Secret Helsinki by Milla Leskinen and Jiri Keronen covers, in its 248 pages, parts of the city that tourists, and even residents, might never have been aware of. My library system acquired it one month after Mark and I arrived back home from our 2019 trip to Finland. How I wished I had this book while we were there. Although I loved looking through this book only one month after my Finnish trip ended, I never read it cover-to-cover. In the two years since the library had it in its collection, it was badly damaged by a negligent borrower who spilled coffee on it. I found it in a pile of books to be discarded, yet hesitated about even bringing it home because of its sorry state. Did I really want to put such a disgusting stained book on my shelves? I vowed that I would read it and keep it only until my next trip to Finland. I’d visit some of the “secret” sights around Helsinki and then leave it behind. Fortunately, there is a small free library in our hostel on Katajanokka, and after I write this review I will leave it there for an adventurous tourist (who would have to put up with the coffee stains and pages that had to be pried apart with the resultant missing text).
I started reading it three days before Mark and I embarked on our COVID-delayed 2020 summer holiday to the Isle of Man, Manchester, UK, Sweden and, finally, Finland. I figured I could read it just before and during our trip, while the secret destinations would be fresh in my mind. After ten prior trips to Finland, this book certainly put Helsinki in a new light. I felt like a newcomer, on the hunt for secret things that I had never seen before, like the smallest public sculpture in the city, the little mouse holding a pencil outside the National Archives:
Many other “secret” city highlights were for things I had passed or walked over yet never paid much attention to. The shrapnel from the Finnish Civil War and World War II that pockmarks the northwest side of the Pitkäsilta bridge would only be visible if I turned off the bridge and walked down to the waterline. It’s dramatic to see so much war damage that had never been repaired after over a hundred years:
The cover of the book depicts a bullet hole that penetrates the door of the National Museum, that was fired during the Finnish Civil War.
If this book wasn’t so damaged I would have kept it and referred to it on future visits, but I will let another traveller use it and at the same time lighten my luggage just a bit to accommodate all the books I bought.