This city is literally like no other. I’ve never seen anything like this and for the first couple of days I was mostly speechless. When talking to family and friends I found it so hard to pick the right adjectives – seemed like a tremendous effort to put my impression into words. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t really sure about what sort of impression it is either. So, as you can imagine, the first few days in Helsinki were a real struggle.
Why? I guess it’s simply our natural longing for categorization – it’s way easier for us to understand the world when it fits into cathegories that we’ve already created. For example, feels like I have a couple of these – a money-oriented metropolis (London), a city ruled by tourists (Venice), a calm and quiet small town (Porto), a very modrn city (Toronto), a city full of history (Rome), rich and fit (Kopenhagen), human friendly (Amsterdam) etc.
(Un)fortunately Helsinki doesn’t fall into any of these. (BTW – Helsinki sounds pretty plural to me, so should I say „Helsinki don’t fall”? Nevermind.)
Oh Helsinki. This city is like no other.
You land at a very modern airport and after a while you find yourself comfortably seated in a pretty train, on your way to the city center. After 25 minutes of passing through forests, fields, forests and fields, you arrive at a huge Helsinki Central Station – the building has got a bit of history to it, but it’s an entirely different story – another time.
So you walk calmly towards the main exit and take your first steps on the pavement of Helsinki. Uuuh, feels good. Let’s say the weather is all right, not to windy, not to rainy – let’s look around. And that was my first shocker – you can easily spot at least 5 different huge shopping malls from where you’re standing. Why? What for? Ok, nevermind.
You start moving through the streets, pass by all these stores and you start to realize that really modern buildings stand side by side with some old and very peculiar ones. Like that one that is supposingly the office of Microsoft – looks like a dungeon.
Also, on your way, you become more and more curious about the crowd. I mean – where is the crowd? Where’s everyone? Helsinki seems so empty as a city in general! Of course, there are parts that are permamently crowded (more or less) but it’s nothing compared to Berlin or London. The streets ~500m away from the main mall-combo are pretty much all yours to walk and enjoy.
Ok, it’s quite weird already, but let’s add one more thing to it. It’s been about 20 minutes of walking already and you slowly start to approach a wall of „trees” with strange white sticks pointing into the sky from above the trees. What is that? As you get closer it becomes more obvious but also so unbelievable. By the time you pass the green wall you already know that you’re in a really quaint sea marina full of yahts (and not full of people at all, but we’ve already talked about this). A M A R I N A in a 20-minute-walk distance from the Central Station. It feels like one of the small towns in Polish Mazury – this area of the country that’s so full of lakes, yahts and small towns – same feeling, I’m telling you.