-friends, a Castle, Giant Forests, Graves and FAMILY!...

This post completes my the report of my trip to Finland. To say that it has been the trip of a lifetime is an understatement. It has been truly extraordinary in so many ways, and while I’m still jetlagged, and haven’t caught up on work that piled up while I was away yet … I’m sure I’ll be back sometime, but not next week. Anyway, after coming back from the island yesterday it was nice to have a quiet start to Sunday enjoying the sunshine and watching the squirrels in the trees while I had breakfast … before heading out for the afternoon and evening where I got to see a whole heap more of Finland. Seriously, how big is this country? It really is tiny on a map, but obviously is bigger than it seems! Sunday 9 July 2017 – Today was yet another exciting day in Finland (they all seem to be) … as it’s the day that I met my pen-friend, Heli for the very first time in person. But more than just a pen-friend, she’s my 4th cousin once removed. So she’s family! We started writing many years ago (ok, ok, quite a few years ago. Back in the day when letter writing was actually a thing, and it didn’t cost a fortune to post a letter either). Anyway, we arranged to meet up, and she and her partner took me to see a whole lot of Finland for the day. It was a wonderful day with great company, and great sights along the way. First stop was Häme Castle at Hämeenlinna and this is one of Finland’s medieval royal castles. It is believed to have been built at the end of the 13th century....

Finland Day 9 (Part 2) and Day 10: The Finnish Islands...

After visiting Fiskars and seeing the stunning scenery on the drive down to the south of Finland (see my previous post), I wondered if anything could be more beautiful. The answer to this is YES! Friday 7 July 2017 – Continuing Friday’s happenings … cousins of mine have a Summerhouse on Lilla Kuggskäret island, which is just one of the thousands of islands just off the south coast of Finland (who knew that Finland had islands eh?). This region they call the Finnish archipelago. Anyway Lilla Kuggskäret is a smallish island in comparison to some, but in saying that there’s oodles of room to roam and enjoy. This is my cousins very OWN private island, and I was fortunate enough that they invited myself and some other cousins to visit and share their little piece of paradise. For this I say thankyou, thankyou, THANKYOU. It was magical. After a boatride out the island we got to see why they visit as often as they can. The peacefulness is unbelievable. While the island is in the sea (I believe it’s the Baltic Sea), it is as calm as a lake, so you don’t have any crashing waves. In fact, apart from when boats went past, there really wasn’t even any ripples, it really was that calm. After unpacking and having some lunch, we visited a nearby island (Hitis) and checked out the Hiittinen church and cemetery, because that’s what I do! and in fact it’s one of the oldest churches in Finland, and has an amazing story behind it. You can read about that here (note: if you open it in Chrome, it translates to English). And the weather was absolutely perfect for a late BBQ tea (also known as...

Finland Day 9 (Part 1): Fiskars, Scissors, Roller Skiing and Deer...

As I write this, my holiday to Finland is over and I’m already back home (although still not in the right timezone yet). And yes it truly was the trip of a lifetime … the people, the places, the family and the cemeteries … so many memories (and photos) that I’ll treasure. And for the most part the weather was very kind to us, despite it being the coldest Finnish Summer ever. I did manage to get some reporting of my trip done while I was over there, but now have a backlog to catch up on. So bear with me while I get to these over the coming days. Friday 7 July 2017 – After the excitement of researching at the archives and walking Helsinki, checking out all the awesome old buildings (ok, ok, not all of them), it was time to have some quiet time … but relax time had to wait, as today we were up and off early to check out the some of the south of Finland. First stop was a town called Fiskars. Some of you may well have heard of the Fiskars brand which is well known for scissors, knives, scrapbooking tools, kitchen utensils and even gardening tools. It turns out that the Fiskars company started from this tiny town in Finland. The following is from Wikipedia … “Fiskars is a village in the town in western Uusimaa, Finland. The village of Fiskars developed around the ironworks founded by German-born Petter Thorwöste in 1649. The ironworks also produced copper. In 1822, John Jacob von Julin bought the ironworks and founded a fine production facility in 1830 and Finland’s first workshop in 1836. The history of the Fiskars company begins from the Fiskars Bruk,...

Finland Days 7 and 8: Research Fun, Libraries and Touristing...

The last two days have made up for my lazy days at the Summerhouse, as I reckon I’ve walked every street in the centre of Helsinki. Some probably twice. And my Fitbit can prove it. Anyway I was fortunate enough that another Finnish cousin of mine was happy to play tour guide for Wednesday and Thursday, and as a bonus as he’s also into research and libraries took me to all the fun places, as well as a heap more. Wednesday 5 July 2017 Wednesday was pretty much a visit-libraries-and-research-day. I think I went to three libraries, one museum, and the National Archives of Finland. Sound fun doesn’t it … well it does if you’re into that type of thing. Fortunately for me my tour guide cousin, also played interpreter when we were at the archives. I can read names, but don’t understand the record that I’m looking at otherwise. Anyway it was a great day at the archives as we found a death duty record for my 4x great grandma, Ulrika Winter! Who would have thought, eh? But oh so very cool!! Thursday 6 July 2017 This was set aside to be another another research day, but rather than heading back to the archives, my cousin and I spent a couple of hours comparing information, before heading off for a day of touristing. First stop was Suomenlinna (previously named Sveaborg which is the Swedish name for it). Founded in 1748 when Sweden owned Finland, this sea fortress which is built on a group of islands was so they could defend themselves against Russia. Soumenlinna is is now UNESCO World Heritage Listed and is really something to see. The scale of it is phenomenal, and it is all so...

Finland Day 6: Countryside, a Cemetery and Pizza...

I can’t believe it’s been a week already since I arrived. My trip seems to be going so fast, but in some ways it also seems longer, as I’ve done so much … and I have almost another week to go. Tuesday 4 July 2017 Today was a packup-and-leave-Heinola day, but rather than heading straight home, my cousins took me to another beautiful cemetery. They know me so well already! Anyway it was here at the town of Hämeenkoski I got to see my 4x great grandpa’s grave. This place is about a 1 1/2 hour drive north of Helsinki. So that was another very exciting day. The journey to and from the cemetery really was beautiful, as we went through the most spectacular countryside. And as you do, on lazy country drives, we found strawberry farm and got the tastiest strawberries EVER. My cousins and I had pizza for tea, and I must say their “small” pizza is huge. I would expect that in America as everything there is supersize, but not Finland. Anyway it was very tasty, but waaaay to much. Oh and here’s a Finnish thing, when you buy a pizza it’s not pre-cut into slices for you. If you want that done it costs more. Tomorrow I head to the archives for some research...

Finland Day 4 and 5: Summerhouse, Games and Long Nights...

My adventures in Finland continue and the last couple of days were spent at Heinola, at my reli’s summerhouse. This is just over an hour away from where they live… so it’s not far, but it truly is a whole different world, and not just the scenery but also the house and everything in it. It kind of reminds me of my grandma’s place which was filled with everything from a past era, it’s like walking into an antique store. Old knick knacks, old tools, old everything, even an outdoor toilet … but that’s part of the charm of it. In Finland it is a common thing for families to have a summerhouse. It’s school holidays in Finland at the moment and those who work tend to take their holidays during summer if they can, and then all head off to the summerhouse. Some might get there a for a few days, others the entire holiday period. Apart from the noise from roadworks that are happening nearby at the moment, it is incredibly tranquil, and you could totally lose track of day and time very easily. And remember it doesn’t even get vaguely dark until maybe 10.30pm … so you really can stay up all night, outside playing games, or whatever. Sunday 2 July 2017 to Monday 3 July 2017 I won’t go into detail of the past few days, but with the nice weather we had breakfasts outside, went in their sauna (by the way the correct pronunciation of it is sow-nah, not sor-nah), playing games, reading, learning more family history, checking out the town centre, including the bird rescue centre and more. It’s been relaxing and fun, and I’ve taken hundreds of photos. Below are just a...

Finland Day 2 and 3: Churches, Cemeteries, a Mental Hospital and Family...

My adventures in Finland continue and cover churches, cemeteries, a mental hospital and family. Sounds like an interesting mix. Right? Friday 30 June 2017 The day was cool and cloudy, and rain was forecast, still my cousin took me touristing again. This time to the Rock Church in Helsinki. I found this listed on a number of “things you must do in Finland” lists, so asked if we could go there. The Rock Church is a modern church, built in the 1960s that has been built into rock and largely underground. I know my photos don’t do it justice, so here’s a link to find out more about it. It is a big tourist attraction, and yes it even costs to enter (3 Euros/person). Next stop was the Helsinki cemetery. I visited this cemetery a couple of years ago and was shown some relatives graves then, so it was an interesting challenge to see if we could locate them again from memory. Yay for us, we did, though we pretty much walked the entire cemetery looking for them. But since it’s a spectacular cemetery, and the rain held off it was lovely to just wander. I know a cemetery wouldn’t be on most tourist’s itinerary, but you know it’s what us genie folk LOVE, so I was pleased that we got there.   Following on from visiting a church and a cemetery, my cousin took me to a mental hospital which is now partly a cafe … you’d never guess it from outside would you? Saturday 1 July 2017 Yesterday was seeing the ancestors, today was seeing the cousins. Today was an ‘at home’ day, so I don’t have any interesting place pictures to show you. But we did...

Finland Day 1: Squirrels, Porvoo, Korona and a Moose...

Thursday 29 June 2017 was my first full day in Finland, and despite me figuring that I’d need days of straight sleeping to catch up from the trip over, I was up early, and out enjoying the blue sky and warm day and watching the squirrels play in the backyard. My relatives live in Vantaa, which is not that far from Helsinki (Finland’s capital), but it’s a whole lot quieter and a whole lot greener too. Very picturesque. It’s holiday time in Finland (not just for me), so my morning started with sitting out enjoying the sun, watching the squirrels, and enjoying a Finnish breakfast. After that, my reli’s took the opportunity of the great weather and took me out to Porvoo (pronounced porr-voe, like toe). Porvoo is old, and I mean REALLY OLD. When Australian’s think of old we think 100 years is old, but most other places in the world ‘old’ means hundreds, if not thousands of years old. Porvoo fits into that category. Wikipedia says the following: “Porvoo is a city and a municipality situated on the southern coast of Finland approximately 50 kilometres east of Helsinki. Porvoo is one of the six medieval towns in Finland, first mentioned as a city in texts from 14th century.” So this is a town that was founded back in the 1300s … and is STILL STANDING. This means two things: 1. it was built THAT well, far better than anything is today, and 2. developers haven’t come in to demolish and build apartments or businesses instead, which is a blessing as Old Porvoo is a very picturesque (although a little touristy now), place to visit. So if you ever get the chance … go visit. We visited the...