|Helsinki today. Literally. (at the time of publishing this)|
Getting there VS Getting on
HOT The city's fantastic network of buses, trams, and metros take you practically anywhere you want to go. They are clean, safe and efficient. I love Helsinki, especially in summer. Not only for its famous architecture, but because it's easy to visit the city's museums, restaurants, small boutiques, and just bum around. But wonder how they'll cope with the new ticketing system this summer(see below).
NOT Conductors will kick you off the tram or bus without a ticket. You have to have a 'pay' app in your smartphone or buy a ticket from R-Kioski, or some other place, before you board. A 17 ride card will set you back 30 euros. It will be a tourist nightmare this summer unless the city hires kids to sell tickets around town. And I wonder how many riders try to beat the system. The machines are so hard to use, they all have to be changed. Why can't the conductor sell few tickets? Human to human contact is good for people.
Talking VS Texting
HOT: LUNGI on Korkeavuorenkatu is a great place to hang out. A big leather couch and chairs in the window are an invitation to come in have a drink or something to eat and meet people. It's one of my go-to places in the city. I was having a glass of wine when a guy walked in with a cute dog under his arm. I asked him what breed it was. We talked a while and he asked If I wanted to have another glass of wine. His friend joined us. It was fun to meet a couple of Finnish guys spontaneously. Lungi is that kind of place.
NOT: In pre-texting days waiting to board a plane, or to pass the time in the air, you talked to strangers. Sometimes you even fell in love - I met my husband on a train between Nice and Paris. The Shark gave us the idea to make a cell phone video gottaGETinTOUCH. I shot people with their phone in four countries, on and off, for a year. After that, I went cold turkey. Now I read going cell phone-less is the new status symbol. User alert: your body and brain might freak out. Worse. You might miss the love of your life.
Authentic VS Trendy NOT
HOT Strindberg: This restaurant feels like it's been operating (with updates) since Gustav III. I never look at the menu. I always order the meatballs, they're the best in Helsinki. Lunch with a pal usually lasts till four, sometimes five or six o'clock. When we call it a day with a glass of champagne. Elegant without being stuffy, (green and white gingham tablecloths, wide, old wooden plank floors) or too serious. The menu is predictable. And I know that meatballs will always on it. The service is terrific but not fussy. Reservations essential.
NOT Le Brasserie Basque is one of those impossible-to-get-a-reservation in-places. But that's where the Bes and Wannabes wanna be. We did too. My sister-in-law finally landed a time: 7:30 – 9:30 on a Wednesday (there are three sittings starting at 5:30). It was empty when we arrived but filled up quickly. The music was loud and so was the crowd. The service slow and the food so-so (the polenta citron looked like a bowl of morning porridge). The main course (cod) was good but minuscule. We were running late and asked the owner if we could stay a little longer. He gave us 15 extra minutes. The 9:30 to 11:30 gang was waiting to be seated.
Nice surprise VS BIG disappointment
HOT Maxim cinema finally opened after what seemed like a forever renovation. Always upscale it has kicked it up a notch. On the second floor is a small bar with drinks and snacks. But it's the big comfortable individual chairs with attached tables that tell you this is the next best thing to having your own private screening room. The Shark and I saw a double feature: like being kids again. Only better. Instead of popcorn, we had wine with our movies.
NOT Academic Bookstore was not only a national treasure, it was one of the best bookstores in Europe. The first place my husband took me when I came to Finland. It made most bookstores look like amateur hour. Jut the books in English and the choice of magazines and newspapers made me want live there. And in an Alvar Aalto building to boot. When they installed Cafe Aalto the whole set-up was perfect. It still looks about the same, except a Starbucks is where the newspapers and magazines use to be. When I asked for two books: Umberto Eco's Chronicle of a Liquid Society and Phillip Pullman's Daemons Voice they come up empty. It made me sad for the good old days. And when I talk to friends about the Academic bookstore, it's like someone close to us has died. Amazon here I come. But not willingly.
Source: personal perspective
news, views, boos
Next week: DAY of the DEAD by l. Ron Chappell: big admiration spiked with a bit of envy
NOTE!! Ahhem... you didn't come to think of the obvious did ya? Like, buy tickets from the driver?? Because you can, you know, both on buses and trams ;-)
You are probably thinking about the trains. They got rid of conductors on the short commute train routes where the city area bus tickets are valid, and you indeed need to buy the ticket beforehand. The same goes for the Metro, you need to have a ticket before entering the station. But, as said, not buses or trams, which also haven't had conductors, well, ever. They did have separate cashiers though, but that was many decades ago.
PS: Maggy, i guess you recognize the bike in the photo? Yes, i'm still using it. Thank you!
Hey, you have to add something to the blog: I DID GET KICKED OFF THE TRAM. The driver told me I had to go to an RKIOSKI. It happened twice. The last time because my 30 euro ticket ran out. True Story.
EDIT: I checked, and dang, you are right!! They stopped selling tickets on trams in February. Bus drivers still sell them though.
All this said, i highly recommend the phone app for the occasional traveler - that's what i use too. If you have your phone, you have a ticket.