Thursday, September 10, 2009

No Internet in Helsinki

There's no internet in Helsinki. Well, I mean there is – it's just not practical (read: free). And is that my first reaction to such an excellent European city? Yes. Yes it is. From this point on I will judge every city based on its willingness to get down on one knee and serve me. Are washrooms free? You get a point. Are washrooms everywhere? Another point. Does your tourist information centre locate itself in a place where I can find it, and then shower me in maps and other useful information such as walking tour plans? More points for you – but most importantly, can I access free internet? This is the big one. Five points for this category. It's possible for a city to pass my test without meeting this qualification, but just like in the game of Quiddich – you better pull way out ahead first if you miss this one.

And I'm not saying that wi-fi networks exist, because they do – everywhere. But more on this later.

My First Day in Helsinki
Today was supposed to be a day of rest, but then yesterday turned into a day of “on the bus, off the bus, on the plane, off the plane, repeat, cab, check in, done.” And as such I was in no mood to stay still. My knees will be cross with me, but Helsinki is a much bigger city than one might think, looking only at the city centre. And sure, it has buses, but – please – that's no way to explore. That's a way to get from point A to point B missing everything in between.

At 11:00 I managed to pull myself from my hostel, having properly showered and put on the same clothes for the second day in a row. No one saw me wear them yesterday, so I reckon that I should be good. They may smell a little, but living in hostels, everyone has their own smell – your job? To not be the worst of the lot. Though I have clothes for about seven days, I'm trying to get three rotations out of each set before throwing them in the laundry bag. The only real downfall for this are my shorts – of which there is but one pair. Mistakes were made.

Out on the street, I headed down to the water, and began following it into town. Two cruise ships were in port, and I didn't – for a second – wish I was on them. They're fun, but they're definitely a different kind of fun. A kind where permanently drunk passengers gorge themselves on all the food they can eat, spending a moment here, or a moment there at port. My life, right now, is nearly the opposite. I eat when I can, I hardly drink, and I throw myself into the city, like Justin Lukatch into a Zorb.

My first point of interest was the Senate Square and Cathedral. Like all important landmarks in Europe that I pass, it was under construction. This seems to be the way of things. And it begs the question, if everything is always under construction where do the photos come from that adorn the brochures I receive?

Under construction or not, the cathedral was a spectacular sight. And that's something every city needs. The more I travel, the more I start to feel the sameness of the world. Sure there's a nice park over here, but there are similar parks in other cities – and, alright, it's on the water, but there are hundreds of cities built on the water as well. Without these striking landmarks to remind you that, hey! you're not at home anymore, it would be easy to misconstrue the whole urban world as one long onward reaching expanse. That, and they let you know where you are, when you'd otherwise be lost.

Walking on once more, I marveled at just how well built Helsinki is for pedestrians. There are walking paths everywhere throughout the city, and cobblestone roads that break off from the ones paved for traffic. It was about this moment that I was almost hit by a car. You see, those cobble stone roads that are nary wide enough for a bicycle, let alone a car, are indeed for traffic. No they are not marked, and no they do not look a thing like most of the other roads, and yes they are surrounded by shops – but no – those roads are for cars, and those cars will aim to take you out the moment you so foolishly invade their turf.

Ha ha! The joke was on them though, as I managed to jump off that cobblestoned suicide street back onto the sidewalk, laughing heroically as I did so. It was at this point that I almost got hit by a bike. Ringing their bell with all the anger their thumb could muster, I was nearly run over not once but twice, as the bikes attempted to secure me in a pincer attack. But I was no fool, I avoided their blitzkrieg and once more landed safely on the sidewalk. For real this time.

At last safe, I began walking down the street, passed the central station (also under constructions, of course) and ran into a man whose body rested at a precarious angle on a low brick divide. It's hard to describe just how he was resting, and putting up a picture would be nearly as uncouth as having taken one, so I will try my best. His arm rested flat on the divide, yet his head was bent backwards over it. His legs? They were arcing out and down from his core, yet not managing to touch the ground. He looked like a dead villain in a video game with rag doll physics problems, because no body could ever come to stop like that. But is had.

I didn't want to leave him, but I didn't know what to do. At first, to be honest, I thought he might have been dead. But his feet and fingers twitched so there was, at least, some life. I could not speak the language, nor did I have a cell phone (or number to call if I did – 112 I later discovered.) Another man stopped, and called an ambulance, and together we helped stand the man up (who immediately crumpled to the ground, once more with poor rag doll physics) and lay there for some time. Twenty minutes later, after – apparently – saying to leave him there, he asked to be sat up, which we – again – assisted him with.

Now I don't know what was going on, or how this man was prioritized, but if I was injured, I hope that I never have need to call an ambulance. Thirty minutes after they were called the EMTs arrived. They loaded him into the ambulance on a stretcher, and that was the end of that. All I could do was continue to walk towards Olympic Stadium.

It was the first Olympic stadium I had ever seen, despite there being two in my home country. Unfortunately due to the women's soccer finals the tower, offering a view over the city, was closed.

There are so many open spaces here, so many public parks, paths around the water, and places to just be alone with a book, or loved one, or – as most people seem to have – a fold out keyboard texting phone. Of course this was the first day that I choose to leave my phone behind.

Somewhere between the closed amusement park, and the edge of the water, I came across a grocery store. The prices were much more reasonable than the ones in Iceland, and the beer – the beer was practically free. Well, not free, but only one euro a bottle – and judging by the amount of people drinking on the streets, or in the parks, enough of it was sold to keep this profitable. Of course this would be the time I'm staying in a hostel without a real common room, or easy way to meet people.

Having stolen internet for a few moments from a random network, I quickly googled “free wifi in Helsinki” and discovered there was an open network in one of the parks near the tourist centre. However, the website warned, the signal was very weak. Still – I would make my way there to see what I could do.

Just entering the park I was assaulted by a parade of Wookies led by Greenpeace protesters, apparently enraged at the treatment of individuals from Khashyk, or something to that effect. I can only hope they don't try freeing any monkeys infected with Rage, or something to that effect.

Passing that by, I tried multiple times to connect to the open networks, failing, and failing, and failing, and finally just giving up. Still – the walk to the park did allow me to see some rather delightful parts of the city's public space, as well as all number of froshies doing what froshies around the world seem to do – perform silly stunts and get drunk.

And that was that. Six o'clock, back to the hostel, with ideas of what to do in the future here (most notable the granite church which a tour guide in Iceland told me about). Perhaps tomorrow I'll finally take that day off.

1 comment:

  1. There IS free wifi in Helsinki! Here are some places:

    * Soihtu, Aurorankatu 13 B 16, tel. +358 45 652 0787. A small youth-friendly café. It is volunteer-run in the evenings and free wi-fi is available. Customers can borrow GNU/Linux laptops.
    * ROBERT´S COFFEE, Forum at Mannerheimintie 20 B 00100 Helsinki, City center Free access to Internet (15 minutes) while enjoying your cup of Robert's Coffee.also four Internet workstations available for internet use.
    * OpenKimito(Public space) at Arkadiav.6 25700 Kimito, Varsinais Suomi.Free access.
    * Cafe Compass at Ehrenströmintie 1B 00140 Helsinki,none. Available 24/7, no charge.
    * Cafe Carmel at Laajalahdentie 11A 00330 Helsinki.access is free.
    * Kouvolan kävelykatu(public space) kauppalankatu Kouvola, Kymenlaakso. has (802.11b,Wi-Fi) and free access.

    Sounds like some great travels in Finland. After this post were you able to find any free wifi? I am putting together listings of wifi hotspots in Finland. I already have a bunch in Helsinki, but if you have more to add please do (its a wiki) -


All original text and photographs Copyright © 2009 one.year.trip / previously.bitten | Theme Design by previously.bitten | Entries and Comments.Powered by Blogger