The restrictions on foreign travels made most of us aware of the beauty surrounding us. Exploring nearby places became a thing to experience now, rather than to wait for it to happen in the future. As the lockdown in Finland eases and the summer holiday starts, we immediately planned a trip to Vallisaari on the first day it reopened to visitors. Vallisaari is an island in Helsinki located some 25 minutes by boat from the Helsinki market square.
I instantly felt that holiday vibe the moment we arrived in Vallisaari. It was fun to see the hanging tents from the other side of the shore. Can you see them?
The combination of the dense, green forest and the clear, blue water was such a relaxing sight. I enjoyed the long walk in the most diverse nature. The island is full of beautiful wild flowers bursting with glorious colours along with the birds singing beautifully in the background. They bought me a lot of inspiration for my fabric designs.
One exciting aspect of the trip was to spend the night on the adjacent island, Kuninkaansaari. We were the only ones on the entire island. It was my first time to sleep on a tent tied to the trees in the forest. It was such a perfect place to watch the sea, to admire the sunset and to look up the sky. Sleeping to the birds singing, insects humming and the gentle sound of the waves was such a nature’s gift.
And of course, I woke up listening to the same peaceful sound of the birds, insects and waves. And as the island came to life at 10:00, it was interesting to watch how everything was coming back to normal after months of lockdown. Deliveries from the mainland arrived to better supply the opening of another restaurant. The ice-cream shop will reopen soon too.
Another thing that left an impression on me was how friendly were the people there. I left feeling really good about the trip and will happily return.
Lenny’s show in Helsinki on Saturday was amazing. He was full of energy, yet, so relaxed and so in the moment. He was walking in the stage and connecting sincerely to his audience. There was no rush whatsoever. He even asked the audience, “You are not in a hurry, aren’t you?” His voice was mesmerising. It was the same as listening to his studio recorded songs which means that he has such an authentic voice. His song, Here to love, was so touching with a choir on stage.
I bought seat tickets just to be sure that I can see. Except for Toto’s concert where I was stood in the first row, I struggled with height issue in concerts. I remember being squeezed among the crowd of a Green Day concert. And if not for the generous people infront of me during the Duran Duran and the Mariah Carey’s concert, I will not to able to see a thing, even those were seated tickets.
However during Lenny’s performance of Let love rule, I decided to go down. As luck would have it, Lenny went down the stage too and kept on saying, “I want to see the people.” I saw the security near me looking all nervous. Lenny went across and up the hall. I knew that he will pass my way since the steps going up the stage was on the side where I was standing. People rushed to my side with phones ready while I decided to place my phone on my back pocket. I held out both my hand as he was coming close. I called softly, “Lenny”. And he reached his hand to me and I held it with both my hands. We were face to face. He was infront of me. He saw me. It was a very in the moment handshake. The people before me didn’t get handshakes while they stuck out one hand and phones on the other. I would not be in the moment and see him up close, if I was busy with my phone. I was the second to the last person who he shook hands with before climbing back the stage. The last person who was the guy next to me was not on his phone either. Well, talking about in the moment!
As an OD (Organisational Development) specialist, I find the new Helsinki library quite fitting well for me. It’s called Oodi which means ode in Finnish. However, this is not exactly a normal library. Although this library has lots and lots of books, it also has a cafe, a restaurant, a movie theatre, areas for concerts, recording studios, a kitchen, a gaming room and an immersive 3-D space whose walls can be illuminated with digital projections. There are high-tech equipments such as laser cutter, computerised embroidery machines and equipment to digitally sculpt wood. It is said that this library is the government’s gift to the Finnish people on its 100 years of Independence.
So I’m so happy. The library has lots of creative spaces, including an orange reading room. There are also many books that I want to read and comfortable chairs I want to sit on, even the Eero Aarnio’s ball chairs! And best of all, it’s only a 13 minutes walk from my flat.
After three years of searching for a perfect café in Helsinki, I can say this is my favourite one. Because I really did some research and even have a coffee blog for it called Helsinki Coffee Scene. I’ve been to many, many more cafés in Helsinki which many I felt not worth blogging at all until I ended here. Here is where I belong! This is the place where I sit, listen to music, draw and eat huge amount of cakes to celebrate birthdays of whoever is having a birthday that day. It’s my go to café. And the best thing about it, it is some 20 minutes walk from my flat or even longer for my shorter stride. This means I get a bit of a exercise rather than going to the nearest one which is some 3 minutes away. I have to get rid of those calories, you know!
The place is called Robert’s Coffee Jugend located in front of the Esplanade Park. It’s in a beautiful, spacious Jugend house with a high ceiling and comfortable leather chairs. The other thing about this place is that I really like their coffee. The savoury snacks are very tasty too, along with the cakes and ice-creams. I so love to be sat in this place at any time, and any weather!
Autumn is my favourite season and Helsinki is one of the best cities to experience it. This is because Helsinki has a lot of parks and open spaces, even in the very centre of Helsinki where I live.
One of my favourite spots for an Autumn photo is under the tree beside the House of Parliament. This spot never fails to display the rich colour of Autumn because of the colourful leaves of this particular maple tree.
Across the street from the National Museum is another open space with beautiful, vivid trees. It’s a wonderful feeling sat on the terrace, enjoying coffee and just be soaked in the surrounding beauty. Walking further is the Hesperian Park where a full Autumn bloom awaits. It’s amazing how nature reveals itself as season changes.
Most of my travels include a museum visit. I love that feeling of serenity – that state of being calm, peaceful and having the notion of being unaffected by the world outside. I’m one with the art and I can stay in that state for hours. In Helsinki, the museums are almost part of my living room. I visit them as often as I can that sometimes it feels like I own those pieces of art!
The nearest museum from the flat is some 4 minutes away by walk. HAM stands for Helsinki Art Museum. They offer art activities on Saturdays and the workshop is always open if you feel like sketching or having a try at graffiti art. Also, Wednesdays are free entrance. Two large frescoes by Tove Jansson are on permanent display there. There is also a room with a sofa and a shelf filled with Tove Jansson’s Moomin books in different languages. There is a table with coloured pens and papers, and chairs.
And of course, a place to relax with colourful pillows.
So I was at this room, sat on the sofa, writing away on my Moleskine. I was writing a part of Tove Jansson’s poem which says, “I paint you on the wall and there you’ll be like you were when you loved me.” Then people started greeting me, like the lazy museum guard I was in my black t-shirt. (I always wear black t-shirt!) I guess I was looking like a permanent fixture! I moved to the workshop and a kid approached me to ask if he can write also.
The mum said the kid was so inspired to copy what I did and he hanged his writing next to mine.
But the best place is the whole top floor where they have the graffiti exhibition.
If I had to write a thesis again, it will be about graffiti art. These would be all my textbooks.
And of course, it will be hand-written on a Moleskine!