Postcard from the Edge of an Iceberg

So off to Helsinki – what could be nicer? A warm European spring in ‘Finland, Finland, Finland, the place I really want to be’ as the famed Monty Python song puts it. Reality is, however, somewhat harsher. In Finland spring and warmth are two words that do not exactly go together – you notice this when descending towards the airport – the huge icebergs contentedly lounging in the costal waters are unmissable.

But not to worry, donning hat, gloves, scarf, socks, pullover, t-shirt and any other piece of clothing that might keep you warm you set off to see the sights. My colleagues tell me that the Temppeliaukio Church, hewn out of solid rock, is just amazing and just next door Finlandiatalo (Finland House) is one of the most controversial buildings in Helsinki. Never one to shirk off controversy, these were naturally my first ports of call.

These buildings embody my impression of Finland – not terribly exciting. In fact, a little boring and lacking in imagination. The ‘amazing’ church, well it is a novelty church built in a rock slide and if Finlandiatalo is controversial, then I hate to think what they make of the Guggenheim or the Centre Pompidou. In fact most of the Helsinki architecture is boring, their tallest ‘sky scraper’ being a mere 12 stories tall (and they have the annoying American habit of calling the ground floor the 1st floor.)

Searching out more controversy, I popped in to the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (sponsored my Nokia – as it seems is most of the population, judging by the number of mobile phones in use). My visit here supports my seriously lacking in imagination theory. The major exhibits included:

  • large quantity of paper plates distributed on the floor (a nice blue floor)
  • a red towel hung on a nail (entitled ‘Feminine Form’ – work it out)
  • a huge photo of someone’s knee (imaginatively entitled ‘Knee’)
  • clothes made from some old curtains and
  • a boat made out of starched shirts

Although photography was banned in the Museum, I managed to snatch a few pics to give you a little taste of the excitement waiting for you in Finland.

Don’t get me wrong, Helsinki has some very pretty parts, the cathedral is magnificent and the shore line I am sure is lovely when not covered in a foot of ice. If you have a spare couple of hours it is worth a visit. However, as final Monty Python stanza puts it:
Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I quite want to be,
You’re so sadly neglected
And often ignored,
A poor second to Belgium,
When going abroad.

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