« February 2012 | Main | July 2012 »

June 2012 Archives

June 6, 2012

Welcome to Helsinki

Our arrival couldn't have been smoother. Trudy and I flew Icelandic Air, landing at Vantaa Airport last Friday afternoon. Icelandic's planes have these wonderful seat backs that fold in to hold your head in place when you're sleeping, so we actually slept well on the overnight flight with none of that jerking awake each time your head falls to the side. After sleeping on the plane, the early morning connection through Reykjavik is very quiet and peaceful. Boardings aren't really announced. You just find your gate on the display and board when you get to the gate. No waiting, first come, first served, and a lot less congestion in the aisles. Once we landed and picked up our luggage, we took a door marked 'nothing to declare' which led directly out to the main airport lounge, quite the simple customs procedure. There, immediately to the right, was 'Otto', the ATM machine where we stocked up on euro's. While Trudy got her money, down the hall I spotted - guess what - a Starbucks, which turns out to have opened just a few weeks ago and is the first one in Finland. Of course, we headed straight for it, and while waiting for our lattes, saw the Finnair City Center bus we wanted waiting right outside. With lattes in hand, we hopped on the bus and arrived at the main rail station downtown. From there, it was a quick cab ride to the apartment to begin our Helsinki adventure without having to ask anyone for help or directions.

Since that auspicious start it's been a bit trickier to figure things out though. We did get the heavy brown wooden blinds lowered to block out the still bright sky when we went to bed, but were never able to find the switch to turn off some small overhead lights that shone on us all night. It was hard to give up without figuring it out but sleep was more important than the challenge. Finally an email to the apartment owner revealed the switch to be just out of sight behind the top of the refrigerator. Now though, we've mastered the metro and trams, been somewhat less successful at following the Arabia Art Tour, and had mixed results during our exploration of the Suomenlinna Fortress. We've felt good about our successes, and laughed and enjoyed the unexpected, but often just as good results that come from taking a wrong turn along the way. Here are some photos.

June 8, 2012

The Good Life


Here's our spot for morning coffee and tea, a funky place with some great vintage Aalto furniture. The barista/owner, winner of last year's Best Barista in Finland competition, makes a strong and tasty latte, with fine latte art on top. I've been starting my day with a buzz because there's no such thing as decaf in Finland.

June 9, 2012

End of Week 1 with Trudy

My first week in Helsinki ended today when Trudy left for the airport around noon time. Her email over the airport's free wifi confirms another smooth trip - the quick bus trip from Rautatientori left time for relaxing and people watching, there was no need to remove her shoes at security and they barely glanced at her passport.

While she was here, we visited pretty much all of the sites listed as most popular, yet still found time for several unexpected extras. At the Kiasma Art Museum where we viewed the show called 'Thank You for the Music - How Music Moves Us', we bravely passed warnings about explicit content to enter the room for a video called 'Grind'. We watched, amazed, as dancers in slow motion performed 'the grind', in a kaleidoscopic-like video, using incredible muscle control that is unnoticed at normal speed. As we got up to leave, a woman sitting in front of us began talking to us in rapid Finnish, but as soon as we said 'English please', she effortlessly switched over to ask us how we had found the video. It turned out that she was one of the dancers in it, and was trying to gauge visitors' reactions to the film. She said men had often been more uncomfortable than women, though many wives also quickly urged their husbands to leave with them. We assured her we found it not overly explicit or discomfiting, but fantastic, because of the beauty of the videography, the appreciation we developed for the strength and control of the dancers, and just plain hard work required. Sharing with her made our appreciation of the video an even more special experience.

Our visit to the Rock Church started off badly as busload after busload of tourists filled the church in waves, spending only enough time to take photos of each other against the rock background. We sat and tried to appreciate the beauty but ultimately the waves drove us to the exit. As I asked about brochures for the upcoming concerts I'd seen advertised on a sign outside, a man who overheard me, said his group was about to begin rehearsal for their concert that night. We knew we couldn't go to the concert itself, so we walked back into the sanctuary to sit through some unusual vocal warmups and then a bit of their planned evening performance, another unexpected special addition to our visit. Thank you to that man. Photos show some more of the story.

June 11, 2012

Sunday and Monday Walks

The bright blue and beautiful Sunday led me out walking along the waterfront from Hakaniemi, past Kruununhaka, up the hill to the Uspenski Cathedral and then to a bench on Esplanadi to read. Our host left a book for us, 'Helsinki Beyond Dreams', and I read through almost the whole thing at various rest stops during my lengthy walk. As the sub-title 'actions towards a creative and sustainable hometown' reads, there was much of interest. Best of all though, was getting the answer to the mystery of how the flower bed in the center of Bear Park went from dirt to garden overnight. Last week, when Trudy and I walked back to the apartment after dinner one night, the plot was empty, but when we went out the next morning, it was filled with plants. Too bad we got such a late start because it would have been a treat to see the local, elderly 'godmothers' who look after the park, doing their annual spring planting. At least now we know we didn't imagine the transformation.

So Monday was supposed to be grocery and laundry day but once I got over to the market, I decided to just take a short walk on the Kruununhaka streets I hadn't seen Sunday when I walked along the water. By the time I got back from a not so short walk at 4, the outside market at Hakaniemi was already closed but I got what I needed inside. Photos show both days' explorations, and I did get the somewhat intimidating laundry machines figured out for some clean clothes. Now early to bed to get ready for tomorrow's Helsinki Day celebrations.

June 15, 2012

A Flaneur in Helsinki

So for the last couple of days I've been walking in all the different neighborhoods, and there's one thing I've noticed everywhere. People in Finland walk fast, or at least in Helsinki they do. There's a purpose in every step and it's evidently to get someplace in the quickest possible way, leaving someone like me far behind. But one cannot flaneur in a rush for who knows what may be missed - the handsome man on the Esplanade dressed in tails practicing his lines for some upcoming production, the kids zipline in the corner of an otherwise pretty basic playground, or the beautifully sunlit garage at the end of an alley, with the disconcerting, if for real, homicide police-style body outline on the cement. Without meandering wherever the sunny sides of the street led me, I would not have found the construction site of the only new single house I saw anywhere in the city center. I don't think I even saw any other place where it looked like there was a plot of available land. I wouldn't be the owner of a funky 7 euro skirt, with front different from back, that wasn't hanging, but lying on top of all the other skirts in the used clothing store, waiting for me. It was so perfect with what I already had on, I just wore it home. Photos show what I've found fun and interesting, but I'm still taking John Baxter's words to heart - 'A walk is not a parade or race. It's a succession of instants, anyone of which can illuminate a lifetime'. I'm hoping for that sort of inspiration, but if it were winter time, I'd be doing my best to keep up with those fast-walking Finns.

June 17, 2012

Another Day Another Walk

So you know how all those articles that say you should find your passion and make that your life's work? Well I've finally found mine; it's retirement.

I like nothing better than to spend a month somewhere I've never been before and just explore. In retirement, you've got plenty of time to be out and about, just seeing what's there. You can walk at your own pace, look down every little alley and try to see into every hidden courtyard, and then sit in a cafe and read when your feet are tired. It's important to have a place where you can cook because then you can shop for food and drink, and get a bit of the feel for what it's actually like to live there. Sometimes you try new foods that are great; sometimes not. If you scratch the floor with your suitcase, you can try and find the same kind of fix-it stick there is at home, but finally give up, because they just don't have it. You can speculate about who made the hanging banners draped on a classic yellow stone building and what words the owner of the Mercedes truck had for the seagulls perched on top. You can see different ways of landscaping and of making building entries easily accessible. When you've got a month, you don't have to rush to see all the tourist stuff. You've got plenty of time to see the real stuff too. Which brings me to why the turtle sculptures around Helsinki? Answered on the web of course. And here are my photos.

June 21, 2012

Tuesday in Helsinki with Peter

The sun is out and we've got to be out. Here are a few photos from our first day.

June 23, 2012

Wednesday at the Arabia Factory

It's still great weather and has been for the past several days. The skies are bright blue, the sun warms everything to the upper 60's, the shade stays cool and the daylight lasts until nearly 11:00 pm. While this has been terrific for our exploring walks, there's not much time for posting when you don't even get home until ten at night. Perhaps I'll get a little caught up if there's a rainy day, but I can't even guarantee that. Here's one of my favorite shots from our Wednesday photos.


Thursday Part One

So if there's a Part One, be assured at some point there will be a Part Two. This Thursday was another gorgeous day to be outside, and we took full advantage. We tried to start out with Good Life Coffee but he was already closed for the holiday weekend. That reminded us to stock up on some groceries since many shops would be closed throughout the Mid-Summer weekend. Since we missed Good Life, we got coffee at Good Pie Bakery instead. Then we headed off on the 3B tram around one o'clock. These photos are just the first part of the rest of the day.

June 25, 2012

Thursday Part Two

Our day continued with the discovery of a tunnel, just between Kiasma and the Music Center, that led to a walking/bike path leading all the way to the water. We still haven't found out the real name, but we're calling it the 'Low Line', as an obvious opposite of the West Village High Line. We struck out on our first two church visits - both the Rock Church and Kampi Chapel of Silence were closed - but on the third try, the Oldest Church was still open. That gave us another opportunity to meet some Helsinki locals who unfortunately, didn't know the name of the new pathway either. We included a stop for the season special asparagus pizza at Putte's, walked along the Esplanadi, around Senate Square, and finally back to the Metro a little after 10:00 pm. It's surprising how walkable everything is in Helsinki, and we explored an amazing amount of it by the end of our long day.

June 27, 2012

Friday Excuses

The days here are so long and busy that once again, I'm falling way behind with anything more than just downloading photos to be ready for the next day's shots. So, just a short bit on the Midsummer celebration here. We first noticed birch branches, the symbolic decoration for Johannus, atop the market stalls and later saw them on buildings throughout the city and on boats along the waterfront. At the market, everyone was lined up to buy clusters of branches or even small trees, but not everyone took their birch tree home on the tram. The tree below was so full and tall, you can barely see the woman holding it.


About June 2012

This page contains all entries posted to hey jud in June 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2012 is the previous archive.

July 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.3