Thursday, January 29, 2009

Helsinki - First Impressions

First off I'm sorry if I can't help but relate my early experiences in Helsinki to those of my time in Germany in 2003. Ive been tending to compare things considering there are a lot of similarities and it was the last time I spent a significant time in Europe and actually was part of the daily lifestyle as opposed to being a tourist. But Helsinki is its own place and hopefully I'll start to put things in its own context.

With that said I should say that its refreshing to be back in Europe and Helsinki seems to be a perfect medium sized European city. Helsinki has a lot of awesome parks and neighborhoods, and the transit system is pretty sweet too it has a subway line, a bunch of street trams and a lot of buses.
So far the city has come off a bit Jason Bourne-esque almost like when he is stumbling around Moscow right after that awesome car chase and asks that little old Russian lady about the Neski girl. It feels a bit Commi, because the architecture is kind of muted. Vac mentioned that he thought the buildings here lacked character compared to the Czech Republic, and I agreed. I'm sure the buildings are just as old but compared to Wiesbaden they don't have much detailing or ornamentation.
But the two main reason's is the weather and the language. Finnish is very hard. It's pretty impossible to understand, it doesn't sound nice and I think its silly, words tend to get really long. As for weather it's a bit sad saying this but I haven't seen the sun since I have been here and the streets and sidewalks are very snowy. The cloudy/glum lighting and icy sidewalks add to the stark facades giving some parts of Helsinki an eerie totalitarian feel.
That being a bit blunt, the main business and shopping district is really pretty and vibrant. The buildings along the pedestrian districts and around the rail station are a lot more antiquated. And my favorite thing about Helsinki so far is it's great number of awesome little parks. They come as a nice treat when walking around the city just trying to get used to it and are often filled with schoolchildren running around and sledding. One awesome and really efficient thing that I absolutely love about these parks is that some of them have soccer fields (you can see the goal covered in snow) and they turn these soccer fields into ice skating rinks in the winter. I find that so smart.

I'll leave it at that, there is still a lot of exploring to be done in and around Helsinki so I must warn that these initial impressions might be premature, and maybe things will change in the weeks and months to come.

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