Helsinki

Today I visited Helsinki for the first time.

It’s a beautiful city. Very relaxed and the people are just great. I love Estonia, but the whole Russian-Estonian tension gives the place a toxicity that was noticeably lifted when I made the 2-hour ferry trip over to Finland. I know and love Tallinn, having lived there, but Helsinki has everything I adore about Tallinn, without the edginess and occasional hostility.

Helsinki is a techy kinda town. Free Wi-Fi isn’t as ubiquitous as it is in Tallinn (where it’s pretty much *everywhere*), but you don’t have to go far for a connection. There are lots of nice gadget stores – and I saw three very well-equipped Apple resellers.

(I also had a play with the Samsung 3D TVs. I’ve always viewed 3D as a gimmick — especially in the home — but Sammy’s setup is rock-solid and very impressive. Of course the ridiculous glasses are straight out of Back to the Future Part II, but a lot of people are going to be blown away when they see it).

I admit I felt like a heretic using a HTC Android in the Nokia heartlands, but to be honest, most of the techy-types were rocking iPhones so I needn’t have worried. Although I did see my second third N900 in the wild today, so maybe not all is lost for the Finnish giant. I can’t understand why Nokia doesn’t adopt Android – its hardware is class, but S60 isn’t much good and Nokia’s not going to worry Google or Apple with its flirtations with Maemo and/or MeeGo. I understand Nokia wants to do things its own way, but Android would be a great platform for its hardware. Anyway, that’s for another post.

We arrived at Helsinki at the south west sea terminal and walked towards town. We had a few hours walking around the shops — including the flagship Stockmann department store — and then went to see a few of the notable sites, before arcing round the harbour and wandering up the Pohjoisesplandi Etelaesplanadi, which just blew me away. It starts at the sea’s edge, with stunning Hanseatic architecture and market stalls selling delicious pan-fried seafood. Then the road bifurcates, with a lovely park down its centre. Think fountains, flowers and a fairytale cottage/coffee shop. The architecture is a cocktail of Hanseatic (obviously), Parisian and German influences. It’s beautiful, genuinely beautiful.

As the day ended, we took a long stroll to circle around back to the terminal, taking in more of the city’s many charming corners. If I could afford the sky-high cost-of-living, I would have bought an apartment there and then.

I’m on a cruise ship back to Tallinn and the Wi-Fi is ropey — not to mention I’m completely knackered, but I’ll try and put up some photos tomorrow. Laters.

UPDATE: The above pic is the harbour at the start of the Pohjoisesplandi Etelaesplanadi.

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