Author Archives: Kim

Tips for Helsinki visitors when the Nordic weather doesn’t show its best sides

2017-11-13

Finland’s capital Helsinki is the city where the biggest celebrations during the country’s 100th independence year take place. All kinds of events have been organized through the year, and the 6th December 2017 is the big day. November and December happen to be the darkest months in terms of daylight in Helsinki, but the travel guide The Best of Helsinki shows many places to visit and things to do even then (not to mention at other times of the year).

Fish market at Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

Fish market at the Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

The feedback from readers of The Best of Helsinki is indicating that the chapter with information on local favorites – destinations, activities, events – things that residents of Helsinki like to do is a popular section of the book. Other well received feature is the visual information in photos and maps.

If you decide to venture to Helsinki in November or December, here are my top tips:
Best of Helsinki, travel guide, book cover image

Daylight hours are from 10 am to 3 pm, but it is enough to see the city center around the Senate Square.
If you are staying for more than a couple of days, consider visiting the old town of Porvoo (Borgå in Swedish), only 50 km from Helsinki.
If the weather is too nasty, and staying indoors is the best option, Ateneum art museum, Heureka science center, or Forum shopping mall can save the day.
If the weather allows – it is not too windy, cold or rainy – take a ferry to Suomenlinna.

More information on Helsinki and Finland:
I, Helsinki
The Lighter Side of Finland
Analysis of the Finnish Tango
Lapland

How an industrial site developed into a thriving artist community

2017-08-10

Inside Finland’s quirky artist haven reads the headline of the recent article in Travel and Leisure magazine. The article is a fine account of a success story of a beautiful village, Fiskars, in southern Finland. Originally, Fiskars was a manufacturing site, because of a river and rapids that produced energy for factories. Today, the village is a beautiful place where more artists would like to live and work than there are apartments and houses available.
Fiskars, an artist village in Finland
The Travel and Leisure article describes the rapid change of the village:

“When I moved here in 1995 the village was dying,” Widnäs recalled as we sat around her dining-room table drinking coffee. “The knife factory was the only thing still in operation. But three years later, I arranged an international ceramics exhibition, and we got a lot of publicity. It made other artists and designers very eager to move here. They saw we were working together — and working like hell.” Widnäs also explained that at first, there was confusion around the new identity of the village and its connection to Fiskars, the business; some people thought the artists were working for the company. “Fiskars owns the buildings, but that’s it. We make the town alive.”

Fiskars village, Finland, Scandinavia, Europe
The commercial product brand Fiskars is still associated with scissors, knives and other products, but the company doesn’t have anything to do with the village anymore, except as a real estate owner. Corporate headoffice is located in Helsinki, and manufacturing takes place in several sites across the world.

For travelers who stay in Helsinki, and want to get out of the city for a day, Fiskars is an excellent destination. It is about one drive from Helsinki. Summer weekends are busy because Finns like to visit Fiskars on Saturday and Sunday. The popular things to do are: have a picnic, shop at boutiques, walk along the river, explore exhibitions, have a cup of coffee or a meal at a restaurant. Playgrounds for children keep them busy as well.
Fiskars village, South Finland
If you have time and energy after visiting Fiskars, I recommend the coastal town of Tammisaari (Ekenäs). The old town center is well preserved, even though houses are mostly made of wood. Very nice and neat old town to explore. The town recently adopted an ancient name of the area Raasepori (Raseborg). Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, and it is the coastal area where Swedish can be the dominant language in many communities.

On the way, you may spot a place called Billnäs, which is also an old industrial village. It is also developing to something else, but time will tell what it will be. Today, antiques shops is perhaps the thing Billnäs is known for.

More about quirky destinations, and above all, the quirky culture and customs of Finns can be discovered in the book The Lighter Side of Finland. Finland is changing, and the book has recently been revised and updated. It is the 6th edition that is available now.

Top 20 countries for travelers who have vowed only to speak English on their journey

2016-11-27

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, Spanish is the second, and English third. Nonetheless, the language of the biggest corporations, largest media services, most popular pop stars, books and movies is English. If French used to be the universal language of the world hundred years ago, English took its place in the 20th century. There are many countries across the world where you can step out of an airplane, talk English with locals during your whole trip, and return home without learning a word of local language.
EF: top English speaking countries
Language education institution EF has collected a list of 20 countries where it is easy to get along in English alone. So, if you like to travel, but like to speak English only, North Europe is your first choice as far as language is concerned.

Here is the top 20 English Proficiency Index by EF Education First:

1. Netherlands
2. Denmark
3. Sweden
4. Norway
5. Finland
6. Singapore
7. Luxembourg
8. Austria
9. Germany
10. Poland
11. Belgium
12. Malaysia
13. Philippines
14. Switzerland
15. Portugal
16. Czech Republic
17. Serbia
18. Hungary
19. Argentina
20. Romania

All but 4 out of 20 top English-speaking countries are in Europe.

Practically everyone (50 years old or younger) in Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines speak English, but it may take a little time for a foreigner to get used to the accent if you are only used to native English-speakers accent.

Which countries EF has ranked the most challenging if you only speak English? Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Laos, Libya, and Iraq are countries where many languages are spoken, but English isn’t one of them.

Travel photography gallery 2015: Helsinki and North Europe

2016-01-21

I have stayed in Finland for quite some time now, and many places, including the capital Helsinki have become familiar for me. Finland has its own unique culture (as explained by Russell Snyder and Irene de Benedictis in their own books), but I think I have learned the zen of the Nordic life: during winter, work and try to stay healthy, but in summer let all hell break loose and enjoy life.

In 2015, I continued photographing and taking notes on Helsinki for the travel guidebook that will be published later this year. Now, when I look at my photos I realize how green city Helsinki is in the summer (in winter it is either white or black, depending on the snow situation).

In the 2015 travel photo gallery we also have images from Erin who has a project in Lapland. Take a look at the gallery:

Hietalahti flea market in Helsinki, Finland.

Hietalahti flea market in Helsinki, Finland.