Thursday, September 04, 2008

Of Helsinki

Traveling here in Europe is a bit different from traveling in Guatemala. There, we would wander off on some weekend trip and find some modest-sized town with some colorful local flavor and surely something odd to spice things up. In Europe, on the other hand, we travel for a few hours, and we're in a relatively important world capital that has its own local charm to be sure, but is also in some respects a lot like developed cities all over. That's only sort of a complaint.

We had a fabulous time in Helsinki. It felt almost like America, which can surely only be true in comparison to Latvia, and is mostly meant as a compliment, however the Finns might take it. Of course it was very Nordic, with bike lanes everywhere and cool inventive architecture and blondes in every direction. But there was also, on the surface, more racial diversity than Latvia, and better stores and bars and coffee shops. They may be a bunch of socialists, but they were never communist subjects, so they just seem to get the kind of capitalism that makes us feel at home. Or maybe, it's just that when some minor consumer inconvenience arises in Latvia, we instantly think "these poor people, recovering from Soviet oppression. They just don't know how things should work," when the same problem could easily happen in the U.S. and would have us asking to see the manager. (Well, maybe some of us. I don't think I've ever asked to see a manager in my life. I don't want to meet the manager; I only talk with the waiter because sometimes I'm too lazy to cook. Maybe that's what set my course for foreign living.)

Anyway, the picture above is taken from the top of a church in Helsinki. No, really. More next time.

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