Day 11 (23 June): Midsummer madness in Helsinki

 

 

Midsummer bonfire.  We don't think the bottle of water will be any use in an emergency.

Midsummer bonfire.  We don't think the bottle of water will be any use in an emergency.

This was champagne and blueberry liquer. Yum!

This was champagne and blueberry liquer. Yum!

Today we travelled from Osaka to Helsinki via Finnair.  We love Finnair (Marrimekko style abounds) and the business class experience was superb. The seats are laid out in an alternating 2-2-1 configuration, with all seats parallel and facing forward.  The single seat is almost a first class seat given the armrests on either side.  Our feet slide in underneath the armrest and tray area, with plenty of room for even size 11 feet.  A three hour nap made the time zone transition manageable.  

The regular food was plain (we will blame that on ordering western food instead of the Japanese dishes) and although they tried hard with the gluten free option it was not suitable.  The Navigatrix has given up on gluten free on airplanes - they just cannot get it right.

In Helsinki it was the Midsummer Festival.  We caught the train into town and walked to the Kauppatori region, which is the waterfront area where all the sightseeing boats have their docks.  In the Finnish midsummer celebration, bonfires are burned at lakesides and by the sea.  In Helsinki the big festival is on an island in the archipelago but we went to a new outdoor swimming pool and sauna complex on the waterfront, with a bonfire .Maypoles are also erected - in folklore midsummer was a very potent night and the time for many small rituals, mostly for young maidens seeking suitors and fertility.  We saw lots of young women walking around with flowers in their hair.

Helsinki waterfront.  The large building to the right is Helsinki Cathedral - aka the 'White Church'.

Helsinki waterfront.  The large building to the right is Helsinki Cathedral - aka the 'White Church'.

Midsummer is the main celebration in Finland.  More folklore suggests that making a lot of noise on midsummer keeps the evil spirits away.  It sounds more like an excuse to drink and be merry. The light is incredible and as you can see we had an overcast evening.  At 60 degrees north, Helsinki is almost twice as close to the pole as Sydney is, so at this time of the year the sun is up almost the whole day.

Their other slogan is "Save beer. Drink water."

Their other slogan is "Save beer. Drink water."

Finns traditionally head off to their country cabins for midsummer, so there were not as many people in the city as we expected.  There were plenty of crazy people in the new pools, some even in the sea water enclosure. Some even crazier people jumped into the ice bath. When they got out into the 'warm' air, their skin turned pink as the blood rushed back. Our favourite moment was the couple waltzing to the music.

We walked back to the train station via the Esplanade and headed home.  We did the right thing and bought a ticket - another traveller did not and was busted by the conductor.  Instead of issuing a fine, he very politely told him to get off at the station, buy a ticket and then continue his journey.  So trusting - we think the scammer just caught the next train and took his chances again.

"Come on in. The water's beautiful." The air temperature was about 11 degrees Celsius.

"Come on in. The water's beautiful." The air temperature was about 11 degrees Celsius.

Even with the three hour nap, at 10:30pm our bodies still thought it was 3:30am.  The last few hundred meters from the train station to our hotel room was difficult.