GET HAPPY IN HELSINKI

WHY FIN­LAND IS THE WORLD’S HAP­PI­EST COUN­TRY

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - News -

T

VIVE LA DIF­FER­ENCE

his is the most un­con­gested city cen­tre I have ever seen, but many Finns frown at Helsinki for be­ing “too crowded.” Well, the Finns are fa­mous for their leave-me-alone at­ti­tude and a fierce quest for pri­vacy. For them, a lake-fac­ing cot­tage (Fin­land has more than 1.87 lakh lakes) is more valu­able than an apart­ment near the har­bourfront mar­ket in Helsinki. So the Finns’ ob­ses­sion for soli­tude and si­lence makes for great folk­lore as well as guf­faw-in­duc­ing jokes.

I hear this one in a Vik­ing Line ship while cross­ing the Gulf of Fin­land:

Two friends meet af­ter ages and go for a beer. Af­ter the first pint, Aapo asks Paivio, “How are you?” Paivio mum­bles. Aapo, af­ter the sec­ond pint: “How’s your fam­ily?” Paivio mum­bles again. Third pint over. Aapo asks, “You’re still with Nokia?”

Paivio shouts: “Perkele! Have we come here to talk or drink?”

Jari, our host in Helsinki, adds, “Of course we are not like the Ital­ians or those in South­ern Spain. There’s a cul­tural dif­fer­ence.” This dif­fer­ence makes Helsinki a fabulous place to visit, but only if you know how to tackle the cold gusts of wind. If it’s too chilly, go to the har­bour-front mar­ket and check out the blue fox coats or wear a moose hide hat for five min­utes.

For heaven’s sake, don’t com­plain about the cold weather. They say in Fin­land: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.

THEY SAY IN FIN­LAND: THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD WEATHER, ONLY BAD CLOTHES!

THE FINNS’ OB­SES­SION FOR SOLI­TUDE AND SI­LENCE MAKES FOR GREAT FOLK­LORE AS WELL AS GUF­FAW-IN­DUC­ING JOKES

We ar­rive at the Helsinki Air­port – Van­taa fully pre­pared. Our plan in­cludes my morn­ing walks for photography as my wife Ruchira has re­fused to wait end­lessly dur­ing the day if I keep ex­per­i­ment­ing with my cam­era. Last year, she had to stand near Banco de Es­paña in Madrid for 45 min­utes while I tried to cap­ture the set­ting sun over the Gran Via.

I will not talk about the con­se­quences here.

The first sight of Helsinki un­der a gloomy sky fails to in­spire visi­tors. My ro­mance with this Nordic out­post starts only when I delve deep into its nar­row lanes and leafy cor­ners.

There are su­perb sculp­tures tucked be­hind trees. Take a turn and there’s Huvi­lakatu – a street full of art nou­veau houses, re­mind­ing us of Fin­land’s fa­bled world of de­sign. Aged trams match the slow pace of this ur­ban life. Pretty neigh­bour­hoods such as Pu­navuori are full of small, cosy shops.

I barely start ap­pre­ci­at­ing the charm of Helsinki when the un­known road brings me to the seafront. There, through the drapes of the morn­ing mist, I see giant ships The deep green and pale yel­low­coloured trams do not evoke as much nos­tal­gia as their coun­ter­parts in Lis­bon or Kolkata. Yet, they are the best op­tion to reach im­por­tant land­marks as well as sim­ple res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

We hop off tram No. 2 near a lo­cal mar­ket at Hakaniemi to eat pork pie and rein­deer meat chips. Half an hour later, we are at the en­trance of the fa­bled Fin­lan­dia wait­ing to take wide-eyed trav­ellers and beer-thirsty rev­ellers to the fairy­lands of Stock­holm and Tallinn. I am so happy that I re­turn home and fall asleep. Ruchira’s fi­nal warn­ing that we will miss our planned tram tour some­how com­pels me to emerge from the lay­ers of thick blan­kets. THE SOUND OF SI­LENCE

Text and pho­tos by Saub­hadra Chat­terji

GOLD SPOT The mar­ket square, fac­ing the har­bour, is one of the most pop­u­lar ar­eas in Helsinki

SEAFOOD FOR EV­ERY MOOD Helsinki of­fers a va­ri­ety of fish

NORDIC FOODWALKS Both tourists and lo­cals throng the Old Mar­ket Hall to taste Nordic cui­sine

WOR­SHIP IN PEACE Rocks were blasted to cre­ate the walls of this unique church

THE LO­CAL FAVOURITE Freshly grilled salmon with boiled potato is a must-try

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