In February this year I was fast approaching the big Four Oh! Many emotions were in my head about hitting this milestone but I cunningly sidestepped them by planning a trip to Delhi to see an amazing friend and to do some creative thinking. I (well my partner) had some airmiles just burning a hole in the metaphorical wallet so it seemed to make sense to use them. As luck would have it the only miles route available was via Helsinki on Finnair. A few years ago this would have thrown me into a bit of a tizz but I decided to make use of it and grab 40 by the horns so planned a three day stop there. It had been on my list of places I wanted to go forever so it seemed that the stars were aligned.
So after negotiating the joys of Airbnb, an evening stop at a functional hotel at Heathrow, and a flight over some beautiful European countryside, I found myself in a distinctly chilly Helsinki. And when I say chilly I mean it – a jolly -7 degrees. I had of course been totally prepared with a suitcase full of ‘layers’, ready for whatever Helsinki could throw at me, but what amazed me over my time there was that it was a dry cold and so was quite bearable in a couple of layers and a lovely warm coat. The insidious damp that follows us around in the UK from one season to the next was delightfully missing! It made for a crisp landscape, lovely crystal blue skies and stopping for regular caffeine infusions at the many coffee shops.
I was excited to see the architecture of Finland as I’d always imagined it to be a mix of simple Scandinavian with a subtle Russian overlay – and I was right. There is an overarching sense of austerity, but I was surprised that it wasn’t a cold austerity, but welcoming and strong. None more iconic than the beautiful train station which I arrived at following a super efficient journey on the recently completed route from the airport right into Helsinki.
My apartment was only 15 minutes walk and it was with tentative steps that I began my adjustment to a world governed by ice! It is everywhere, from the ground, frozen out of drainpipes, dripping down walls and in massive piles of compacted snow. I stayed in a ‘Jugend’ style apartment and was reminded of the high ceilings and simple architecture of Georgian buildings in the UK. I had everything I needed, a kitchen, sofa, comfy bed and bathroom and was happy with my choice.
Before heading to Helsinki I’d pored over guides of what to see, what was cool, etc etc and it meant that I got the most out of my few days. I had a list of galleries longer than my arm, some reflective spaces and some nature, so as soon as I’d arrived I was off out to sample some of the sights. I bought a Helsinki Card which proved invaluable as it gave free entry to most cultural spaces and free use of the buses and trams.
I managed to fit in a lot and over the next few posts I’ll be talking about some of the things I saw and experienced. It was an intense few days with some monumentally inspiring elements. These included seeing a show devoted to the reflections of light through glass, cracking ice on a trip to the Suomenlinna fortress, and spending some time in contemplative spaces of which Helsinki has many!