Tuesday, September 12, 2017

heaven & HEL


Hei hei from Helsinki. My seatmate on the flight was Vivienne from Ireland, on her way to Berlin. We chatted about her impressions of San Francisco, traveling in Southeast Asia, and design. Her: "You are wide awake for four in the morning!"
The difference is apparent as soon as you arrive at Helsinki Airport. Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. I zigzagged my way out of the duty free shops in the international terminal (worse than a casino, trying to find immigration here), officially entered Europe, and headed for the train to town.

On my way for a swim at the Al Las seapool, I joined the line at a fast food stand and ordered a poroburger (reindeer). On rye. Just like Rudolph's grandma used to make...
As promised, the pools are outside, and they were warm except the one on the right, which is just the Baltic. I stretched out my muscles from the flight and swam a few laps. There was only one guy taking selfies. (I know, that guy!) Then I headed inside for the real attraction: the sauna. Hard to beat the view from inside the sauna.

See, you do know a Finnish word. As Finns like to remind you, there are 5.5 million people in this country and 3 million saunas. In the old days, they were mostly public. Today most are private like Löyly, the hot new place in town. 

I think I'l give it a miss. The sea pool is a good deal: 12 euros for a swim and a sauna. But towel rental was an extra 8. 
The entrance to my charming guesthouse. Many Helsinki building have decorative elements from Lutheran churches. With very long summer days and very short winter ones, sunlight is a precious component.
 There's a lot of gorgeous architecture, both old....

 and new...
I've started to think of contemporary Scandinavian design as Starkitecture.
The most important architect in modern Finland, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, is Eliel Saarinen. His son Eero Saarinen designed the old TWA building at JFK and my uncle's lab at IBM and my college dorm. Not a lot of straight lines or flat walls.
I thought this fish sculpture in front of the music hall was pretty ugly.  The teeth are cool. Apparently the things on the right are piano lids.

Typical muted tones of the Helsinki palette. The housing stock is enviable. So many exquisite and exquisitely maintained buildings with art nouveau and art deco touches.

My favorite building so far is Temppeliaukio, the rock church, built in 1969 and submerged slightly. As you enter, music from the massive pipe organ welcomes you.


The copper ceiling brings all the elements—rock, light, wood, metal—together. Honestly I'm not sure why the seats are fuchsia.

Much more to explore, especially the cafes. I'm a little woozy from jet lag, but it is my birthday, after all.