I wrote this post yesterday and forgot to post it. I am not pretending I didn’t suspect what was going to happen, but still, what happened today, didn’t happen yet….
A very disturbing thing happened when I went through the border control in Helsinki on my way back. First, I was happy to see they now have the same machines as in London, where you can scan your chipped passport. Then I saw that I still had to present the passport to the officer. On my way back, I never ever encountered any questions. This time, the office started to scroll through my passport pages and asked me which countries I had visited and whether I was in Russia. Just to be clear, since I am a naturalized citizen, my country of origin is indicated in my US passport, but still!
The office kept scrolling, found the stamps from 2019, and looked at me inquisitively. I said – I haven’t been there since 2019. He kept scrolling and finally said: good; I see your entrance stamp. Because if you visited Russia at that time, we would have to question you (and he waved in an unspecified direction).
It was very disturbing but understandable. I know I have my share of guilt with everything happening, and it’s in Finland where I feel it even more.
And since I am posting it today, not yesterday, I want to reiterate – we stand with Ukraine! I saw these flags in the Southern part of State Street, quite unexpectedly:
I was in Helsinki for only one and a half days. On the first (half) of the day, I visited Natasha at her home and met with the whole family – the last time I saw everybody was in March! This time, the situation in the world (and on the war front) was different, so our conversation was much happier, even in view of the European energy crisis.
On the second day, I did some work, mostly interacting with our London-based team, and then Boris and I biked to IKEA – something he had wanted to do for a while. He already made a couple of solo biking tips there, and he wanted to do it with me as well. We declared a late lunch to be our primary purpose, but it is impossible not to browse what’s out there!
On Tuesday, we had a very early flight to Amsterdam. Since Boris has Finnair Gold, we could hang out in the Finnair lounge and have breakfast there (and I forgot to take pictures :)).
Also, I upgraded us to Finnair Plus, so we had these cool seats with lights and elevated leg rests 🙂
Since early May, I meant to blog about the smells which follow me on my bike rides in Chicago, how the lilacs were heavenly, and how now they are gone and everything smells with linden. In Helsinki, lilacs were still in bloom when I arrived, but in the past two days they were almost gone and the strong smell of jasmine started to dominate. It’s one of my childhood smells, strongly associated with July. That’s how the second session of the pioneer camp smelled :).
When I am in Finland, I always admire many small things which are just done right! There are many big things which are done right as well, like. Oodi library, or the way the trees are re-planted after major streets’ reconstructions or medical services. But sometimes, it’s these small things:
There are two more museums in Hameenlinna, which are situated on the Hame Castle grounds: the Military museum, which is dedicated to the history of everything war-related in Finland, and the Prison museum, which is located in the building that served as a prison until 1993. Both of these museums are very educational, and I want to come there one more time, to learn more about Finnish history. When we were there, it was a sort of information overflow. I know that I can look up most of the topics which are covered by the museum exhibits, but it’s different.
Below are just some photos, to give an idea of the museums’ collections (and the Military museum has a huge outdoor exhibit, which was close to impossible to attend in the midday with +86 F.
The last several pictures form the castle – I know they make almost no sense to those who never saw the castle, and I know they are “the same,” but still I wanted to show a couple more pieces of Medieval architecture.
They say that the castle has been built for 700 years and it is still in process since the current restoration work is considered to be a continuation of the building of the castle. We spent a lot of time, exploring different rooms; unfortunately, there were no English tours offered the day we were there, so we often could not map the rooms to their website descriptions.
The Hame Castle was built sometime in the middle of the 13th century (there are several possible dates of when it was founded). It had its ups and downs and was rebuilt multiple times. In the middle of the 14th century, the castle was rebuilt with bricks (rather than greystone in the beginning of its history). It is the first brick castle in Finland, and thereby the graphics representing bricks can be seen everywhere as a symbol of Hameenlinna.
Sunday was perfect. It was the Midsummer, and it was the first time in my life I was in Helsinki on this day. Also, it was unusually hot (and still is) – the temperatures were in the mid-upper 80s. On Saturday night, we talked about going to Hameenlinna on Sunday but decided to sleep on it. In the morning, it still looked like a great idea, so we purchased the train tickets and went!
It felt like a perfect day. And it was weird because it was right after the Roe/Wade overturn, and also, it was the day of Russia’s shelling of Kiyv, so the two worst things were so much there and happening, but I still felt immensely happy, and I do not feel bad about it. It was not for a while that I didn’t worry about things and what I needed to do today and tomorrow. I liked that the weather was so nice and that we were going to see this new place, which we had planned to visit so many times, but never did.
We were not sure whether it was a good idea to go there on a big holiday weekend, but it looked like everybody who wanted to visit the castle did it on Saturday:). There were almost no visitors to the museums, and we had a great time. The only disappointment was the Birthplace of Sibelius museum; it was closed from Friday to Monday for the Midsummer.
I think we will visit Hameenlinna one more time. There was too much information in all museums to take in in one day!
We didn’t plan to go to Suomenlinna on Wednesday, it happened spontaneously. I too an unplanned day off, and then a couple other unplanned things happened, and we desperately needed something positive, so we went there for just an hour and a half at the end of the day.
It was amazing, as always, and we saw a couple of newly restored buildings, and had a fancy dinner at a restaurant that we didn’t check out for a while.