If I had known that it was Finland’s oldest hotel in continuous operation, I might not have stayed at Seurahuone, which opened its doors in 1833. Usually when that’s a selling point, it means the rooms haven’t been updated in decades. Not the Seurahuone. It’s a lovely place to stay with a superb location right across the street from the main train station. This hotel was once a classy, high society venue for balls and concerts, and it still shows. The lobby remains simple yet elegant, and the rooms are comfortable. The staff is welcoming and helpful too. As usual, they laughed when I said swera hoe nay after asking how it was pronounced. When said by a Finn, Seurahuone means “club room” according to Lonely Planet. I have no idea what it means when I say it, probably something x-rated. hotelliseurahuone.fi
The oldest eating establishment in Helsinki is Café Ekberg. In a lovely old neighborhood with lots of Art Nouveau buildings, Ekberg has been putting luscious pastries, lunches, breakfasts, etc. in front of Finns since 1852 at Bulevardi 9. A retail shop selling bread, candy, etc. adjoins. To instantly get your mouth watering, check out cafeekberg.fi
By accident, Ruth & I were in Helsinki on the opening day of its last pre-winter outdoor festival, the Baltic Herring Fair. It began in 1743 and is now the oldest traditional event in this city. The photos above & below were taken there. It’s setting, Market Square, was on Helsinki’s picture-perfect main harbor so crowds were boarding boats, sampling food, and enjoying one of the last relatively warm days before ice arrived.
After the BHF, Ruth & I revisited landmarks like Tuomiokirko, an austere Lutheran Cathedral up many steps, and anything-but-austere Uspenski, a Finnish Orthodox Cathedral near the harbor on Katajanokka Island.
The Helsinki’s City Museum is in a cramped, Escheresque Market Square building that once was the original Stockmann’s Department Store, founded in 1862. It will be moving. Now at Sofiankatu 4, HCM will close in January but reopen in June and then close again. The move to a new location, plans fairly vague at this time, will occur in 2014 or 15.
Anything that has to do with design. The Finns are masters (see previous blog ‘Driven to Design’). As attention-getting as Angry Birds, Moomins, a family of cute trolls, will probably soon be in every US retail store selling children’s merchandise.
The sensational Music Centre, Musiikkitalo, between old Finlandia Hall and Kiasma is Finland’s new 5 Compass magnet for the arts (also previously blogged). Kiasma, opened since 1998, is an often strange yet innovative contemporary art museum. When we were there, some huge logs were being rolled up long inside ramps in what appeared to be an eco-evil-event. The effort was making such a mess that the protesters were asked to leave, creating friction.
The area around the old train station is a forest of cranes and new building frameworks as Finland moves forward.