Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
But we did have places to go! And we did not want any snow. I still had one more day of sighseeing before my work meeting. And when Monday arrived, we had decided to explore an area called Hakaniemi
(Hagnäs), where there is an old market hall. We did not have the guts to try the subway
with Eero’s power chair, so we decided to wheel along the harbour over the bridge to Hakaniemi. On our way, we passed a guy doing some ice fishing. And it gradually sank in (via our freezing toes and fingers mostly) that winter was definitely not over.
When we reached the market hall my whole body was so cold that I needed a brandy to feel slightly warm again. And perhaps it was the brown liquor that went straight to my head? Because the whole food court experience felt slightly absurd…! Gamla Saluhallen definitely has some nice groceries and traditional Finnish food like reindeer meat and cheeses.
But the market hall also offered a lot of pretty weird and quirky stuff. It was fun to watch, but I would most definitely not buy any of it. Who would, actually? I even found a store for what I decided to call ‘great grandmother’s clothing’. Finally I know where the really really old women go to get their aprons! I kept asking myself how those booths on the 2nd floor could survive, with hardly any customers. And some of them didn’t even have a saleswoman. A bit Twin Peakish, I must say…
As a punishment for my evil thoughts, the weather gods decided to give us a real snow storm on our way back to the hotel. Fortunately we were able to ‘go underground’ part of the trip from the train station, since Helsinki has a lot of subway tunnels you can also go through. Don’t get lost though!
And since we didn’t want to face any more snow storms we ended up in an American burger joint beneath the hotel for dinner. It was absolutely ok, but not a memorable meal. I would rather recommend these places for food & drink extravaganza:
- Coffee at Stockmann (a maze of steps, ramps and lifts – don’t be in a hurry!)
- Dessert at Strindberg (very distinguished – they hardly have places like this in Oslo)
- Very delicious pastry at Café Esplanad
- Reindeer stew (finnbiff) at Lappi
- Cava lunch at Kiasma
- Fine dining at Ravintola Brasserie Kämp
The places I have mentioned are all possible to get into with a wheelchair. There might be a small threshold here and there though. But I am sure there are plenty of other opportunities to choose from as well. I must admit that my suggestions are definitely not on the backbacker budget list.
So I learned that spring in Helsinki (as in Oslo) will definitely try to cheat you. The first week of April is probably not ideal for a spring break in Finland. I have been to Helsinki in June-July before, and that is definitely to be recommended. Long Nordic nights is always nice, and my travel tip would be to arrive (or leave) via the boat to Stockholm. The Silja Line ships are very nice and wheelchair accessible. And the Helsinki harbour, with the view to Suomenlinna castle, and the Stockholm archipelago is something you will definitely remember.
And even if it has its limitations (including the random cobblestones), I would say that Helsinki is probably one of the more accessible cities for a long week-end. Most of the city centre is fairly flat. But some areas like the Töölö neigbourhood are quite hilly and will require some help (or a power chair).
To sum it up, these are my top 12 things to do while in Helsinki (in summer time):
- See an art exhibition at the Kiasma
- Take a selfie in front of the Helsinki Cathedral (but don’t go inside)
- Visit the Rock Church (Tempeliaukkio)
- Feed the tame squirrels at Seurasaari Open-Air Museum
- Eat reindeer stew at Lappi
- Watch people & eat pastry at Esplanadi
- Watch art and people at Tennispalatsi
- Drink brandy and be puzzled at the Market Hall (Gamla Saluhall)
- See the Sibelius monument
- Visit the fortress Suomenlinna (unfortunately I cannot remember how much of it was accessible)
- Visit the Market Square (there will be cobble stones)
- Relax at the Kaivopuisto Park
And then it just needs to be added that Finnish people are both nice and friendly, although quite quiet and reserved (the squirrels are actually more lively, when I think of it). If you are a huge fan of smalltalk, perhaps you should go somewhere else…?
Give them a beer (or 8) and the smalltalk issue might improve. And no, I am not talking about the squirrels now. Or some cava. And say Kippis! And “I love your beautiful city and Finnish design!” (I am sure that will work as a conversation starter).
And Hyvää matkaa (have a nice trip)!