Daily Archives: June 17, 2005

The place 9

If you haven’t come here via this link, then please read that first.

The view from the planes was great. Europe seems to be covered with forests, at least the parts I saw. Finland is smaller than Rajasthan. Its population is much lesser than even Delhi’s. It’s got more than 40,000 lakes and has its own archipelago! It’s a very scenic place full of natural beauty. Every small little thing is appealing to look at, be it the weeds, the twigs in the lush grass or the leaves in the tall trees. As expected, everything is clean, dust free and pollution free (including noise pollution). I could take a deep breath freely after a really long time without getting the feeling that I am harming my lungs. The cool, crisp mountain air laden with the foresty smell (minus the smell of thick vegetation) is an instant energiser. The place looks like its mainly a forest dotted with houses. The heart of Helsinki is not really like a forest though. Since it’s the capital, it’s more populated and has more hustle and bustle due to the harbour. The languages spoken are mainly Finnish and Swedish. Thankfully most ppl understand English which is a welcome respite from Japan. I don’t need to hone my dumb charades skills any more.
Helsinki has a mix of old architecture and modern glass buildings. In places it looks more like a Nordic kingdom and in some it looks like an ultra modern city and still in others, it’s a mix of both. It’s a different feeling altogether, seeing a hi-tech bus standing on cobblestoned streets or seeing a beauty salon showcased in a building which looks like a fortress in its own right. The architecture is mostly Jugend. Common houses look like small little castles built of rock, with their own barricades. At times I get the feeling that I have jumped into an old Scandinavian novel – the architecture, the people – all look like they belong to a make believe world. The midnight sun phenomenon appears quite bizarre to many ppl. Though I never found it so bizarre (heard about it so much), it does seem odd when you feel the need to wear goggles at 10 in the night! It is confusing my body clock. Everyday I have been out till 12 in the night at least. It’s never really time to sleep. Sleep comes only with fatgue. Fatigue comes with a lot of walking which I have been indulging in. The weather is perfect and the place scenic – what else does one need to be outside!

The story so far

The journey from Delhi to Helsinki was nothing great. Instead of the much planned hop via Vienna, (Austrian airlines), I got my tickets and insurance finally a couple of hours before leaving for the airport; confirmed through Lufthansa airlines. Who said Lufthansa was a great airline? To add to the disappointment of not being able to see Mozart’s & Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s birthplace and Beethoven’s adulthood place, was the fact that the airlines was in no way a match to what Austrian airlines would have been. There was no inflight video entertainment! Sacrilege I would say. The announcement system was so bad that I could not hear a single instruction rattled off by the staff and I doubt if anyone else did. I just did what I knew from past experience. The airhostesses were nothing great – not so young women, with not even a smile on their face and unwaxed arms (what else does one need to be put off entirely – yes even females get put off by these things). The seats were cramped and the service was bad enough. I was served a Vegan meal inspite of specifying “Indian Vegetarian”. The only good thing it had was “internet access in the sky” but that was of no use to me since I wasnt carrying any laptop.
Frankfurt airport was also nothing exceptional. Especially after having seen Changi airport. The same 4-5 shops got repeated in the entire airport. Nothing really appealing. The flight from Frankfurt to Vantaa (Finland) was again very different. The aircraft was very small, like a chartered plane. But then that’s inevitable. I guess not many ppl go to Finland. There was no inflight entertainment. Seats were the bare basic. Meals were same for all (thankfully nothing like octopus salad). The space in the aisle was less than that in a DTC bus. At least the air hostesses were smiling. Finland airport looked as if no one ever frequented that place. There were barely any planes and hardly any ppl. I took a cab to Helsinki and the cab driver was quite chatty. We even managed to crack a few jokes on India and Finland.

While I gear up for the usual stuff in a foreign country (different ppl, customs, foods, language, crossing the roads at a pedestrian crossing ONLY and when the light goes green ONLY, no sign of dust or pollution, no brouhaha like in Indian streets, no poverty, more safety, 24 hr daylight), you can read this for an account of the ‘Land of the midnight sun’ (well Finland too is that). While I am at it, there are bound to be some comparisons with my experiences in the ‘Land of the rising sun’ too, since I was not able to chronicle those while I was there.