In September 2014, Helsinki was on top of my traveler’s list. It wasn’t only my first journey to Finland but it was also the first time that I traveled all by myself. So I was certainly quite excited and it was a great experience that I would definitely do again – without hestitation.
Arriving in Finland
It was a Friday when I hopped on the train that brought me to the airport. After checking my travel documents at least five times, I went to the check-in and finally realized that I was just about to go to Helsinki for real. I had planned the trip a few months before because I really wanted to meet with my Finnish penpal Heidi, who I had met online a while ago. For more than a year we had exchanged letters and up to this day we have never stopped. And as I hadn’t had any plans for the summer vacation, I got the idea of visiting Heidi and experiencing a little adventure.
What was also adventurous was the landing at Vantaa airport. (So much forest everywhere!) It was a serious challenge to find my way at the bus depot as the Finnish language is nothing but a mystery. Thankfully, a lot of the signs in Helsinki are both in Finnsih an Swedish so that my basic knowledge of “Svenska” helped me to get to the right bus.
When I arrived at Rautatientori, the railroad station, it was already getting dark and I was more than happy collapsing into bed. I spent the nights in Hotel Finn, which I can really recommend. It’s located right in the center and although it is one of the cheapest options in Helsinki its rooms are very clean and the staff is absolutely friendly.
The next morning, I went to the railroad station, where I met up with Heidi and a friend of her and despite the fact that we had never seen each other before, we behaved as if we were just meeting a good friend after a long time. After a long hug and a lot of “It’s so amazing to see you!” we started our sightseeing tour. Here, I should mention that Helsinki is a small city, in which you can easily get from one sight to the other by walking. The most impressive and most famous sight is the city’s landmark: the shiningly white Helsinki Cathedral.
Another stop of our tour was the maritime part of Helsinki. Its location at the Baltic Sea provides the city with something light and keeps the air clean. At the harbor, we strolled around a little market that sold everything from flowers to fruits, vegetables, regional fish, and handmade souvenirs.
But it’s not only its maritime location which makes Helsinki such a lovely city. I directly noticed the city’s cleanliness and how green it actually is. Other than in any other capitals in the world, you will hardly find any trash and Helsinki is a very smart city in general. Moreover, you will also notice that you’re in a Nordic city. If you like shopping, then just have fun in one of the two shopping centers near the railroad station.
A Day in Lahti
The next morning, I was on my way to Lahti as it is the city in which Heidi lives. After one hour of sitting in the train and watching green landscapes and forests, Heidi was already waiting for me at the railroad station. She showed me her city by car and once more, I was excited about all the nature around. Although Lahti is one of the bigger cities in Finland, it is totally green and its lake makes it a real oasis.
Our next stop were the popular ski-jumping hills, which have turned Lahti into a real center of sports. Here you can watch the skijumpers dring their training. Or you can have a short walk to the wooden ski-jumping hills, which are slightly away from the official ones.
Another experience which will always stay in my memory is the Finnish concept of second-hand shops Heidi introduced my to. People can rent a table and offer their items. Every item is equipped with a price and the number of the table. If you hit paydirt, you simply go to the checkout, where they note the price and number of the item. The offerors can come for their earned money and the remaining products after a week or two. There’s nothing that you wouldn’t find in such a shop and there are a lot of nice bargains, which wait for you to come and pick them up.
After our Lahti-sightseeing tour, we relaxed at Heidi’s and talked about culutral differences, guys and the fact that – to the dissappointment of some people – there are definitely no polar bears strolling around in Lahti. But when dusk was approaching, it was time for Heidi to bring me back to the railroad station. We said goodbye to each other and hugged for several minutes before I entered the train back to Helsinki. I was surprised how difficult it was to say goodbye to her but both of us were sure that we would definitely see each other again!