Of long day's nights in Helsinki

I have made my way through the Roman airport, dearest readers, and onto Southern Italy* after spending just under 24 hours in Helsinki.

In my  jet-lagged daze I wandered around this lovely Finnish city. It was the mid-summer holiday weekend so the whole urban landscape was nearly vacated by residents. A slow, strange quiet hung over the neighborhoods through which we strolled. Only a few tourists and fewer locals roamed the main drags spiraling around the train station and along the water.

A combination of the weather (the wet clouds hung low and appeared nearly static–though they occasionally let loose a short burst of light rain), my lack of sleep and the very fact of being–for no real reason at al–in Helsinki when no one else seemed to be meant that everything I saw there had a bizarre patina–a kind of foggy halo.

Never have I so felt travel to be dream-like.

We sat in a cafe sipping hot cappuccino and peered out the huge picture windows at a chilly Market Square. We ferried out to an island off the coast and explored the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. I ate smoked salmon soup at a little cafe tucked near what looked to be a ship-building warehouse. We zigzagged around the cobble-stone streets near the cathedral, glimpsed the Russian Orthodox church, drank beers in an empty bar whose mid-century modern furniture and wood-paneled walls seemed incongruous with the Finnish hard-rock they were playing. When exhaustion finally won out, I made my way back to the hotel and collapsed into the heaviest sleep.

All of the strangeness of this journey was compounded by the fact that Helsinki, at this time of year, exists in nearly perpetual daylight. When I went to bed at 11 and when I awoke the following morning at 4:30 the same early-dusk light held the grey skies.

The other end of this particular summer foray into Europe will culminate, if all goes as planned, in 14 more hours in Helsinki. But I hesitate to return–I worry that it will be something like me as Orpheus, turning back to glimpse just once at what I fear is an imagined Eurydice.

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*Worry not. More on these adventures to come.



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