Friday in Helsinki… Both Tommy and Jennica are at work and then going to an Iron Maiden concert (it was sold out, months ago, in 17 minutes or I would have gone along – approximately 1% of the population of Finland had tickets) so I was pretty much on my own for the day. I figured I was in a world capitol, I might as well do a little exploring. First stop – The Money Museum!
This is a brand new place, just opened. It’s a small museum, but jam packed with information, too much in fact (no pun intended). There’s WAY too much reading for such a small space. It’s fascinating, sure, but after a few minutes, you just get overwhelmed. I would have bought a book to read it all on my own, but they didn’t have one. What they did, have, though, was some serious Jaq validation. That’s right, remember the Big Mac theory from way back in Munich? Well guess what? Some top notch economists had the same theory. So I’m smarter than I thought I was! (of course, when I mentioned this to Jennica and Tommy later that day, they said they had learned about in school and everyone knew the Big Mac theory so I didn’t feel as smart – it was a Flowers For Algernon moment but that’s okay, I still felt validated and you get the pictures.
From there I did what I always do… I went to the zoo. I really don’t know what my fascination with zoos is, but I feel compelled to check them out. And I should learn better not to go to the zoo in the middle of the afternoon because all the animals are sleeping. I mean once you’ve seen a tiger or a lion crashed out you’ve pretty much seen them all. I’m sure to other lions and tigers there are differences, but to us mere humans, honestly, they look pretty darn similar. So here I go to another zoo. This one, though, is on an island and you have to take a ferry to get there. That’s right, another ferry! And I got the student price, so I saved 5 Euro (Student pricing is weird here. Some places just accept I’m a student, some want to see my ID and will accept or reject it randomly and some won’t accept anything other than an International Student card).
So I get to the zoo, get off the boat and get ready to see the many exotic animals Finland’s largest city has to offer. I get to the first enclosure and look in expectantly. What do I see? Bunny rabbits. They’re cute and all, but I didn’t see a sign proclaiming it feeding time and I certainly don’t know what kind of a critter they’re feeding live bunnies to but hey, maybe they do things
differently in Finland. Then I see it, off in the corner, the sign telling what kind of animals are supposed to be in this enclosure. I walk over, hoping I can read the Finnish or Swedish (both languages are official) to discern the name of the beast. Thankfully, there’s an English language
name written in large letters on the bottom – RABBIT.
Yeah, all the way to Finland, further north than anywhere in the contiguous United States, take a ferry to an island and the first animal I come across is the domestic bunny. It’s not even a Reindeeralope (distant cousin of the Jackalope). Nope, just the same little (not even lop-eared) bunny you can get at a regular pet store. My hopes for a decent zoo were diminishing fast.
To be fair, The rest of the zoo was okay. It wasn’t great mind you, but decent. A number of the animals were hidden from view due to the fact it was 2 in the afternoon, and hot for Finnish standards. There was a bear running around and a seal lounging in the shallows of his enclosure. The skunk exhibit had no skunk but an interactive area where the particular scent of the stripped one could be sampled. Being that it was on an island, there were some great picnic areas overlooking the surf and a “bird’s nest” observatory from which one could see over the whole area.
I took the paddlewheel ferry back to the harbor and began heading for home. Since it was still early, I knew no one would be there so I thought I’d walk a bit and explore more of the city. I was trying to find Plague Park but I failed. Instead, I wandered through the esplanade and then through a shopping street and finally found myself in front of the train station. I went in and booked my ticket for the next day to Tampere and then continued on. That was when I found myself walking through the doors of Kiasma, the Helsinki Museum of Modern Art.
It was a funky place (really, would expect less from a modern art museum?) just big enough to let you enjoy it leisurely without being overwhelming. As is the case with any museum, I enjoyed some of the pieces and didn’t understand others. But this is where Kiasma differed from other museums. It knew you weren’t going
to get it all and turned that into part of the art itself. In two places, there were big bulletin boards covered with post-it notes in all sorts of colors. Pre-printed on the
notes, in several different languages across the top (one language per) were the words “I don’t quite get it…” leaving the rest for you to fill in and add to the wall. I loved it. At the end, when I was leaving, I walked past a display sign covered in little circle stickers with a “K.” These were your admission tickets and the patrons, as they were walking out the door, covered this sign with them, creating a Seurat inspired collage of a piece of Hockney drip art.
I made it home after I expected to (I got lost on the tram – okay, not on the tram itself, they’re not that big, but on which tram I chose to take), just in time to say goodbye to Jennica and Tommy as they were leaving for Iron Maiden (and may I say, seriously, I haven’t seen so many Iron Maiden shirts around a city since 1985 – this may be good or bad depending on your view of Iron Maiden shirts and/or Helsinki). When they were gone, it left me and Donna home alone together. Oh wait, I’ve completely forgotten to mention Donna
haven’t I? Donna is Jen and Tommy’s dog, an adorable girl with eyes the size of Montana and sadder than Uncle Uris at a wedding. She and I had a great evening, hanging out and making sandwiches. Yes, I made the sandwiches, but she played me good with those eyes and ended up with more people food than she was probably supposed to have. That’s okay,
that’s what Uncle Jaqs are for, to spoil the little ones.
After the concert, Tommy and Jennica and I went for traditional Finnish late night cuisine (I had the salmon soup) and talked well into the early morning. I got a few
hours sleep before Tommy and Donna drove me to the train station so I could go to Tampere and met up with Antti and Tiina and the wonder that is Vaasa.