Tag Archives: Helsinki

Design Museum/District, Old Market (Story Restaurant), Cruise, Airbnb, Cashlessness – Helsinki

Still playing post-vacation catchup:

What do Nokia, Angry Birds, Fiskars,  and Marimekko have in common? They were all designed by Finns. This I learned at the interesting Design Museum here in Helsinki. I also learned about the Finnish designer Timo Sarpaneva who did a lot of glass designs for the company littala (or iittala) which i thought was Italian but apparently is named after a Finnish town.

This from Wiki: Timo Tapani Sarpaneva was an influential Finnish designer, sculptor, and educator best known in the art world for innovative work in glass, which often merged attributes of display art objects with utilitarian designations

He perfected a glass blowing technique that involved rubbing the hot glass with a wet piece of curved wood, creating a bubble inside the glass that is manipulated,  becoming part of the design. He also designed fabrics and did many drawings. Cool museum. I love the clothing people wear here, lots of vivid colors, patterns and designs ( a la Marimekko.)

I walked to the nearby design district, visiting little shops like Lokal, where a sweet saleswoman recommended other shops and even a flea market in the area. I have been struck by how kind people are to this hot, tired, one-armed American tourist (i.e. me).  One man (handsome man too) stopped to ask if I needed help as I was staring at my battered map. Later, I met a angel of sorts – a beautiful young woman with long blond hair, modeling one of her $350 personally designed orange silk dresses – who closed up her shop and led me a few blocks to the #3 tram. And gave me a hug before she left.

Helsinki room with piano

Down at the harbor, I got lunch in the renovated 19th century brick market hall at a place called Story. As my mom noted in her journal 25 years ago, “no memorable food here” but that’s ok. I am even tired of smoked salmon. I jumped aboard a 45 minute cruise around the harbor to rest and almost fell asleep. The fjords spoiled me for other ferries.


I’m on the second floor of this Kallio neighborhood apartment block.

I leave very early to tomorrow and have practiced walking the tricky 11 minute route to the airport bus stop, which I will walk at about 5 am. I couldn’t find the bus stop at first but finally figured it out this afternoon.

Staying at this Airbnb hasn’t been as easy as the others. The host is very kind but she doesn’t communicate very well and the directions she gave to her place were insufficient, as were directions for getting in. I also couldn’t reach her by phone when I had this trouble. (She later told me she can’t pick up at work.) She lives in a hidden spot that is not a bad location, once you find it but that ain’t easy. She seems to assume her guests have cellphones that work without WiFi, which is not the case for me. Next trip I will consider buying a data plan again and travel insurance. I also was struck by how cashless travel is, especially in Stockholm. If you don’t have a credit card, you often cannot do what you want to do. I watched one man be turned away at the cool photography museum in Stockholm because he only had cash. The museum refused to take it. Which is odd, because it used to be that merchants didn’t want you to use anything but cash. On two occasions, my credit card didn’t work in Stockholm, due to the merchant’s machine, not my card, but it was still a little alarming., especially since i only have one credit card. In one case, Francine had to buy my metro tix.




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Filed under museum exhibit, Scandinavia, THE ARTS

Hanging out at Gatwick – London (sort of)

Playing post-vacation catch up:

It’s tempting to jump on a train and visit my beloved London during this 7 hour layover but a number of things are holding me back, including my arm, which doesn’t hurt but slows me down. “Been through the war?” the immigration woman said to me with uncharacteristic humor.

Fact is, I’d have only 3 hours max before I need to head back to the airport for check in. And protests are expected in London because Trump is visiting. (I just avoided him in Helsinki, where he and Putin are summitting in a few days.)

I wasn’t planning to go through immigration here but my Norwegian Air representative recommended this, even if I don’t go out of the airport because apparently it offers more comfortable options for waiting around than departures. Good to know for future reference.

I slept a bit last night but was up by 3:30 a.m. to watch my cell alarm go off at 4. My Airbnb host Annamari was sleeping on the living room couch (I had her room) but got up to give me a hug goodbye. It was kind of an odd Airbnb arrangement but she was sweet and the price was good ($70 a night). The 11 minute walk to the bus was easy and because it was almost full daylight I didn’t feel spooked dragging my suitcase through neighborhood streets at night. Oddly, I had to pay with cash (5.50 euros) which is the opposite of other Scandinavian countries that have become almost cashless.

Kallio Airbnb

As I pulled my suitcase through the outskirts of Kallio, several young people were out and about, at a karaoke bar and the McDonald’s. The airport bus was packed at 4:30 am but Helsinki airport was very quiet at 5:15 am. My first flight was easy and not too uncomfortable. I think I slept. Next one could be a bear.

Airbnb room

But hey, just found some reclining lounge chairs here, looking down through the glass at people checking in for flood flights. Feels almost like a day at the beach except there is no sun or sea or beach and a baby is wailing nearby. And three security guards just passed by with a sniffing dog.

P.S. As it turned out, my flight to  Chicago was delayed two hours because the pilot was missing. not a promising sign.  He did eventually show and we flew on without incident. Forgot what a pit Gatwick is. Chicago Midway looked bright and shiny by comparison the next day.

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Filed under airport/flight safety, England and U.K., Scandinavia

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

Aboard the Silja Serenade – Helsinki here I come

Playing catchup post-vacation:

I’ve got a deck chair near the bar on the top deck (I think) of this enormous cruise ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. Never been on a boat like this so particularly fascinating. The entrance to the boat was like entering a huge shopping mall/casino floor/theme park with glitzy shops, costumed greeters for the kids and those cheesy photo booths where you have to have your photo taken (presumably to be sold to you on the way

approaching helsinki


My little windowless cabin reminds me of a room in a Tokyo business hotel. A small pod. There appear to be a lot of young people/potential partiers nearby so who knows if I will get any sleep. There are a lot of families with kids and kids activities. I just want to sit and look at the scenery so we shall see. I watched a low-wattage floor show, watched people shop in the duty free, ate  over priced pasta and struggled to maintain WiFi.

Dirck left around 7:15 a.m. with Russ. (He had to run back and get his phone which he left at our Airbnb. Fortunately I heard him call my name thru the courtyard window.) Francine and I spent a few hours at the fantastic contemporary photography center Fotografiska in north Sodermalm, which had some great exhibits including one with work by Linda and Mary McCartney. We ate a pizza tartette (fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella on pastry dough ) in the hip cafeteria. Hated saying goodbye but I’ve gotten better at it with so much practice.


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Filed under Scandinavia