21 May 2008

so, Helsinki

We returned from the days in Tallinn to the mayday celebrations in Helsinki, a town that had not impressed at first view but grew on me quickly in the subsequent days. It's a bit like if you exploded lower Manhattan into a whole city, and sprinkled it with many more parks and better sea access. The buildings are heavy on the teens to Deco, and the bricks haven't gotten the coal-infused hue of London, so the overall impression was a gently colorful one. The clothing aesthetic, made somewhat notorious by a longtime favorite website, hel-looks, reminds me of my artist-nerdy high school taken on citywide. In general, there's this impression that everyone's very busy FEELING lots of intense feelings, but since Finns are notoriously stoic, they can't talk about them. Instead, they invest all this intensity into assembling interesting outfits and designing things, and more things, and a few more things.

Once again, we stumbled upon the most glorious of weather, so our trips outside the city were alight with arcing blue skies and the neon green of freshly unfolded birch leaves. We went to the home of Sibelius, Finlands most famous composer. The wood frame house was set among a stand of birches, and all around the lawn had grown velvety and rich, a tempting place to take a sunbath. The visit was followed by a private concert of some of the composer's pieces, then a delectable lunch at a nearby restaurant. We returned drunk from sun and brightness, full of music.

But the best experience from the trip was actually nothing to do with the choir group, but rather my friend DTW, a Finn who'd come to Iceland as an exchange student, and started reading my blog before he came to get a taste of life here before he came. He came to the concert we had in the rock church in Helsinki, and then on Saturday evening, another day drenched in sun, he assembled all the proper goods for a picnic and we headed towards a park on the sea. The route we walked took us through prosperous and well-groomed neighborhoods of Deco homes, all painted in Klimt colors of sage green, aged rose, and palest coffee. At the park we settled in a glade that offered a glimpse of the sea, boats, and the people strolling slowly along the esplanade, and DTW unpacked the treats. He'd bought all sorts of his favorite cheeses, the squeaky kind, the spready kind, and bread and fruit to go with. I'd also found some early-season strawberries at a street stand, and with a bottle of organic white wine, we had all we needed for a proper talknhangout.

It was that time of year that is impossibly magical, when the green on the trees and lawns is so fresh it almost aches, so optimistic and eye-searingly bright, a color forgotten in the long months of winter. This park was exactly where I wanted to be that night, and it seemed as if everything conspired to make it just so- the just-busy-enough vibe, the scads of people sprinkled about drinking in the sun, even the peach-colored hot air balloons that materialized further along the shore and drifted over the city.

Of course, we're still talking about northern lands in spring, so when the sun dropped behind the Baltic, chill set in and was time to move on. We took the coastline route home, watching as the sky became lavender and then navy. A perfect evening.

1 comment:

dtw said...

Thanks for the kind words!

Glad the city wasn't as rubbish as your first impression of it. :)