The Sound of Silence: 24 Hours in Helsinki
Finland. If there is a perfect opposite to the hustle and bustle and warmth of Southeast Asia, it’s Finland. From Laos, we flew to Bangkok where we were going to have an amazing 24 hours of seeing it all. Well, I spent 24 hours with a huge fever in bed at a nice hotel sweating out a real SEAsia bug. So after seeing the nice hotel lobby, we flew to Helsinki (because it was the cheapest route back to America). As soon as we arrived in downtown Helsinki, I noticed it: silence. It was so quiet in Helsinki it made me nervous at first. Where were the street vendors shouting? The motorbikes zooming past? And why was it so cold here in summertime? Welcome to Scandinavia.
We had about 24 hours to see Helsinki, so we wasted no time and went to the Helsinki Cathedral, aka the White Church. We spent a good part of our time walking around the city — I was so excited to finally be in a place with sidewalks again.
The architecture, the buildings — it all felt familiar. I started wondering if this same feeling would be with me when I return to Asia some day in the future? I guess I’ll have to go back soon and find out.
I have to say, my love for Scandinavia grew by the minute. Where else do people bike to work in suits?
Since Finland borders Russia, we heard plenty of Russian being spoken, which added another strange layer of familiarity. So for 24-hours I felt like I was closer to home, but still pretty confused.
And those occasional reminders of places far, far away are lovely too:
Oh, the food! Bread, berries — everything that was so expensive and of poor quality in Asia was right in the reach of my fingers (but still so expensive!). I indulged and probably spent more money in 24 hours in Helsinki on food than at least a week in Asia.
Victor and I splurged on a nice dinner at the seafood restaurant Havis. The meal started off with an amuse-bouche that included a flavored foam — if anything says welcome back to the West, this was probably it.
The next morning we went to see the famous Church of the Rock, Temppeliaukio Church, that is aptly named because it’s built into/underneathe a rock.
After a bit of wandering along the waterfront (I really wanted to hop a boat to Estonia), we had some delicious sandwiches and then it was time to end the whirlwind journey of over 15 months.
So where am I now, you ask? I am currently in Washington DC working at Foreign Policy Magazine for the summer before I start graduate school in NYC in the fall. I had 8 wonderful months back home in California and around the West Coast. Plenty of stories to come, they’ll just be more American themed, and then a whole new adventure in New York City.