Got up bright and early yesterday to walk the deserted city and take some pictures. The streets are absolutely filthy at 7 am and spotless by 730 am. Same with the restaurants and coffee places. Filthy dirty. Cleaned right up. We watched a college age kid lay in the gutter below our hotel windowö the two girls he was with tried and tried to get him to get up out of the gutter and wondered if he was okay. We were as surprised as they when they kept finding a pulse. Three black+shirted polis appeared out of nowhere and he hopped up, staggering, and allowed himself to be walked wobbily down the street as the polis looked on grim faced, hands on hips. The kid would have been laying in the gutter still, despite his friendsä best efforts, if the cops hadnät showed up.
We hied it down to the hotel breakfast buffet and gorged on lovely croissants, rye bread and some square things they call pancakes, but I think are blinis of a sort. They had one whole section of the buffet that was every different kind of break possible and it was the section that all the guests used. We are staying at a lovely business hotel near the grand terminal so there are no children and the business center is well equipped. Ä9 The Asians ate lots of vegetables with their riceö a porridge of sorts, too. No seaweed, though. We had lovely scrambled eggs with swedish meatballs. And they were not bearballs but beef meatballs. Quite tasty. Real eggs, prepared just right. Joe Montana had, of course, bratwurst. They were the size of the little meat sticks I used to give the baby boys to eat. He was quite pleased. The coffee was dark and thick, quite good, and so we were off on our way to a beautiful summer day in Finnland.
We wandered down to the Lutheran Cathedral, again to my thinking, a contradiction in terms. If it aintä of the holy roman church, it canät possibly be a cathedral. At any rate, it sits high on a hill and the tour buses roar up and park and the little touristas jump out and photo and get right back on the bus. Even our people wouldnät venture to climb the stairs. Increasingly disgusted at these candy+assed Nancys from New York, JM and I did the stairs twice, with him taking two at a time. With big smiles for all at the end. The inside is a beautiful hue of green and is quite well done. Itäs spare as the guildebooks and guides will tell you. I didnät find it austere in the least, but really well executed. After we spent some time in the cathedral, we bounded down the steps again and crossed over to the open air market on the bay.
There were two things that separated this market from every other wonderful open market with fabulous fruits an vegetables+ the pea pods were the size of bananas and the gypies were selling rabbit pelts, dyed white and black. In fact, there are lots of gypsies all over Helsinki (HELLseenkey). We saw a tee shirt here that showed a moose sitting down receiving Finalandia in his mouth through a tube and the Finlandia going through this system coming out his penis into a dish marked Absolut<. Just cracked us up!
The Finns ease and faculty with English is embarrassingö they snicker behind their hand when you attempt Finnish. Ah, well. Not the first time international travel has humbled me. Tourism is highly promoted here and as such, you as accepted and served with a gracious willingness. Finnland, though, seems frozen in time. As you move about the city, there are long moments of complete desertion, desolation almost. There are whole streets of empty storefronts right in the heart of the city. The architecture here is an awkward blend of neo+classical and early 60s ugly, industrial ugly. All side by side. There is an utter lack of and a complete disgard for any retail pursuit or consumerism. My read is that the Finns just donät want it and probably never will. Itäs not who they are.
I was in an art gallery and found a piece with master technique that touched me deeply. It was of a girl, laying on the back of a bear, her suitcase gripped firmly in hand. I was lucky enough to meet the artist and she told me she had a dream where she was travelling and she met a huge bear of the forest and she was afraid. But then he offered to help her travel. So she climbed on his back and it was much easier and less dark for her then as she made her way on her journey. When she woke up, she remembered the dream in every detail and was filled with sublime peace and energy for days an days. She said, "You know I am from Lapland and that is why I am special with the animals and the forest." And I said, involuntarily, I am from Lapland, too.
It was a moment.
We head to St Petersburg todayö regretfully. We loved it here in Finnland, and as one of the pierced, tatted rowdy boys on the bus said last nightÖ
"Bless me and fok the rest"