Thursday, June 29, 2006

The best cafés in town

Right, I have my tourist guide's cap on, and here goes: Café Tamminiementie, the best café, is suitably off the beaten track yet within easy reach from the heart of town. It has a truly Chekhovian atmosphere both indoors and out, the slices of pie are warship-sized, delicious, and served with generous dollops of whipped cream (flavoured with real vanilla), and you can drink as many cups of coffee (or tea) as you can handle, for the price of one cup. I have also had the best slice of mushroom and asparagus quiche of my life at this establishment. The name means "Oak Cape Road" (also the address), and that's my mum on the left.

The midsummer rose, "juhannusruusu", blooms gorgeously in the garden area of Café Tamminiementie, but only for a week or so.

Another good café on the fortress island of Suomenlinna, 15 minutes by ferry from the heart of town. Sadly, my camera ran out of batteries, as had the one local shop, so I have no more photos of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

At the sculpture park, Helsinki

Note Finlandia House and the National Museum in the background. I have always loved this entirely undeveloped bit of wasteland, put to artistic use, right in the heart of town. Unfortunately but hardly surprisingly, it is all facing development soon.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The sauna cures feelings of displacement and all other human ills...

...what the sauna doesn't cure, will kill you, they say.
A view of the lake from the sauna. I took this picture at around 11:30 pm, round mid-June, when there were still a few nights left for it to get even lighter. (Of course now, we're only heading for the darker times again.)

My gran taught me to make reed boats the way her brother had made them. My summertime friends, the boys next door, refined and updated the design. I spent most of my childhood summers making these...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hääyöaie, or how I missed John Irving at the pub

Bloomsday yesterday. After the entertainments at O'Malley's, one of the local Irish pubs, the evening degenerated into general pub nonsense, with (for instance) the Finns round the table trying to list the seventeen cases for nouns in our peculiar language, unrelated to almost any other. We were stumped at around thirteen - fourteen, although I am sure I can smoothly and effortlessly use each and every one of them in speech and writing. One of my pals came up with a Finnish word he uses to stun foreigners with: hääyöaie, wedding night intention. Seven vowels in a row, what a beauty (please note y is always a vowel in Finnish: purse your lips to whistle, then make a sound like the oo in too, or ui in suit). Much later in the night, we were told the author John Irving, currently promoting his latest book in Helsinki , had just left he pub. I read and liked Hotel New Hampshire as a teenager.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It is telling, perhaps,

of the human condition how a long and eagerly awaited homecoming can make one feel an inexplicable sadness. I sit in what was my girlhood bedroom, now my father's "study", an overly-posh word for what it is, and I cannot make out whether I am the same person now as then, whether I regret everything or nothing, whether life feels infinitely long or fleetingly short.

On the windowsill, my father has an old photograph, a portrait of his father's family with parents and eight children - my great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and my grandfather at around eight. He looks so much like my younger son you would think someone has photoshopped my baby into the picture. My great-grandmother is not many years older than I am now but looks almost seventy. She will die not long after the picture is taken. I cannot remember whether she lives to see the baby of the family drown. The child is around four, fair-haired, tiny, frail. I imagine I can see him already marked out for an early death. My grandfather was born 1900. The picture will be nearly a century old.

Even this far "south" (all is relative), the days are almost 24 hours long. You would think it would give people a sense of eternal life, but quite the opposite. The Arctic-Slavic blood in my veins spells out "it will all end soon" with every heartbeat. Oh, life, life.

© 2006 Anna MR

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Finland, Finland, Finland...

...the country vhere I vant to be ...

(please remember this is a Monty Python song rather than thinking I've gone mad)

Odd fact of the day: Finland, a country of ca 5 million inhabitants, has ca 2 million saunas. The sauna was the first thing the old forest-dwelling Finns would build; only after the sauna was ready, would they start on the actual living quarters. People were born in the sauna, died in the sauna, and best of all, got warm in a sauna. In a word, it is irreplacable for any genetic Finn and pretty damn good for the rest of mankind, and I have missed sauna madly in the tropics.

I arrived on Thursday last week and *still* haven't had a sauna! We have a particularly romantic and wonderful one at the mökki (important Finnish word # 2: mökki, summer cottage), built practically above a lake, it is fantastic. I am certainly off there in the next few days. Photographic evidence will follow.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lightening up a little, with the help of a sandcastle and a red balloon

The cathedral

I love the cathedral, but I do recognise it is excessively white and pure and austere, like the epitomy of North European Lutheranism...

A view downtown

My favourite statue

My favourite Helsinki-ite

Isn't she pretty? She is called Havis Amanda.

Finland, the promised land of funny headgear

Right then dear hearts, here we are. We didn't miss the planes, although it was close in LAX, and they didn't crash, although I was convinced they would. My husband broke the car, but that was only on his way back from Kona, and although it was a bracing +9 C when we arrived, the sun is up (for most of a 24-hour period) and it is already considerably warmer.

Do you like this hat? Learn to say "kiva hattu", or "nice hat" in Finnish. You get the most outrageous headgear here.

This is going to be the sister site to My Hawai'ian Diary, only valid while I am in Finland. Currently I think it will consist mainly of pictures, although uploading them seems so difficult on my father's Windows machine, I am uncertain whether I will ever post again.