Flying to Helsinki, I was leafing through the FinnAir magazine, and I stumbled on the following ad: “If you happen to be in Helsinki on the first Sunday in October, be sure to visit the Fish Market in the harbour”. I actually happened to be there on the required day! Surfing the web in search of good deals for a weekend getaway, I found a nice deal at Radisson Blue Hotel, and off we went. Besides being very comfortable, clean and friendly, with a gorgeous breakfast to start off your day, this hotel looks completely futuristic. It is situated in a nice area, within walking distance to all the places of interest. It also faces a large square which looks as a set for a science fiction movie. Black glass facades, concrete and steel, multicolored huge signs, fantastic sculptures; good shops and great restaurants are everywhere. It seemed to me that in Finland, they love some of the letters very much, because quite often they are doubled, as in the famous fashion name “Marimekko”, or in many place names. Sometimes the origin of a name may be quite cute. One of the central squares is called Narinkkattone, which we were told comes from an old Russian phrase “Na rynke”, which means, literally, “At the market”. When a lot of Jewish merchants fled Russia in the 19th century, they used to say, in Russian, “Let’s meet at the market”. The word gradually changed and was absorbed into the Finnish language in a different form. Helsinki was founded in 1550, and the capital of the country was transferred to this port town from the town of Turcu in the 19th century. The old and new co-exist peacefully in this lovely sea town; it can be seen in the buildings which complement each other, and in the many churches and cathedrals which show that representatives of various religions live there. The city is very clean and spacious; it is also quite safe. One can see it in the faces of the people who go to work or to the university, and in the behaviour of children who play at the many playgrounds. Most of the locals are very fair or red-haired, and the children have incredibly light hair and mostly blue eyes. Lots of people are quite tall. Since there are a lot of students in Helsinki, it is a safe bet that most young people speak English. It is easy to find your way around, to use a tram if needed, though we felt that the distances were not too large and we could walk anywhere.

Sunday was a rainy day, but we went to the harbour anyway, as did everybody else in town. There was no need to ask the way. We saw lots of ships docked in the port, and plenty of boats and other small craft swaying on the water. The market was enormous, and the smells were fantastic. We have never seen so many varieties of herring, and we could not recognize some of the sea foods we saw. To be on the safe side, we chose something familiar, a pack of smoked salmon. It was freshly prepared, the aroma and the flavours were gorgeous. The whole family still talks about the wonderful Finnish salmon. Yes, we had grilled salmon at a café the day before, but this was totally different! Another specialty is berries and jams. At breakfast, we could have any kind of fresh berries or jams. The amount of yogurt flavorings was staggering. Naturally berries are also used as fillings for all sorts of pastries, muffins and cakes. One should not worry about the calories. First of all, everything is natural, without any additives. Second of all, one can easily walk the calories off. Finns walk or bicycle a lot. We have not seen any obese locals in town. Several museums, including the Museum of Natural History, are close to the hotel. There are also some very good British Book shops. If you are a lover or a student of architecture, the great variety of buildings and churches, be it the 17th century cathedral, or the 2005 modern structure, will provide you with a lot of impressions for many years to come. You will wish to come to Helsinki again, just to walk along its streets once more, and to see how it develops.

© gretag 2012

This entry was posted in TRAVEL & THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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