Tag Archives: Helsinki

Helsinki: The Roads Are Paved with Good Intentions

Helsinki is a progressive city. Much about it transportation does impress me. I have seen few SUVs. Cable cars run through the city, and they seem to be environmentally friendly (at least to the extent possible. Nearly every city has a bike lane. But, whoever planned this combination stopped just short of, well, planning. Good intentions did not translate to effective design.

I am a cyclist … at least I was before some asshole stole my beloved Trek 1000 in mid-town. I hope he crashes and winds up in the hospital (I can’t wish actual death, or even severe injury on anyone, unfortunately). So, I was jazzed to hear thta Helsinki is bike-friendly. I ave never been to a city that is. The problem, though, is that the bike paths overlap with the sidewalks, and neither is clearly defined. I almost got clipped by a rider my first day here. Also, unless you ride a mountain bike or hybrid, the bike paths are about as bad as the cobblestone streets.

Trolleys are cool, right? Well, when they travel the roads– the same roads as the cars– it can be interesting. It is possible to see a trolley, bus and car jammed in traffic, while a pedestrian alks straight into a guy on a purple woman’s bike wearing headphones (literally just rode by me).

Yes, it’s the thought that counts. But, where was the thought in this case?

Scavenger Hunt Update

When I left New York, I told my colleagues that I wanted to see a Scandinavian midget. While I have seen several short people (though not many), none actually qualifies as a midget.

Aside from the midget search, the ferry ride to Tallinn is nothing short of dull. The boat is moving along, but I can feel the motion. On six hours of sleep and not enough coffee, it’s not pleasant. But, I’m willing to pay the price to catch a glimpse of something new.

Do you have your papers?

A small misadventure on the way to Estonia …

I did not realize that I’d need my passport to cross into Tallinn. Since I didn’t need it to get from Iceland to Finland– or France to Italy a while back– it was an easy oversight. Well, it won’t be my last flawed assumption, I’m sure.

Much to my chagrin, I had to run back to the hotel to pick up my “papers”. It seems that I could be stopped when I arrive in country (or coming back to Finland). I hope I get stopped [written while on the ferry] and asked my wife to take a picture if it happens.

This is my first trip toa former Soviet republic, and I’m psyched. I can finally get a first-hand look at the world behind the now nonexistent Iron Curtain.

Oh, I made it back to the ferry in time, with my papers. I actually ran part of the way, and it didn’t feel all bad. Nobody checked my passport.

Going to Estonia

I’m planning to catch the 12:30 ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. I have no idea what I’m going to find there, but you can be sure I’ll take plenty of pictures and keep you posted!

Apparently, there are several round-trip ferries every day. Depending on which you choose, the trip can last anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours.

Showtime! Showtime! Showtime!

Around the corner, there was a display of Russian-looking ballerinas on a tightrope. Of course, every amateur thinks he should really be a professional. So, one guy made his own tightrope (though not very tight) between two trees and donned a Superman costume. He yelled “Showtime!” repeatedly and asked that we put money in the jar. If I had had change with me, I would have.

I only had my blackberry, so the pictures aren’t all that great. But, you get the idea.

I Love Foreign Advertising

My favorite ads are in Korea, because they are so weird and bright and flashy that they would never work in the United States. They are so crazy that they are hilarious, like a mental patient doing stand-up. The ads in Finland aren’t as bad, but you get the sense that they wouldn’t even work in Times Square.

Helsinki Is Like Boston

Not exactly, but in some ways.

Helsinki is a cozy city of a few hundred thousand people. Skyscrapers are noticeably absent, and the people tend to be young. There is a bit of cobblestone, and there are cues that the culture has history. Also, people drive like retards and park on the sidewalk. Trolleys run through the middle of the street, mixed with traffic (though in Boston, they run alongside but segregated).

But, to the locals’ credit, they are unlike Bostonians. Everyone here has been incredibly pleasant, and they have gone out of their ways to make my experience here enjoyable.

Also, Helsinki does not have a larger cousin next door. Boston perpetually lives in the shadow of New York, truly making it a second city. There isn’t much outside Helsinki, so the inferiority complex is noticeably lacking. This is what Boston would be like if (a) it weren’t near New York and (b) if it weren’t inhabited by Bostonians.