When I went to Estonia, to Craft Camp, last month, see previous posts, because of the lack of direct flights to Tallinn the capital, from the north of England, and my horror of the larger European hubs (Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Schiphol etc; bad experience both ways last year, long story), I decided to fly to and from Helsinki from Manchester, then complete the journey to Tallinn by ferry across the Baltic, just a couple of hours.
So it came to pass that I had two stopovers in Helsinki, one on the way to Estonia, and one on the way back.
On the way there, I had most of the afternoon and evening to explore and the morning of the next day, before catching the ferry. On the way back, I had an evening and morning before heading out the to airport.
So what did I find?
Well, I stayed in a trendy boutique hotel, The Klaus K, which was very central with helpful staff and had rather lovely bas relief in granite by the front door, the only thing is, I’m not sure what they are doing. Something with grapes perhaps, although you would think that Finland would be a little far north for that?
Bas relief outside the Klaus K hotel in Helsinki
The water was not far away and of course it was light until late. I also found a great pizza place, my favourite, and some great shop windows.
The Louis Vuitton window complete with the planets
The following morning, when I went into the main station to buy an English language newspaper (The Financial Times as you ask) I discovered that it is the most wonderful Art and Crafts/Art Deco building with it seemed, most of the original features still in place. Note the addition of the Burger King sign.
Railway station exterior
The railway station interior
Then off to the docks to find the ferry, using the tram system, cheap and easy, but it would have been walkable in fact.
The ferry was brightly painted with a huge disco area and seemed to mainly serve people going across to Estonia to buy cheap booze, which I discovered on the way back when I saw inside a huge hard case full of multipacks of cider.
The ferry to Tallinn
On my return visit, I stayed at the same hotel, and ate in the same pizza place (there’s no point in having to find out where things are all over again, I think). Then, having been told the names of the best yarn shops in Helsinki, I went out on a Saturday morning to find them. There were two out of three within easy walking distance of the hotel. Now, I am a big fan of people taking their holidays, and of having time off at the weekend, but in this case, these conspired against me. The first shop, Snurre, had just closed for a fortnight’s holiday, as I had thought it said on their Facebook page, which was confirmed by a sign in the window and my disappointed reflection:
The yarn shop
It says it’s closed for 2 weeks
The second shop, within a few minutes of my hotel, didn’t open on a Saturday. The third was too far away to get to that day.
But after that, I had the Design Museum in my sights, Helsinki being one of the hotbeds of mid-century modern, so fashionable at the moment. The permanent exhibition is an excellent exposition of Finnish design from about 1850 showing how the emergent state used it, and still does to some extent, as a means of creating national identity and of improving standards of living. All this I approved of thoroughly and enjoyed very much.
Permanent display of Finnish design
Finnish hospital design
Other exhibitions, which approached design more from the point of view of the design superstar, in this case, Eero Aarnio, I was not so enamoured of, although there was some interest in seeing the construction of ‘iconic’ 60s objects that he was responsible for like the ball chair that is an almost complete sphere.
Anyway, this is the type of ‘design’ that I find most irritating, the designer making statements about “it is also possible to create a new need, a good example of which is ‘Puppy’, which I designed. No one needs it, but there are so many who want it to have it” (from the web site). Why does the world need small models of puppies in brightly coloured plastic?
So that was Helsinki, for me. Next year, I might go via another route.