From the comfort of our cosy and very central apartment we’ve explored this city slowly over the last few days, and we’re loving the calm and relaxed atmosphere. I’m sure the cold snap has something to do with the quietness, but this city seems to hustle along without needing to bustle. Here’s a snapshot of activities over the last few days:
- shopping at the local supermarket – one of the benefits of having a well-appointed kitchen at our disposal. There is an Aldi clone just down the road and we’ve self-catered nearly all the time so far, saving us heaps of dough. There’s been only one cultural faux pas involving an onion, a Singaporean banknote and the checkout, but that was resolved with good humour 🙂
- lunching Helsinki-style – the one time we have eaten out, we joined numerous city workers eating at the food court of the Stockmann department store. Numerous buffet-style options to choose from at reasonable prices for Helsinki
- watching an ice hockey match at a local pub – for me, one of the best ways to see a culture let its hair down is during major sporting events. I’ve seen Chileans get wild in a Valparaiso cafe while watching their soccer team play an Olympic qualifier, and watched a home game at the stadium of famous Buenos Aires football club River Plate (where they raise exuberant fandom to an artform). Ice hockey is the Finnish national sport, their national team was playing an international against neighbouring giant Russia in Helsinki, and we went to a sports bar to watch it with locals. Surely they would be getting into it?? Well, no. Though the pub was busy most were watching the game in silence, staring at the big screens or the small one attached to each table (a nice touch). Subdued was the order of the day, which I guess sums up the national character? Noone was pissed, however, and I suspect that when they are that the mood changes drastically…
- visiting Suomenlinna – the island fortress that is a must-see on any visit to Helsinki. To do it justice you should really visit in summer and allow a full day, joining one of the guided tours to fully understand it’s significance. We were happy to visit only for an hour to get a taste, and given the temperature staying all day was not an option. The best part of the whole trip was the ferry ride across the partly frozen harbour, our sturdy boat skating across an endless slushie of ice. Kristen has posted a great video of this part of the trip!
- Seeing the National Museum’s extensive collection, and visiting the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. Kiasma is currently holding an interesting exhibition “Thank You For The Music” devoted to musical fandom over the last thirty year
Apart from that, we’ve walked extensively around this compact town and taken refuge from the cold in the apartment. Free high-speed wifi is included in our room so we’ve had plenty of time to set up this blog and the associated picture galleries. Hope you enjoy 😉