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Journal #42 - Finland

Snow covered church in the background, oxidized coper statue and lamp post in the foreground
Helsinki Cathedral by Mr. Wanderer

Hei from Finland! 

We arrived in the wintery wonderland of Helsinki in time to experience all of the city's highlights during the festive season. Our first stop upon arrival, was to acquire a hat for both our heads, to protect our poor ears from the freezing temperatures. Since it was the holidays, we spent much of our time outside, walking along the streets adorned with lights and strolling through Christmas Markets stacked with homemade goods and rich aromas. My favorite moment was enjoying riisipuuro in front of bejeweled trees in the town square.  

Wooden building with glass windows covering the upper third
Helsinki Central Library Oodi by Mrs. Wanderer

Helsinki served as our home base during our stay here, so we took advantage of its amenities. One of which was the Helsinki Central Library Oodi. It won “Best Public Library in the World” in 2019 and from what we saw – it deserved it! The building had dedicated rooms for console gaming, general-use computers, massive professional-grade printers, materials, and sewing machines. There were instruments, mixing tables, and even a recording studio. We saw signs for classes and educational courses alongside the books surrounded by segmented reading spaces, social spaces, and meeting rooms. With even more amenities than we got the chance to explore, this space was truly a one-stop shop for more needs than we knew you could have. It was a fantastic community center and was filled with Finns accordingly.  

The backs of four hockey players sitting alongside an ice rink
HIFK Game by Mrs. Wanderer

The other place we saw packed with the city's residents was the Helsinki Ice Hall. It was there that we caught an HIFK game of Ice Hockey. We were abundantly fortunate to get the opportunity to sit abutting the glass to cheer on the home team. Our seats were located directly behind the bench and we, if it were not for the barrier, could have read the coaches’ notes. Energy in the arena was high during every moment of playtime and it was a thrill to sit next to some seasoned regulars.  

Outdoor pool set above an ice-covered bay
Helsinki Sauna by Mr. Wanderer

An important part of our visit was our time at the sauna. The Finnish are experts at the event, maybe because it was invented here. We enjoyed partaking in the relaxing heat at a complex equipped with multiple saunas – each boasting a different view of the city; and, several cold pools. When I write cold, what I really mean is, ice cold! We went slip-sliding barefooted along the frozen-over paths to walk from the warm insides down steps into the harbor for our dips.

Wooden boat, painted white, floating over sheets of ice in a cloudy harbor
Helsinki Winter Harbor by Mr. Wanderer

I said this when we visited Norway, but I will repeat it here – the people here are built differently! We were barely holding it together in the frigid waters. At one point, Mr. Wanderer turned around to ask me a question and instead found only the ripples I left behind in the water. I was already running, on the ice, and halfway back inside. Meanwhile, the locals were r e l a x i n g. We watched men in their sixties, casually having deep talks while floating alongside icicles as if it were a normal Tuesday (which for them it was). I respect those people, but, if you are looking for me – I am still sitting in the heat of the sauna basking in the comfort of the inside.  

Our time here has been delightful, and it really kicked off the holiday feelings; but, alas, it is time for us to move on. The next stop on our itinerary invented the sport of kiiking. Any guesses where we are off to next? 

Snow covered brick building resting in front of a brick and copper church steeple
Uspenski Cathedral by Mr. Wanderer