Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Helsinki, Finland- Get a Flavor and Feel of the Capital

wild geese crossing a path in Helsinki
The majority of Finland's population resides in but a few cities, the rest of the country predominately wilderness, the blurry boundary beginning where I am staying, six km outside Helsinki's center.

A palette of lush greens make up the summer color scheme, as I walk to the main road, the artery leading to the heart of the city. The hoot of an owl reveals the presence of small rabbits hidden in the grasses around me as they hop away.
At 10 PM in late June, there's as much light in the sky as at noon, our owl friend likely finding it frustrating and confusing.

The lush greenery around Helsinki

I board a bus, five Euros for the ride.
As the city center grows closer, I'm a little taken aback by the architecture; buildings of grey and brown, with minimal upkeep, they feel worn and unappealing. It's not quite Soviet-Communist ugly, but it's not terribly far ahead. Helsinki will never make any "most beautiful list."

Finland has two national pastimes, hockey and drinking with clubs facilitating demand, staying open til 4 AM Thursday to Saturday.
Outside of myself and the ubiquitous blackjack dealer there to augment the club's income, everyone staggeringly drunk.
Despite the high taxes on cigarettes, a large percentage of patrons lurch into and out of the designated smoking room, leaving their beers and cocktails behind at the cubbyhole bookcase at its entrance, ownership not trusting its sloshed patrons to perform two vices at once. 
cubby-hole for drinks outside the smokers room
"I'm going to take you to a gay bar. I'm going to take you to a gay bar," the lyrics echo over and over, the girl I'm dancing with notices the confused look on my face.
"They're talking about Sweden," she yells in my ear, barely audible over the music, "And how the men there are gay because they're so fastidious about their appearance compared to us."
I look around the club, the heavy drinking showing on the Finnish faces, their bodies more rotund as a result. Actually, Finnish people look genetically more closely related to Russians than Swedes anyway.
while there are some pretty people in Finland, a lot of the guys look like this. I'm not complaining

One thing Finland has in common with Scandinavian countries are high prices, taxes, and an overly generous welfare system. In recent years there's been an influx of immigrants from the Middle East and former Eastern bloc nations, and while the percentage might be small, some come to take advantage of the welfare benefits without any contribution, creating a backlash that's rippled through the country's natives and sadly contributed to the reactionary forces of the society growing in popularity.
two things- notice the long braided beard, generally associated with heavy metal. There were a surprisingly high number of these in the city. Also, the weather- very cold and grey.

Maybe it's the weather- cold, rainy, grey, maybe it's that Finns aren't the most open people, or both in combination with the high prices, but I find little in Helsinki which makes me want to extend my stay. I pack my bags, ready to move on to Denmark.

Discussion question:

1Under the cover of 24 hour a day darkness during the Finnish winter, owls deafen the population with incessant hooting. Explain.  

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