Of course there are several book stores in Helsinki, but the one I was introduced to first as a child is Akademiska bokhandeln. It’s situated in the heart of our very small downtown and you can spend quite some time there browsing books, magazines and paper goods, then taking a break at Café Aalto designed by Alvar Aalto himself. A rarity these days, they have table service, which is in line with the fact that the book store is celebrating its 120th year in 2013.
My own bookshelf is overflowing and I’m rarely purchasing new books now, but yesterday I decided to use their loyal-customer card (buy eight pocket books, get ninth for free) on a feel-good book.
I usually pick the chick-lit novels based on comments from other authors printed onto the front cover, the typefaces and colours used, and the drawing itself (isn’t there always some kind of delicious drawing?), so a bright and cheerful wrapping draws me in just fine when I haven’t read anything by a particular author before. So “Going Home” it is.
If you’re wondering about the quite *ahem* mediocre photo, that’s as bright as I can make it today on the phone camera. It’s only two hours past noon and the sky is all about rain and grey again. /Weather report.
Speaking of books, I’ve seen Good Reads pop up in different contexts with an increasing frequency and apparently there’s even a WordPress widget to display one’s bookshelf in the side column. I think I’m more into collages in posts at this point, but if you have experience with the website, please leave a comment whether you like their service or not!
Pekka Nikrus, Flickr
Today has been one long grey and rainy experience and the coming days will apparently be the same. It’s odd to think that there is a sun shining somewhere, on the other side of that impenetrable wall.
Luckily there are many things to do indoors in Helsinki this time of year and if you happen to like books, and on top of that happen to be here right now, by all means catch the book fair on its last day tomorrow!
Here’s another dark and ominous one for you:
If you’re planning on visiting Helsinki, please don’t hesitate to ask for tips, in particular if you’re travelling on a budget!
Here are some photos from my walk the other day. Autumn earlier this week was moist and foggy with leaves displaying lots of warm hues.
The air is crisp and it clears my mind efficiently as soon as I step outside. This is my favourite season.
If you happen to be in Helsinki right now, make sure to stop by the yearly Helsinki Baltic Herring Fair, which is held at the Market Square until today only!
Morning in Tähtitorninvuori park
The first location to be introduced in this Visit Helsinki series is Tähtitorninvuori or Tähtitorninmäki (Observatorieberget or Observatoriebacken in Swedish), which is the perfect spot for a take-away meal. There are benches in a beautiful park surroundings waiting for you, so let me tell a bit more about it.
You might get some hints from parts of the Swedish name, observatorium; indeed there is an observatory, which was built in 1831-1834. Before that, the hill had had different names, but once the observatory designed by the architect Carl Ludvig Engel and Professor of Astronomy F. G. W. Argelander was finished, people began to call this area of Ullanlinna (sw. Ulrikasborg) Tähtitorninvuori, which is still its official name. Locals often call it Tähtitorninmäki (translated as Star tower hill) or “Tähtäri”. Today, there is a museum in the observatory. Due to street lights etc., it is no longer possible to perform high-quality astronomical observations, but there are still a handful of different functions in the building, a café among others.
If you want to visit the park only, but still soak in a bit of culture, there are some sculptures along its Northern and Eastern sides.
- Haaksirikkoiset or The Shipwrecked was made by Robert Stigell and erected in 1898 in the most visible location (click the link to reach a map), overlooking the Port of Helsinki South Harbour.
- Habsburg-höyrylaivan haaksirikon muistomerkki or The memorial to the shipwreck of S/S Habsburg from 1939 by Gunnar Finne is decorated with the following text: “In Finnish soil rest 383 German warriors fallen defending our freedom in the year 1918.”
- Niels Haukeland and Rafael Wardi together designed Juutalaispakolaisten muistomerkki or Memorial to Jewish Refugees – Hands Begging for Mercy, which was unveiled in 2000 in memory of eight refugees surrendered to the Germans during the Second World War.
- Kuninkaallisen Suomen tykistörykmentin muistomerkki or Memorial to the Royal artillery regiment of Finland by Gustaf von Nummers has a plaque with the text “The Royal artillery regiment of Finland 1794-1811”.
The three memorials are located between Laivasillankatu down at the harbour and the German church in the corner of Bernhardinkatu and Unioninkatu. This is a good point of entry to the park. On its Western side, the Surgical Hospital is located and to the South, the park is flanked by apartment buildings.
Why the “hill” in its name? The area rises to 30 metres and is perfect for sledding in the winter! My photo above is actually taken in angle toward the peak.
Visit the Market Square (where the red-squared road number 4 is in the map below; links here and here) and buy something fresh and delicious to eat, then enjoy it in this refuge, home to green lawns and many old trees.
Here! Here we are, come visit us!
Finland is one of the Nordic countries in Europe
Neighbours via land are Sweden, Norway and Russia
The Capital Region includes Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa, whereas Greater Helsinki has an even longer radius
Downtown Helsinki is rather small (the grey chunk in SW is old harbour area now being built into suburban apartment buildings)
Downtown Helsinki including some tourist attractions outside of it
It amused me greatly to read a visitor comment by an American on tripadvisor. The attraction in question was the Market Square and the complaint went along the lines of “It’s too small, you can tour the whole market in half an hour”. Why yes, the population in Finland is about 5.4 million, 1 million of which live in the Greater Helsinki area… We couldn’t fill a larger Market Square and sellers would go out of business. Finland is small, but it doesn’t mean that the experience of visiting will be small. Come see for yourself!
After rowing back and forth, the setup is now permanent. The blog part of Solsken Design is to stay here and the shop part is to be found at solskendesign.com (service provider was shuffled around last week). The Etsy shop is also open, should you prefer to use your account there.
Helsinki by night
This also means that from this week on, blog articles will be published regularly, according to the already presented schedule. New for the summer is a series on Helsinki. Winter photography can be a bit tricky here, so I’m happy to be able to utilize the light, when showing off my beautiful home town. I will start from various locations free of charge, because life as a tourist is usually not very affordable, and hope you will be inspired to visit this Northern location soon!