Flashbacks from Finland (part 1) – art and architecture

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“For this I weep all my days
and throughout my lifetime grieve
that I swam from my own lands
and came from familiar lands
towards these strange doors
to these foreign gates.”

― Elias Lönnrot, The Kalevala

Bluebells at the fortress Suomenlinna (Sveaborg).
Bluebells at the fortress Suomenlinna (Sveaborg).

I am back in Finland! This is my fourth or fifth visit to Helsinki, and this time around I am attending the Finnish OI-organization’s 35th anniversary. The action takes place at the wheelchair accessible Sokos Hotel Flamingo, near the Jumbo Shopping Centre close to the Vantaa airport. However I doubt that you travel geeks take much interest in what happens at the seminars I attend. I have thus decided to use the opportunity to write about my previous trips to Helsinki. Here comes my flashbacks from Finland!

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My number one thing to do in Helsinki – pay Kiasma a visit (photo from 1999).

My previous visit to Helsinki took place the first week of April in 2013 and I stayed at the Scandic Simonkenttä. I have earlier stayed at the Scandic Marski. Both accessible and central options. The timing was due to a Nordic meeting at work. But before that, I was going to spend some days in Helsinki with my Finnish friends. The first day I arrived the town was sunny. And even if we still had to wear a thick jacket, we definitely had a feeling that spring had arrived. People were enjoying themselves with coffee or beer outdoors. And we enjoyed a nice dinner at Kämp brasserie and drinks at the hotel afterwards.

Cava at Kiasma
Cava at Kiasma

Slightly tired from last night’s extravaganza, the perfect way to start the day was having cava breakfast and some light food at the Kiasma café, quite close to the hotel. Kiasma is probably one of the coolest museums of modern art. The building looks interesting on the outside and is situated right next to the Finnish parliament.

A lot of steps. Seems challenging beeing a politician in Finland.
A lot of steps. Seems challenging to be a politician in Finland.

Regarding Kiasma, I have been to the modern art museum 3 times now. And I just love everything about it. The exhibitions, the vibe and the building itself with the coolest ramps. Each time you discover something new. The ramps make the museum accessible for both manual and electric wheelchairs (if you start at the top), but there is also lift as an alternative. The museum has a nice café & bar and wheelchair accessible toilets.

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Kiasma interior
Is it just me, or are these guys playing Find Waldo?
Is it just me, or are these guys playing Find Waldo? The artwork was called Babel, and consisted of radios with languages from different parts of the world.
From the exhibition about horror in 2009.
From the exhibition about horror in 2009.
Poor Darth...
Poor Darth… (2009)
Perhaps what some feels Norwegians and Finnish guys have in common?
Perhaps what some people feel that Norwegian and Finnish guys have in common? (from exhibition 2013)

Besides Kiasma, the churches are probably among the biggest tourist attractions in Helsinki. Both the Helsinki Cathedral at the Senate Square and the Russian orthodox Uspenski cathedral a few blocks further involve some carrying if you want to go inside (I think they can provide a ramp at the Helsinki Cathedral). And even if the buildings might be nice inside, I would not spend a lot of energy on it, unless you have someone strong to help you. The interior of the white church was surprisingly plain and simple though.

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The cathedral overlooking the city at Senate Square.
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The Uspenski Cathedral.
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I would head for the Temppeliaukio instead, also known as Chuch in the Rock. From an architectural point of view, this is the more interesting one, I guess. And it is also wheelchair accessible. Situated on a rather steep hill, so bring a power chair or someone to push you.

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The interior was excavated and built directly out of solid rock and is bathed in natural light which enters through the skylight surrounding the center copper dome.

Besides shopping – architecture and design are both good reasons to go to Helsinki. Think about Marimekko, Alvar Aalto, Arabia and Ittala, just to mention a few. Unfortunately the socalled Design district have a lot of old inaccessible buildings, with the typical one step and narrow doors to get inside. But you can also buy Finnish design at the totally accessible Kamppi Center. And there are still a lot of interesting buildings to see: The Kiasma, the Finlandia Music Hall, the main railwaystation or the Chapel of Silence (by locals sarcastically renamed the döner kebab).

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The main train station
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The döner kebab…

And if you don’t care much about art or architecture, there are always other things to do in Helsinki. Eat and drink for instance! Stay tuned for more flashbacks from Finland and my top 12 things to do while in Helsinki (in part II).

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1 thought on “Flashbacks from Finland (part 1) – art and architecture”

  1. Small detail about the Uspenski — I’d call it just simply an “Orthodox” cathedral. “Russian Orthodox” would suggest that they are under Moscow’s patriarchy, but our Orthodox-people have always made it a point that they are under Constantinople’s…

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