Saturday 2nd March – Helsinki
I was re-joined in Helsinki by my partner Chris which was very lovely and after settling into our Airbnb we even managed to find a Finnish restaurant, The Sea Horse for dinner, which is a rarity.
Once again the blue skies were following me so we were able to explore the seaside of Helsinki and the ice on the beach, a first for me.
Kaarin Taipale recommended Edberg Cafe as our Helsinki gathering point as it is one of the oldest cafes in town, founded in 1852. So perhaps Harry would have visited it on one of his trips here. She also advised I book which was lucky as is particularly busy at weekends.
There are probably rarely more than two Finns at any one time in the New York I-House so the numbers of alumni are small and many of them also live outside Finland, so I was very happy to have Anna-Maija Lindholm and Kaarin agree to meet me. I was especially touched as Anna-Maija and her husband Pekka (who has now been to so many I-House events and stayed there many times that he really is an honorary resident) delayed their trip to Spain to escape the Finnish winter so they could meet me.
Kaarin and Anna-Maija’s have both been long term I-House supporters and members of the World Council of Alumni but had never met before. Both had lots of memories of creating new international friends and developing new interests. For Anna-Maija, it was the many contemporary dance performances, that she attended with a fellow resident who was studying dance notation.
The Ekberg waitress was very helpful and offered to bring dishes for the candles to sit on and provided very smart Ekberg matches in a good old fashioned box.
My library quest in Helsinki continued to be interesting as Oodi the Helsinki Central Library only opened in December and it is an amazing space. The whole 2nd floor is devoted to meeting and working space along with the provision of other resources such as sewing machines, 3D printers, poster plotters or computer gaming rooms, which the locals can use.
There was a more limited selection of digitised newspapers and they only run up to 1950 so sadly no opportunity to look for Harry’s 1966 trip, but the librarian did find an article from 1928 about the New York House referring to the Cosmopolitan Club which was the club Harry and Cleveland Dodge started in 1910 after Harry met the Chinese student.
Saint Lucia Day at I-House – Anna-Maija Lindholm – In December Finns and other Scandinavian countries celebrate St Lucia Day. Whilst at the House Anna-Maija and the other Scandinavians decided to put on a St Lucia celebration. A suitably blond lady of the group was chosen as St Lucia and dressed accordingly with the headdress of real candles and her court of ladies were dressed in white sheets to escort her to the gathering. They started singing, accompanied by Anders Paulsson (see my Swedish Post), at the top of the grand staircase and with the enclosed acoustic sounded wonderful. They had also made Glögi, which is the Finnish version of mulled wine, which not only includes wine but often Vodka or other spirits to give it a greater kick. It seems that this batch had definitely been given the extra kick as Anna-Maija recalls those not aware of its potential strength, getting drunk very quickly! Anna-Maija was also the donor of the Finnish flag to the House as there was not one before she arrived.
The Wrong Bus – Kaarin Taipale – Kaarin recalled being out in the winter coming back to the House from down town and realising too late that she had managed to get onto an Express bus that went sailing past the House and into the areas that were a definite no go in those days. Kaarin recalls being in a very distraught and tearful state and not knowing where she was when suddenly a police car appeared as if by magic and she was rescued!