Traveling, no; staying, yes! I've had the chance to live in very beautiful and inspiring places, and I will share more on that here.

Friday, 01 May 2015 11:31


After an interminable winter, we are at last seeing some brilliant rays of light at dawn. This morning was no different. As I enjoyed the early morning peace, one of my news feeds lit up with a story that reminded me of another time and place when I was starved for sunshine: Helsinki, the capital city of Finland.

I have very fond memories of that place, so indulge me for a moment while we step back a bit in time.

We'll go back via Justin Lowe's character in my first book Lions. Justin is on a bench waiting for the would-be girl of his dreams to show up when he finds himself reminiscing:

He was reminded of the first time he noticed girls. He was seven years old, living with his family in Helsinki. They had gone for a summer morning’s walk in their neighborhood in Kaivopuisto, a tree-lined rolling hillside home to ornate buildings, many of which were embassies. They had come upon a garden promenade overlooking the sea, and while his parents stood in line for lemonade, Justin had stared at a little girl with blue eyes of ice and hair the color of that morning’s brilliant sun. He remembered being transfixed for a moment before his parents scooped him away.

When I wrote that bit, I had been thinking back to the trips I had taken there while I had the great fortune of living in Finland. It was so quiet, so bright, so peaceful. I still remember one day in particular: my girlfriend (now my wife, thank God) and I stumbled upon this beautiful parkland on the western edge of the city, land which lay next to the water as naturally as bacon and eggs. We spent a few hours walking along a wide promenade, passing by picnics, classic architecture and towering cruise ship docks. [Incidentally, today is the first of May, called Vappu in Finnish. If you go there now you'll find teeming crowds of Finns, enjoying the burgeoning Spring, catching the Sun while it is still around more here.] It was heavenly. I want to go back. Until then, I posted some pictures below. I'll try to add more, because three pictures don't do the city justice.

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Helsinki: a peek

  • Helsinki Cathedral This is probably the most famous building in Finland, located in Senaatintori (Senate Square). I took a peek inside and all I can remember was that is was beautifully austere. Music-lovers will recognize this as the ending point in Darude's video for 'Sandstorm.'
  • Uspenski Cathedral Uspenski Cathedral (Finnish: Uspenskin katedraali, Swedish: Uspenskij-katedralen, Russian: Успенский собор, Uspenskij sobor) is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki, Finland, dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary). Its name comes from the Old Church Slavonic word uspenie, which denotes the Dormition. Designed by the Russian architect Aleksey Gornostayev (1808–1862). The cathedral was built after his death in 1862–1868. The crypt chapel of the cathedral is named after the holy Alexander Hotovitzky, who served as vicar of the Orthodox parish of Helsinki 1914–1917. The Cathedral is set upon a hillside on the Katajanokka peninsula overlooking the city. On the back of the cathedral, there is a plaque commemorating Russian Emperor Alexander II, who was the sovereign of the Grand Duchy of Finland during the cathedral's construction. Main cathedral of the Finnish Orthodox Church in the diocese of Helsinki, Uspenski Cathedral is claimed to be the largest orthodox church in Western Europe.[Wikipedia]
  • Suomenliina This is an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands (Kustaanmiekka, Susisaari, Iso-Mustasaari, Pikku-Mustasaari, Länsi-Mustasaari and Långören) and which now forms part of the city of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular with tourists and locals, who enjoy it as a picturesque picnic site. Originally named Sveaborg (Fortress of Svea), or Viapori as called by Finnish-speaking Finns, it was renamed Suomenlinna (Castle of Finland) in 1918 for patriotic and nationalistic reasons, though it is sometimes known by its original name. [Wikipedia]