Finland, Finland

Finland, Finland
Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

After what wasn’t the best night’s sleep, I woke for the last time around 9 and figured it was about time to have a look-land should be visible within an hour of docking. The ship is more like a floating hotel so, unlike on board the train, I could at least shower before going upstairs. I would not ming in Helsinki as I had mung in Copenhagen.

Land was just visible-just over an hour before docking- and I took a turn round the decks before spotting it was a bit cold and deciding that I wasn’t totally fussed about watching land get closer.

We docked. Leaving the ferry was easy, and I walked straight out onto the streets of Helsinki. I was relying on a paper map-copies available on board ship-but had no idea where I was, and wasn’t successful in street name spotting. No matter, follow the crowds and you’ll be in the city centre before you know it. Turned out we had docked on the east of the city.

Wide promenade, Helsinki
The Promenade.

I was too early to check into the hostel on Erottaja – I guess that’s the area name, what an excellent one – but could pay, pleased to use the credit card I’d heard about in Ireland, applied for in Wales and had delivered just before I went. No charges for use abroad, like the good old days with nationwide. I left my bag and wandered to the city museum which, unlike most of the other museums here, is always free.

It’s small and cool, if housing an eclectic mix. Ground floor, the interesting places, such as parks, of Helsinki, and what they mean to the people. Second floor, some pen portraits of Helsinki folk. I’m not sure how much I learnt-there’s a brief timeline, but so much more to be said about a place that only got its independence back in 1917-but the projected pictures, or recreations of pictures of the Helsinki folk fascinated me. They’ve filmed actors dressed in period costume, had them keep still then blink, use a fan, read a letter. Not sure why that’s so fascinating but I liked it. There’s also an area with beanbags and wifi, in which I collapsed, and a separate exhibition space, currently housing Signe Brander photos. She was a photographer active at the turn of the c.20th, technology has just become good enough to recreate the photos from the old big negatives and they were very evocative of the period.

Wide cobbled streets near the Forum, Helsinki
A central bit.

Later I snoozed while the sun kindly came out from a grey day, and finally dragged myself off for a run about 5. A few miles in I was ready to write it off as a failure. I’d headed West from Uudenmaankatu, hoping to avoid the ports but hit the waterfront. Helsinki is on a peninsula, but it’s not a simple u shape, more a star, so you can be close to water but turn a few degrees one way and find only land, as you move down a point of the star. I’d lost my bearings, covering several miles with no sign of sea or anything very interesting but then I spotted the Olympic stadium. Want-to-see exhibit a, it was at the top of a recommended run loop I’d seen, with a park somewhere over what looked like a large road. As it turned out, there are miles of running trails behind, and no big road to navigate so I lost myself happily. Far too well, in fact, and thankfully I’d saved my hostel location into the garmin and could point it at home. Over 50mins into a putative hour’s run and I was 3.7 away-and that in a straight line. I ran down main road, not recognising anything till 200m from the front door because this, although at the very end right in the city centre, was uncharted ground, and just an urban setting. The sights of Helsinki are in a tightly packed centre, I think. I realised on the run that I’d had the first casualty of my trip, my towel not making it from its hanger where I had left it to dry in the cabin. I can’t even count it as a problem, in honesty.

Yellow and apricot coloured buildings under a blue sky in Helsinki

The hostel is lovely, 3rd floor of an apartment block and quite a difference from the party/noise central of Copenhagen.

Summary: reading Jack Higgins, Eye of the Storm, to see if vintage Higgins is better than the more modern one I read. It isn’t. run: 1:16:44, 15.85km.

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