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Just Say Yes to Boston

At least, that’s what Stockman’s department store in Helsinki was telling us at the beginning of our trip. Two weeks later, I’m now back home in Boston (ok, the suburbs of Boston) and loving it – even with the drizzle.

All in all, it was a great vacation. I will admit that I was more than ready to return to the states about 3/4 the way through the trip. Going forward, I think I should remind myself that  9 or 10 days is a good trip length for me. I always seem to push for longer trips then realize toward the end of the trip that I’m ready to return. This trip was a full two weeks (unintentionally) and I guess that was a bit too long.

Our flight departed Friday, September 10th around 1opm. We landed in London around 9:30 on Saturday, took advantage of Randy’s platinum status and showered in the British Airways lounge, then caught a mid-day connecting flight to Helsinki. We made it into the city around 6:30PM, bonded with our VERY gracious hosts, then headed out to dinner.

And where did we go? A Tex-Mex place. Seriously – for some reason, Tex-Mex food is all the rage in northern Europe. there were restaurants all over the place, and entire sections of grocery stores filled with items like Old El Paso salsa and taco seasoning. Anyway, jetlag kicked in rather quickly and I was in bed by 10PM.

On Sunday, we took the ferry to Suomenlinna Island – a sea fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture and topography bore a striking resemblence to New England, particularly coastal Maine.

After ferrying back, we explored the Senate Square area of Helsinki before calling it a day.

Monday started off with abundant sunshine so we headed up Mannerheiminte toward Parliament, Finlandia Hall, and the Opera House. But the best attraction in all of Helsinki had to be the Rock Church (Temppeliaukion Kirkko). Literally, this is a church built into the rocky ground. It has a circular ceiling made of copper rings, surrounded by a perimeter of glass, all standing on stone walls carved out of the earth. It looks like a space ship has crash-landed in a dense neighborhood. Making it even more spectacular was a woman playing the pipe organ, creating random bursts of unpleasant noise that sounded like a Hellen Keller scoring a horror film. I loved it.

The scene was so surreal I could have spent hours in there.

The afternoon got cloudy, but we still went to the site of the 1952 Olympics and and went to the top of the observatory to view the city (which is surprisingly woodsy when seen from above).

On our final day in Finland, we went to the Kiasma Modern Art Museum, which was really fun with a brilliant ribbon exhihbit (the best way I can describe it is that you walk through a room with floor to ceiling rainbow-colored ribbons about 1 inch apart. After entering about two steps, you can’t more than a few inches in front of your face. It was a blast (and probably a breeding ground of bacteria).

That night, our last night in the city, we had our last dinner at a funky restaurant called Bali Hai in the Punavuori neighborhood of the Helsinki where I had what just might be the best salad of my entire life.

All in all, I left Helsinki thinking “Meh, I guess I’m glad I did it.” If this had been the first European city I’d ever seen, I might have like it more. But with so many older and more charming cities out there, Helsinki felt a little too American for me (the Maine-like topography didn’t help). There were some highlights (the Rock Church, a very tasty meal), but generally, the city felt somewhat boring and over-priced. For example, we went to one sidewalk cafe where Randy had a glass (not a bottle, just a glass) of wine and it cost nearly $18. Ouch!

Tomorrow, Tallinn!

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