One could quickly mistake Helsinki as a place to avoid during the deepest months of winter. Darkness, snow, population that is prone to depression during the cold period. Not very enticing. However, I dare to say that January is actually a good and refreshing time to visit my motherland. I spent a long weekend there at the end of last month and realised that as the climate drops and the streets get slippery, Finnish creativity flourishes and one can find fantastic things to do there – indoors.
Musiikkitalo – Helsinki Music Centre
Helsinki has a got a fabulous new concert hall, ‘Helsinki Music Centre’. It’s a beautiful, glass building with an airy feel and world class acoustics, designed by the leading, Japanese acoustic designer, Yasuhisa Toyota. The centre aims to be a meeting point, not just a place to spectate. That’s why it has a comfortable cafe, library for musical studies and line ups that both surprise and impress.
In the evening that we visited the Music Centre, the venue was holding a gala evening. A special event where two choirs, one was the Academic Female Choir from the Helsinki Business School, the other was Polytech Male Choir from the Helsinki University of Technology, were accompanied by a leading Finnish soprano, Helena Juntunen, and in the second half by Johanna Forsti, a solo female jazz artist.
The gala evening concert was stupendous. First half was classical with great classics from Franz Schubert and some more experimental ones from Finnish Toivo Kuula. The second half was dedicated to jazz. Johanna Forsti’s jazzy voice was beautiful when mixed with the two choirs and jazz artists playing saxophone and bass guitar. I just wasn’t sure about Iiro Rantala’s compose, Four Seasons, which lyrics were utter meaningless nonsense. Although to be fair, that may well be what Finnish sounds like to the most foreigners.
Ateneum – Finnish National Gallery
The second cultural experience was a visit to Ateneum, which is Finland’s National Art Gallery. The gallery presents an exhibition called 52 Souls which combines works from 52 artists from Vincent van Gogh and Wassily Kandinsky to less known painters like Finnish Hugo Simberg and Akseli Gallen-Kallela. What links all the paintings together is Symbolism, an art trend which presents poetic and mystical art works.
I really enjoyed the exhibition partly thanks to the curator who gave an insightful presentation of the show but also due to learning about Symbolism. The paintings which depicted dreams, visions and sometimes horror, gave a lot space for one’s own imagination to fill in the missing pieces, or the missing story.
Brunssi – Finnish Brunch
I cannot visit Finland and not have brunssi, a.k.a Finnish brunch. Brunch is of course not invented by the Finns but we have definitely added our own flair to it. In Scandi style, brunch is typically served in an all you can eat buffet, and oh my, you do want to eat all you can! Warm bread rolls, a cheese table, ham slices, salads, porridge, eggs, yoghurt, fruit salad. Not to mention the sweets including pastries, cakes, crumbles and crepes with whipped cream and jam. Mmmm….
My long weekend in Helsinki included visits to Cafe Fazer and Moko Market which both serve fabulous brunch. They are also nice for browsing even outside brunch time. Moko Market is a cool, boho decoration shop that sells great soft furnishing like quilts and pillows. Cafe Fazer is the flagship store for the iconic Finnish chocolate brand and great for picking up souvenirs like Karl Fazer blue chocolate and Geisha chocolate.
My family lives 3 hour drive from Helsinki so we decided to stay in an apartment hotel Hellsten Helsinki Parliament. Like many apartment hotels, this one was functional and clean but nothing more to write about or to remember for. We chose it merely for the location which was a few minutes from the Music Centre.
Doesn’t sound so bad, does it then? All the above with beautiful views which I hope you agree from the below photos.
Tel: +358 9 6122 5510
Helsinki Music Centre
Tel: +358 20 707 0400
Tel: +358 20 7296702
Tel: +358 9 4150 4500
Hotel Hellsten Helsinki Parliament
Tel: +358 9 2511 050
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