A short flight across the Gulf of Bothnia brought us to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Finland in my imagination seemed like a real mystical place to me, the polar opposite to Australia in every way, particularly in climate. I also read that the Finns are different from the other Nordic countries culturally, so I was curious to see how deep those differences went.
At first sight, Helsinki seemed newer, spacious, more planned. That was probably because Finland didn’t become its own country until 1920 – the country was governed by Sweden or Russia since medieval times. Before then, Helsinki was just a regional centre, hence its historical centre was smaller than that in Stockholm, or even Copenhagen.
Its central railway station (the unpronounceable ‘Rautatieasema’) was certainly an early 20th Century creation, with its modern lines and colours.
These guys are famous, well in Finland anyway.
They’ve even got their own train ride.
The Finnish language was certainly a big enigma – it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, and it’s difficult to see any similarities with any other European language. Luckily the Finns speak very good English, and they don’t seem to bat an eyelid when you speak English to them straight off.