Summer. The streets are full of tourists. This makes my head spin in the "are you speaking English?" sense for at least the first few days. This is good for also being a tourist and taking photos of all sorts of silly things that have come to mean something to me in my time here like little kiosks in the park, and the sign that says Kamp. Also it means I can assume an air of superiority over lost American tourists sporting badges that say "Caribbean Line Cruises" with their names on it in case they forget or get lost. Catching snippets of conversation; "have you seen the rock church?" asks Wilma from Wisconsin, Emerald Class on Caribbean Line. "I don't know," drawls Martine from Maryland. "We've seen a lot of churches." Indeed. Travelers don't know where they're going; tourists don't know where they've been. (Paul Theroux).
The day before Midsummer holidaying starts.
There are folk dancers in the park at Esplanadi.
The Americans' cameras whirl and click, not knowing the reality behind this holiday. The ship will be well out of port before the makkara is on the grill.
Girls in smocks, frocks, bow tied aprons and sensible shoes. An assortment of funny hats. An enthusiastic accordian player. A lady whirls out of her dosey doe and offers her hands to the Americans, most too shy to take part in something that might add value to their experience. She turns to me pleadingly and I take up her hand and we skip a little dance under the midsummer pole until the accordion makes it final wheeze.
A typical afternoon in Helsinki. Wandering and wondering. I only come here when I have something to do or nothing to do. When I have nothing to do, I really feel like a stranger and the city feels so small. I find a park that has foliage big enough to hold a small child and make a note to come back when the day is not interrupted by interludes of torrential rain. I pace the supermarket aisles looking for foreign things that might excite me amongst the pea soup and canned bear. What if I was to be the only foreigner to find malt vinegar...?
Fazer cafe in Kluuvikatu: The Karl Fazer kakao. At six euro, it's something you have to try once. Not even a six euro hot chocolate gets you table service though, so I wait an infinitely long time while the waiter pulls together a chemistry experiment and carries over to me a tray laden with assorted powders. I sniff at each like a forensic scientist. Mint flakes, cinammon, are helpfully pointed out amongst the hot milk, thick whipped cream and more. I shake the clearly marked chilli pepper over the cream and it smells deceptively sweet. I cough the powder for a good five minutes after my first taste and hide the rest at the bottom of my thick murky cup of melted chocolate.
More Helsinki street scenes