A Winter Visit to Helsinki

Many moons ago, I got to go to Helsinki for a 3-week work assignment.  I remember the conference call with Helsinki when they were asking if the U.S. practice could send someone over.  I knew I was the one who would be sent and I was trying not to show visible signs of excitement at the possibility of going to Finland, even if it was the middle of winter…

Is It Gray Everywhere?

I flew Swissair, when it still existed (fantastic service! what happened??), to Zurich and connected there to Helsinki.  Landing in Zurich in winter was an impressive sight.  The Alps were visible with the sun coming up behind them and a carpet of clouds covering the area around the peaks so that I gained a strong appreciation for the technology that permits flying without seeing fully where you are going.  After clearing the cloud cover, Zurich winter climate turned out to be less impressive being all gray.  Landing in Helsinki, we did not see the city until only moments before landing, for similar reasons.  Was it gray all over Europe that day?  I wondered…

Curiosities – Day 1

My company’s office was very modern and in the city center.  It occupied a few stories of a 5 story building with the top floor being the sauna (his and hers) but with a meeting room by the saunas and with the same wooden paneling as the sauna which made me believe they conducted meetings before going to the sauna.  I also noticed in the restroom a small hose next to the bathroom sink and close to the toilet.  A first for me… no, I didn’t try it 🙂

Eating in Helsinki

I ate my first reindeer (or a part of one) in Helsinki at a restaurant called Lappi.  It was delicious.  I have to admit that in my mind I was thinking how much I was going to enjoy telling my godchild I ate Rudolph…  I also did get to eat at a Mexican restaurant which felt more Finnish-Mex than Mexican.  But, I have to admit, I wanted to see what Finns were being sold as Mexican food.  I had thought I had figured out there was a very popular local chain called Ravintola because I saw it everywhere until I figured out that was Finnish for restaurant.  I felt dumb but since I was traveling alone, no one knew… I think working from the morning (can’t say the crack of dawn – it was Finland in the winter, remember?) until late in the evening did make me a little less bright, like their winter sky.


Back when the USSR was, Helsinki was the backdrop for movies that wanted to pretend they were in Russia.  You can sense that when you see their churches.  One thing that struck me was how colorful buildings were.  Then I realized that since winters must be as gray as I was witnessing, the color of the buildings made a big difference.  The Lutheran Cathedral, while imposing on the outside, was rather blah inside.  However, that year they were building a small church made from ice in the plaza.  I understand they do this every few years and, while it was not finished so I couldn’t go inside, it was very peculiar and impressive.

Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral and Ice Church

Credit: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20149309/ns/travel-destination_travel/t/europes-wildest-weather-cities/

I also signed up for a half day city tour to make sure I saw anything deemed important (I didn’t have too many days off in those 3 weeks…).  It was via this tour that I saw the famous shipyards where they make the big cruise ships.  I also saw the monument to Sibelius which, surrounded by snow, look surreal and beautiful.

I could tell, even in winter, that the city must be beautiful in the summer.  Had the work sold, I would have spend two years there and I regret that did not happen as it would have been an interesting experience and I believe I would have loved being a resident of Helsinki.


  1. […] have been part of or enabled by work.  Whether is being asked if in 24 hours I could leave for Helsinki to spend 3 weeks there in the middle of winter, or whether the miles accumulated by years of […]

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