Helsinki

I survived the Finnish sauna in Helsinki and jumped into a lake in winter – more than once!

Helsinki is the capital city of Finland, located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. It also happens to be where my high school friend Tina was doing her MSc in Architecture, so naturally I had to visit her. Since I was primarily in Helsinki to see my friend and only for a short while, we didn’t go to all the usual touristy places and my Helsinki travel experience was a bit different and less photo-productive than usual. However, I got to see lots of the more local spots and now I can share them with you.

We had a great time and I realised that there is a word, which perfectly describes my Finnish experience so far: peculiar, as in special, strange and different (but in an entirely good way!). To start off, Finland is the home of sauna, Moomins and a very bizarre language.

First peculiarity: upon entering the airport toilet in Helsinki, I began to hear a bird chirping noise. After a while I started to look for a window, but there was none, and I concluded that the toilet had a bird singing soundtrack, because why not? Trust me, it’s beyond bizarre and worth checking out for the entertainment value.

Second peculiarity, again related to Helsinki’s toilets: at least one of them apparently comes with a view. The Torni hotel has a bar at the very top and their toilet is an absolute must-see if you are visiting Helsinki (read more about it here).

Impressions of Helsinki

After the magnificent toilet views we explored the city centre a bit and visited the famous wooden Kamppi chapel, the large round brown building, which looks nothing like a chapel. Quite soon it was time to meet some of Tina’s friends and head to Kuusijärvi, a very nice place with fancy Finnish smoke saunas for affordable prices (12 € for adults and 7€ for students in late 2018). The saunas were full of the wonderful wood aroma, and there was a lake right next to them to cool off in after overheating. So, I did it, I survived the Finnish sauna at Kuusijärvi and actually went (walked, not jumped :)) into the lake in the middle of winter! Not only once, but 3 times, and my body felt incredible for the next 3 days. It may seem daunting at first, but the Finnish sauna + lake winter experience should be on your bucket list, because you will feel like you’re floating around the next couple of days.

The girls and I caused a bit of a stir by going topless, because Tina forgot her swimsuit top at home and the rest of us decided to follow suit. Apparently the other sauna visitors thanked our male friend in the men’s locker room for bringing us, so I guess that counted as our good deed for the day. 🙂 I’m still not entirely clear on the whole sauna clothing protocol, as most people claim it’s a naked thing, but I guess not in Kuusijärvi.

Kuusijärvi and a bar

You can see the view from the sauna porch and a little lakeside pier from which we went into the lake in the photos above. After the sauna we went for some well deserved food and drinks and to a secret student bar somewhere in the Aalto University campus, which I cannot tell you about, because it is a secret. 🙂 I can tell you that it is fun if you can find it and get in though.

We planned to go to the seaside Regatta cafe the next morning, but we got quite a bit drunk the previous evening and ended up sleeping in late. We did however brave the huge queue out on the street and went to the new Amos Rex art museum, which had an incredible visual exhibition by Teamlab that had just opened up. The museum itself will be oriented towards contemporary art and fancy, unusual exhibitions, so it might be worth a look to check what they are doing if you are in Helsinki.

Teamlab awesomeness

The Teamlab exhibition was pure awesomeness! There was a colourful nature/magical forest projection-installation, which was fully interactive and adapted to what the visitors were doing.

This is my happy face – yes, I know it’s scary.

We got to colour in our own animals and they scanned them into the virtual ecosystem, where they took on a life of their own and we got to be a part of it. The butterflies were drawn to the flowers, which bloomed when people came near, the frogs were chasing the butterflies and the crocodiles died if we stepped on them. You can see my frog and Tina’s crocodile in the gallery above. We lost track of the frog pretty quickly, but managed to follow her distinctive crocodile for quite a while and it was doing rather well. Apparently the animals visitors add stay in the exhibition as it moves around the world if they do not die, so: in a while, crocodile! There was also another display with waves, a black hole of massless particles and a trippy space show with birds (the official exhibition blurb can be found here). I really recommend you to go see this if you get the chance.

To finnish (heh) our weekend in Helsinki we visited the naval fortress island Suomenlinna, which was so cool it deserved a special post – here. After that I was off to the airport and back to my Swedish home in Luleå.

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