March 27, 2012

Chocolate, Nudity, Helsinki

Pipo outside the Kiasma museum

I brought my Dahon D7HG to Helsinki. More on that in another entry.

I have seen some places in my short travelling life, but rarely a place that offers me chocolate and naked women within two hours of arriving.

Helsinki turned out to be such a place.

Unknown to me, mostly since I knew so little about Finland other than Nokia, Angry Birds and the cold, when I pinged some local friends on what I should do while waiting for them to be done with work, they almost universally said: have lunch and chocolates at Karl Fazer Cafe, and then go to the pool and sauna at Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall — it was a women-only day the day I got to Helsinki.

What should I wear to Yrjönkatu, I asked? I came prepared: I brought a bikini, even though bringing a bikini to a place that was going to be 0 degrees Celsius seemed a little silly.

Erm.. you wear nothing. That is the idea, my Finnish friends said_, so it might not be for everybody._

I stuffed myself silly with soup and chocolates at Fazer (sidenote: starting to be quite a fan of Fazer chocolates, they ARE tasty), then cycled around downtown Helsinki for a bit. I thought I would worry about the sauna only if I saw it — I wasn’t about to go out and look for a place just because of pfft naked women — but of course I found it within minutes.

When travelling, especially when travelling alone, one has the tendency to do as the Romans (or Finns) do, and plunge right into the deep end, so to speak. Not knowing any Finnish at all, I timidly found my way around the inner workings of a place dedicated to the dark arts of naked bathing and steaming.

Like tattoos, dating twins, and other much-talked-about concepts, this is something I would do just once; the downsides are far worse than the supposed benefits. But maybe I’m just unimaginative: I don’t really feel like I can breathe in a sauna, and I get toe cramps the moment I hit cold water naked. Travel expands your horizons, makes you learn things about yourself: I learned I would rather be warm and fully clothed, around other fully clothed women.

Miracles.

After such a colourful start to my Nordic adventures, things only got better from there. I have met some great people, eaten some nice food, and done quite a number of things. If you have Instagram, you can follow me at my regular online handle; if you don’t, you can use this instead. I update Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in real time while I’m here. I’m just taking it slow and chilling out — a lot — a lot for me anyway.