For some reason, the Baltics had never really appealed to me. That is until a certain social media site re-introduced me to a brief yet bright burning flame sparked years ago in Manchester. A journalist from Finland, coy about her own writing talent and own, well, hotness. She proclaimed herself to be one of the most unattractive girls in Helsinki, I remember thinking, ‘well at the moment, you’re probably in the top ten girls in England.’ Anyway, apologies, my wick is heating up again…
A message one day: “Come over and visit my country. It is gray and rough, but the people are honest. It is cold and windy, but the people who become your friends are war inside. “
The ‘war inside’ people intrigued me and so, two months and two hours later I was at Helsinki airport: As expected, clean, functional, efficient.
A taxi appeared and out she stepped. No Helsinking feeling here – and the same applied to Helsinki as a city too: Difficult to place: Feeling certain of being somewhere in Europe, but not quite Germany. Not quite the Netherlands. Helsinki is crisp and clean. A manageable city to navigate and walk around in. Or rent a bike from the many shops dotted throughout the city.
The trams in Helsinki also serve the city and beyond. We took a 3B out to the Sealife centre. No matter where I go, I love to see fish in captivity, for some reason.
The main centre of Helsinki is known as Vironniemi, it is here where the cafes, shopping and commercial areas overflow with locals and those passing through. Helsinki does not suffer from a sense of claustrophobia like other cities. There is an acute sense of space and of the feeling of being outdoors. The crisp, bright light helps. That real feeling of being alive. Or that could have just come from being with her….
We took a walk around the manmade lake in Helsinki. And later on ate in a cafe high up in a tower overlooking the city. The greatest pleasure and surprise however, was meeting and talking to lots of Helsinki locals and discovering how accommodating they were. Not only dark and funny, but articulate and engaging. Although their winters can be harsh: dark, long, extremely cold. This was not matched by the people at the film launch, the cafe, the nightclub…
Finding little evidence of this ‘war inside’, I left Helsinki. One of us even cried at the airport (me). It was only when I got home that I realised she meant ‘warm inside.’ And she was right. Helsinki is a fantastic place to visit, to interact and breathe…
And the journalist? She is now married to a lucky guy with a lovely baby, the social media site tells me that (from our still being friends, not from stalking!) Meanwhile, I have fond memories of eating Reindeer (like Christmas – disappointing!) whilst lighting another candle….
This is a Guest Post by baltictravelcompany – a UK specialist tour operator to the Baltic region, including the Baltic States, Russia and Scandinavia.