July 29, 2008

A Few Observations About Helsinki

I’d heard that Helsinki is a “livable” city, and now I understand what that means. It’s about the same size as Kansas City (where I lived for 20 years). Three things I noticed right away:

[Editor’s Note: My pictures are a bit rough because I’m using my Aiptek DV (cheap) to make stills for the web. For some reason my Asus Eee PC won’t read my Kodak digital camera. I’ll post better pictures to Facebook when I return home.]

1. Public transportation. Streetscars and buses cover the city. They are quiet and clean and easy to use. In addition, people here walk and ride bicycles—proper commuting bicycles. You see them parked around town by the hundreds. There is a bike path system and numerous large bike racks.

[Pics to follow]

2. Easy-going attitude. The city is clean but not in a fussy way. The people are pleasant and helpful. And they know how to party. The outdoor cafes and bars are packed, especially at night when, around midnight, it’s still rather light out. Drinking appears to be the national sport. The fob for our hotel room key doubles as a bottle opener 🙂

3. Lots of well-used open space. Public squares and parks are bustling with local people at all hours. When we arrived on Sunday the streets were busy, the cafes were packed, and folks were enjoying the luscious summer weather on park benches. But nowhere does the city feel crowded. Just well-used and comfortable.

The city is trilingual; Finnish and Swedish are the two official languages. And I have yet to encounter a Finn who doesn’t speak English well.

Of the many interesting parts of the city I think I like the docks near the city center the best. It’s an open-air market during the day. The best part of the market is the food. As I mentioned in my previous post today, I enjoyed a massive pig-out on local food.

Lots of beautiful, locally-grown fruits vegetables for sale in the market at the docks.

Lunch #1 at noon: Salmon with roasted veggies and new potatoes.

Lunch #2 at 12:20 p.m.: Reindeer sausage with new potatoes and fresh pickles.

Now, I’m totally stuffed. But it was good 🙂

2 Responses

  1. Walter 

    Your reports from abroad are quite entertaining and educational. However, please tell me that this wonderful adventure isn’t being paid for by taxpayer money. Surely not.

  2. acline 

    Walter… To some extent taxpayers are paying the bill along with alumni donors, endowment funds, and tuition. And a good chunk of my own money, too.