Sunday, 30 September 2007

Afternoon in Helsinki

After a long time I am back from holidays, now to show my last post from Finland's capital, Helsinki. These pictures are all from the afternoon, after I got back from Suomenlinna.

A look at the visually dominating Helsinki Cathedral. Together with the buildings in front of it, I think it illustrates well the clean and consistent architecture of Helsinki. Simple but beautiful.

Moving closer to the Cathedral it has a stunning location over looking the so called Senate Square, looking not unlike something one would expect to see in St. Petersburg on the other side of the border.

On the southern end of Senate Square the tram runs past the beautiful buildings.

When I started feeling hungry I went to the indoor market Kauppahalli to see what was on display. It's filled with all sorts of Finnish delicacies. Notice the big box of cantarels in hte picture above.
I found a small cafe in the market and wanted to try some Finnish food. A reindeer salad with goat cheese. Quite yummy.

Back out on the street I went up to the Russian (orthodox) church of Helsinki.

Both on the inside and out, this chruch stands in marked contrast to the simplicity and minimalism of Protestant churches. It is heavily decorated and no one saved on the gold paint.

One last church, the popular underground church called Temppeliaukio. It is partially carved into the ground rock.

I end this miniseries from Finland, with a picture of a local lady with an animal act performing on the Esplanade.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Helsinki Skerries

After walking around the city for a bit I decided to go see it all from the water. I took a boat out to the island fortress of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg in Swedish).

Not only would I like to see the fortress, I was also hoping to get some nice glimpses (and pictures) of Helsinki's water front, and I was amply rewarded. Helsinki is a quite beautiful city surrounded by water and islands all sides, and the good weather was adding to the splendour. Here you see a red house on it's own small island in front of the the Cathedral dominating Helsinki's skyline.

Another island, this one with a few bigger buildings on it.

I made it over to the fortress and started exploring. Suomenlinna is not huge fortress in the medieval sense with large walls and towers. Rather - built for the strategic conditions determined by the coming of powerful cannons which would blow big walls to smithereens - the fortress is a large sprawling complex of battery platforms, underground bunkers, barracks, shops, storage facilities, churches etc. Today it also houses several cafes and museums.

The big church of Suomenlinna providing an easily recognisable landmark. It was built by the Russians in typical Orthodox style, but converted into this much simpler Finnish design after independence.

One of many beautiful wooden houses on within the fortress. Suomenlinna is a living fortress with a population of several hundred civilians.

A very nice local window.

Some sort of memorial or something similar.

Beautiful colours.

Suomenlinna has a lot of fairly untouched nature. Here some colourful wild plants.

A bird in a tree.

And finally a last look from Suomenlinna towards Helsinki. A large cruise liner is approaching the docks and has thus positioned itself between the outlying islands and Helsinki, here with the Russian church dominating the view.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Good Morning, Helsinki!

Wonderful neo-classical (I think) architecture near the harbour of Helsinki, Finland, early in the morning.

As I wrote a few weeks back I flew to Europe on the day of our marriage. Long ago I had opted for a 10 hour layover in Helsinki in order to get to see the city. Had I known then how stressful the day of my departure would be I would probably have chosen to go straight home. However, due to a stroke of good luck and amazing kindness on the part of Nitoli's (and formerly my) colleague Sharon at the embassy I got upgraded to Business Class. Her husband works for Finnair so they pulled some strings. I have never flown on anything but Economy Class before, so it was a cool experience not to mention a very needed one. I had a good night's sleep in my seat which reclined all the way back, so I could lie almost completely horizontal and fully stretched. It was great and I woke up shortly before arrival in Helsinki feeling pretty well rested. As we landed I saw a beautiful sunrise over the skerries of Helsinki and the clouds of mist rising from lakes and creeks in the surrounding landscape. Then I took the first bus into Helsinki, finding that I still pretty much had the city to myself.

Finnish girl dolls wearing the national costume, in the window of a still closed souvenir shop.

One of Helsinki's many atmospheric boulevards catching the first glimpses of the sun. The many wires above are for Helsinki's well functioning tram system.

I like this scene of a lone woman going off to work just as the sun rises from behind buildings and trees. Up ahead a cleaning car is washing the streets: A normal occurrence in Europe but a rather wondrous sight, when coming from India where the streets are generally considered a suitable waste dump.

Efforts are made to keep Helsinki clean. And people seem to respond to the message of such signs here in Finland. In India they ignore such signs and keep throwing their rubbish anywhere they like.

Another site, which might look plain to the Western observer. But again, coming straight from the chaos and madness of India this hyper modern construction site with huge element buildings housing workers seems almost like a futuristic vision. In India even very large constructions are still made with primitive bamboo scaffolding, big sticks for support and with construction workers and their entire families living in tents on the construction site, so they can quickly go to sleep in the few hours they don't work on the construction every day.

Interesting art on the central esplanade of town.

Nearby café still waiting to be opened up for business.

Boy riding a big water-squirting fish in what is apparently one of a series of famous statues.

Early bird on the harbour.

Another early bird selling fresh vegetables on the big market square near the harbour.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

The Good Life: Pool, Sauna and White Party

I have been complaining a bit lately, about thesis stress and Indian bureaucracy. But it's really not all bad: Here are some pictures from two events illustrating the good expat life in Delhi.

First event was when our friend Mirva invited the gang to a little evening get-together at the Finnish Embassy. The Embassy has an excellent pool, which is just wicked to jump into when the temperature at night it around 30 degrees.

The pool from another angle showing people enjoying poolside drinks.

But here is the very best part: A genuine Finnish sauna made from imported Finnish wood. You wouldn't think you were in India.

Nitoli and our friend Irene enjoying the steaming hot sauna with temperature of more than 7o degrees centigrade.

Just outside the sauna there is a small pool with ice cold water. You are supposed to go straight from the heat of the sauna into this ice cold water. It literally starts hurting after about 10 seconds there. Here Nitoli is braving it to pose for the photo.

This is another event we went to: An ex-pat party called Delhi White. The name should not be misunderstood. The party is open to everyone - regardless of race or nationality - as long as they were dressed in white. Here is a view out over the bar area.

Party goers under the fluorescent blue lights.

Me showing off my limited moves in my new white dress.

Nitoli and Irene in conversation.

Our gang all together under the club's red lights.