Sledging Helsinki

So, you thought sledging had been banned for Australians. Well, we ain’t in Australia and if we were we couldn’t sledge like this irregardless of the sportsmanship.

You could also, of course, call it a sled or a toboggan and avoid any confusion. Depending on where you are from.

I should have bought the sled yesterday instead of hiring it. It would have cost less and saved a lot of complaints this morning. Or I could have booked those ferry tickets to Tallinn and avoided the problem.

I was glad that our train from Rovaniemi was running late because it meant we could sleep in longer. When we arrived at seven something into Helsinki nothing was open.

Fortunately, the Scandic Hakaniemi was able to give us a room immediately and we had an extra morning nap.

On discovering that tomorrow’s flight back to Japan leaves in the evening B was upset with me not booking the Tallinn ferry, which would have seen us back here at nine-thirty PM. Too late now to change our minds. Now we have to work out what to do in Helsinki.

We ended up going almost to the ferry terminal. A tram takes us to Helsinki’s impressive white cathedral. Walking further we discover that the Old Market is closed on Sunday, though the iced in waterfront is itself interesting.

Further along is the Tallink terminal with a big ship docked. Not going to Tallinn. Continuing through the snowy streets we reach the Kaivopuisto park where kids are shrieking as the slide down the slopes. But without a sled Alex can’t join in. The complaints are constant and we search the area in vain for a sled supplier.

The park itself and waterfront surrounds are beautiful in a wintry sort of way, ice crusting over the waters.
We cross the bridge to Uuninsuu Island.

By this time we are all freezing and Alex says he has had enough. Fortunately there is a small but busy cafe on the island. As we sit in the indoor warmth eating cakes and sipping hot chocolate we watch intrepid young people emerge from the sauna for an icy dip in the harbour waters. Utterly mad!

Wearied by the cold we return to the hotel to retrieve warmer gear, head to the station to unsuccessfully attempt to get a refund on the unused tickets from the later sleeper train. On the way we spot another, closer, sledding park.

We first need to get Alex a sled. We find one for sale, slightly pricier than yesterday’s, at a Stadium sportswear store.

It’s long past lunch time, but we have some snacks at a Karl Fazer Cafe in a shopping centre. His name is on many of the chocolates sold here.

The sun is fading as we reach the park, but Alex joins the other kids sliding down the side of a snowy hill, gradually gaining in confidence. It’s the fading light and rising cold that drives him away eventually.

Though we are not terribly hungry we take another tram a couple of stops. I’ve found a nearby Finnish restaurant that is supposed to be good value, Ravintola a Kolme Kruunua

Sick of meatballs and reindeer meat we just order a couple of Finnish staples, including pyttipanna for me.

It’s nice, but we struggle to finish and leave the pickled beetroot for others. I think we’ve tried a lot of Finnish cuisine now.

Liisenkatu, the street on which the restaurant is located, is very historic and atmospheric. The 13 Sibelius High School feels deserted and we can easily imagine it to be haunted.

Other shops now closed, are far more welcoming, including a dolls house shop and an apartment window has Maerklin model trains as Christmas decorations. Beautiful!

I love the sight of the Helsinki trams rattling through the snowy old streets at night. There feel like so many stories to tell here.

Back at the hotel the are a couple of dramas over our room, but the staff are very helpful. Last night in Helsinki. Tomorrow we fly back to Osaka.

Filed under: