Thursday, 28 April 2011

Sunset in Sun-set

No, it's not a typo. Helsinki means "sunset" in this impossible language, where practically not a single word reminds to any of the other European tongues (the official term for the capital area is p√§√§kaupunkiseutu. Questions?). But Europe it is, and for the first time since Le Havre we dig out our Euro money to go ashore. FRAM goes to pier right downtown, so everything is just a walk away. Buzzing in the sunlight a city awaits which lets you know at every corner: This is where you find art, culture, music, education. The theater adverts are posted on many walls, the seven (!) universities fill the town with young, keen people, and whereever you go, English is spoken flawlessly. 
The intriguing Art Nouveau architecture in its national romantic variety contrasts lively with neoclassical buildings and the many vast squares and place leave an overall impression of largeness.

With surprises in the detail, though. When several people stare at the same spot above, it can be a well-organized joke or something very unusual. Two large owls sitting undisturbed on the roof of a mall at one of the biggest and noisiest crossing in Helsinki, peeking down on the baffled crowd. Later I learn from a local that the birds are well-known by the Helsinkians, and that at some time in the year the fledgelings are to be found in many places after half successful flight attempts, only to be brought back to the roof by members of the fire brigade.

Nice episode, that also sheds a light on the rabbit problem they have in town; why else would birds of prey remain in a location like this…
Well, no rabbits where we walk today, be it in the old Kauppatori, the market that has a big indoor hall in accordance to the bitterly cold winters around here, or one of the posh modern malls. Contrast seems to be the motto of Helsinki, the skyline contains not only the prominent rooftops of the Uspenski Cathedral and the Dome, but also bows of cruiseships that come and go here like in Grand Central Station. Old mom-and-pop stores close to posh boutiques, high class restaurants and McDonalds next door. 
Well, we have our great buffet on board, so no need here. And as the sun sets in Hel-Sinki, we cast the lines and head east into the night.