When friends asked me what I wanted to do in Helsinki, my only answer was: take a ferry to one of those islands and swim in the sea. Of course, with the weather we encountered, the only sea I could swim in were sidewalk peddles – my optimism in the form of a swimming suit remained hidden in a travel bag. Luckily, I hardly ever truly need to do anything when being in a new place. I don’t come with a list of goals and places to see. Walking around, being somewhere different is enough.
Things always happen and it’s fun to stumble on them. When we arrived in Helsinki, we picked up a pile of brochures and a city magazine in English. OK, my reasoning for taking most of them was purely aesthetic – I can’t resist clean, functional design, otherwise known as boring. Plenty made their way to London, currently stationing on my desk from where they’ll be transformed to my visual diary. I mean, seeing designs I know from online research, printed and casually distributed in cafes or shops – that was unexpected. They really exist!
As it was, Helsinki Festival was taking place in the same week. The programme looked great. Needless to say we didn’t go to a single event. We even managed to miss the Late Night – Helsinki equivalent of Museum Night, though with businesses involved and much shorter opening times. By accident, we landed on a concert in Helsinki cathedral – part of the Helsinki Organ Summer – which we left rather promptly, as it wasn’t as good as the golden hour enjoyed by people on top of the cathedral steps outside.
But we ended up seeing some art.
At Kiasma, recommended by my friend Marcin (thanks Marcin!), we really enjoyed Kiasma Hits and, less so, Together – Marimekko and Kiasma – exhibitions. The building was a work of art in itself so we spent quite a while just hanging out inside.
There were no crowds and some of the installations were very interactive – one of the traits I love in any kind of art.
The real treat was Tove Jansson’s exhibition at Ateneum (no photos allowed). With illustrations from Tove’s childhood, early magazine commissions, Moomins – drawn, painted, in 3D – to abstract paintings, one visit didn’t seem enough. Especially when, because of the crowds, we had to move in very small steps from one display to another. I didn’t think it possible but my admiration for Tove and her work grew even bigger.
What else? I found my type of a bookstore – the Academic Bookstore has the best selection of books that interest me, beautiful and cosy interior plus a cafe. An instant favourite.