Finding my Feet in Finland

I was surprised with what I found. Can I say that?

I knew so little about Helsinki or Finnish history.

P1000140

The Nordic regions weren’t a focus of the Australian school curriculum at all. In fact, growing up in Australia in the sixties,you would be considered a bit of a nerd, or at least a well-read child, if you even knew of the country called Finland, (unless, of course, you had Finnish heritage or a ‘Euro-vision’ Song Contest fanatic in your family).

Armed with this startling lack of knowledge, and the little I had gleaned from my post- school reading, I flew into ‘Vantaa’ airport in Helsinki, en route to Norway. And let me say again, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

wp-1470541719229.jpg

First impressions of Helsinki:

There is something about the smell of the place that I can’t quite put my finger on. It has the smell of Scandinavia, or at least that is what my nostrils tell me…. but I can’t be sure just what this is. So I challenge my thinking a bit more.

It is then I realize, it is not the smell of a country iself, but the smell of clean, crisp, fresh air. Air that is unadulterated by the pollution that besets many cities today. The proximity of Finland to both the North Pole and the Baltic sea, as well as its clean energy sources  clearly gives Finland this privilege and I for one, revel in it.

P1000144

Heading into Helsinki after a long haul flight, I look out airport-city bus window to see Green everywhere and it is not the same green; there are 101 varieties of green.  Brilliant green, apple green, mint green, moss-green, and of course, leaf green in the many trees, plants, grassy fields and forest. Beautiful!

P1000213

Then I notice that all this greenery is punctuated haphazardly here and there by massive granite rocks, seemingly flung around like a giant’s marble set. One that is over 560 million years old. The remnants now lying still and intractable. Permanent.  Polished smooth by glacial action and natural forces through time.  Houses, trees and modern infrastructure with simply no alternative, but to build around these stoic, granite monoliths.
But don’t visualize a stark moonscape of rock, because it is not like that at all, purely because there is so much greenery and interesting architecture.Because, shading almost each and every boulder, you will find the ever graceful Birch trees. Quintessentially Scandinavian. Being summertime when I arrived, the Birch branches let their long leafy tresses sway gently in the sea breeze. It felt like a welcome party, beckoning me forward to experience Helsinki.

BIrch in Helsinki

Yes, there is something wonderful here. I feel instantly comfortable, even though I am an alien in this environment and a solo female traveler. ‘Hey,’ I remind myself, ‘I don’t even know any Finnish words yet!’  But it is only a matter of minutes after setting down in my hotel at the harbour, that I quickly understand ‘Moi’ is ‘Hello’ and ‘Kittos’ means ‘thank you.’  Essential language if one would like to eat or drink in public!!

P1000358

If you fly into Helsinki from the west, you will undoubtedly spot the coastline of Finland, dotted as it is with thousands of islands and small skerries. Maritime navigation must be a nightmare for the inexperienced sailor!  Particularly as: “The southern islands in the Gulf of Finland are mainly of low elevation,

20160528_130558

But, perhaps I should tell you a little more about Helsinki, other than what you find in the usual tourist brochures?

Finland share its borders with Russia, Sweden and Norway and I do think the history with these neighboring powers is reflected in the capital’s architecture. When you imagine Helsinki, imagine glass conservatories, crisp white, copper green or even red painted domes and turrets and lemon yellow or eggshell-blue buildings adorned with white window details, all of which echo the historic Swedish and Russian imperialist regimes and their respective architectural styles.

P1000159

The clothing, lifestyle and culture in Southern Finland also evokes a typical Scandinavian summer day: cool and crisp in the morning, warming towards a lazy long afternoon where time becomes confused, (it may be 10 pm and some are only thinking about dinner).

Imagine also long shafts of golden evening light and cool glades with shadows resting languidly behind a festive main street atmosphere. All this, at the onset of twilight, before the night makes its slow descent to darkness.

P1000146

The capital city Helsinki is a fashionable place… a secret I am sure is kept from the rest of the world. In the storefronts, I see elegant dresses with unique and beautiful designs and lots of bold bright colour…of which ‘Marimekko’ is famous. [And if anyone knows me, they will tell of my preference for this exact thing: bold, bright colour]. So I wear a happy smile!!!

20160528_160903Gorgeous dresses with a distinctive, personal flair, not seen in my corner of the world, adorn many of the formal wear shops in the streets of Helsinki. Who would have thought I would find this so far north?

I also spot botanical, Linnean- inspired prints in delicate, lightweight fabrics, all with that indefinable something, that says ‘Scandinavia.’ It is so light here in the summer and like the beech and birch wood, Finland also seems free and tolerant…  a little like the mentality the Scandinavian summer landscape seems to suggest. Helsinki has me feeling all romantic!!!

P1000189

Mind you, the Finns are a little reserved with strangers, but this will only be a bother if  you expect American or Australian open-mindedness towards strangers. Despite the staging of a multicultural music and ethnic festival held in the city during my stay, I could still feel the Finnish character: that wonderful Scandinavian persona, but with an inner stoicism that visitors may find a little aloof. Rather, than thinking this was a negative, I preferred a more romantic view of the people. One where Finns guard their privacy and others’ privacy, with the respect it deserves.

P1000305

There is so much more to Helsinki and Finland, and I will talk about that in the next post. After all, there are some of the most iconic sites found around Helsinki, not the least of which is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Suomenlimma Fortress.

For me it is   Something to Ponder About.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

About Forestwoodfolk

Scandinavian culture, literature and traditions are close to my heart, even though I am Australian. I have Scandinavian, Frisian and Prussian/Silesian ancestry and for that reason, I feel a connection with that part of the world. I am an avid Nordic Crime fiction reader, and enjoy photography, writing and a variety of cooking and crafts, and traditional decorative art forms. Politically aware and egalitarian by nature, I have a strong environmental bent.
This entry was posted in Community and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Finding my Feet in Finland

  1. Wow, thanks for telling these interesting facts. Sounds like a place to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sartenada says:

    How wonderful post. I enjoyed it very much. Your photos are great and they praise the beauty of Helsinki and well selected with taste. Thank you.

    Happy and safe travels.

    Like

  3. I just love Finland too, and visit every summer. It’s do nice that you enjoyed eing there as much as me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We got Helsinki as a kind of bonus when we booked a holiday to Europe with our boys because of a deal with Finnair. I was rapt because everywhere else we were going I’d been before but Finland was new for all of us. 🙂 I loved it there so much I wish we’d had longer. Thank you for this first trip down memory lane. Can’t wait for your post on Suomenlimma Fortress. You can imagine how loved that place was by three young boys. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I certainly can imagine how much fun the boys would have had at Suomenlinna. Although I had been to many places around Helsinki, this was my first stop there, also because of Finnair flight paths. But there was no way I minded at all. In fact, flying over the flight schedule was great. Coming home, we had to stop in Hong kong and Cairns, which was a bit of a drag. What do you think of Finnair?

      Liked by 1 person

    • My memory is that the toys for the kids were good but the food was not. Not great service either. Also, their booking system was a nightmare because the agent could only book a maximum of four seats on one booking. So we, as a family of five, had to book as two separate bookings of my husband and our eldest on one and me with the two youngest on the other. Luckily we managed to get seats together on all but the second last flight (London to Singapore). Still don’t understand it. But that was nearly 9 years ago now so hopefully things have changed.

      Liked by 1 person

    • As a solo traveler, I didn’t have those kind of problems. I think the service has improved quite a bit. Most of the staff on the Asia to Helsinki and return legs, were Asian staff. We also had a brand new plane from Helsinki which was a nice experience. The sector from Hong Kong was code shared by Cathay Pacific, and the movie and food selection not quite as good, as the Finnair sector, but still quite okay. That must have been a real pain having to make two bookings especially come check in time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, especially when they couldn’t book us on the same flight from Helsinki to Munich. We just had to hope they could fit us on the one flight come check in time. Stressful! In a weird act of Providence, we arrived at the airport to discover we were already booked on the same flight! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh. What a logistical nightmare to have some of the family arriving separately. So glad it worked out for you, but crazy that their system couldn’t accomodate a reasonably simple booking. What airline did you choose the following trip?

      Liked by 1 person

    • The next trip was Vietnam & Cambodia. We flew Singapore Airlines. We’ve also flown Qantas, Cathay, Thai, Malaysian and Emirates. They’ve all had pluses and minuses. We tend to go with the deals, within reason!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely a good idea to go with the special offers. It does depend on your chosen destination. But I do like Singapore airlines for their great customer service!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. lulu says:

    I know nothing of Finland either so thanks for providing a peek. Some of your physical description is much like Maine.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. elizz says:

    thank you for the tour.. so interesting and couldn’t wait for the next installment…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Looking forward to the next post – happy you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Hanging Around in Helsinki – Part I | Something to Ponder About

  9. restlessjo says:

    I’ve enjoyed looking at Helsinki with you, Amanda. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. cocoaupnorth says:

    So lovely to hear that you enjoyed your stay in Finland, Amanda. You never mentioned that you were traveling solo, when you asked about Porvoo. It would have been lovely to meet because I don’t leave very far from Helsinki, that is, Tampere. But now that you’ve ‘fallen in love’ with Helsinki, I hope you’ll be back for more. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • cocoaupnorth says:

      That was supposed to be ‘live’ not ‘leave’; autocorrect at play. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    • And I read it as ‘live’ in my head Cocoa. If I reply to comments on my phone instead of tablet, I often make mistakes like these!

      Like

    • Oh Cocoa, that us such a shame.I usually travel solo these days. It would have definitely been a lot of fun to meet, although my time frame was a bit limited. Yes, I do hope to visit again but it won’t be for a while yet! It is nice to know that you would be interested in a meetup. Was it you that recommended the lovely bakery opposite the park? If it was, I really did appreciate the advice to visit there.

      Liked by 1 person

    • cocoaupnorth says:

      I’m definitely looking forward to a meetup some day. I always wish to meet bloggers whom I’ve “known” for years face to face, and you’re one of them.
      About the bakery, someone else might have suggested it but I’m glad you

      Liked by 1 person

    • Awww. Thanks. I think you were one of the first blogs I followed when I started blogging seriously.
      And Yes It might have been Snowmeltssomewhere that mentioned the bakery? She is based in Finland.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. cocoaupnorth says:

    …glad you found it and enjoyed Finnish pastries. In fact, I saw in one of your photos the famous
    cinnamon bun😀.
    And yes blogging on phones or iPad as I’m doing now is clumsy. I had to continue with this comment here because I accidentally pressed “send”.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.