Eurotour Stop 4. Helsinki, Finland: “The tram made Siiri’s beloved curve at Kamppi”

Hei from Helsinki! Today’s extract is from…

Minna Lindgren, Death in Sunset Grove (trans. from Finnish by Lola Rogers; Pan, 2016 [2013]), 128-130.

Siiri sat in her usual seat on the tram and tried to see behind Eira hospital. That was where Villa Johanna was, a whimsical work by her favourite architect, Selim A. Lindquist, which you could see from the number 3 as it turned onto Tehtaankatu. She had a habit of concentrating on one building and trying to think of as many other buildings in Helsinki by the same architect as she could. Selim A. Lindqvist was easy: there were two buildings of his, side by side, on Aleksanterinkatu – numbers 11 and 13.

The number 3B tram changed to the number 3T at Olympia Terminal, and Siiri decided to take it as far as the new opera house. Then she could get on the number 4 to get back to Sunset Grove. She had already ridden around for more than two hours, using any favourite tram route or building she could think of as an excuse to put off going back home, because the mere thought of Sunset Grove gave her a very unpleasant feeling. She didn’t want to see Virpi Hiukkanen, she didn’t want to think about Irma’s confusion and growing suspiciousness, and she didn’t know how to bring up all these worries with Anna-Liisa […]

A talkative little girl was sitting with her mother next to the ticket dispenser, wearing a funny looking hat with bear ears on it. […]

‘Mama, why doesn’t everyone have kids? Why doesn’t grandma have kids? Why, Mama?’

‘Your grandma does have kids. Otherwise she couldn’t be your grandma,’ said a wino across the aisle. The little girl took an interest in this new acquaintance and got up to stand in the aisle, but her mother continued to stare at the rain hitting the window.

‘My grandma is Grandpa’s girlfriend and she’s much younger than my mother, so she could have kids any time she wanted, but Mama wouldn’t want her to. What are your children’s names? Do you have a job? Why not? What do you do, then?’

‘I sit in the park and ride on the tram.’

‘Fun! I want to do that when I’m big!’

The tram made Siiri’s beloved curve at Kamppi and the passengers pricked up their ears to hear the wino’s reaction to the little girl’s future plans.

‘What park do you go to?’ the girl asked. ‘I usually go to the one on Lapinlahdenkatu, but it’s pretty small.’

‘Me too, it’s a nice park.’

‘And Väiski, but only in the winter.’

‘I sometimes go and sit on the rocks at Temppeliaukio. There’s a nice view from there.’

Helsinki gallery

I’m cheating a little, as this is the entrance to Turku station (designed by Väinö Vähäkallio and Martti Välikangas). We caught the train to Helsinki from here after a lovely breakfast in the city’s market place. Finland has some amazing railway architecture…

This is the ticket hall in Helsinki Central station (designed by Eliel Saarinen). It’s a wonderfully beautiful, tranquil space.

Here’s Senaatintori (Senate Square) in the centre of town…

…and one of Siiri’s trams. We’ve been hopping on and off these with our travel cards – a fantastic way to see the city. And I swear I saw Siiri on the 3T…

Twice (in Stockholm and now in Helsinki), we’ve had the most delicious fish stew from indoor food markets for about 10 Euros. They’re hugely generous with the fish, mussels and prawns, and the rich, heady base has a hint of aniseed. The yellow blob is aioli. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Oh, and there’s unlimited bread.

Muumin (moomintroll) notebooks from my favourite bookshop in Helsinki.

Sunflowers are sold at all the outdoor markets at the moment. These were bought in Turku and travelled safely to our Helsinki base, where they sit in a beautiful Iittala vase.

Cinnamon and cardamom buns – divine!

Click here for an overview of Mrs. Peabody’s Eurotour

13 thoughts on “Eurotour Stop 4. Helsinki, Finland: “The tram made Siiri’s beloved curve at Kamppi”

  1. Oh, that food looks delicious, Mrs. P.! And I agree about the railway architecture – it’s really magnificent. So glad you’re enjoying yourself, and looking forward to your next stop!

    • It’s a beautiful city, Margot, packed with stunning 1920s, 1930s and 1940s architecture. Would be a super place to live as well (not just for the fish soup)…

    • Absolutely, a real east meets west feel. We’re also fascinated by the language, which seems to have no discernible link to anything we can think of – a pretty unique entity…

      I did happen to pass, ever so casually, through the Marimekko shop. Sadly I’m having to be quite disciplined for financial and practical reasons. But yes, ooooh, all the pretty things!!! The glassware and Moomin stuff is all gorgeous too.

    • We didn’t make it to the Regatta, unfortunately, but I did think of you as I tucked into a giant cinnamon bun (will try to add a photo to the post, wifi permitting)! The Helsinki travel cards are great and I love that it includes the ferry to Suomenlinna. We sailed past again today on the big ferry to Tallinn – it was blustery with an impressive sky.

  2. Seconding the trip to Suomenlinna. Which market did you find the fish soup at? I absolutely love the outdoor summer markets but the old market hall surpasses them in terms of the things I wanted to eat while I was there. I really must have a Winter trip to Helsinki to see what it’s like when it’s not flooded with light.

    • Hi Stella – it was the indoor Hakaniemi Market Hall – a complete treasure trove of edible treats. I’d like to visit Helsinki in high summer and the dead of winter, but think the latter could be pretty tough. It would definitely be interesting to experience though.

  3. Morning Mrs P. Yet again another lovely set of photos. I remember the Finn family Moomintrol well. I used to love the books, and the TV series voiced over by Mai Zetterling if my memory is correct.
    What a beautiful place Finland is, and what an amazing ticket hall at Helsinki station. We wouldn’t get one like that at Southampton Central 😐! I’d have to forgo the fish soup, being highly allergic to shellfish, but the cinnamon buns Quimper Hitty mentioned sound delicious.
    I feel a touch of Sibelius coming on so must dig out Finlandia and the Karelia Suite. With apologies to my neighbours in advance for the volume…….

    • Hello Kathy P – the Moomintrolls are a big part of my childhood memories, and I think they hold up very well as an adult read (Tove Jansson was a magical storyteller and wise old bird).

      Had to laugh at your mention of Southampton Central – there’s a little way to go yet!!!

      OK, scratch the soup and focus on the buns (will try to upload a pic of the ones we had). And you’ll be pleased to hear that we played Finlandia during our stay – as well as Monty Python’s Finland Song, an evergreen favourite.

  4. Hello Mrs. P – I am enjoying your comments on your European excursion, especially Helsinki. I remember the tram system well from a number of trips there, and really enjoyed the novel Death in Sunset Grove with all the tram trips I know so well. Are you familiar with the police procedurals “Helsinki Homicide” by Jarkko Sipilä? I translated one into English, Katumurha (Street Murder) last year. The author always describes Helsinki trams as “rattling” across intersections but that is not what I remember – I would say rather that they glide rather silently.
    Cheers, keep up the good work!
    Jaime Smith
    Victoria BC Canada

    • Hello Jaime – I’m very glad you enjoyed Death in Sunset Grove too and have plentiful experience of those beautiful trams. I also take my hat off to you as a translator of Finnish, which must be one of the most challenging languages to master!

      Now I think I may have read a Jarkko Sipilä novel in the past, but if so it was a long time ago. I’ll definitely check out Katumurha/Street Murder when I get back, and the series as a whole. Thanks!

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