For years one of my major bucket list destinations has been Finland. This is down to a love affair with many of the country’s exports, namely their music scene.
From HIM, Nightwish, Apocalyptica, The Rasmus, Children of Bodom and heaps more, Finland is known worldwide for it’s exceptional range of rock and metal artists. So where better to spend a Halloween long weekend?
I landed in Helsinki the afternoon of October 31st and, after settling into the hotel, I got my fangs on and headed into town. The whole point of my Halloween excursion was to see one of my favourite Finnish bands, the Helsinki vampires themselves, The 69 Eyes.
If you haven’t heard of them, imagine if Elvis joined an 80s gothic rock band. Yes, they’re that awesome. Go look them up right now.
The gig was at a tiny venue called Tavastia, and apart from the insanely priced alcohol (€7 for a Corona, really?), it was absolutely perfect.
I’ve found it strange, now having attended gigs in several different countries, to see just how different the crowds are. In Australia if you don’t want to mosh, then it’s best to stay out of everyone’s way. But in the UK and Finland the crowds were pretty tame. Everyone was respectful, no one shoved into me. It was very strange considering most Londoners would knock over their own mothers to get onto the Tube. But I digress…
The next morning was hangover free, I guess there are some perks to overpriced alcohol, so I explored the waterfront markets, the Helsinki Cathedral and went on a free walking tour where I made friends with an older Australian couple. Apparently their son came second in the Helsinki Air Guitar Championships, which is awesome (I really must go to that one year). I then checked out the Rock Church, a church carved into rock, sadly not a church of rock music, but still pretty awesome.
I walked around the city for hours, did a bit of shopping at Stockmann, a fancy department store in the city centre, bought some goodies for dinner (cheese, crackers and reindeer slices) and headed back to the hotel to drink my duty free scotch and relax.
But the last day was definitely my favourite because I went to Suomenlinna. Suomenlinna is an island fortress a short ferry ride away from Helsinki, and it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a tiny settlement, I think about 800 people live there, and it’s very peaceful. There’s a handful of cafes and shops, but mainly the best thing to do is to wander around.
Because it’s an old fortress, there are countless underground warrens that you can explore, as well as old canons, little beaches and even bunkers that look like grass hill covered Hobbit holes. After all Tolkien did cite Finland as one of the inspirations for Middle-earth, and I can see why. Unfortunately I only had a few hours there because I had to fly home that afternoon, but there is a hotel and I would totally stay there longer.
So Helsinki was all I hoped it would be, and was perfect for a solo traveller like myself. Whilst it did get dark at 4.30pm, I always felt safe walking around (though less so after the tour guide took us to an old church near my hotel and told us how haunted it was). I didn’t really use public transport, except for the train to and from the airport, but the tram system is meant to be very good.
But I’ll definitely be back, there’s a few festivals I want to go to…
Ruisrock 2016 anyone?
Listening to: The 69 Eyes
Watching: Come Dine With Me (there was only one English channel)
Reading: The White Spider
Current man-crush: Jyrki 69