Today, the Drunk and Jobless World Tour rolled on to Helsinki – the biggest city in Finland and the northernmost capital in the world. And it feels like it, because the place is bloody freezing! Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if the mayor is a penguin.
Actually, I would be, because penguins make notoriously poor public officials and their short, stubby wings make it difficult for them to sign any paperwork that would lead to the betterment of the city.
I cruised to Helsinki from Tallinn aboard a near-empty Linda Line ferry, and the 90-minute trip was pleasant enough. Once out of the harbour in Tallinn, there’s not a lot to see for the next hour or so, but once the boat neared Finland the scenery becomes spectacular. The islands in the archipelago (great word) that spreads out from Helsinki are dotted with all sorts of weird and wonderful mansions and shacks, and all kinds of bizarre sea birds circle the sky on the approach to the city. The harbour at Helsinki is bloody nice, with fancy buildings and kooky churches hanging around, just waiting to be explored.
Unlike Riga and Tallinn, Helsinki feels like a truly modern city. There are big buildings and filthy Romanian beggars and people zipping all over the place, but it’s still easy to walk around (well, it probably isn’t in the middle of winter when it’s -30. Unless you’ve got a damn snowmobile or something). The symbol of the city is the Helsinki Cathedral, so I rolled along to check that out.
To the north of that is the densely-populated Kallio district, full of sex shops and strip clubs and crammed-in apartment blocks and dodgy-looking junkies. Shit, I felt right at home. It’s also home to the Kallio Church, a granite beast that apparently ‘represents National Romanticism with Art Nouveau influences’ according to le Wikipedia – whatever the fuck that means.
I then made my way over to the site of the 1952 Olympics, which is a brisk half-hour strut from the harbour. Unlike Munich, the precinct isn’t particularly interesting or beautiful, and the stadium itself is currently closed for renovations – and unlike when a woman is ‘closed for renovations’ I wasn’t willing to brave it for a trip inside. While at the Olympic precinct, I did however see two of the greatest sporting events in the history of mankind. One set of old fogies were practicing tai-chi (what is it with Euros and this most boring of martial arts?) and another playing fucking COIGHTS. I felt like giving them all gold medals for being dickheads.
Still keen to spend a day at the beach, I headed over to some joint called Suomenlinna, where I made a valiant attempt to go for a swim – and made it as far as taking my jumper off because it wa about six degrees and the water had fucking icebergs in it. Honestly, I was expecting to get bitten on the arse by a polar bear or flashed by a narwhal or something it was so chilly, so I just sat on the achingly cold sand and felt a bit sorry for myself.
After taking a delightful stroll along the waterfront to the west of Helsinki, taking in frigid islands and leafy peninsulas and imposing factories, I found myself in a quaint waterside cemetery. You won’t believe this, right, but as I was strutting between the tombstones, a ZOMBIE jumped out at me! He was drooling and slobbering like Craig Thomson in a strip club, calling out for brains, all that. And the weirdest thing was that he just happened to pop up from behind a tombstone with a really funny name.
Alright, I’ll let you in on a secret – the zombie was actually me, and a few mourners didn’t latch onto my sense of humour and started yelling out at me. I realised then that it was time to get out of Helsinki before they threw me out, and headed back to the harbour to make the relaxing trip back to Ye Olde Tallinn. But that wasn’t the end of the day, because I ended up with a stint in prison…