Way out of my comfort zone — Helsinki



Saarinen-designed train station

Playing catchup- post-vacation:

This may be one of the nuttier trips I’ve taken: traveling to Helsinki solo with a broken arm. The trip was going to be arduous to begin with– first the overnight boat trip from Stockholm and then finding my Airbnb in an out of the way place. The arm situation doesn’t help. But hey, I did it and it’s no wonder that I am in bed at 8 p.m. yeah!

I sort of slept last night on the ferry and had the grand breakfast buffet. Who knew I could get sick of lox…but I have. I sat next to a kind Swedish man whose young blond son looked at me somewhat suspiciously. Who was this weird American lady with the big cast on her arm? Stuck up a conversation with a group of quintessential upper Manhattan women (inwood?) who I think also thought I was a bit nuts.


Inside the stunning station (a fast food restaurant…grrr)

Just off the ferry, I found my way at the harbor to the #3 tram and got to the Kallio neighborhood. The hard part was finding and getting into this apartment. Thank God for a Shell gas station, which served as a visual marker, and some very kind Finns who helped me out during various times of need. This is a one-bedroom apartment in a functional modern apartment block. It wasn’t well marked and my directions weren’t clear but people helped in all kinds of ways. My host wasn’t here and I realized she wouldn’t be for several hours. Fortunately an extremely kind couple who run a vintage sign shop next door offered to let me leave my bags with them, which was huge! I made my way to a cafe with WiFi so I could connect with dirck who arrived safely in Chicago and is now on the road to Dsm and God knows what, given the flood damage in our neighborhood while we’ve been away.

I went down to the open air market at the harbor and found some great crafts and gifts…better than anything else on this trip. I already wish I had more time in this city. It feels more exotic and foreign than our previous stops. The market was serving reindeer and moose; selling dyed fur cuffs and socks from Russia. The architecture is very dramatic and feels Soviet modern in places, art nouveau ornate in others. The Saarinen train station is amazing and people don’t seem to notice. They are too busy traveling through it. I also went to the Kamppi chapel, (aka Chapel of Silence) a stunning modern high wooden pod in the middle of a busy brutish shopping square. The idea is to step into it and enjoy the silence of the plain, airy space. It was designed by a Finnish firm and opened when Helsinki was  the 2012 World Design Capital.

Tonight I had a weird Turkish kebab at Doner Harju, a block from this apartment in  Kallio , which is known for its funky restaurants. Tomorrow, I have to pace myself and make some choices, given my limited physical abilities and all the things I’d ideally love to see. Such is life. (Next trip: visit the cool marketplace, Teurastamu.)

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Filed under architecture, Scandinavia, THE ARTS

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