Our Finland Page

Note: this is a copy of a page from an older version of our website - please enjoy the vintage formatting!

Helsinki - It's Not What It Used To Be!

In the spring of 2004 we made plans to visit Finland, because Kevin had been invited to give a workshop to tube amp designers in Helsinki.

I thought... Helsinki!... not at the top of most Canadian holiday destination lists. So, naturally, I was all the more delighted!Helsingfors i juni

Now that we are back home, I cannot really say that we have visited Finland. We have visited Helsinki. And, as I was not well-versed in its history, I was starting with very few preconceptions.

Our host and tour guide was Marcus, who did an excellent job of pointing out notable features of the city and making sure we had fun. We demurred on his joking offer of driving us to a giant grocery store on the outskirts, and instead enjoyed a few walking tours of the downtown, and a trip by ferry to Sveaborg (literally 'castle of Sweden'), the old Swedish fortifications ringing Helsinki's harbour - built, it would seem, for the sole purpose of giving the city up to the Russians in 1809. Finnish-speaking Finns call it Suomenlinna (literally - what else? - 'castle of Finland').

The city of Helsinki was a surprise. In what seems like an out-of-the-way corner of the earth, it is truly cosmopolitan, and reminded us in this way of our home city of Toronto, Canada. And yet it had a discernable air of the exotic...

Helsinki seemed to me a crossroads between erstwhile Russian dinge and present Euro-chic. Those citizens with any money are highly fashion conscious, enough to make well-heeled Canadians appear frumpish in comparison. Holt Renfrew in my hometown could not offer me what I found in MariMekko. Contrast the keen style in clothing and architecture (not all of it pleasing but certainly distinctive!) with the sensation of a city coming into its own after a long sleep, or a protracted struggle. The rust from the Iron Curtain still lingers in many corners, although Finland was never under Soviet rule (at least not all of it at once). The general standard of living is more challenging than in many Western states, and much is in need of repair. Throw in a distinct Eastern (to my sense) ambiance, and soon I was hooked on the history of the city. What has led to such a place as this? Ancient trade routes to circumvent the Alps? Scandinavian invasion? Summer midnight sun and the velvet black of winter? All of this and more besides.

Cafe Tin Tin TangoI guess I did have at least one preconception: that anything that seems a bit Eastern is by definition Russian. In this part of the world that makes sense, but could be far from accurate. There is no doubt about the Russian influence, but what else goes into Helsinki's ambience? And what is left, after all these comparisons, that is Finnish? Well, perhaps places like the Café Tin Tin Tango - a combination bar, coffee house, laudromat and sauna. I can imagine its popularity on winter nights, but it was busy even on the spring days when we visited. Obviously, to figure out this city, I need to crack the history books and return for more visits.

Enjoying myself in Helsinki won't be a problem, as long as I have an appetite. Like Winnipeg in Canada, which is "way out there", and cold and dark for much of the year, Helsinki boasts great restaurants! Once more, the word "cosmopolitan" comes to mind. We were only there for three nights, but I had the tastiest wienerschnitzel and the best linguini pomodoro on the face of the earth. No guff! - as we say in Canada.

Sorry to go on and on, but I was listening as well as eating. Having had the luck to travel in Europe a couple of times recently, I have noticed a language phenomenon which must surely have a name, but I will call it contiguity of sounds. It exists in northern Canada, where the English sounds French and the French sounds English. I've noticed that where France and Belgium meet, although there are two distinct languages, they share their sounds and delivery style. Same thing between Holland and Germany, Germany and Denmark, and Denmark and Sweden. The Swedish spoken in Finland features staccato rolled Rs reminiscent of machine gun fire. Once I learned not to duck and cover, I noticed that the Finnish has a tone of white Russia. This, as much as anything else, made the city feel exotic, and made me feel as if I had travelled a VERY long way from Canada!

There is much more for us to discover in Helsinki, and we hope to visit there again soon. Many thanks to Marcus and all the folks we met at the workshop for making this a fun and rewarding trip!

~ Wendy O'Connor

Finland is Funland! Visit virtual.finland.fi

PO Box 10012,
Thunder Bay, Ontario, CANADA  P7B 6T6
Phone: 807-473-0952   FAX: 807-939-1324


About London Power

London Power was founded in 1990 by Kevin O'Connor, after two decades of research into innovative audio amplification techniques. Kevin is an audio designer, author and speaker, known for his proprietary methodology called Power Scaling, and for his eleven books on audio subjects. Whether you seek amps, kits or information, you'll find useful answers here on not just the "how" but the "why" of audio amplifier design. Please enjoy the information on this site, and don't hesitate to contact us with questions.

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