Being Finnish in Helsinki

When Eliza told me that I should be careful not to go to the wrong ferry terminal, I didn’t really understand as Tallinn’s port wasn’t that big.

But once I got there I did get an idea of what she meant. I was standing in front of a rundown, graffittied and boarded up building which was supposed to be the terminal. “Where the hell is the entrance?” I looked around worried. I was already sweaty from climbing up the stairs and my bladder, which once again chose the wrong moment to make itself felt, didn’t make the situation any better. Even Google Maps was saying that this it is the ferry terminal for Linda ferries but the only entrance I found was surrounded by construction fences and was grown over by a thick layer of plants.

“Lets have a look around the corner” I thought to myself, so I went down the massive amounts of stairs I so proudly conquered ten minutes ago. I did however had another 20min thanks to my foresight to leave 30min earlier then needed. Once I made the turn there it was, a sign with big letters: LINDA EXPRESS! I was yelling inside my head, however only the big smile on my face could have given away how happy I was to find the ferry terminal. The first thing I noticed when I saw the actual ferry terminal was: “That’s it? Where the hell is the ferry?” But the tiny boat named Karolina turned out to be it, as I later found out.

Once we left the harbour we picked up speed very quickly and now I understood why it was called the Linda EXPRESS and only took less than 2h compared to the 3h with the usual ferry. The weather was pretty good when I left Tallinn but the further we headed North towards Finland the progressively worse it got. The sun soon vanished behind a thick blanket of clouds, however the sea remained utterly calm.

After one and a half hours I could make out the first Islands that made up Helsinki in the distance and once we got closer the first buildings, which later turned out to be part of a fort. I was standing on the observation deck on the back of the boat taking photos when an older chap approached and asked me if he could tell me a little about the buildings and Islands. I was keen to know more and intently listened to the facts and stories he told me. It wasn’t long after he finished when we docked at the harbour.

With a deep breath I inhaled the fresh and cold Helsinki air and stepped off the boat. “First time in Finland” I proudly said to myself.

Once I made it through to the exit, I could already see Niilo waiting for me. It was only two months earlier when I first met Niilo and Eliza in the basement of Silke’s and Markus’s house. They came to visit Markus and Silke in Germany, having themselves only met a year beforehand at the Amphi Gothic Festival. Niilo himself remarked how strange and cool it was under what circumstances people sometimes get to meet each other.

It wasn’t much later when Eliza herself arrived and we took the tram to their home, which wasn’t not too far away. They gave me a little tour of Helsinki on our way and told me about this red tram which had a bar on it. I just loved how they referred to it as a living being not unlike one of my best friends Fanny, who liked to anthropomorphise things as well.

As soon as we made it inside their cosy apartment and I got to offload my things, was when I found out how great they were as hosts. In the four days I spent with them, I felt like being with close friends and family. They made such a big effort to show me everything they deemed interesting about Helsinki from trying local dishes like Reindeer and Salmon to taking a walk in the Lamb Island natural reserve, where we got to pet sheep and trying out a truly authentic Finnish public sauna.

I clearly remember Eliza’s excitement when we talked about cute fluffy insects and her passion for birds or how thrilled Niilo was when we found the Sauna, to which even he hadn’t been to before. There we had a great conversation with a local guy who had been a regular customer to this sauna for nearly 60 years. Upon asking him how often he comes here he answered “Not that often, only every two days.” Talking to him we found out about the history of the place and the sad reality that out of a dozens of these kind of public saunas only a handful of them have survived. “Nowadays you see, every family has their private sauna at home so no one goes to these public ones anymore.” He continued telling us a little about his life and a trip to Germany where he had to find out that a Sauna there didn’t mean exactly the same as here, especially on the Reperbahn in Hamburg.

We had chosen one of the quieter days as the only people were a bunch of sauna toughened Finns, who seemed to enjoy teasing me about my lack of endurance, as I couldn’t last as long as they did in either the extreme heat of the sauna or the cold wind outside. It was all fun however and we were later joined by a group of French guys and a British lad who went to the airport and chose the first flight out of Heathrow, which brought him right here.

That was also my last night which we spent watching a couple episodes of Futurama, before I had to get up early and once again in order to catch another long distance coach, this time to Russia.