Thank you again for your kind comments to my last post. I read them all many times. Somehow it seemed strange to respond individually on such a serious topic so I'll just say that your support means a lot.
It feels good to return to my last glimpse of summer when most of the trees have lost their terracotta leaves and fat raindrops refuse to stop falling day after day. I have just returned from Vienna but I still have to tell you about my trip to Finland first. Only a week after we returned from Venice, there was yet another departure, this time for Helsinki with the feeling that my feet hadn't touched the ground. In the plane to Helsinki from Amsterdam, I listened hard to the conversations of the Finns around me to try and catch a word I could recognise. Seagulls swooped around the square in front of the station as I wheeled my case around midnight, thinking that the only real difference between Saturday night here and in the UK was that the people wore coats to stand around drinking. But things looked different on a Sunday morning in the warmth of a day heading towards autumn but still clinging to summer. Crowds filled the café terraces and sat outside in the parks and runners in shorts were everywhere to be seen. I had plans for Tallinn, and to visit a large sea fortress close to Helsinki as well as dinner at the market between the stands collapsing under the weight of piles of jewel like berries and mushrooms but my trip was overshadowed by food poisoning on the second day from the hotel breakfast (you might want to skip scrambled eggs from the buffet in future) which left me feeling weak and nauseous for the remainder of my trip.
Instead I stayed in the city, tentatively climbing the steps to the beautiful Lutheran cathedral, stopping to rest at the wonderful Café Ursula by the seafront, browsing along the endless shelves in the Academic bookshop with a pot of tea at the lovely Café Aalto. It felt sad not to be able to sample all the wonderful things I had seen in the amazing food department of Stockmann but I still returned there day after day to pick up tonic water, cottage cheese and digestive biscuits, little things which made me feel I wasn't so far from home. I imagined how it was to be there at the height of summer, taking a boat across to one of the little islands to picnic or go for a walk, rather like the dancer in Bergman's beautiful Summer Interlude who finds her broken memories once more. I wandered through the lovely Botanical Gardens, just around the corner from the hotel with their jets of water sparkling in the sun, the satisfying sultry feeling in the palm house amongst plants which were living fossils and gigantic lily pads from which I imagined frogs leaping. It felt comforting in the Church of the Rock which looks so ordinary from the outside but overwhelms you inside. I could have sat there for hours, listening to the organ music and watching others light candles and say prayers at what was almost like a little shrine with trickles of water from the outside running down the walls.
Ultimately though, it's hard being ill away from home, staying in an anonymous hotel room when all you long for is your own bed, a bowl of Heinz tomato soup and to spend the afternoon watching Groundhog Day. I'm glad I went to Helsinki to experience the end of a Scandinavian summer but nothing felt so good as when our plane touched down in Birmingham and that magic word 'home' was suddenly within reach again.
|Aalto's Finlandia Hall|
|Statues at the railway station|
|Amazing berries at the market|
|The romantic German church|
|Looking towards the Lutheran cathedral|
|Perfect evening light|
|Our hotel room|
|Inside the Lutheran cathedral|
|Café Aalto at the Academic bookshop|
|The Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral|
|Window display at Stockmann|
|The wonderful Church of the Rock|
|The strange Sibelius monument|
|At the Botanical Gardens|
|Inside the Winter Gardens|
|A large Snufkin from the Moomins|
|At the Design Museum|