In April, a few weeks after this Norwegian escape, I went to Paris. While the main point of this visit was to meet friends from another life, I also had time on my own to explore known and less known places. At dawn or even before, at sunset and after, or during the day, I enjoyed the city at every possible time of day.
We arrived in Vardø in the middle of the afternoon, and soon found our accommodation before heading out again for sunset. At that moment, we were at the very end of Norway, still far North but also further East than Saint-Petersburg or Istanbul (it’s easy at this latitude ;)). The small town lies on a island linked to the continent by a tunnel; Marci was really impressed to see such infrastructure in a remote location like this one.
In the evening of our fourth day in Varanger, we slept in Vadsø, the administrative center of the county of Finnmark, home to some five thousand souls. In the morning, before driving to Ekkerøy, we visited the little town. Marci looked for a souvenir shop, but there didn’t seem to be anything of interest in the citycenter. What I noticed, in Vadsø but also in other towns, was a lamp store. I guess that, in places where the sun disappears for several weeks every year, inhabitants are particularly mindful about lighting in their houses, and so this kind of business thrives. I also liked the colourful houses.
HAM, like Helsinki Art Museum. Sorry, we’re not going to talk about food 😉
Tennispalatsi hosted a retrospective exhibition on Yayoi Kusama, “one of the most famous artists in the world”, though I had never heard about her. We visited the museum on New Year’s Eve (after Finlandia-talo), as it was free during the evening. Before going upstairs. to the bigger hall, we got introdued to Kusama’s life by a slideshow presenting the most important events of her life.
Finlandia-talo (Finlandia Hall) is a prominent landmark in Helsinki city, Alvar Aalto’s last masterpiece, and the center of an ambitious urban plan never implemented.
2017 will see Finland celebrate its 100th birthday, and to start the year, many events were organized in Helsinki on New Year’s Eve. Among those, one looked particularly appealing: a free visit to Finlandia-talo, a congress and event venue designed by the maestro himself: Alvar Aalto, maybe the most famous Finn in history. I didn’t know that visits were organized regularly, so it seemed like a unique opportunity, and I was really happy when the woman at the desk added a line for me, even though the visitor list was supposed to be already full. I’m not going to give you a historical overview of the building; instead, I’ll show some visual details and tell some anecdotes that our friendly guide showed us.
When people think about the Finnish winter, their first thought usually is: “snow”. And then, when they get to know the country a little bit more, especially the south of it, they think: “grey”. Yes, snow but not enough to cover everything, and then it melts quickly, creating this depressing pools of slush stirred by the passage of cars and buses. Not to mention the clouds.
I totally understand this feeling: I love snow, I love to see it fall and hide the roads, and attenuate all the sounds. I love the sight of a city wrapped in a blanket of peace, and I always get distressed when temperatures rise again. When snow stops falling, I hate to see those endless, boring grey skies, and I start dreaming about sunny days. Or more snow. Usually I dream about a return of the snow.
When I went to Kontiolahti to view the Biathlon World Championship, I saw a wonderful sunset over the frozen lake, and it was a revelation: there is beauty out there, waiting for me!
Over a year ago, I was with my brother, on a trip that took us from Grenoble to Grenoble, via Helsinki and Copenhagen, and got us memories for a lifetime, when we stopped at Bomarsund. Located on the eastern shore of Åland’s main island, at first sight it’s an impressive ruin crossed by a road… yes, the road runs through the fortress, so you can’t really miss it.
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This was one of the few sunny week-ends of these past weeks. On Saturday, a freezing walk in the forest didn’t yield the expected results in terms of photography, as there were very few birds around (some Blackbirds (Turdus merula) and a Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)), and I was too cold to stop and take my time. I walked, blinded by the rays of sun reflecting on the frozen ground. Behind the trees, I spotted a herd of Roe deers (Capreolus capreolus).
On Sunday morning, I was in the bus when I saw the horizon turn a deep orange, beyond the city. I met Patrick in the tram to the harbour, a curious coincidence that made us laugh since I had told him on the phone that we would meet “inside”… the ferry terminal, of course. So we met a bit earlier than expected, on our way to the harbour. I got a really smart smartphone this autumn only, and it was my first opportunity to use a digital ticket. So I scanned my phone, and it worked. Aah, technology…
Kaisa Talo is the Helsinki University Main Library. Located in the city center, inches from the Senate Square, it was opened in 2012, taking the spot of the shopping center Kaisa. The buiding houses the collection of the Faculties of Arts, Law, Theology, Behavioural and Social Sciences. It’s a relaxing place with an original architecture. Like any real library, it’s fairly silent… it looked like a pleasant place to study, and a friend of mine confirmed that.
On one side of the building, there’s this large U-shaped window, with balconies facing it from each floor, a bit like an old theater room. In the shot below, I tried to include both the street outside, with the tram tracks and the zebra crossings, and the students at the balconies, oblivious to the world rumbling outside their cage of glass and metal.
Composition was made tricky by my limited range; I wish I had a shorter focal length available for indoor shots, but for now, I do with what I have. The window let in a lot of light, so I didn’t have to use extreme settings for shutter speed and ISO, but I wish I had overexposed a bit, for I lack details in the dark areas, and bringing them up creates a lot of undesired noise (I shot in Aperture Priority mode).
In Helsinki, not far from the city center, lies a park that harbors a strange monument. Sibeliuksen monumentti (Sibelius’s monument) consists of a disorderly arrangement of metallic pipes, mimicking those of an organ, resting on pillars that hold the massive sculpture above the ground.