A Wintry Helsinki Weekend

So far, we have a pretty shitty record when it comes to flying anywhere together, a whole list of delays, cancellations, illness, denied boardings and lost luggages.

Despite that, a couple of weeks ago, we set our sights on destination Helsinki for the second time. The first attempt had been stopped by an episode of projectile vomiting that was reminiscent of a scene from The Exorcist, but there were high hopes that nothing would prevent us from reaching the Finnish capital this time around.

Everything looked good, no illness or issues, checked in online, and then the ‘Beast from the East’ met ‘Storm Emma’, this is not the lineup for a women’s wrestling match but a couple of pretty rough weather systems colliding over Europe. Snow in Barcelona and Rome, transport chaos across Western Europe, schools, hospitals and airports closed all over the place and many flights delayed or cancelled.

But we were heading East not West so it wouldn’t affect us, surely?

Then came the phone call from a very nice lady at the airline, saying that there was a very high chance our flight would be cancelled because the plane was stuck somewhere else and may not arrive in Copenhagen for us to fly out of Copenhagen on it, but that there were a few available seats on a later flight which would not have such a problem and would we like to change flight.

So we change flights…

…and then our flight is delayed (but only slightly), and then we board, and then we sit, and then we sit some more, and then we drive for what seems like miles and miles around the airport, and then they spray the wings with some de-snow and de-icing liquid, and then we drive for what seems like miles and miles again around the airport, and then we sit, and then… then finally we take off.

Some stormy tailwinds helped us make up some time and we actually landed only about 40 minutes behind schedule, a mere half an hour later than the original flight we were booked on which had been delayed by almost three hours.

And so the weekend began.

I have this mental list of places that I have never been that I would really like to explore. It’s a bit of a random list and contains oh so many countries, cities and mountains, to name just a few: Cambodia, Iceland, Austin, Carcassonne, Tokyo, Helsinki.

Now I can tick off the Finnish capital and I feel that it is only right that I share some thoughts about it. So, in a very brief list form, I have learned that Helsinki is:

  • Smaller than I expected.
  • Much quieter than I expected.
  • Not as expensive as I expected.
  • Just as cold as I expected.
  • Quite full of well signposted and free public toilets (unlike Copenhagen).
  • Really full of saunas, in people’s bathrooms, in houses and apartments.

and Finns are:

  • As Moomin obsessed as you might imagine.
  • Surprisingly big fans of cardamom.

Helsinki is also home to some amazing new (to me) friends, at least one (I am sure there are others) very good place to get coffee and cake and some very cool old wooden buildings. It’s a great place to explore, especially with local guides and walking across it’s frozen sea and lakes in winter is both immensely beautiful and very fun.

What did we do or see in Helsinki, what historical sites or cultural museums did we visit?

Not much or many to be honest, but sometimes you don’t have to do all of the touristy things, sometimes the best way to get to know somewhere a little bit and to feel at home is simply to act like you are. To wander around the city without a real predefined destination or purpose, to go shopping in an average supermarket and then cook at home, to sauna, to eat traditional sweet things, maybe to witness your friends baby walk for the first time. Those are the things that can make you fall in love with a city and taken on that basis Helsinki is almost impossible not to like very very much.

We did see the white church and the church in the rock from the outside and the largest Alko in Finland from the inside. We walked through and bought cheese in a very cool food market, watched people swim when the air temperature was -11C in a heated pool cut into the ice, and walked between islands over the frozen sea. Helsinki in winter is beautiful, I can’t wait to visit again in summer when I imagine it is a completely different city.

Thank you Henna, Dick and Touko for an amazing weekend!

Helsinki station

That great place to get coffee cake I mentioned earlier, which also has does a very good sandwich is called Kuppi ja Muffini and is at Kalevankatu 17. Oh, and if you fancy a good walk, a nice view and a very decent burger (other dishes are available including salmon soup) then you could do a lot worse then checking out Koskenranta.

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