Day 17, Helsinki, January 26th 2012

Tea 17:  OK, not Tea again, Hot Chocolate……, Valrhona Cafe, Kamp Galleria, Helsinki.

Apologies for the terrible photo, but my battery ran out straight after taking this one, so it’s the best you’re getting today!  And yes, it’s not tea, but hot chocolate, but maybe that can become a theme too…..once a week maybe?

So today I had a lazy morning, and then headed into town for about 2p.m.  I was going to visit a gallery I had picked up a flyer about, but when got there, luckily not too far from the station, it didn’t look all that appealing from the outside so I gave it a miss. Instead I headed back on myself then went back towards the old town.  Today was a slightly warmer feeling day than yesterday, possibly due to having put my long-johns on today….. So I decided to visit the part of town I had gotten a fleeting glimpse of yesterday, the old town and then on down to the seaside.  The buildings in old town are all very pretty, some looking quite medieval, whilst others have got an art deco feel to them.  One even looked as though Charles Rennie Mackinstosh could have had a hand in it’s design.  After pottering in and out of streets, window shopping in antique and shoe shops I headed further south to the sea.

The sea was a great sight, and it smelt like the sea too, which immediately made me happy.  I think that is one of the things I will miss most on my journey down through the balkans.  The icy tessellations were rippling up and down, rather mesmerizingly.  I headed across a frozen wooden bridge that lead to a small island, the wood creaking and crackling beneath my feet, somewhat unnervingly.  The tiny island was locked to the land by ice, and completely saturated by foot deep snow, making it tricky to navigate.  But reaching a small crest the extent of the ice could be seen and beyond the sea lapped about happily, making the ice ripple and wave up and down even more.  I stood and watched this rhythmic motion for ages, hypnotized by the movement.  My hands began to ache with the cold, bringing me back to my senses.  I wandered around this island a little longer, and across a sea defense barrier onto another tiny spot of land then headed back to the mainland.  I wandered through two majestic snow covered parks, my boots sinking deep into the soft, perfectly white snow, trying to warm my hands back up with sheer will but to no real avail.  I decided today was the day for visiting the chocolate shop I had seen a few days ago.

On my way back into the city centre I passed the Galleria Sculptor, on Eteläranta.  I decided to pop in, and was greeted by a show by Peter Svedberg, entitled My Cut.  He has created a number of mirror based scultures, sort of kaleidoscope type things and a fantastically simple, but perfectly executed illusion.  The pieces, initially simple looking, were actually quite complex and intriguing.  And, as I’ve said, executed extremely well.

I made it back to the small arcade of posh shops that constitute the KAMP Galleria shopping centre and headed for the chocolate shop, a Valrhona store.  I browsed through the various bars of chocolate and was convinced by one bar in-particular, the words ‘Floral and Oaky‘ doing most of the work, so bought that and ordered a hot chocolate.  I sat down and was brought a cup of delicious warm, velvety, rich hot chocolate.  The kind of hot chocolate that makes your cheeks tingle and a smile come to your face instantly.  There was no pomp, no cream, no fancy chocolate dribbles, just proper, excellent hot chocolate, smooth, with the perfect balance of sweetness and the edge of bitterness.  And served with a smile and a little square of chocolate and a glass of water, perfection.

After this delicious break in the day I wandered around town, back to the bookshop I had visited yesterday, sneakily read a few bits and bobs, about Nothingness, Wabi-Sabi, and about tea.  I then met Eeero at the station and we headed out to watch a performance at ‘Lanterna Magica’ called ‘Between Two Skies’, a collaborative performance and installation between Nanni Vapaavuori, Elina Lifländer and Leila Kourkia.  The performance was intriguing and the space was fascinating, starting in what looked and felt like an ancient abandoned basement, and turning into a hugely comprehensive secondhand bookshop, filled to the rafters with what has to be one of the best ranges of reading material I have seen for a long time.

After the performance we went to get some food, we went to the basement of one of the many shopping arcades and ended up in a little area that was again, like the place in Stockholm, reminiscent of a small scale Singapore style Hawker centre.  We got some food from Habibi, the Middle Eastern stall, though how middle eastern Goats Cheese on Chicken with chips is I do not know.  But it was tasty and filling, and reasonably cheap.  We ate and then jumped on the bus home, bumping off of snow piles on almost every corner we encountered, not to mention the roundabouts…..

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