Friday, 21 February 2014

Helsinki the Silent City

So I'm sitting in a pub (actually I've tried three, you need a decent sample)  in Helsinki watching the Ice Hockey Olympic Semi Final. I wouldn't say the pub was over busy, but I'll tell you, it certainly is (or rather was) over quiet. For those of us used to shouting the most shocking things at TVs during sports events it's a bit of a surprise. I mean it's not like they don't care, Finland and Sweden hate each other. Perhaps the guys were meditating or something, calling down a higher power. Meanwhile I'm here in the docks somewhere. Huge Baltic ferries pass by my window, and they dock and no doubt many many people get on and off for Estonia, Latvia or  St Petersburg. Any whiff of trouble? Not at all, there's a children's playground outside. Two or three kids are happily playing, two adults look on, that's it, where did everybody go? 'Where is everybody?' is a frequently asked question for the visitor here.
Last night, the English students I was with were taken karaoke singing. Now when the Finns sing karaoke it is maudlin and excruciating, down to back-screens of trees and snow, but at least it is each time a song from the heart, since apparantly Finns don't speak much unless they are drunk (which is a lot, not that I can work out how they buy it, since the problem is so large you seem to only be able to buy beer and cider in the shops). So when the Finns sing karaoke the audience enjoy it as 'well he's enjoying it' and beam a big smile. When our lot joined in, it sounded like a bunch of football hooligans had taken over the place.
I have never come across a more reserved nation than the Finnish. It is very endearing, and this city is very beautiful and ordered and neat and everything works. No wonder I feel so out of place.
Now  it's back to the hotel bar to see if they've pulled it back from 2:1 down.
P.S Finland lose. On TV granite faced men hold it all back, and the baby faced Swedish grin. Behind the reception desk, the girl visibly flushes, behind the bar, the young lad shrugs his shoulders in disbelief. No karaoke for me tonight, they'll be crying their hearts out.

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