Sandwiches in the Snow

A few weeks ago after Finnish class I decided to walk to Töölö where I was headed to interview a young cobbler. It started to snow so intensely it was like being stuck inside a snow dome someone had just shaken up.

With an hour to go until the interview I was relieved to spy this cafe and ducked inside, out of the cold.

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Stepping inside I was taken back by the size. It was tiny! The floor space was about 2m wide by 10m long.

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No one was around but I could understand the sign: ‘Ring bell. We are in the kitchen. Thanks!’

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A young guy came out and took my order from the menu on the wall. He said the store had been open since the 1960’s and his family had bought it fairly recently.

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Most people, he said, phone ahead and take-away. He went back to the kitchen so I took a seat, admiring the retro Danish posters.

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It was great, as though the cafe had been decorated in the 1960’s and hadn’t been updated since.

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My lunch soon arrived – a delicious open sandwich with fresh salmon and cottage cheese.

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Soon another customer stepped in out of the snow and when his order arrived he made as though to eat it standing up. I invited him to share my table – the only table – and we chatted about a trip he’d made with his wife to Australia a few years before.

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Sated and satisfied I headed back out into the snow, watched by a drummer boy pinned by the front door.

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I felt a bit like him as I tightened my coat and set off once more into the swirling snow, my hat and hood piled high upon my head.

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Dansk Smørrebrød – Cygnaeuksenkatu 5, Helsinki

Creating Helsinki – interview with cobbler, Juho Erving

Breaking free in the Baana & beyond

Miko is great company but we don’t get much of a break from each other these days.  So its a real a treat for me to have a walk by myself – no stroller to push; no wrestling a human octopus into a jacket and no need to hear myself issue instructions like ‘Stop licking me, I am not an ice cream!’

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On a beautiful spring day last weekend I managed to escape on my own for a couple of hours and set out to explore the Baana, without really knowing where I would end up.

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Like New York’s High Line, Helsinki has transformed a former freight line into a safe route for pedestrians through the heart of the city. Called the Baana, this ‘Low Line’ is carved out of the streets and provides a 1.3km passage from West Harbour to Töölö Bay via Kamppi. With an entrance at each end and four ramps to street level along the way, there are paths marked out for those on foot as well as those travelling by bicycle.

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Near West Harbour there are ping pong tables, a basketball court and seating areas, all of which were being used on the sunny day I set off. Like most of Helsinki there were loads of people passing by on bicycles, safe from the main traffic area. After coming out near the city I carried on towards Töölö and the peninsula known as Hietaniemi.

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One of the nicest thing about this time of year is seeing Finnish people just relishing the sunshine and taking the time to sit with friends and relax in its rays. I can’t help but smile when I see people sitting alone, eyes closed, face lifted to the sun with looks of pure bliss on their faces.

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This lake is so close to the city but feels miles away. The number of birds returning to the area after their winter travel is increasing, their presence made known by the camera-shutter sound of their wings.

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The foliage on the trees is changing dramatically and the shades of green at the moment are so fresh, like a giant salad tossed on the ground.

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I walked past a large cemetery and further on passed by the back of a hospital where women were tending the vegetable garden. It seems nature is left untamed here, no fancy hedge trimming or pruning; each plant’s journey towards the sun left uncompromised after such a long winters sleep.

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The hospital garden

I felt so refreshed by the end of my walk I looked forward to heading home and putting my feet up. Best of all I was ready to spend time with Miko again, musing over the mysteries of life, because really, its important to know, ‘Does everyone have bottoms?