Yesterday Mark and I went on a walking tour of the southern Helsinki Eira and Kaivopuisto area, which is home to “embassy row” and a very pristine park. Since Helsinki is a capital city there are embassies all over the place, in office buildings and even in the occasional apartment building. Yet the embassies in Eira are in mansions occupying a lot of property. The American embassy is across the street from the British embassy and you can tell which is which without even looking at the flags outside. The American embassy is built like a jail (much like the new US embassy in Ottawa) and the only language posted on the signs outside is English. There are even signs all over the walls showing a camera with a red line through it. The UK embassy, on the other hand, while also being gated and under high security, at least has its signs in three languages: the two official languages of Finland, Finnish and Swedish, as well as English. The Russian embassy was a colossal older mansion which had a fountain and an expansive green park area behind its gates. The only embassy we saw which had a lineup waiting outside was the Russian.
We then walked through Kaivopuisto, a park area. Lawn-mowing vehicles were scooting around and Mark made the remark that the park didn’t even need to have its grass cut. I nicknamed Kaivopuisto the “golfcourse park” since its grass was stubble-short and weed-free. We had lunch while looking out at Suomenlinna fortress across the bay to the south.
Then we used our transit pass (not a problem today as we never encountered that one demon of a bus driver) to hop onto a streetcar and I headed to the bookstores. I bought four books: Värttinä: mierontiellä ja punaisella matolla, a 2008 revised edition on the history of Värttinä, one of my favourite Finnish bands:
Englannin idiomisanakirja, a book for Finnish-speakers wherein it translates English idiomatic expressions. For example, if you look under “egg”, you will find expressions such as “walking on eggshells”, “talking with egg on one’s face”, etc. Then it will give the appropriate Finnish expression. I find books such as these as much of a help for native English-speakers as Finnish-speakers. I also got a pocket dictionary Finnish-Estonian/Estonian-Finnish, with 26.000 entries. These two languages are close relatives in the Finnic family and I like to compare words and expressions. Lastly, I bought my honey a small Finnish-English/English-Finnish dictionary with a small phrasebook at the end.
When we returned to Leslie and Ismo’s house in Espoo Mark and I played badminton then played some box games with Leslie and Ismo: Pass the Bomb!, Make ‘n’ Break, and Globetrotter ( = geographical) Trivial Pursuit. I won the last game, which may have been for the first time. Leslie is a five-time “Jeopardy!” champion, as well as a $1,000,000 Masters Jeopardy! contestant. She knows her geography, and it makes games like this very exciting when you find out that you’re not the only person in the room who knows that the Ellice Islands are now called Tuvalu.
Today on Thursday morning I am heading out to Helsinki after I post this message. Mark left early, and I will do some more shopping. I will go food shopping, as I have yet to find vanilla viili and cloudberry ice cream. I used to get both at the grocery store next to Hakaniemi market, however I have not visited this grocery store yet so I hope both are still available there.