I’ve been to Finland’s capital twice before but only briefly. My interest to return to Helsinki has been percolating for several months & on this third visit I found a completely renewed interest in the city, its spaces, history & people.
We deboarded in Katajanokka, an atmospheric neighborhood in the southern part of the city, with attractive residential buildings as well as beautifully preserved & adaptively reused industrial ones. As I walked past Kauppatori, the central market square, up along the Esplanade on Pohjoisesplanadi, I had a spatial flashback to my first visit to Helsinki as a young girl. That trip had been with my farfar (father’s father) & my father, who would be running a marathon during our visit to the city. As I pushed my son in his stroller, both of us alert & curious to this new day in a different place, the distinct memory of walking this exact path with my father & grandfather, pausing to go into a bookshop or some other store with many paper goods, came crisply into a my mind- a sense of deja vu mingled with a very present state of being, acknowledging two points of time in a current & familiar, yet still foreign space.
On this trip, Helsinki felt cerebral & active to me, but unrushed, even for a Monday. It struck me as a capital city lacking in pretension & rich with fascinating history, linguistic flexibility & a quiet internationalism.. By noon, 4 people had held doors open for me & my son in his stroller (sometimes actually noticing from the sidewalk that I was struggling with holding the door open & rushing up to help). This sort of public etiquette is always a good sign to me, a sort of litmus test of humanity at a very pedestrian level in a place.
Finland gained independence in 1917 & since we moved to Sweden this year, I had been noticing the many & varied activities of the 100 year celebration in various digital publications. I’m happy I was able to step foot in Finland during this momentous year.
Just a little reflection & recap of the few but enjoyable hours we had this past Monday in Finland’s capital. I look forward to returning to you Helsinki.
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Heading back to Katajanokka in the late grey afternoon to board the boat