The charm of the unknown familiar
I am in Helsinki, or Helsingfors for the Swedish speaking.
I cannot really count the times I have been to, or transited via the Finnish capital; they just feel many. Keeping count is quite difficult as my visits to Finland are all a familiar blur….
Figure that it takes 45 minutes to travel from Arlanda airport to Helsinki, compared to my daily fourty-minute train ride from home to work. I read a couple of articles in the inflight magazine, snoozed for a bit and and before I knew it the pilot was announcing our descent.
I landed with a small rucksack packed with necessities and loose instructions on how to reach my friends place. I did not want her to pick me up at the station, as that would spoil some of the fun of traveling. I ended up taking the wrong train-line from the airport, but I was not too worried; traveling is not fun if you don’t allow yourself to get lost once in a while.
The man sitting opposite me was the typical shy-looking Finn. He took my situation quite personally. We studied the train diagram together; he consulted a fellow passenger, a distinguished-looking woman in her fifties, and asked her for directions on my behalf. After some minutes her husband, a smiling middle-aged guy with a fancy scarf, came back to us with additional information that he had looked up on his phone. I could picture the two of them eating croissants with coffee for breakfast before going to an art exhibition. Finnish people may appear distant and closed, but in reality they are helpful and down to earth people.
After a comfortable detour, I walked to my friend’s place and found it very easily. While I was walking in the new neighbourhood, I was once again amazed at how different Finland is to Sweden. Not only is the feeling different, but also the light, the landscape and the architecture. Same, same but different could not describe it better.
It is Sunday morning and I am sitting on the mint-green couch of a funky little apartment built in the fourties, located in the Olympic village. The next door neighbour is either having a huge hang over, or dying of a stomach bug. The wall opposite me is painted in electric blue, a batch of laundry is drying and I slept until almost nine o’ clock EET.
Yesterday we had sauna at the Löyly, a public sauna by the sea and dinner at the fancy Yume restaurant, followed by a night cap at Harry’s bar, which smelled like a carpet populated by happy fungi.
It is almost noon, my host is having her beauty sleep and I am sipping on a cup of tea, but getting quite ready for breakfast. Let’s see what this grey November day has to say.