Signs / Anni Sinnemäki

This is my last day in Finland. I leave tomorrow at 06.00 for Munich, then have a four-hour, fifteen-minute layover before my flight home to Toronto. If I don’t spend that time asleep, I will start writing two book reviews. I took ten separate train journeys on this trip, and that gave me a lot of time to read. I finished two books and that layover will be the perfect time to start writing about them. I do not wish to spend the time I have left in Helsinki composing book reviews; instead I will post about a fluffy topic that is a favourite of mine: mailboxes and signs.

I love the postal system and everyone here knows how much I love to send postcards bedecked with many different stamps. Why put one international stamp on a postcard when you can split that amount up into smaller denominations? Wouldn’t you love to get a postcard full of stamps? I take photos of everything to do with the mails: postal vehicles and mailboxes especially. I certainly took photos of mail trucks, vans and smaller cars since I’ve been here. Here are two photos of Finnish mailboxes:

The orange one is for second-class (economy) mail and the blue one is for first-class (priority) mail.

On my walk yesterday to Simpeleen kirkko I passed a smaller version of the orange mailbox:

And now for a postal sign: for the Poste Restante counter in Helsinki:

Simply put: I love signs. I take pictures of them if their messages interest me, or if there is a superabundance of text in a foreign language. I am most definitely a Fennophile but I do feel that Finns put far too many words on their signs. It’s not a matter of Finnish words being so long to begin with; that has nothing to do with it. I feel that when I translate the signs, the precise meaning can be conveyed in only a few English words, without having to be so overtly descriptive as in the Finnish.

I would translate the top sign as simply “(You will get a) fine for parking”. Its literal meaning is “If you park here by mistake you will be fined”. I translate the sign underneath as “Permit parking only” whereas the literal Finnish translation is “The parking lot can only be used by those who have parking lot permits”.

I liked this sign. It means “Bicycle storage [parking] only for those doing real estate business”.

More with bikes:

Finns can’t read. The sign means “No bikes here”. This was taken outside the Stockmann department store in Oulu. There were bikes everywhere.

“Gate”. Yes, it is a gate. Taken on Kaisaniemenkatu in Helsinki.

When I got off the train Friday morning in Simpele, I was the only one. No one got on the train either. The train station is not really even a station; it’s just a platform. There wasn’t even a ticket vending machine.

I have been buying a lot of souvenirs on my last day here, and one of them I am picking up for myself. I gotta try this new Fazer chocolate bar with popcorn pieces.

Finally, as I was walking on Katajanokka back to the hostel I recognized a familiar face in Tove Janssonin puisto (Tove Jansson Park). It was Anni Sinnemäki, whom I wrote about on March 2, 2003 when I met her at a federal election campaign stop, and got a box of matches with Anni’s photo and the slogan “rauhallinen vallankumous” ( = “peaceful revolution”) on it. Anni is not in federal politics anymore and serves as the deputy mayor of Helsinki. I knew Anni not through her politics but through her music. She and her ex-husband Kerkko Koskinen wrote almost all of Ultra Bra’s material. I told her how much her songwriting gave me pleasure, and she kindly posed for a photo:

I have to be up by 02.30 and it will be 23.37 by the time I post this. I am not going to get any sleep tonight, that’s for sure. But I wanted to write one last post about my beloved Finland.

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