Saturday, June 9, 2012

Vacation 2012, #13: Helsinki

(Helsinki. At the pier.)

Helsinki. This was the place (well, with Tallinn) we were least eager to visit. Tallinn turned out to be unexpectedly fabulous, its Old Town being like a time machine back 500 years. Helsinki was not unexpected in that way, but still put on a better face than we expected. After Copenhagen, we began to get a sense of Northern Europe, and Helsinki was an extension of that, but with a slightly Russian twist. The two countries share a border, and Finland has a long history of friendly relations with Russia. So Helsinki did not have St. Petersburg's Soviet patina, but many signs were in Finnish and Russian and there was a sense of their larger neighbor in food choices and some architecture and other stylistic things.

There was nothing in particular we wanted to see in Helsinki, which handily facilitated our wandering around in patented fashion. After a quick (and impeccably well-organized) bus trip into the center of the city, We saw the main train station and a couple major cathedrals before stumbling on a large outdoor market at the city's harbor front. This was delightful. Lots of hand-made crafts and clothing and jewelry, and lots of booths selling produce and other foods. 

Apparently a specialty is little fish fried up in a huge wok with spices like french fries, and lots of vendors were making them and handing out samples. Did moi sample them? ABSOLUTELY NOT. The fact that they're small doesn't negate the fact that all the shit you normally "clean" out of a larger fish IS STILL INTACT IN THE LITTLE ONES. Heads. Tails. Guts. Intestinal tracts WHICH HAVE NOT BEEN EMPTIED BEFORE COOKING. See? This is why I never eat seafood! Things like clams and oysters and crayfish and shrimp: because they still contain a whole lotta shit that ain't the food part of the animal. And here are all these Finns crunching on the skulls and eyeballs and intestinal tracts of these little fish and pretending their's no difference between the food and the not-food. Well, there it is: ain't no fish brains or intestines in my Gino's pizza.

We spent quite a while in the little market, and then wandered a bit more of the central downtown before it was time to go. There wasn't really very much time, but I suspect we saw enough to get a proper taste of Helsinki. We would head on to Stockholm, where we would be faced with a similar lack of time, but worse.

(A cool morning. A spot of tea at the Carlton Hotel.)
(Bizarre ship's phone--I presume--in the Carlton Hotel. Very cool in a steampunk kind of way.)

(Train station.)

(A little footbridge with *love locks!*)

(Floating bar. Very cool old ship.)

(Fabulous market at the water's edge.)

(Criminal trying to pass whole fish off as food. The last moments before her arrest, I'm sure.)

(And another one. What is this world coming to?)

(Susan got some paella. Mostly food, I think.)

(Cool display showing efforts at sustainability for poor cultures.)

(Great old building converted to antique / junk market.)


Vancouver Voyeur said...

Oh man, wish we could have run into you two! We went all the same places and did similar things. M had the small fish. We laughed quite loudly at your description. I had the paella, though I did try a bite of the small fish. Gross! Never again. We've also decided to our dismay that Helsinki is a one day visit, we're here for 2 1/2 days and struggling to find things to do. There are tons of museums, but we're not in a museum mood. We did take the ferry out to the Suomenlinna fort. Now that was spectacular! We went early in the morning before most tourists were up and had the island nearly to ourselves. It was cool, a little foggy, and starkly beautiful with the rocky shores. I'll post on that later. Tallinn was much more visitor friendly and more of a walking town. In Helsinki, everything is so spread out and so expensive, that it costs too much in transportation costs to see everything.

wunelle said...

Ugh! Those fish! I'm reliving the trauma ;-)

Sounds like you guys did more than we did, with our very tight schedule. I'll look forward to your pics!

Back in Germany now. Having just been here with Susan, it seems odd now to be here alone.