Two of the ‘lucky’ few’ were watching rain clouds slowly melt away the closer to Helsinki we get. It seems kilometres south = degrees vertically, the mercury started to rise and the local insect wildlife once again, began to ping off the windscreen. One of the ‘good bits’ about driving in the cold, wet weather is, there’s no need to constantly rub and scrape the insect bodies off the wing mirrors and front grill every time you stop. The road mellows and widens, dual-carriageways take over from single tracks and lead us to the last bit of Finland, the showpiece of Finland and capital city, Helsinki. In a strange way, neither Turku or Helsinki ‘fit’ into the Finland mould. In the rest of Finland, the Finns like to spread themselves out, put as much distance between themselves and the family next door. It’s the polite thing to do, a bit like MoHo’s in a car park, (not all MoHo owners adhere to this) or when you first go down onto the beach and stand there choosing a spot for the afternoon, you don’t just plonk yourself down a few feet from your neighbour on an otherwise empty beach, it’s just not the polite thing to do. The Finns have this little social skill down-pat. So over-exaggerated is this trait of ‘Don’t interrupt your fellow Finn’ you may not even get eye contact whilst ordering a meal and they will never return to ask that gawd-awful American-ism “everything all right with your meal?” Its not bad manners, it’s just that they don’t want to trouble you. The Finns don’t have letterbox openings in their doors, just in case the postman anciently rattles the box during delivery, their mail goes in the box at the end of the drive. Back to Helsinki…its a complete, and refreshing change to all the solitude, silence and serenity. Up in the north, it could be as sparsely populated as 1 person per square km, but here we have finally figured out where they are all hiding, people abound.
Once we’d wiggled Charlie into a standard car park slot down on the quay-side, he hung over a bit front and back, we would need to pick our moment to leave just as carefully and patiently as we’d arrived, but we set off on foot for the city. Past a busy port (Olympia) loaded with cruise ships, large car and coach parks bustling with people, more people than we’d seen in the whole of Finland! When it comes to population, this country is very ‘bottom heavy!’ The the sun is out, even the Finns, or at least the ‘Helsinki-ites’ are smiling at each other, most even seem to make eye contact.
On route we stumbled into an ‘Oriental’ food fare on one of the main streets and treated ourselves to a sesame seed deep-fried ball with a sponge inner, we’ve no idea what the centre was made of but it tasted ‘vegetable’ and delicious. We loved the trams and the old buildings, some were clearly an echo of past Russian dominance.
Passing the Olympic port brought back a memory of a top class blog I used to read Europe by Camper by Adam and Sophie from Hull (or York, not quite sure) anyway, I remember reading that they went to St. Petersburg from Helsinki, so I dug up their blog from June 2011 and looked into it. Seems you can still do it for about £300 return ferry and a hotel in central St. Petersburg inc. breakfast! Enough said. When were we ever going to be able to go to Russia for £300. Booked it, packed it…I’ll let you know the rest!
n60.17499 e24.90990 Helsinki west, available weekends only due to new infants school. Quiet Free, toilet on beach.
n60.17218 e24.60360 Helsinki west, near grave yard, no restrictions. Quiet, drinking water tap provided. Free.
n60.15907 e27.96186 Helsinki east, public car park €1 per hour 09:00-18:00 week days… week-end Free. Perfect for walking into Helsinki and for Olympic ferry to Tallinn.
Hope you all had a great Bank holiday week-end. Cheers, Wayne.