The View From 32


AUGUST 5, 2007   More below: CAMERA | RYANAIR   

On vacation - Helsinki, Finland

Indoor market building, Helsinki harborThe market in the harbor area of Helsinki reminded me of Cleveland's West Side Market. Made me feel right at home.

A beautiful masonry building held stands featuring meat, fish, cheese, pastry, and still more prepared foods (even sushi). A large open area—where I'm standing to take this picture—was filled with dozens of canvas canopies sheltered those selling fruits and vegetables (and prepared food and knit caps and reindeer bottle openers).


Veggies on display at marketMushrooms on display

The outdoor fruit and vegetable vendors had lots of variety, but everyone had fresh peas (center left) and the yellowish Finnish mushroons at right.

Prepared salmon on display in marketIndoors, even though I don't like fish I couldn't help admiring this beautiful display of salmon. Salmon with rose pepper, salmon with lemon pepper, salmon with cognac. Almost good enough to eat.


On our first day in Helsinki (before going to St. Petersburg) it was cold, rainy and windy. The outdoor sellers had mostly closed up and gone home, so we ducked into the indoor market to buy bread and cheese to eat later.

Heli, selling cheese at the marketBut as with the West Side Market, a good selection of food is only part of the appeal of shopping there.

Just as important is the opportunity to talk with the vendors, ask their advice, grumble about the weather, and just enjoy human interaction.

So I was happy to find a cheese stand that reminded me of Meister's where we shop nearly every week at home. Here, Heli (pronounced like "Kelly"with an "H") gave us samples of her favorite cheeses from Finland. She suggested a smoked cheese and several others. We went with her recommendations. Twice.


This picture was taken on our second visit to Helsinki, the day before we left for London. We wanted more cheese, but more importantly I wanted to replace the picture I'd taken earlier that disappeared along with my week-old Canon SD1000.

In St. Petersburg I lost (probably) or had stolen (possibly) the camera. I was incredibly bummed out when this happened, not so much because I'd have to replace the camera, but because I couldn't replace several days of images and sounds from the trip. On top of that, the thought of spending the next week with no camera just about left me in tears.

I know that sounds weird, but I've gotten very attached to the process of documenting my life. It's a lot like keeping a personal journal, with images and sound to add another dimension. If you happen to keep a journal and have ever lost it, you may know what I mean. I have unfortunately lost written journals too, and it feels like a part of your life has just disappeared.

In this case I cheered up when I remembered that I'd brought along my old Fuji FinePix, a camera I paid $480 for in 2002. It hadn't worked very well since Joanne dropped it on the rocks at Kelleys Island last summer, but it would take a picture about 50% of the time. The other half the time it beeped and flashed little lights as it couldn't decide what to do. Its battery doesn't hold a charge very long anymore, the LCD screen is tiny, and it's a lot bulkier than either of my two recent purchases, but it was a (semi-functional) camera.

So the Fuji provided the images, sounds, and occasional video of the rest of our trip. I'll be adding more of them to the site as soon as I can.

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Leaving Finland

View from plane window showing lakes, etc. and setting sunWe took off from the Tampere Airport after a 2-hour bus ride from Helsinki. The view was beautiful, the flight experience much less so.

We'd decided to fly Ryanair, a European budget carrier similar to Southwest Airlines in the U.S.

Now I'm no fan of Southwest, having suffered too many delays when I was commuting from Indianapolis to Cleveland weekly. But Ryan makes Southwest look like luxury travel.

The Ryanair approach to boarding is to have everyone line up for close to an hour. Because they fly out of less-popular airports and terminals, amenities like air-conditioning aren't guaranteed. In Tampere we were hot & sweaty as we first sat on hard plastic chairs, then milled around in line.

You can pay an extra $5 or so for "priority" boarding, which means your line is a little shorter and gets in before the teeming masses. I didn't pay for priority the first time, but learned my lesson and forked over the five bucks the next time. It's worth it.

Once they starting boarding passengers there's a discreet footrace for the stairs (no jetways for Ryan) since seating is a complete free-for-all. Inside, the planes have advertising lining the luggage bins, and everything costs money: drinks, snacks, even checking your luggage ($5/bag).

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