Helsinki, Finland

After four nights in Porvoo, we took the bus back to Helsinki. Ande peeled off for the airport, so it was just Harper and me for the next 10 days. We spent two nights in Helsinki at a really cool hotel (called Omena Hotel) where there is no front desk, you just receive a code with your reservation and get in your room with that (the future!)

In Helsinki we walked around a lot and went to some great cafes, restaurants, and bars, including the absolutely coolest speakeasy I will probably ever go to (I’ve listed everything at the end of the post, for those who may be planning a trip to Helsinki). Lasse and his girlfriend Jessica were again wonderful guides, and they lent us the oldest, creakiest bikes in the world for a day so that Harper and I could bike down to Café Birgitta, a cool café overlooking the water, and back up along the coast to downtown.

I always like to bike in the European cities that I am in, because the biking infrastructure is so good—such a treat! And such a novelty to feel that as a biker my life is valued. Here is a bike selfie I took with Harper:

It's so safe to bike in Finland that you can take bike selfies like this!

It's so safe to bike in Finland that you can take bike selfies like this!

Suomenlinna

We also went to Suomenlinna, an old sea fortress on a series of islands that are part of Helsinki. It is one of the coolest and weirdest places I’ve ever been, basically a mixture of old decaying military stuff and absolutely beautiful neighborhoods, with some cool cafes thrown in for good measure. In one of the more regrettable decisions of the trip, I decided not to bring my nice camera, so I have very few good iPhone photos. However, here is one:

We walked around for hours, through quaint old neighborhoods, on paths through woods lined with wildflowers, through damp and dark tunnels, past boat yards (occasionally happening across an old submarine on display), through hilly meadowy areas with rusting military equipment in it. It was by far the most pleasant sea fortress I have ever visited.

I really, really loved Finland, and felt very lucky to be able to have extremely generous local guides. I love that they take their coffee and their education seriously, and I love that every house has a sauna. And I love their clothes dryers—instead of tumble-style, you hang your clothes in a big metal cupboard and it blows hot air through—it’s faster and results in fewer wrinkles! (Lasse’s family thought it was hilarious that I had never seen one of these before, or even knew what it was.) I also strangely enjoyed having absolutely no idea what anything meant (Finnish is a fairly unique language—not similar to Swedish or Norwegian, but in fact closer to Estonian and Hungarian—in any case, they use a truly astonishing number of letters for most words.) Not understanding almost everything made it all much simpler, I could tune out everything except things that were immediately and directly relevant to me. I also loved the Finns—everyone we interacted with was kind, helpful, and hospitable.

hough Harper and I half-joked about (and half-truly wished for) finding handsome, blonde Finnish husbands so that we could stay forever, it was time to move on, and we took the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia—stay tuned for the next post!

Places we went in Helsinki, in case anyone is planning a trip:

Grotesk –  don't be fooled by the name, this is an excellent cocktail bar with outdoor seating

Skiffer – a great pizza place where the pizzas are shaped like the island where the first Skiffer’s location was

Trillby + Chadwick’s - the coolest speakeasy imagineable ever with immaculate vintage décor and phenomenal cocktails.

Café Birgitta – an excellent café down by the water with a large outdoor patio

Pompier – healthy, delicious, and fairly reasonably priced lunch downtown

Lungi – a really good restaurant in a chic southern neighborhood

Latvta – another great bar, where I ordered a dry cider that was made by a local guy that makes extremely small batches of the stuff.

Fleuriste – a really excellent coffee shop with a super nice staff.