Bookshopping in Helsinki

Soon there’ll be the annual book fair in Helsinki, a humongous event with hundreds of bookshops, publishers and whatnot presenting their best for the tens of thousands of booklovers browsing the offerings and rushing to catch something of the very packed presentation schedule. Pretty much everything’s there from big publishers and literary superstars to tiny one-person workshops and never-heard-ofs. The best bit, for me at least, is the antiquarian bookshop section, where you can basically browse through the best selections of the whole country’s sellers in one go. Conveniently at the same weekend in the same premises there’s something of a wine fair for securing a nice buzz so inspiring for reaching the right mood for some high culture and generous shopping.

dsc_0200

Photo: Eero Ehanti

All this is fine, and many a year I’ve been there, finding great books and enjoying the company of good friends and booksellers, many of whom I’m somewhat acquainted with after years of frequenting their shops. But something’s not right. That enormous, fully packed fair-hall with those long book-lined corridors definitely hide a gem or two; perhaps a rare Henry Miller with perfect dustjacket, to name but one of the treasures I’ve come across there. Yes, they are nice, and you’ll always find something like that. But something’s not right, buying doesn’t feel good.

 

dsc_0462

Photo: Eero Ehanti

Why? Because in such a fair you’re in no-man’s land in front of offerings from all around the world. The fairgrounds are anonymous places where everything is brought together for the case of convenience. This surely appeals to many. But not me. Convenience does not belong to the vocabulary of true bibliophile, who enjoys hunting for the rare prey in real shops, the weirder the better, where the actual purchasing momentum is of very high importance. It’s there that you encounter the best discussions with wise shopowners and clientele bound to be equally wise. It is not bookfairs but bookshops, dear bibliophilic reader, where you should head for while in Helsinki, because these are the places for catching the mood of the city. In a way they’re similar everywhere but at the same time they catch something vital from that particular city. What’s been read in the city eventually ends up in an antiquarian bookshop, or the best of it, as the bulk just might end up in the dump, where it probably belongs to.

Antiquarian bookshops, those hotspots of the spirit of place! Whatever that might be in that particular city, you will find something of it in a nice bookshop, or else you’ll sense it whilst walking around searching for one. Always when preparing to conquer a new city I start by finding out about the most interesting bookshops, which I dutifully mark in my map to form the framework for my wanderings in the city. That I encourage you to do as well when in Helsinki, and I can help you. I definitely know these places very well and often hunt for old English language books, which makes my tips valid for the occasional traveler.

 

dsc_0457

Photo: Eero Ehanti

There are quite a few bookshops in town, and most of them have a section for English fiction and plenty of non-fiction scattered in the designated shelves in between the Finnish titles. Go for it, ask for what you want, or if you’re like me, ask the shopowner to just point to the English fiction section and browse it quickly through. One typically quite quickly establishes if there are any fancy hard-back volumes with good dustwrappers.

I’ll name just a couple here with a promise to come back to them later on in this blog: Hagelstam at the corner of Uudenmaankatu and Fredrikinkatu, which is perhaps the best of them all with a unique atmosphere with stuffed owls and very rare treasures. Maps and prints as well. Another good one for English readers is Runebergin antikvariaatti in Runeberginkatu, where I’ve been lucky enough to score some amazing poetry from Lawrence Ferlighetti’s Beat-circles. Definitely not to be missed is the international bookshop Arkadia in Töölö district, which beautifully serves the foreign language clientele with good selection, big cozy and fascinating premises and an amazingly rich program of readings, plays, concerts and gatherings of all kinds. The owner something to be very proud and thankful of. Characters like him make my Helsinki.

 

dsc_0502

Photo: Eero Ehanti

Then there are the Planeetta antiquariats. Three branches, Green planet, Red Planet and Orange Planet, adorn the Hakaniemi, Kallio and Vallila areas respectively with varying specializations. Very good ones these as well, although not so concentrated on English language books. Not to be missed is Kampintorin antikvariaatti in Kamppi, which stocks a large collection of good quality books. Look for the varying displays in the window for some treasures. The one in Kruununhaka, Laterna Magica, is a very fascinating one with a great brick-walled gallery space at the back behind some nicely winding bookshelf-filled corridors, where photographic exhibitions and the like are held. Good English language books will be found. By the tourist-populated Senate Square you’ll find Senaatintorin antikvariaatti, which continues a long tradition of Seppo Hiltunen’s antikvariaatti, a Helsinki-institution definitely if ever there was one. So good that the new owner has picked up the legacy so wonderfully! Do not miss this little place. A very well kept one is Antikvariaatti Sofia in Vuorikatu, where I once found the complete series of Casanova’s Memoirs in a very nice English edition.

dsc_0025-musta

Photo: Eero Ehanti

These places I definitely encourage you to seek in Helsinki and promise to cover them in more detail here at some point. There’s more places, luckily, although sadly many an antiquarian bookshop has closed down in recent years. Hats off for places like Sangi, which for one is a place I miss very much not least because of the very nice owner with amazing knowledge of books, music and everything cool. Wonder what’s he up to these days…

If books are your thing, dear reader, go for these places. And yes, why not visit the book fair next month as well, for it is after all lots of fun!

 

Eero

Best Pokémon GO stops in Helsinki

 

Ok, I’m not an expert in Pokémon GO, I have to admit it, but for the past month I’ve been playing it every now and then and I think I’ve gotten a hang of it – kinda. Last week I learnt how to evolve Pokemons and this week I tried out a gym for the first time (lost both fights, though). My first Pikachu hatched yesterday and yesterday and today I got to level 11.

I was mostly away from Helsinki in July when the game was released in Finland and for the past 1,5 weeks I’ve had the chance to try it out in my home town as well and decided to make a short list of the best places to play Pokémon GO in Helsinki. This is my top 3 list – for now.

  1. Vanha Kirkkopuisto (also known as Ruttopuisto)

 

Situated between Bulevardi and Lönnrotinkatu this small park next to the oldest church in Helsinki has become one of the most popular spots for Pokémon GO players. There are 8 Pokéstops in the park and there seems to be lures on all the time. There are no gyms, however, which means you need to walk a bit further for that.

Today I grabbed a burrito from Cholo  and had lunch at the park bench and got myself at least Jigglypuff, Paras, Spearow, Zubat, Clefairy, 2x Rattata, Drowzee, Pidgeotto, Machop, Bellsprout, Gastly and Horsea. I also got my first Jynx from this park last week. So far the park has been quite full with younger schoolchildren. Let’s see will the popularity continue when schools start this week.

2. Kaivopiha’s steps

Similar to Vanha Kirkkopuisto, this spot is situated in the very center of Helsinki and it has quite a many Pokéstops in the area. Unlike many others, I haven’t actually sat down to the stairs to play but I have taken a couple of extra steps to walk through this spot just to gather a couple of more Pokémons.

3. Kaivopuisto park

Mattolaituri_in_Kaivopuisto

A very nice park for picnic and an afternoon walk by the seaside – and therefore also for Pokémon hunting. If you get tired of walking in the park and would rather have a nice glass of wine, Mattolaituri is just next to the park by the seaside. And if you get tired of Pokémon GO you might as well walk all the way to Löyly  which Anna wrote about some time ago or to Hernesaaren Ranta – which unfortunately aren’t the best spots for Pokémon GO yet but otherwise worthwhile a visit.

Other good Pokémon GO stops in Helsinki

I also found a list of other good Pokémon GO stops (unfortunately in Finnish) from which you can find new Pokémons. We have actually written about earlier in this blog, so these are excellent places not only for Pokémon hunting but for other activities, too.

Best Beach in Helsinki – Hietaniemen Uimaranta

 

I really love Hietaniemen Uimaranta (which is normally called “Hietsu” as the official name is pretty long…) – it is sandy beach next to downtown Helsinki and perfect for sunny summerdays. You can just enjoy sun and swim but you can also play beach-volley, chat with friends or visit cafeteria. You can also ffind showers and changing rooms. What there are not are sunbeds and umbrellas so people are just lying in their own towels. Not having rentable sunbeds is very Finnish thing – we want beaches to be for everyone, not just for ones who have money. However, I would like to be able to rent sunbed for a day… There are not that many people as in many other European beaches near downtowns. Also the location of the beach is just perfect – so near downtown!

 

Every time I visit (and I visit often) I am surprised how many foreigners there are – maybe enjoying beach life is not in Finnish DNA? How to get there? You can walk – it is a bit more than kilometre from Railwaystation. The address is Hiekkarannantie 11. When walking there you should also enjoy big cemetery called Hietaniemen Hautausmaa next to beach. Map below shows that area as green area by the sea near the beach.

After rainy day sun just started shining, maybe I’ll next take my bike and head towards Hietsu!

Anna

Map

Suomenlinna Fortress – Absolute ”Must See” in Helsinki

 

One place everyone should absolutely see in Helsinki is Suomenlinna Fortress. It is perfect combination of history, nature and picturesque village situated in the island next to downtown Helsinki. It is very easy to reach – just take a ferry from Kauppatori (opposite to President Castle). It takes only 15 minutes by ferry and there are several ferries every hour. Tickets can be bought in ferry station. It is also good to know that normal Helsinki transportation tickets (the ones you use when travelling by bus or tram) are valid for the ferry. There is no entrance fee for the island and it is always open. There are living approximately 800 people in the island. More information you find here.

 

But what is this Suomenlinna Forstress? Well, it used to be fortress protecting Finland. The fortification work begin in 1748 (back the Finland was part of Sweden). However, it took many years to finish and even when finished the fortress was actually never completed as planned. Nowadays Suomenlinna is a beautiful place and marked as UNESCO  World Heritage Site. This tiny island is perfect place to spend a day – you can walk around and admire see, old buildings, fortress and nature. I suggest to have picnic there (you can find a grocery store from the island, it is very near the ferry stop), another option is to visit some of islands cafes and restaurants. It is also possible to swim in Suomenlinna but there are no long sandy beaches – however you will have feeling of nature when swimming there. You can also walk tunnels within fortification – some of them are open for visitors. Since the streets of Suomenlinna are old you should not wear high heels. Also it is not place for people having difficulties to walk.

 

 

I’ve just spend two great days in Suomenlinna – Saturday I spent a great day there with my husband. When arriving we headed to Länsi-Mustasaari part of Suomenlinna (when arriving by ferry, you go right). It is not as touristy as other parts – if you want to have a feeling “being alone” then you should go that way. You can also admire beautiful Helsinki skyline from Länsi-Mustasaari. We were reading books and having picnic whole day. My husband also swam (but I didn’t since the day wasn’t too hot). Yesterday I visited Suomenlinna Summer Theatre (unfortunately the play is in Finnish) and had a picnic again. This time we headed towards Kustaanmiekka. When going to that direction you see first old church (which is also a light house) and after that many other old buildings. This way is more touristy but also you see more beautiful buildings than in Länsi-Mustasaari (where it is more aboug quietness and nature). You’ll find easily guideposts so it is easy to see which way to go.

During winter time Suomenlinna is different – very windy and not touristy at all. However, I recommend to visit Suomenlinna whatever the season is – it really is very lovely and special place!

Anna

 

 

 

Outdoor planetarium in Pajamäki area

earth and moon pitajanmaki solar system

Earth and moon

Sometimes you end up finding cool new things from your home town even from places you’ve visited more than once. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I went for a Sunday walk with my boyfriend in Pitäjänmäki and Pajamäki surroundings and ended up discovering Ursa’s outdoor planetarium or miniature solar system – whichever you want to call it. I used to live a kilometer from there and have done my share of walking and jogging in the surrounding area. The outdoor planetarium is an outdoor installation which illustrates our solar system’s structure and is built in 1: 1 ooo ooo ooo scale, in which one millimeter equals a thousand kilometers  or one meter equals a million kilometers in the solar system.

In other words there are planets and the sun scattered in the nature mostly to Pajamäki surroundings. Pajamäki is a neighbourhood in West Helsinki right next to Tali and Pitäjänmäki I think the easiest way to get there is to take the A train from Helsinki railway station towards Leppävaara and get off at  Pitäjänmäki train stop and then walk a couple of hundred meters to Pajamäki or by bus no 14 directly from Kamppi to Pajamäki.

Sun in Pajamäki

The Sun at Pajamäki

The outdoor planetarium in Pajamäki is situated mostly in an urban forest area with paths and tracks and even some old fighting trenches from I World War which you can explore while searching the planets. The sun is situated on top of a hill on a pole so you can’t really miss it.  Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are within a few steps from the sun.

Merkurius_in_Pajamaki

You can see the sun from Mercury

Since all the planets are not only in scale in distance but also in size, they would be pretty much impossible to find if they weren’t be placed on concrete stands. All the planets are named on the stands, too (in Finnish, though). Earth even has our moon circling the planet, as seen on the first photo. Moon is the small dot at the end of the steel extention.

Venus and Mars in Pajamaki

Venus and Mars in Pajamäki

If you take the bus to Pajamäki, Mars is actually situated 50 meters from the last stop of bus no 14 route next to a spruce fence. As I mentioned, Pajamäki is situated next to Tali which is also a very nice area for walking and jogging and other outdoor activities. There’s also a golf course, if you’re into that. Jupiter is situated in the middle of Tali disc golf park about 800 meters from the Sun. I missed it the last time, but I did walk to Saturn which is in Pitäjänmäki. Very educational to notice how huge it is when compared to the previous planets 🙂

Outdoor planetarium in Pajamäki, Saturn

Saturn in Pitäjänmäki

Saturn was as far as I got this time in our solar system. I did found a map of the outdoor planetarium with all the planets marked from Ursa’s website for future exploring. The planet’s that are closest to sun you can easily be seen by foot but if you want to see the whole solar system in one day including Pluto, Neptunus and Uranus I recommend doing the tour by bike. Otherwise you would need to walk all the way to Lauttasaari – which actually could be interesting in winter time when the sea is frozen and you could take the ice route or go ski there.

-Marjo

Olo n:o 22 Outdoor sculpture in Hietalahti

Olo no 22 sculpture in Helsinki

Olo n:o 22 steel spheres in Hietalahti

Sibelius monument in Töölö is probably the most well-known outdoor sculpture in Helsinki, but actually I quite enjoy another one more. It’s called Olo n:o 22 and it is scattered around  Hietalahti. It consists of around 50 polished steel spheres of different sizes and the easiest way to see the spheres is to walk around Hietalahti area for example when visiting Hietalahti flea market Anna wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

In order to show the difference in sizes I took a couple of photos with a matchbox on top of the spheres. It didn’t really give anything extra to the photos but I ended up using one of them (just to explain why there’s a small box in the photo above).

Olo no 22 in Hietalahti

Another Olo n:o 22 sphere in Hietalahti

What I love about Olo n:o 22 is that your’re quite not sure how many spheres there are and where to find them. For instance I discovered a new sphere just a few weeks ago when walking towards Eiranranta. It’s the smallest sphere I’ve found so far and even though I have walked pass it for years  probably every week, I haven’t noticed it earlier. It’s just next to Nosturi concert venue:

Small Olo n:o 22 sphere I just found

Small Olo n:o 22 sphere I just found

I tried to find a map that would have all the steel spheres marked but couldn’t find one with a quick googling. I think it would actually ruin the excitement and joy from discovering new spheres from the surrounding area. Many of the spheres can be seen when walking along Hietalahdenranta (<– see map), but some of them are also inside buildings and courtyards. At least there’s one inside Salve Restaurant and another one in Shubha Kamana Nepalese restaurant. Enjoy the treasure hunt!

Marjo

P.S. There’s at least 2 other Olo outdoor sculptures in Finland: Olo n:o 39 at Karosen Koulu (a school in Tampre) and Olo n:o 44 at Turku University Educarium and Publicum in Turku.

 

Walking in Seurasaari island

Seurasaari_view

View from Seurasaari island to Meilahti

We’ve been having really nice and sunny autumn days in Helsinki for the past couple of weeks. I think the best way to enjoy the weather and warm(ish) days is to have long walks around Helsinki. One of my favorite routes is around Seurasaari island in Meilahti.

Easiest way to get there from Helsinki city center is probably by bike or bus. There’s a nice seaside biking route that goes from city center to Hietaniemi beach and along the coastline to Töölö and Meilahti all the way to Seurasaari island. No bikes are allowed in the island but you can leave it to the parking space. If you have the time, you can obviously always walk there – it’s around 5-6 kilometers from Helsinki Railwaystation, depending on the route. Last time I decided to take the bus. Bus number 24 from Eira via Helsinki city center goes straight to Seurasaari, but this time I used another bus and walked from Munkkiniemen aukio.

Seurasaari island brigge

Bridge to Seurasaari island

There’s a beautiful wooden bridge that leads to the island. At the left side(or the east side) of the island there’s Seurasaari Open-Air museum displaying traditional Finnish buildings, cottages and manors that have been relocated to the island from all around Finland. The first building was rebuilt there in 1909. The museum is open from May to September but you can always admire the buildings while walking through the island.

Seurasaari open-air museum

Relocated buildings at Seurasaari open-air museum

There’s also a nice view all the way to Lauttasaari and Hietalahti from the east side of the island. During the winter when the sea is frozen I’ve actually walked from Seurasaari to Hietalahti beach. One of my favorite places on the island, Kalevalakehto (or the Shamans Haven of the Kalevala) is also on the east coast of the island.  It’s intended for small gatherings and meditation and I visit it everytime I’m in Seurasaari. Kalevalakehto has been on the island for 5 years now and it has a temporary permit in Seurasaari until 31 August 2018.

Kalevalakehto in Seurasaari

Kalevalakehto in Seurasaari

There are cafés and kiosks in the area but I recommend taking your own picnic food with you or at least some coffee and sausages, since you can always use the outdoor grill area. Just remember to bring your own matches and put out the fire if there isn’t anyone using the grill after you. There are excellent paths  as well as park benches around the island so you can stop and admire the view or enjoy your coffee by the sea if the outdoor grill area is too crowded.

Paths and steps around Seurasaari island

Paths and steps around Seurasaari island

The island is popular among tourists but also among locals and I keep finding new things to see everytime I go there. Once I’ve even spotted our president Sauli Niinistö walking his dog there one winter Sunday.

Marjo

seurasaari island map

Seurasaari island’s map and facilities