As soon as we stepped off the plane after our 14 hour fight from Bangkok, everything just felt right. The air was clean (SO CLEAN. I guess I had gotten used to everything always smelling a bit funky), the airport staff was organised and efficient, the transportation was great and no-one was yelling or competing for our attention/money. As much as we had an amazing time in Asia, it felt good to be here.
We made our way to the apartment which was to be our home for the next few days, which we had found through a great website; www.airbnb.com, which you should definitely check out if you're travelling and want a homely, personal place to stay with a local! It's similar to the concept of couch-surfing, except you pay the owner a (usually very reasonable, and in our case, way cheaper than a hostel) price, and usually get the place to yourself.
Our lovely new crib for a few days!
Our new home was a bit outside the city on Lautasaari island, which was super easy to access in about 10 minutes from central on buses that came all night, and was absolutely beautiful. We had our own beach and huge park on the island, and it was so peaceful and perfect after the long flight. Our first night involved chatting with our lovely new house-mate, Ira, and having a picnic in our park overlooking the pretty little beach. Perfect.
Some amazing nearby markets- Scandinavian berries are the BEST. nom.
Our next day we spent exploring Helsinki, which is super easy to get around. The main central area is easy to walk around, but we also used the easy tram system when we got a bit tired. We went out to Suomenlinna Fortress, which is a maritime fortress on a different island just outside the city which we took the ferry to. It was a beautiful day and pretty cool to wander around the huge fortress pretending to be vikings.
The harbour area where we caught the ferry over to the fortress
A friend we found.
After gallivanting about it was time for 'Fika' (not sure if this is a Finnish as well as Swedish concept, but it means coffee and cake time).
We also checked out the nearby amusement park, which was free to get into and actually awesome- lots of people just hanging out, and a really nice vibe.
We went back to our place in the afternoon to have a nap in preparation for hitting the town at night. Then we had half a can of cider each. Then we fell asleep. Oops! Damn jetlag. But we had plenty of other opportunity.
Our second day we just explored the city a bit more (I went shopping and found some awesome vintage stores!!), and went to the 'rock church'- which is a church built largely underground out of stones. It has amazing acoustics and we managed to see a pianist and sax player warming up for a wedding, which was pretty special.
That night we managed to stay awake and stumbled across Helsinki's answer to Octoberfest; a local beer festival held by some local breweries.
After sampling some local beers (nope, I don't think Finland will become famous for their beer anytime soon.. but it was a nice atmosphere anyway) we bar hopped a few of Helsinki's many cute pubs and bars. We felt so at home in this easy, breezy and fun city- it didn't hurt that we had perfect whether.