Shower, Shower, Shower!!!
July 27, 2002
the first time in days it didn't rain at night. Also for the first time in days,
no, weeks we would have a shower today. This because we were heading to
Helsinki, where we were determined to get a hotel. But first things first - feed
the car. Merely on fumes, with the gas light on, trip computer saying "0 km
till empty" for the past 20 km, and the gas gauge at its infamous
"you're screwed, dude" dot just below the "empty" mark, we
rolled into a gas station. The whole situation was very reminiscent of my
department managers' business trip where I freaked out three of my colleagues by
the same display, reassuring them that "we'll get there just fine". We
did. You just have to know your car's gauges.
checked in at the local Holiday Inn, strategically not in the city center but
still on a direct tram route, and also in a completely deserted fair center - no
trade show at the moment. This gave us a 68 Euro / night rate, garage parking,
breakfast and of course shower included. Shower! The subsequent one hour is
censored from the travelogue.
is a nice, if small town. Small compared to Stockholm or Prague, that is. We
started off with a great, wonderful lunch, and continued walking around for a
long time. Things seem very civilized and clean on one hand - you won't see
anyone jaywalking for instance. On the other hand it's borderline impossible to
find a trash can, and when you do then it looks like it's the only trash can in
town as it's well beyond capacity. We saw the biggest orthodox church west of
Russia (well, even if not that much west), the "Uspensky" cathedral, as well as some other nice buildings.
In the Uspensky cathedral there was a fresco of a saint who bore amazing
resemblance to the old guy in "Lord of the Rings". Don't mistake the public phone with a public ... stall for men, as it can be
found in other cities; public restrooms can be found in Helsinki, too, but are
much more elaborate - and expensive.
After a brief nap back at the hotel came dinner, which was a production, as so often before. At the hotel we got a city guide, which also listed many, many restaurants. Essan in her eternal quest for native / local cuisine went into the "Finnish cuisine" category and picked the one which was considered to be offering the best variety of food, "König Restaurant". A brief trip on the 7B tram and we were in the city center. With the help of the map straight to the restaurant. Flabbergasted Essan was standing in front of the praised location, while I was just giggling, saying that I really think eating twice in one day at the same restaurant was unnecessary. Not giving up, there were more choices, such as the acclaimed "Kosmos Restaurant". Which, as we found out about 20 walking minutes later, will reopen for business on July 28, or roughly 40 hours, after one month vacation. What's wrong with these Europeans? One month vacation? Look who's talking; but hey, I don't shut down an entire business during peak season!
Oh well, the next restaurant on the list - "Karljohan", is also praised, and it's only a few blocks away. While for the same reason, this establishment will be open for business a bit later, on August 1st. Let's say that frustration was noticeable on Essan's face, and a stop at the national "Hesburger" burger chain seemed to be as authentic as it may get tonight. Giving in on the "local" cuisine, we ended up at the "Ravintola Galleria Hariton Oy" Russian restaurant (now pick the part of the name which is actually the name...), which was displaying an appealing menu with reasonable prices.
Throughout my life I got to eat quite some Russian food, for obvious geographic reasons, so I was pleased with what this chef produced. Reindeer rolls with croquettes for me, some fish of course for Essan. While the food was great, the entertainment was better. On one side a Russian family with a boy playing with dinosaurs. There was a major war between T-Rex and Triceratops going on, again and again, between bites of food. The far more spectacular show was however happening in the distant corner of the restaurant, but still impossible to miss. A woman who looked and acted like she lived a life surrounded by servants and other "inferior" people was dining with a gentleman. The couple was sitting at a round 6-person table, equipped with two large candle holders (one of them taken from the neighboring table), and with her actions the lady filled the restaurant. Once she carried the empty plates herself to the kitchen, gesturing quite clearly that the waitresses aren't good enough for the task; other times she was leaning all over the table to feed her man, and to get little kisses on her cheek. Across a 6-person table. She was gesturing all the time quite wildly, and after the dinner she lit a cigar. My Russian isn't what it used to be anymore, but she was clearly the subject of simultaneous amusement and anger with the restaurant staff.