More Finland

Trip Start Sep 07, 2006
Trip End Sep 17, 2006

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Friday, September 8, 2006

Probably because we are all more discerning when it comes to local food, I found the quality of the hotel breakfast in Helsinki better than in either the Boulevard or Cititel (both in KL). True, the Boulevard's nasi lemak was quite generous with its sambal ikan bilis, and there is something to be said for Cititel's REAL bread and cheese selection, but, how to compete with the following?: smoked salmon served either hot or chilled, 3 kinds of herring (its very Finnish), GOOD bread with many many lovely kinds of cheese and -this was the clincher for me, what to do, I'm a simple person- PATE. HAR HAR HAR!!! PATAYYYY!! WE LIKEEEE!!!!

Stuffed to the gills, I stepped onto the main road (not even going to try to type out the road names, much less pronounce them) and was promptly confronted with the temptation of fresh, juicy, blood-red cherries, gleaming like the red patent leather on the Coach wallet that I want but can't have. This, though, I could have. And so I did, half a pound of them, eating and spitting (back into the plastic bag lah!) as I walked down unnamed road. All the way to the Market, next to the pier. Where I got sweet talked by a pastry stall girl into buying some sort of pastry, a cross between a bun and a cheesecake. Okay, so it was more like, the girl did the talking and offering of samples, and I did the eating of that sweet stuff. After try so many things to don't buy right??

Just in case you're starting to wonder if all future postings are going to revolve around food, let me reassure you that Unnamed Cheese Bun was the last thing I ate for the next, um, 12 hours. Moreover, I would like to blame my current borderline food obsession on 2 Unnamed Individuals who started it all. One of them is my closest friend in Kings College, and the other one.....was practically making sweet love to the ice-cream freezer in Woolworths. Sigh. You guys know who you are.

Anyway, I boarded a ferry to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. Its not 1 fortress but many fortifications, built in the 1700s by the Swedes as a defense against the Russians. And wonder of wonders, the fortress(es) are located on several islands, all close enough to each other that you won't feel guilty saying that its "one island". The breeze, rustling leaves and moving shadows, no-one around (you can lose yourself wandering among the fortifications) and being surrounded by (relatively) ancient structures, reminded me of the cemeteries in Penang, esp. Francis Light Cemetery, and of visiting Convent Light Street one time on a Saturday, when I broke off from the tour that Sr. Francis de Sales (bless her soul!) was bringing my aunt on. I somehow ended up by a white wall overlooking the sea, no one else was around and it was so perfect (this is still the Convent Light Street story). Well, the Suomenlinna was just like that, only more vast and promising.

Again, just as it had the day before, it started to rain in fits and starts. This was preceded by a strong breeze that nearly blew me off the top of one of the, er, ramparts? I clambered back down, relieved that I no longer had to feel guilty about the thoughts of shopping which had slowly started to creep into my working memory. Because, now that rain was about to pour down and all hell break loose, hadn't I better seek refuge in a department store?

Before arriving at the Market, while still munching on cherries, I had popped into Stockmann, described as being "one of the most exclusive department stores in the Nordic countries". Now, drenched from the rain, I went back in. For the next 3 hours, I took in everything that this exclusive Nordic store had to offer. Unfortunately, mostly everything in it was......British. Oh, the irony that they should be having a "London Calling" theme storewide (7 floors)! The PA announcer was british. Walkers' shortbread was spilling over into all the aisles of the international food section. The homewares section was filled with habitat and heal's- lookalike-stencil-illustrated everything. Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson's kitchenware loomed over Iittala and Alessi and Hackman. Trying to absorb Finnish consumer culture amidst the sauna products, horribly overpriced Aalto vases (130 Euro for a wooden Aalto thingy?!) and reindeer-horn bottle openers, I came, not for the first time, to a woeful realization: no matter how cool your local stuff is, the coolest thing is whatever they import from a foreign country. As my cousin Phuah would say, people think with their minds when they should be thinking with their hearts (don't ask me if u don't get this one because sometimes i don't think I do either).

Oh my God. I've been blabbing on and on. Better sleep now so that I've got stamina to attack the buffet breakfast tomorrow for the last time. Good night.
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