22 June 2013

May/june meandering in helsinki

here it was. our beautiful spring in helsinki...

kid-friendly:
-arabian street festival (arabian katufestivaali). this was a block party of sorts in my favorite neighborhood. the neighborhood is also home to an art university so the festival had a nice vibe. there was street graffitti, music, dancing, recycling, flea marketing and balloon animals.

-market square (on the water). this is right in the heart of downtown, the main market for souvenirs and fish. weve breezed through it on the way to other things, but recently i actually went around the tents to look in earnest. its decent. we had deep fried vendace fish (from lapland) at one stand, these are fish so little you can eat the whole fish. X ate a dozen or so, very proud of her. then we bought a print of a whimsical reindeer with a mushroom from a local artist. its also a good meeting place and starting point for many nice city walks.


(fish brains. nom nom.)

-pihlajamäki blues festival. this was on a hilltop park in our neighborhood. there was music of course, food tents, activities for kids, a playground, and seating. we had a nice time. i think it happens every year during "helsinki week".

-helsinki day (june 12). lots going on but it was rainy. i chose a puppet show and a playground concert (though we didnt make it to the concert because it was during a downpour). the puppet show was pretty lame i must say. i can only hope everything else scheduled on helsinki day went better than our puppet show. better luck next year.

-national museum of finland (kansallismuseo). the top floor is a kids hands-on area. very neat. the functioning model assembly line was fun, and X and i weaved an inch of rug on the loom. we looked around at a few other things and still didnt get to it all. unfortunately we didnt get to any of the adult rooms, but there was a cool map exhibit going on.


(moving assembly line for sorting letters and shapes)

-linnanmäki. this is an amusement park in the center of city. the entry is free and there are several free rides for younger kids, proceeds from tickets go to charity. no joke. this place has some fun rides and decent food stands and clean bathrooms. its a great place to come with kids.


(Xs favorite ride. the balloon carousel. weve been on the thing more times than i can count)

-tokoinrannan leikkipuisto (playground in kallio/hakaniemi). this one is right on the water (with fencing surrounding), there is some shade and a nice space for running, picnicing, climbing, and playing.

*as a side note. our house seems to be in the path of hot air balloons that are landing at the small malmi airport nearby. several evenings in the early summer we watched these beauties skim right over our roof and descend through the trees.

(this descent past our window was at about 8.30/9 at night)

adult-friendly:
-arkadia international bookshop. a used bookshop with a larger childrens section than ive seen in a while. there is also a "gallery" room, a "warehouse" room (you can dig around in boxes of books), and a "chapel" room in the back (a nice quiet corner with some drinks set-up and offered for free, some reading blankets and a cozy place to read). they also have musical performances, lectures, workshops, and readings here. this may be an adult hangout place for me at some point.

nature:
-central park (the part near käpylä). this is a huge, wooded park that starts just to the north of the city center and goes for miles. we only walked a small forested portion of one of the sections. it seemed super popular with bikers and exercisers, perhaps not so much for strollers or picnicers.

-pikkukosken uimaranta (beach). pretty close to us on the vantaa river, this is a sandy beach with a large grassy lawn leading up to it with walking trails on both sides of the river and a pedestrian bridge. there is a kids playground and a cliff on one side of the beach with a platform for what looked like diving into the water. basically it was a really nice surprise nestled in a quiet neighborhood near us.

-kaivopuisto. a large park at the southern tip of helsinki, its rocky and borders the sea. there is a cafe, playgrounds, picnic areas and statues galore and is in a very fancy part of town but feels private (although maybe not so on the weekends) and quiet and its lovely for sure.


(sea monster at the kaivopuisto playground)

-sibelius park. the monument area of the park is touristy as hell. the sibelius monument is very impressive, but just not much fun to share with piles of people. the surrounding park is nice though, soothing birch trees and a pretty waterfront including the regatta cafe.

-viikki arboretum. from the viikki campus area we walk on an open farmland trail into wooded beauty. it smells great and there are all kinds of trails for all kinds of activities. we wandered around and found an observation tower that had picnic benches and the coolest, most magical area of canopied climbing trees for kids. i can only imagine the hours of imaginative play kids could have in there.


(X is at the bottom of this climbing tree)

-gardenia. a private greenhouse/botanical garden in viikki. it was 6€ for X and i to go. they had two rooms of plants, some koi ponds and another fish tank and some turtles as well as the plants and flowers. you could even bring the cafe food into the greenhouse and enjoy. id say you could spend maximum an hour there, but it was a nice enough place and we got to walk a bit of the nice paths on the viikki campus of the university on the way home.

-lammassaari. an island in the nature area of vanhakaupunki/viikki. you walk on a small boardwalk among tall reeds/grasses to a wooded area where some people actually have tiny cottages (mökki). on the island, there is a nice observation deck looking north. its so amazing that this is just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city.


(the secluded boardwalk out to the island on the horizon)

-töölö bay (töölönlahti). right in the middle of the city is this small spot of water surrounded by walking/biking trails. there are mini "beaches" and playgrounds and benches and multiple ways people of all ages can be outside and enjoy themselves. we walked around its western edge from finlandia hall up to linnanmäki. while it was crowded, it was a nice city walk.


(picnic overlooking töölönlahti with linnanmäki in the distance, our destination after lunch)

errands:
-finlayson outlet. some of their stuff is fun and "my style" and some of it is too feminine. it would be good to check out from time to time for fresh textiles.

-pentik outlet. another finnish design place but this is much more soft and feminine than i care for. i like less flowers and beachy tones and more simple and stripes.

food:
-restaurant day. this is an organized event that happens on the same day a few times a year in several countries/cities. pop-up restaurants serving any kind of food show up everywhere and anywhere. we bought cookies at one stand and burgers from some hipster kids. it was decent food. i got a regular hamburger and dave got a halloumi-strawberry burger but said there was too much bread to other ratio. i would like to sample more on restaurant days in the future, but it feels like something that would been easier to do without a kid.

-queen sheba. an ethiopian restaurant. i thought the injera (spongy bread) was quite sour and the rest of the food was just kind of ho hum. it didnt hold up compared to the memory of ethiopian in ann arbor and ypsilanti.

finn notables:
-banking is so internet-heavy here that when you do find a need to go in to the bank in-person you instantly feel out of place. you find the place is populated with only the very old, homeless, mentally ill, and the foreigners who cant be trusted with a on-line bank account yet (we are/were included in this group). you need to be banking for 3+ months before you can get an on-line account, at least at nordea. and its wacky how secure that on-line space is. we're talking several layers of codes, one layer of which is a code that you find, as directed, on a certain place on a card you are issued. this card has about 70 single-use codes, when you are low on codes you are issued a new code card.

-finns strive for efficiency and sticking to something until its done, yet they know when to take a break (there is no postal service or library book delivery on saturday, most people take all of july off of work, and they often take long weekends where appropriate). it can be done and i like to see it, hopefully it will seep into our veins soon too.

-i mistakenly got a tax form (pre-filled out) for 2012 sent to me from the finnish tax system. i called them and the lady was able to easily inform me, in english, that i received the form because the system said i had arrived in finland jan 3, 2012. i discussed with her why this was incorrect, that we arrived in 2013. what should i do? she gave me simple instructions and without being defensive about it, said it was their mistake, so please correct them on the form, send it back in, and leave a phone number in case they need to clarify with me further. i asked if there was anywhere else i need to go to change my data and she told me to visit the registrars office, and that it was just a slip of the finger mistake and it should be easy to fix because daves information is correct. i suppose ive been told procedures are easy by government offices before and things turned out to definitely NOT be, but i just believe them here. it was no big deal, there wasnt any petty blaming of this office or that office or "well we dont use the same system as them..." it was clear and simple. this made me happy.

-neighborhood "spring cleaning day". this was an organized event on our street. tools were propped against our garbage sheds and whoever was around grabbed whatever tool they wanted and did what they could to clear out old leaves, weeds, etc and i even saw a man splitting wood to load up the communal BBQ pit area. im certain all of our neighbors arent friends and dont know each other super well, but they worked and grilled and ate together that day. i think we'll try to join in next spring.

-city-wide spring cleaning day. different from the cleaning day noted above. this one was more aimed at putting items you dont want on the curb and having people wander by and take it or trade it or buy it for cheap (aka city yard sale). this tells you two important things about finns. they are focused on being clean, and they LOVE flea markets. end of message.

-the evening light has been gaining momentum since april. it was rough on my body to adjust, and i still havent, but its easier than before. as i predicted on our trip to iceland, its just so weird to have so much daylight. i mean in may it was down to what i would call "real" darkness from only midnight-3a, and june meant almost no hours of total black darkness. blah.

-may has about a trillion public holidays in it, including mothers day. of note, stores are closed on mothers day. something i would not have even thought might occur. now we know for next year...

-finnish tv is weird. it doesnt seem to have regular, predictable programming. there are only a few channels but you can find things like macgyver, cooking challenge shows, business reality shows, Friends re-runs, and kids stuff in approximately equal proportion in the evenings. its like they buy packages of episodes/seasons of a tv show and just show it whenever they feel like it.

-kids are so free to play here (and i love that), and i rarely see it directed or corrected by an adult. they stand on tire swings, climb up slides, and do other things on the playgrounds that i see parents in other countries frowning upon or punishing for. of course opinions and customs vary around the world, im no stranger to that, but the differences are particularly interesting to me as it pertains to child play.

-i want to be a kid in finland. outside our window most evenings is a drag race of kids on bikes and other kids climbing and swinging and digging and playing. our "street" is really more like a driveway that is for pedestrians and motor vehicles alike. its so easy to be outside with X at our place, we walk outside and she can wander wherever she wants even while im not watching her. safety is the key to child freedom i suppose, and i love that we have so much of it here.

 -finns put headphones on their kids at music festivals to protect their ears

*another sidenote, midsummers eve (june 21 this year) is apparently the most celebrated public holiday (may/labor day must be a close second) around here but we didnt really do anything or really get a full understanding of the essence of the holiday this year because we were packing for our huge trip to north america. maybe next year. (as for may/labor day, we were gone to germany. so, sadly that celebration will have to wait until next year too).


(midsummer picnic. we visited dave up at his work and brought food for a short family time outside)

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