Sunday, July 8, 2007

Walking through Helsinki


Getting to bed last night at midnight, except for two hours from 3am to 5am, Pat and I slept until 11:30am this morning. Our planned day on one of the city's walking tours was cut a bit short, but we definately enjoyed the first long sleep we've had in three days. Trading luggage for a camera, map, and guide book, we visited churches, museums, and some very well-organized public places.

It may be because a major portion of the year the city is covered with snow, but I am very impressed with the design of their businesses, transportation, and residences. Just off one of the main squares is a building which houses the bus station, metro system entrance, major shopping center, and large grocery store, all sitting under hundreds of high rise residences. Since many of the other metro stations are also in office and business complexes, I can imagine not ever having to go outside on some winter days.

Although I could have guessed that Helsinki had a fishing industry history, I wasn't prepared for how many beautiful ships (large and small) were collected in the harbor. They all looked prepared for cold weather sailing, but still had that serious racing edge to them (strong sails and trim designs). I know that someday I'll take Pat into a sailing adventure.

We visited the Finnish Design Museum and walked through the area of town known as the Design District. Pat has been the furniture, fashion, and art expert in our family, and I now see more clearly the Finnish influences in the things I've seen in homes and offices. Buildings that are sleek, look very functional, and yet combine a bit of art nouveau ornamentation, seem to be everywhere. I also like the human column figures holding up huge ballestrades on the older facades.

Which brings me to a question I'll be looking to find an answer if I can, "What makes Finns Finnish?" I'm trying my best to store the sound of their language, but will I be able to differentiate them from the Swedes, Danes,and Norwegians in the coming weeks? The Finns have many cutlures living in Helsinki, and I sense that may be true for each of the capitals we will visit. It may not be the best environment to learn the distinctions well.

Tomorrow, we take the bus to Porvoo. It's an old Finnish medieval town, founded in 1346. As I write this, the Wimbledon Men's tennis match is being broadcast quietly on the digital television on the desk beside the laptop, and Pat's reading on the bed behind me. We're going to try to stay up a few more hours tonight to see if we can sleep for eight hours straight. The room we're in has a dark curtain, and I've given my eye mask to Pat. I'm optomistic, and we need an early start to the travel to Porvoo.

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