Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hip Helsinki

Duck, duck, boat duck.  Check out this cool boat in one of Stockholm's many harbors.

Oops, this is the real duck.
Why do I think my brother would love this as a camouflage hunting boat?

We had perfect timing to get on our boat to travel from Stockholm to Helsinki.  We had a huge cabin, but then it is a HUGE boat.  There were ten stories, including two ferry decks.  I actually took this picture from  the Helsinki side.

Gabriella, our Viking Line ship, in Helsinki harbor
Now that we've recovered from the stress of the Priceline hotel fiasco, we have to say Helsinki is not Hell-sinki but Cool-sinki.  It is a dynamic city with a bit of a Russian flair.  Unbeknownst to me prior to arriving with my limited geography skills, Helsinki is just across the channel from St. Petersburg, Russia and it was actually modeled on this city during part of its history.

Cathedral (Evangelical Lutheran) modeled after cathedral in St. Petersburg 
While Sweden was an incredibly easy place to get away with English, Finland is a little tougher.  The people in the tourist industry speak perfect English, of course, but others may not.  Of course, anyone’s English is spectacular compared to our Finnish vocabulary of one word – sauna – that we can’t even pronounce correctly!

So, there literally are sauna’s everywhere – including on our Viking ferry aka cruise ship.
Sauna on the good ship Gabriella
 Finland is known for a few things besides saunas: Nokia phones, Marimekko fabrics, and one of the world’s top education systems.  Helsinki was also awarded the 2012 Design Capitol of the World.  There are 190 places in the small capitol city that are part of the Design District.  Design includes interior design, clothing, jewelry, art, photography, and even fusion cuisine.  The clean lines of Finnish furniture and the fun and funky ceramics are some of my favorites.
Finnish coffee, anyone?
 Other things you may not have known about Finland:

1. Santa Claus lives on the mountain Korvatunturi in Lapland as well.  So Santa is one of the first Finnish exports.  He is able to stop time, without him being stuck in time, so he is able to be everywhere at once.

2. The President of Finland is Tarja Halonen, and she has been re-elected for her second 6-year term.  Women in Finland were the first in the world to obtain full political rights in 1906.

3.  Finland was part of Sweden from 1155 to 1809 when it became an autonomous grand duchy (principality) of Russia until it gained independence during World War I in 1917.

4.  There is a population of over 1 million people in the greater Helsinki area.  Finland’s overall population is 5.3 million.  There are just over 200,000 reindeer.

5.  When you look at the Quality of Life Index from Nation Ranking, Finland ranks 7th overall in quality of life.  They are #1 in education and democracy and #2 in peace (after New Zealand).  They are lower in health, wealth and the environment – but above the United States in all of these.  In general, the most northern countries are doing very well.  I’d love to learn more about the Finnish education system – but since we are only here for three 3 days I won’t be doing any classroom visits!

Today I wandered the streets, stores and waterfront for about 5 hours.  I can’t carry anything large in my already overstuffed bag, so I took some notes of things I’d like to look for on the web later on.  Think IKEA with even more creative furniture and house ware ideas spread out in lots of boutique stores.  Then add a bunch of incredible jewelry and wonderful clothes and amazing fabrics, and you are getting close.  Toss in some darling Santa stuff and you are almost there.

The great side of traveling in November is there aren’t too many other tourists to jostle with in the stores or on the sidewalks.  The harder part is the reduced daylight hours and the amount of clothes you have to wear to stay warm!  Thank goodness we both like winter!

If you are in the mood to procrastinate, these are my recommendations of designers to google:

Oiva Toikka, art glass, including amazing glass birds

Iittala – Scandinavian design including some of my favorite simple glassware

Aarikka – Finnish family-owned business with clean lines, and nice use of wood

Gotta love it!

1 comment:

  1. this is so cool. some teachers are wanting to travel a similar path. so if Mrs.Henes goes i will have to tell her about this place. it looks like you are having way to much fun. we all miss you. great travels.
    p.s. apes is kicking my ass or "arse" but i am still doing great. and Ms. Musta is a great teacher, just really quite.