Thursday, July 06, 2006

Helsinki to Hämeenlinna

We found ourselves with an extra day in Helsinki, and we used it well. We started at the National Museum, where we saw Akseli Gallen-Kallela's triumphant final work, frescoes from the Kalevala inside the building's dome. Stunning, inspiring works.

We then hit the tourist office to get information on a harbor cruise, bought our tickets at the nearby waterfront market, and enjoyed lunch at Aino. Jen had an amazing nettle soup and goat cheese salad; I had the salad, grilled whitefish, and a remarkable beer by the name of Strongbow (or Cúthalion as we say in Sindarin). Afterwards we walked along the promenade and got what we've come to call charcoal ice cream. It's dark grey stuff based on a popular candy here in Finland that's similar to licorice. I'd spell it for you, but then I'd exhaust my allotment of vowels for the post. We sat for a long while in the square by Stockmann's until it was time to head to the water.

The harbor cruise through the archipelago was a splendid way to spend an evening. You might even say "romantic." A fine dinner, beautiful weather, and island after island filled with charming summer homes, most of which had little sauna houses by the water.

The next morning we were picked up by our guide to Hämeenlinna, Jouko Ahola, who drove us the hour to his hometown. Jouko was the World's Strongest Man in 1997 and 1999 and has starred in Werner Herzog's Invincible and Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. His next film, 7 Millionaires, premieres in Sweden in September.

Jouko drove us around his town and showed us why Hämeenlinna is the "town of parks." Finland is a lush country and public parks are a top priority in cities. One we drove through even has some old-growth forest remaining, though much of it was destroyed in a fierce wind storm. After lunch, Jouko went off to attend to his housebuilding business, and Jenifer and I toured Häme fortress and the adjacent prison museum. Oddly, neither were as creepy as one might expect. Later in the afternoon I joined Jouko for a workout in his gym. That experience was a true privilege and deserves a post of its own.

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Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Working out with Jouko? I know that was a highlight for you.

Parks destroyed by wind storms? Aren't those hurricanes? Or are all of Finland's parks made of twisty balloons and paper machet (no idea how to spell that)?

9:06 AM  
Blogger akadman said...

amazinG taleS of higH adventurE!

i coulD noT remembeR thE codE for the umlauT sO i diD thiS annoyinG casE thinG.

glaD tO heaR yoU guyS havE noT falleN praY tO thE "movE tO thE fronT oF thE boaT foR smootheR ridE" gaG.


2:16 PM  

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