For not the first in my life, I find myself passing thru Helsinki. To me, it keeps being a waypoint between places that gets slept in, wandered about in, and then left behind. The first time I was here was 24 years ago. I and 24 others were on our way back from several weeks in the USSR, where we’d been studying astronomy and playing all but unsupervised in a small village in the caucus mountains. On our return, we’d stopped for a couple days in Leningrad before taking the train to Helsinki, from which we flew home. We stayed here a night, and we spent that night walking through the lack of darkness, trying to make our way to a ferris wheel we saw off in the distance. I was 15, and along with a few other misplaced teens, I walked this city till what we called dawn.
I had hoped to catch a glimpse of that ferris wheel again, but I have to admit that yesterday sleep overcame me. I told myself I’d sleep until the golden hour, and then walk a bit, capturing the city in the perfect light. But… It’s Finland in summer, and that hour never came. I slept, I recorded some audio, I refueled myself, and then… Slept some more.
This morning, I walked. I walked to the water front (a water front at least), and through the parks, and thru the esplanade, and back again. It is a clean, and beautiful city, but the thing I kept fixating on wasn’t the sites, it was the sounds. Everywhere I heard people speaking Russian. With the pulling back of the iron curtain, tourism between these near neighbors seems normal (and I suspect immigration plays a role too). Signage is in Finnish, Russian, and English, and stores seem to cater to Slavic clientele.
I remember the nervousness we felt crossing the border so long ago. The checks to make sure no one was escaping the USSR and that everyone had proper papers.
The world has moved on. My teenage years took me to a place that no longer exists. Someday I hope to go to Russia, and see what that nation is. I haven’t been there. My 1 month and 7 month exchange trips were to an idea that failed.
I need to go back, to those locations and see what new nation sits in those places.
And maybe someday, I’ll walk Helsinki again, and find that Ferris wheel.