I had the pleasure of being Guest of Honor at Ropecon in Helsinki, Finland last weekend. My husband John, Atlas Games' President, came along as my +1, and we had an amazing time together on our first real vacation since our oldest kids were born (almost 6 years ago!). The sauna parties at Ropecon are legendary, of course, but it was actually the many smaller things that made the trip really rewarding to me.
The friendliness of the people was the first thing that struck me, starting with our guide Jukka Seppanen and including the many convention-goers and staffers we met. Jukka spent three days driving us around town, arranged for a private tour of the Seurasaari open-air museum led by a guide who was a friend of his, and was amazingly patient with our tendency to take all day at museums that any reasonable person would be through in a couple hours. Back at the convention, all of my seminars had really excellent attendance, and the questions
from the audiences were frequent and engaged. Staff was eager to help us,
and they made us feel like a part of the Ropecon family from the very start.
The familiarity of the landscape was another thing that struck me on our trip. John and I kept comparing the trees, the rocky shorelines, and even the overcast spring weather to Minnesota's north shore, where we live. Suddenly we realized why it was that so many Finns ended up settling here ... they found a place that felt like home, and stayed there!
But it was the differences that were the most surprising, like the folk dancing at Saturday's ball that was the culmination of two days of convention-run lessons, the number of LARPs in the program, the rocking chairs in the bathrooms for nursing mothers, the blackmiths who had a working forge set up at their booth outside the convention center, the fact that attendees actually sleep in designated rooms at the convention center, and the way that sauna schedules are published in the program!
It was a wonderful, eye-opening experience, and one I'd recommend to anyone who has the chance to go. Ropecon is definitely worth the trip!