First excursion from Helsinki

June 7, 2015

After last week’s fiasco post, I needed to do something different this week, (even though I, again, spent some crazy amount of time in front of twitch).

Anyway, I had a dream this week that I was in Hanko, the most southern city in Finland, and seeing as we now live in Helsinki, getting there is pretty easy. So when I woke up I decided to go there during the weekend. You can either go by train, which takes about 2 hours, or by car, which takes about 1 and a half hour. Paulina had to work both Saturday and Sunday, so my initial plan was to take the train, go there by myself and just spend the day there. But when I told Paulina about my idea, she really wanted to join up, so the plan was slightly changed, we decided to go after her shift, which ended at 3 PM, there would be less time in Hanko, but on the other hand, Paulina would get to go as well.

Herman recently moved to Helsinki, and he’s worked as a barber for a couple of years, and he did me a favor and gave me a haircut earlier in the week. It was probably the best haircut I’ve gotten, since I could continue watch twitch while he fixed my hair. Anyway, he’s also very interested in theater, and there was going to be a theater event in Hanko this weekend as well. Apparently he had too been thinking about going, but decided not to, but since we were heading there, he changed his mind, which meant we’d go by car.

rainy_weather

We had some minor hiccups when driving there, like for example, running out of oil. It’s interesting that there’s lots of gas stations when you don’t need them, but once you’re in desperate need for one, they are nowhere to be found. Luckily the car didn’t break down and we were able to find a shop selling oil and we were happily on our way again. The road to Hanko isn’t that interesting, it mostly just country roads, but with a kind of wavy land, so it’s not as boring as Ostrobothnia with it’s flat lands.

There’s also a fair bit of animals on the roads here in Finland, so the chance of hitting an elk or deer is quite high. A matter of fact, on our way back from Hanko we were actually just seconds from hitting a deer, but thanks to Herman’s quick reaction we were able to stop the car just meters from the deer. I was actually watching twitch on my phone at the time, and as the car came to an abrupt stop, I glanced up, saw the deer, and then continued watching the stream.

Hanko_church_and_water_tower
Hanko church and water tower.

We arrived in Hangö around 5 PM, we had a lunch stop earlier during the trip, which meant we were a bit late. Our first stop was “De Fyra Vindarnas Hus” (The House of the Four Winds), which is a restaurant placed on a small peninsula. The restaurant is quite famous because during a brief period of time it was owned by C.G.E. Mannerheim.

It’s kind of part of the ritual to head out to the restaurant each time you visit. The last couple of times I’ve been there it’s been closed, and apparently, Paulina’s never been there when it’s been open for business, so I guess we hit some luck this time around, because they were actually serving customers.

Paulina_Hanko
Paulina being happy about getting coffee

I gave Paulina and Herman a quick tour of Hanko, driving around, showing the main attractions of the city before dropping them off at the theater. As they enjoyed the show, I went over to my grandmother’s house, which is now my uncle’s house, I spent an hour there drinking coffee with my uncle (who spends his summers there) and just talking.

Since we got to Hanko so late in the afternoon, and Paulina had to go to work the next morning, we had to work as quickly as possible to get in as much of Hanko as possible in the small amount of time we had. My favorite place as a child in Hanko was Parkbergen (you could translate it to “park mountains”, but in reality it’s just a peninsula with a bit of forest in it, no mountains, but a lot of cliffs and rocks).

finnish_archipelago

Even though Hanko is an exceptional city during the summer, and especially when the sun is shining (with it’s coastline of 130 km, 30 km is sandy beaches) I’m really glad that we got there when the sky was cloudy. There’s something special with standing on windy cliffs, hearing the sea and getting all of the fresh air.

I wish I would’ve had more time to spend on the cliffs, most of my pictures were basically run and gun, since I wanted to see as much as possible, and didn’t have time to focus as much on the pictures as I should’ve.

finnish_archipelago2

As we drove around the city, I noticed that a lot of the buildings aren’t really being taken care off, it’s a bit sad really, as Hanko has a lot of history, but on the other hand, a lot of small cities are disappearing when young people move away to larger cities. In Hanko’s case I’d bet most of the people move to Helsinki, while rich people from Helsinki buy summer houses in Hanko, which means that even though the city has a somewhat large population during the summer, they don’t have enough tax payers to actually take care of all the infrastructure, and since there’s a lot of people here during the summers, they can’t downsize the city either. Note though that all of this is just speculation, I have no idea about the current financial situation of Hanko, it’s all just non-qualified guesses.

cliff_swimming_hanko_finland
It’s still pretty early in the summer here in Finland, so the water is still kind of cold. As we stood one of the beaches, I noticed this older gentleman getting ready to take a dip.

Even though we didn’t get a lot of time actually enjoying the city this time, I’m already dead set on going back a bit later in the summer. And now since I’ve gotten the rugged weather treatment, I’m hoping for some sun the next time we’ll go. And actually get some time exploring more of the city and taking more pictures of other things than the sea. (I ended up with probably 50 pictures containing nothing but rock and water).

And maybe, just maybe, get out in the water for swim, but we’ll see, the water never gets really warm here since it’s directly connected with the baltic sea.

beach_changing_room
One of the iconic dressing rooms that are scattered around the beaches in Hanko.

Even though the visit was briefer than I had hoped, I’m pretty glad I didn’t go alone as I had first planned. I dumped a bunch of pictures in a Flickr album, go check it out.

If you ever visit the southern parts of Finland, I really recommend going to Hanko, just do it during the summer months, during the winter everything’s pretty dead here, and not worth the trip.

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