There are way fewer international flights than normal these days, and the ones who are operating are pretty crowded. At least, the European ones.
My flight to Frankfurt was at 6-30 AM. Usually, I am trying to avoid that flight, because it is way too early, but this time it was the only option. In normal times, Boris would insist that there is no reason to arrive at the airport before 5-30, even if I want to shop duty-free, and even if I need to drop off the luggage. Oh, and about the luggage. I had a “light” airfare, which means – carry-on only, and as I’ve mentioned, I came to Helsinki with an almost empty suitcase. I thought that even if I buy some clothes, it will still fit. But then, I ended up buying more for my girls. It was a gradual process. First, I was not even sure whether I will do any shopping, then I did some, and then I thought that god-only-knows when I would be able to come again, and then I thought that I could buy en extra luggage :).
Boris favored that idea, and we ended up buying a very nice duffle bag, which could be converted to the backpack. I used it to pack the clothes, and also some yogurts. I started to smuggle dairy products from Finland in my luggage some time ago, which worked great.
I tried to check-in online, and as expected, got the message that the boarding pass could be issued only at the airport. We agreed that we will plan to be there at about 5-10. That meant getting up at 3-45 and taking a cab, but that would be unavoidable in any case.
When we entered the terminal, we saw a huge line. People were trying to maintain the distance, so the line became very long and spiraling.
I always blog a lot about food in Helsinki, because I like it so much, and because it is so different from other places. And since I do not want to end up having each and single of my Finnish blog post about food, I decided to have a separate food post. My old friends know 🙂
In summer, the best part is the abundance of local berries. Local strawberries are tiny and taste a lot like wild strawberries. I do not have pictures this time, but Boris added them to every fruit salad we consumed.
Unfortunately, it was too early for black and red currants, but wild blueberries were available in the stores and the cloudberries – you can’t find them in the US.
Then comes the salmon soup – the best staple of Finnish cuisine, FOr the past two years we favored the one from the shore cafe in Suomenlinna, but Boris told me that they stopped serving it. We tried in two other places, and the Fazer cafe didn’t fail us.
In case you are wondering how it is to travel in these crazy times, here is how it went. The First Terminal of ORD was pretty empty. After the check-in line (which was long but very socially distant and everything), I went to the TSA, and there was nobody before or after me. They have glass shields in front of each officer, and they asked me to take the mask off for just a couple of seconds, and then I went to have my luggage scanned, and I was also scanned, all as usual, just very fast since there is no wait.
There were very few people in the Terminal, some cafes open, others closed. I didn’t get any food because I was still feeling nervous and could barely eat since morning.
The notoriously long Lufthansa boarding line was also shorted, although the aircraft was far from being empty. They left the middle seats unoccupied, and also there was almost nobody in the first and business class. But more of the other seats were filled.
The other day, I asked Boris to take a picture of how does the nature in Helsinki looks like now. He said, he already did, and sent me a link to several images of awakening nature. And then the next morning, when I called him at our usual meeting time, he has outside, walking in the Sibelius park (he lives right by it).
He showed me the flowers and the trees in bloom and the bikers and the dogs :). And I didn’t feel sad like “oh, I wish I was there!” On the contrary, it felt so nice and so special, it was really “as if I was there.”
One of the craziest things I ever did – the flights both way with two connections, more time in the air than in Helsinki. But if I am supposed to be not just a godmother for Sonia, but a Fairy Godmother for the whole family, I have to measure to these standards!
One of the best things in Finland is Finnish cuisine. Although it’s difficult for me to select just one thing which is ultimately the best if pressed to make a choice, I will choose the Finnish salmon soup.
Boris and I have a whole grading system for the establishments in Helsinki and around, which serve the salmon soup. Sometimes the place we love would stop serving the salmon soup or do not serve it every day, or the quality degrades. However, for the past several months, our Number One salmon soup place is a ravintola by the pier of Suomenlinna, right where the passengers disembark for the ferry.
I do not know why it is almost never too crowded. Perhaps, because people think that the first place they come across can’t be the best. Or maybe they do not like salmon soup as much :).
But we made a choice. Sometimes, when we do not even have time to walk around the island, we come there just for the soup – after all, it’s only 15 minutes of the ferry ride. For 10 euros you get a quart of soup as thick as a stew, yummy like nothing else, as much of the freshly baked baguette as you want and a cup of coffee or tea.
I was talking tons of fall foliage pictures in Helsinki because this time of the year, the colors in Finland are already breathtakingly beautiful. And if didn’t even start in Illinois :).
Boris’ apartment is right by the Sibelius park, which means any time you get outside, there is plenty to marvel, and tons of pictures are just asking to be taken.
I was taking this picture (the sun was setting slowly and shining through the yellow leaves) when I saw a car on the opposite side of the road slowing down, just like the passerby would slow down when they see you taking pictures on the street.
I could not believe this slowing down was related to me :). After all, it was the opposite side of the street. May be they slow down for the red light ahead? But then… the car made a U-turn and slowed down, almost stopped, right in front of me. I saw a guy on the back seat looking out from the rolled down window, holding the camera! And he was taking a picture of this tree! After he was finished, the car drove away.
Maybe you won’t find it funny, but we laughed for another good twenty minutes, recalling the incident.