Helsinki is Lovely Without Clouds

M. James Thompson

One Fine Adventure: Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki Airport
10:05 CST 18:05 LT
Farther than I should be from my gate

I am afraid that if I get all the way to my gate it will be without internet and then I will have to walk all the way back. For that reason I am sitting rather far and will end up running in about thirty minutes. Hopefully I hear the announcement for my Finnair flight to New Delhi.

My time in Helsinki has been an absolute treat. If not for an absurdly long layover I would have never discovered the Design Capital of the World 2012. Helsinki hides a lot of treasures in a cityscape much smaller than what I am used to. The city also operates a highly efficient and effective local and regional mass transit system that can be utilized with one handy card. Much of the city can be walked in a reasonable amount of time and almost every major tourist attraction can be reached by walking from one to the other. A very good walking tour would get a majority of the city into your digital camera in one day.

The most surprising part of the public transportation is the inclusion of ferries. This was not as surprising after viewing a map of the islands in the harbor. A free ride to Suomenlinna, an island fortress, was not something that I would expect to be included. The island itself is elegant and simple as was the majority of the city. Throughout European travel I have come across everything from 5000 year old mounds of dirty to cathedrals that soared so high they dared to touch the heavens. Because of this I have adapted a certain expectation, or more likely a misunderstanding, of how European architecture should appear.

Helsinki has done a fine job in shifting my image of Europe and expectations of architecture. Although the majority of architecture in Helsinki is not new, it is in no way old when compared to cities like Athens and Paris. Unfortunately my historical and architectural knowledge are lacking when it comes to eastern and northern Europe; I was not prepared for the influx of historical significance and effects of modern construction growing near buildings that are several centuries old. There is a great deal of character in the government buildings, homes, markets, churches and even in the national and international chain stores. Right in the middle of the perfectly sculpted neighborhoods is a culture that has endeared through centuries, conquests and occupations.

I will remember my time in the city fondly. With a bit of luck I will find myself on another grand layover in Helsinki. Seeing the forests of the north and sail around the islands on my way to Sweden have recently been scribbled onto my bucket list. Thank you Annika for your hospitality, Moomin Trolls, and traditional breakfast. Thank you Helsinki for making me feel at home and reminding me that no matter how far from home I find myself there will always be people willing to welcome me into their city.

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