Guest Blogger: Caroline (Cathy) Richmond
Time for something a little different. Last month we had a guest at the apartment in the form of Ben’s girlfriend Caroline. She agreed to write a blog entry for me so you folks can get a visitors’ view of Helsinki Wolverines life. Take it away Cathy….
Suomi: kiitos muistoja!
2 weeks ago today I found myself sitting on a plane headed toward the land of the ridiculously long words, looking forward to an 11 day stay with my boyfriend Ben (Spider to some of you). Knowing very little about Finland, and even less about Helsinki, I knew it was going to be a bit of an adventure, learning as I went about the country, and the culture.
Following my return to the UK, I have reflected on what I have learnt about the Finnish, and to sum up my findings (perhaps slightly stereotypically!) I can say that they like their heavy rock music, they enjoy a naked sauna here and there, they are partial to beer or 2, or 3 or… and they simply LOVE their elongated double vowel words, niicee.
During my stay I was lucky enough to experience both a tourist’s view of Helsinki, as well as a resident’s one. Point in case for the latter, my first full day in Finland was spent watching the Apprentice with Ben and Bam (during which, after just a mere hour of knowing him, Bam roped me into writing for his blog!), visiting the local gym and then heading to the cinema! I did however get my first visit to the infamous Helmi Grill for lunch (4 visits in total, I almost felt like a regular!). I also experienced the novelty of an entire cinema audience clapping a particular scene in the Harry Potter movie (I won’t say which one; you can work it out for yourselves…!). Clapping?! Ok ok, I nearly did myself, but that does not make me a douche bag (Ben!), I was merely trying to fit in….ahem.
The next few days brought some lovely new experiences for me, including a visit to the top of the Torni Hotel to sip over priced drinks on a sunny balcony overlooking Helsinki (I particularly recommend this as a place to visit, if only to experience the panoramic views from the toilets – never before have I been sat on a loo in a room where 2 of the walls are made of glass – a voyeurs dream come true.. well maybe not!).
Next followed a couple of boat trips, the first being a trip to Suomenlinna to see the old fortress ruins. I believe the island was originally under Swedish rule, then taken over by the Russians following the war, and then finally returned to Finland a good few years back. My education in history has truly done me proud for accurately remembering times, dates and facts…
We also took a boat trip to Porvoo, the second oldest town in Helsinki. The old town was particularly interesting, lots of wooden buildings painted in various pastel colours, looking very colonial to me. Each of the buildings along the waterfront is painted a deep shade of red however, apparently to impress a former royal visit. During the return trip home, myself and Ben encountered a heavily inebriated elderly woman, the first of a few drunken Finnish encounters. The most memorable being a lively chap that we met on the metro. Bam, in his best Mancunian accent, delightfully told him that he was in fact Dutch, and that he was in Finland to play in a Badminton tournament, and that he was ranked number 68 in the world! Said with such conviction, there was never a doubt in the drunk mans mind that this wasn’t the God’s honest truth!
My final trip to lands of unknown took me to Seurrasaari, which is a small island not too far from the city centre. (It should be noted that whilst travelling there, we saw a man casually skiing (well, walking in ski’s) down the street in nothing but a pair of hot pink short shorts… Finns!).
The island boasts an open air museum, public baths (naked of course, although shut the day we visited!) and a small beach. This trip was particularly memorable for the animals we encountered along the way, including the worlds friendliest squirrel, who would literally eat your nuts right out of your hand… if that’s your thing.
Along with the cultural day trips, there also came a few entertaining evenings out, including a lovely dinner with Anssi and Audrina, a fellow Wolverine and his girlfriend (and an amusing debate on the ethics of marriage – don’t get Bam started on this, SERIOUSLY!). We also had a lovely dinner out, which included my first Reindeer tasting experience (tastes like chicken.. ha ha no I jest) followed by a trip to Storyville, a local jazz club that I am informed serves the local politicians, and even the new president of Finland, oh yes, myself and Ben only hob nob with the local notoriety these days.. A few twirls round the dance floor later saw us heading off for a cool (very cool) drink in the ice bar, which was -6 in temperature, a sunny day by most Finns experience I am sure. We also took a trip to a large club, with balconies overlooking the city, which was fun but perhaps a mistake in hindsight, the excessive drinks and late night led to a sleepy bus ride home, resulting in a missed stop and a long walk back to the flat.
(Me and Ben in the Ice Bar)
Obviously my trip included a couple of Wolverines matches to watch, which was great fun, although a little disappointing that I couldn’t see Ben play due to injury. I did however see Bam make his first interception in the Border Knights game, an almighty catch that I am sure he is still smiling about now. Unfortunately (as you have all read) the second match against the Crocs did not go to plan, this together with news that Ben would need an operation on his knee meant that a sombre mood prevailed in the house for my last couple of days.
My final day was spent at Linnanmaki theme park, where myself and Ben rode the roller coasters, got wet on the log flumes and experienced our first 4D cinema film, all in Finnish of course, and with a few sensory surprises thrown in for good measure – if you happen to visit, go and try it out, I don’t want to spoil the surprise…
So, to wrap up this long blog (apologies, once I start talking…you did ask me to write this Bam!) Finland was a new and fresh experience for me, one that I will always remember for the excellent company I kept, the interesting places we visited and not least the intriguing concrete turtles that are sporadically scattered around the city. If someone can let me know why they are there, I’d be grateful. Maybe a (teenage mutant) Ninja Turtle uprising….
Over and out… Caroline