The Baltic -- Helsinki
Helsinki, capital of the land of forests and lakes. The water
here should be good.
“Smell that,” she says. Good grief, the water stinks of
chlorine. Perhaps we have to go out and scoop our own from a
lake, or do the EU regulations claim that fresh pure water has
to be poisoned with chemicals?
Apparently that is not a rhetorical question. I live not very
far from a spa village in Portugal where people come to take the
waters. Sadly, the regulations insist that the water is loaded
with chemicals “to make it safe”. The sooner the EU in its
present form implodes, the better. I wonder what will happen to
us first, poisoned by chemicals in the water or poisoned by
The approach to Helsinki by ferry is rather like a reverse
picture of the land, which, as you probably know, is pot-holed
with lakes. The sea is festooned with lumps of land. Some are
real islands, head to toe in forest. Some are outcrops of rock,
and some are just blobs a couple of inches above the water.
Some, intriguingly, look like submarines that have just
The ferry was stuffed with Finns coming back from a shopping
spree in Tallin. Apparently, one case of Coca Cola brought back
pays for the trip. The passengers were loaded.
The port area of Helsinki is being redeveloped and so it looks a
mess. There is a statue of some guy in the nude pissing under a
building. Not quite the welcome I expected.
Helsinki seems to be a bit of everything all jumbled up, but
stretching into woodland very quickly. Sadly, the weather is
atrocious: drizzle, followed by grey clouds and dull colours,
followed by more drizzle. This place is clearly an acquired
Trying to get out of here is also rather strange. A flight to St
Petersburg apparently takes 1 hour 50 minutes. However, to get a
cheaper flight I find it takes five hours, which sounds odd
until I see that the plane goes to Riga first. Thinking that it
would be cheaper still to get on at Riga, I check the flights
from there to St Petersburg. Apparently the only flights listed
take about fifteen hours and involve an overnight stay in
Moscow. So that Helsinki plane only lands to offload passengers,
not to take on any. Strange!
I refuse to be daunted. I check the flights from Tallin. They
take over three hours because the flight goes to Helsinki first
where we have to get a connection to St Petersburg. Hold on,
where did that connection come from? Surely not the flight that
cost twice as much as the round trip from Tallin? Something’s a
bit screwy here. How the heck can I do a longer trip, involving
two planes, that costs half the price of one leg of that
Actually I have more imminent problems. I am looking at the
menu. A bowl of asparagus soup in Helsinki costs €12. Strueth!
Perhaps I need to go back to Tallin.
I was expecting Helsinki to be a city festooned with ultra
modern buildings. I suppose it all depends on where you go, but
I started with the train station, which was designed by an
architect I thought I rather liked; Eero Saarinen. It must have
been an early work. Even the doors are inadequate. It’s really
difficult getting in and out during rush hour.
We walked around for a while, but the street names didn’t
correspond with anything on our city map, which was odd, and we
gave up after traversing a whole clutch of squares and wide
streets. The buildings are square, and rather dull. Think
We did a bunk back to our hotel which was to one side of Central
Park. That is the really nice thing about Helsinki; everywhere
are trees; in the squares, along the streets, and the parks are
really large areas of woodland with cycle tracks. We picked some
baby raspberries, and under the trees were masses of
One rather sweet discovery was a pet cemetery at one end of the
wood. Also, I note that Helsinki Day is the same as my birthday.
There is also a quaint custom called Cleaning Day, when folks
clear out stuff they dont want, and set up markets to sell. 28
May and 27 August.
…to be continued
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