#5: Take a walk in Hietaniemi Cemetery (particurally recommended for October 31st)

All year, Autumn, Cemetery, Darkness, Helsinki, Outdoors, Parks, Spooky, Walk

Meh, of course you could see this one coming on the All Saints Day. It is a bit of a cheat, too, I’m sorry, because as you know cemeteries are indeed exciting all over the world.

The Hietaniemi Cemetery is the cemetery of choice in Finland if you are famous and/or rich. It is located very close to the centre (about 10-15 min walk from Kamppi), on the seashore and just off the Hietaniemi Sand Beach. It is calm, park-like, full of tall beautiful trees and squirrels (including Esko, the sweetest of all) – a perfect place for reading books, eating your packed lunch (I have no shame), contemplating and watching sunsets! It is the place of rest of Tove Jansson, Alvar Aalto and many other internationally famous people and even more nationally famous people – all those presidents, opera singers, etc.

Before you set off for a walk download this map of famous graves. Not many people know about it, but it makes life and searching for that Edelfelt grave much easier. And bring some nuts for Helsinkis cheekiest squirrels!

IMG_20151031_203536Tove Jansson’s grave.

IMG_20151031_190957All Saints’ Day – aka how the atmosphere cannot be captured.

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Esko the squirrel…IMG_20150829_185432-1… and a little bit of the cemetery in early autumn. Behind Esko.

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#4: Enjoy a guided tool at KELA headqurters (by Alvar Aalto) – !free Alvar Aalto fans gift!

All year, Alvar Aalto, Architecture, Helsinki, Indoors, Museum

Hey, this one I’m particularly proud of – and ashamed of at the same time since I cannot, for love of V, find any pictures from the epic tour at KELA Headquarters.

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(Source: Wikipedia)

Now, those who have spent some time in Finland are loving this post already, so little it takes. The rest of you is wondering what on Earth is KELA. Well, KELA equals social insurance in Finland. It equals your magical personal number without which you mean nothing to the society (seriously though, your bank account details, your health care, your bonus card at K-supermarket, they all are linked to your personal number), confusion, dole, health care, queues, inefficient service, constant cuts … it also equals those adorable Maternity packages everybody has been envying Finnish mums for.

In other worse, everybody in Finland has their own passionate relationship with KELA. Visiting their HQ sounds like a brilliant way to spend your Friday afternoon, doesn’t it!

It is actually rather interesting. The building is orangey bricky and not too exciting at all from the outside, but then you start spotting the details, the door handles, the angles, colours, tiles, the light. There is a classic Aalto library in the building as well as a gym (no bull), a little chilling park area, oh and a really exciting canteen with some kind of innovative heating system which looks like dinner trays stuck to the ceiling. There is some introduction into 1920s communication technology and of course you will get to awe at those cute maternity packages from the past. It did not take more than an hour, and it was a true pleasure (although the guide kept abandoning us randomly and was not too knowledgable, but that did not matter too much in the end).

The building is located in Töölö and is reachable easily by tram or bus (Kansaneläkelaitos stop). I have not worked out the dates of the guided tours, let alone the English ones, but last time I checked it was 2pm every Monday and Friday during the summer season and by appointment 1.10.-31.3.

… oh and I promised you a gift! Well last time I went on the guided tour my camera died. Flat battery, argh, such a rookie mistake. I did indeed take some pictures with my phone, but those seem to be hiding in the gigabytes of data in this flat. Meh. I was feeling very “meh”, but then we were given a link to this beautiful publication with pictures and facts and it is all in English and I was really happy. And I’d love to share it with you, too.

More info: www.kela.fi, tel. 020 63411 (should work), viestinta (at) kela.fi ; the address is Nordenskiöldinkatu 12

#3: Take lovely portrait pictures at Alppiruusupuisto – the rhododendron park

Helsinki, Outdoors, Parks, Spring, Summer, Walk

I know it is totally unfair to post this in October. I just wanted to remind you that this greyness will cease soon, that there are days to come when you can enjoy the bright colours of autumn, and eventually, after the dreaded long winter, some true colours of summer.

This is the first post in the Parks category, and it is a really good one. Alppiruusupuisto in Haaga is a true gem when it comes to parks in Helsinki. Smartly hidden behind random kerrostalot, in June (I repeat: visit this place in May-June, maybe early July in order to catch the bushes in the bloom. There are indeed several nearly-all-year-round parks in Helsinki, but this one is NOT one of them) this park transforms in probably the most photogenic place in Helsinki, I mean, you can’t possibly take a bad picture in here. So if you are planning to get hitched, graduate or you want your boy/girlfriend to finally take that decent portrait of you (it is completely foolproof, you CANNOT take a bad picture in here), bring your photographer here. You will (both) love it.

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… told you! Perfect location for that FB picture.DSC_0706 copy

The wooden path leading through the park adds to the location’s uniqueness. You feel like in a botanical garden. Minus the entrance fees.

This park makes a great bike trip destination but it is also reachable by public transport (Huopalahti train station, or Thalian aukio and Eliel Saarisen tie bus stops), abundant free parking is available. The place is not that easy to find from the bus stops so please do your research beforehand!

** NEW! Check out the map with ALL Helsinki100 spots! **

More info: http://www.vihreatsylit.fi/en/?p=930

#2 Explore the Puu-Käpylä wooden housing district

All year, Architecture, Autumn, Helsinki, Outdoors, Walk

After a short while one soon realises that Finnish urban housing is – with an exception of those lucky few living in the Helsinki city centre – kind of monotonous to say the least. It’s all about kerrostaloja, concrete blocks of flats, with obligatory complemented by a grey box-like supermarket and equally angular minimalistic daycare. Some of these buildings or their respective location are more bearable than others, yet the houses themselves are rarely aesthetically pleasing and almost unequivocally they lack, well, that special something too them, something worth photographing, something you would tell your friends about. They are functional and close to some kind of a park, but that’s pretty much it.

… but there are exceptions! One of them is the district of Käpylä, more specifically the part known as Puu-Käpylä – Wooden Käpylä. Walking (or sitting in the tram) along the Pohjolankatu avenue you will experience what I personally understand under Scandinavian architecture: an array of wooden houses from the 1920s, built along the idea of the garden suburb and creating great living conditions for city workers. The very same idea lay behind the Tapiola quarter in Espoo, but if I had to choose, Puu-Käpylä has so much more character… no wonder it made in to the top of the best residential quarters in Helsinki (= in Finland)!

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I particularly recommend taking the tram 1/1A towards Pohjolanaukio, get off at Metsolantie or Käpylänaukio and walk down Pohjolankatu toward Pohjolanaukio. Look left, look right, sink in between the wooden houses now and again…

Special recommendation: take the walk in autumn. Those autumn colours fit Käpylä so well…DSC_8587

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… at Pohjolanaukio you will find Park Hotel, a hotel with a pretty decent weekday menu restaurant and famous for being the shooting location of the Hyvät herrat show. I have never heard of it but apparently ALL Finns over 20 years of age or something know this. So you’d better remember this as well.

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From Pohjolanaukio continue along the Käpylänkuja – why? Well, because you will get to Helsinki home of Karelian culture, the Karjalantalo. The inauguration of the statue of The evacuated mother took place in June 2015 and not many Helsinki citizens know about it yet, so check it out, and check out the events taking place at the house, too! (wink wink, yeah, I work there.) If you think you like Finnish food, try the week-day lunch at the Karelia restaurant for extra pork, cabbage and other food so typical for Karelia. And if you prefer food with more creativity, uhm, head back to the Park Hotel.

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While in Käpylä you can extend the walk to the Olympic village. Built in 1950s (duh), these serve a “more bearable” example of the kerrostalo architecture: simple, functionalist, with some kind of atmosphere, symmetry and lightness, well, I could live there too.

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Want more of wooden urban architecture? Check out Puu-Vallila in Helsinki, or take a short trip to Porvoo!

#1 Visit väestönsuojelumuseo (Museum of Civil Defence)

All year, Autumn, Helsinki, Indoors, Museum, Spring, Winter

At the beginning I did not want to add museums to the list ’cause I thought it was plain cheating – anybody can google “(free) museums in Helsinki” and, well, go for it. And indeed some of these museums are very good! I’d particularly recommend the City of Helsinki Museums (http://www.helsinginkaupunginmuseo.fi/en/museums/), especially the Museum of Workers’ Housing. It is awesome, located close to Kallio and the Alppila/Lenin Park.

The place I had in mind is truly special – hidden away and overlooking another gem, the Merihaka estate, run by volunteers and open only at certain Saturdays throughout autumn, winter and spring. I confess I’m not too much into the whole War and sharing this particular historical memory (which is really important to Finns. Having said that, you can probably sense that someone has “suggested” this place as suitable for the blog), for example I would never pay for the Musuem of War in Helsinki, but I fell in love with THIS place. It was so sincere, the guides share their and their families’ stories with you, the exhibits are mostly donations from ordinary people – oh and you learn a lot about home safety if you please. Abundant in pictures of pre-war and ww2-Helsinki, it helps one to connect with the city, with its history and architecture, well, trust me, it is a great place to visit. Oh and if you are lucky, you will meet the largest dog in like, the world. She belongs to one of the guides, the blond firefighter (probably called Teemu or Juha, as if there were any other male names in Finland).

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And some contact details: Siltavuorenranta 16 B, http://hvssy.fi/museo/