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Three score and ten or more

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Last Saturday








The Last Saturday.

I can't make blogger put the labels by the pictures, but the top one is our cottage in Isnas, next is the entrance to Meilahti (Helsinki University) hospital, the next is the Emergency Room Entrance at Porvoo hospital and the final one is the entrance to the Helsinki Mormon Temple.

We had discussed a lot of projects for today. Janet wanted to really do some Christmas shopping, especially for the grandchildren; she didn’t really remember anything about the wild trips to the hospitals, or even really about
Left, the Helsinki Mormon Temple entrance
the cabin where we stayed the first days in Finland. She also wanted to return to downtown Helsinki, about which she didn’t remember much, but she remembered a little. We finally decided to go to Porvoo, to see the cabin, to see the first hospital, and to shop around Old Porvoo (a restored and preserved section of Porvoo, which is the second oldest city in Finland) where, I told her, they had some wonderful shops.

I had not really paid attention to how quickly she tired. The road to Porvoo is about 54 kilometers and, with a 120 speed limit we got there rather quickly but she was almost exhausted by the time we arrived. The sight of Old Porvoo reinvigorated her, though I became a little discouraged when I looked at the narrow doors and many steps we would have to consider in getting her wheel chair up and down. I suggested that we go see the hospital, then drive out to see the cottage, then we could explore Old Porvoo on the way back. Janet and Alex, somewhat reluctantly, agreed.

I first drove down through the city, passing the tori (marketplace) and passing some of the architecture that is not included in the old city, but is really fascinating. As I returned, I took a wrong turn (of course) and ended up at a small parking lot at the dead end of the street. As we were entering the parking lot, Jan noticed a small jewelry and silver smith store at the end of the road. I parked the car, escorted Jan into her wheelchair and we went to the store. The store advertised Kalevela jewelry (jewelry based on the patterns in Finland’s national folk epoch collected by Elias Lenroot) in it’s window. We went to the display case, and before she was done, every piece of silver, bronze and gold Kalevela stuff had been brought out for display. They were a little shocked, but Jan had her list and took two of those and three of those etc. A young man behind the counter, not knowing I spoke Finnish, whispered to one of the girls “All of those”, “All”, she replied. He gulped, his eyes went wide and he began to ring up totals. Before we were done, they had begun discounting everything by about 20 percent, and the owner came out and presented us with stick pins of the Porvoo county emblem. For all of that, we got out of there for just over 300 Euros, which surprised me a lot. Alex had found a hand made leuku (a type of Finnish knife – Finnish steel is some of the best in the world—owners of Fiskar scissors know what I mean) that by itself cost well over 100 euros, but he chickened out before we left.

As we departed sharing mutual smiles with all, I got the car on the right road and we went to the hospital which was Jan’s first stop on the surgery road. I confess that it was a bit smaller than I remembered, but I took a picture or two. Jan didn’t remember it at all. Almost the first thing she really recognized was the big Volvo dealership on the outskirts of town. “There is the place where that young man taught you how to use the reverse gear on the other car.” She chirped with delight. (I wasn’t sure that this was the most important memory, but every bit helps.)

As we continued on this road the initial reaction was wonder that I had driven it at such speeds on the night of her attack. The second reaction was that it seemed long, and they all would have preferred to be at Old Porvoo looking through the antique shops. The scenery is beautiful, but it seemed that we had been there a long time. When we finally reached Isnas, memories began to come back to Jan as we passed the fire station then took more emphasis as she noted that it was the Kings Highway (I hope I have already talked about the Kings Highway before) where we had planned to travel for a hundred kilometers or so and retrace the route that the Swedish and Russian monarchs had used to transit southern Finland. Jan had some twinges that we had not been able to do it. As we turned up the road that led to the golf course by our cottage, she remembered some of the bus stops we had used to turn the car around before we could go in reverse, and we laughed anew as we came to a group of signs just before our turn off. Two of the signs are in Finnish (as they should be) but one anachronistic sign points off in the distance to “Honey Hollow”. Soon we came to the cottage, drove up close to it and reflected on the fact that the last time we had been there it was a beautiful red cottage surrounded by fall foliage, and now it was a beautiful red cottage with snow on the roof, and all around it.

We left rather quickly since there was a black car parked in the drive, and the inhabitants might wonder who was taking their pictures. Instead of returning the way we came, we drove up the Kings Highway to the intersection where we had left the “interstate”. (A side mention is that it is fun to drive up a road with a casual sign at it’s side “St. Petersburg 365 kilometers”) Even then, Jan regretted, with us all, that there was no time to take the drive. The connection at Highway 7 the Helsinki Highway was marked by a large Esso truck stop type place and two other large buildings which had been closed when we arrived. Since both were now open and surrounded with cars we decided to look inside. One was a candy company and souvenir factory story which wasn’t very impressive. The other was a large outlet which resembled, on the inside, a smallish Wal-Mart. When we looked closer it had a sign identifying it (I can’t translate this well) as “Robin Hood’s Center for Giving to the Poor”. It appeared to be, more or less, an outlet for overstocks and remainders etc. Big buses with Russian Names were parked in the lot, and bunches of people were rushing out (no pun intended) of the store with small appliances, new luggage, etc. The people exiting the busses were most notable by one of them, standing in a group of other passengers who was urinating in the parking lot. (I am not sure if this is a tradition with these folks, I doubt it, but no one seemed disturbed by it either).

We took the Helsinki Highway back to Porvoo and went immediately to the Old City where, after parking in a parking lot where I paid for three hours, we pushed Jan’s wheelchair down the street to discover that almost all of the stores were in the process of closing. Those that were not were either liquor stores or had several steps up to the door.

Janet and Alex proposed that I should go get the car, and come down and pick them up. Of course, to do this, I had to negotiate one-way streets and go away before I could come back. I finally just drove the wrong way up one narrow street, hoping not to meet traffic. I ended up at a turn-around spot near the cathedral, then went down the road to pick up Janet and Alex who had been standing (sitting in the wheelchair in the case of Janet) around in the cold for what seemed like a long time. I discovered that, in my absence, they had decided that it was dinner time, so they asked a number of the English speaking locals where was the best place to eat. They were told to go to the Cathedral. Assuming that it was a restaurant near the Cathedral, and since I had just come from there, I zipped them back up the hill. (This time using a one way road that was pointed in the appropriate direction.) When we go there Alex went up to the restaurant to check it out. He came back, reported that they were serving good Finnish food and that dinners started at about thirty euros per percent and went up from there. The problem was that there were about fifteen steps up to a courtyard and about a ten yard walk from there to the restaurant door. Jan had been walking up an down a few steps getting into and out of the house, and she decided that, with Alex supporting her, she could do that. It would be good to eat in a real Finnish restaurant before she went home. I left her and Alex at the base of the stair, and drove down the street about half a block to a parking place. When I walked back, Alex came down the stair shaking his head, and Jan was sitting on the top stair in tears. I helped Alex help her down then went back to get the car. They were still hungry when we got loaded back in the car, but decided to go back to the McDonalds, or the Esso truck stop at the edge of town and have a bite. I don’t exactly remember which we chose. Probably the Esso. I don’t mind McDonald’s generally, though eating there when you are in a foreign country seems weird, but the McDonalds I tried in Finland seemed to serve EVERYTHING swimming in Mayonnaise. It must be a Finnish favorite that I had never discovered. We then went back to Helsinki . We had planned to go on one of the secondary highways, but Jan was, by this time, pretty tired so we jumped on the expressway and took advantage of the 120 kilometer speed limits (really sounds fast till you do the math)

As we zipped down the thruway to the place where we were staying (just off Circle 3, the third circular bypass around Helsinki we approached the JUMBO Mall. (pronounced Youmbo by Finns) and offered to wheel Janet in for a moment just so that she could ride up the escalators that are designed for Shopping carts as well a feet. She declined, in part because we had told her about the malls. The Finns have taken the Mall experience to its extremes. Malls are usually three to six floors tall with networks of escalators and elevators, and everything from jewelry to groceries, frequently with two or three layers of parking below the stores. Think of the most manic mall you have ever been in the day before Christmas, and that is the average Finnish Mall on any given day.

We went back to the house, where Janet and I visited with our hosts and had a snack before bedtime, and Alex took the car and went out to photograph Helsinki after dark.

3 Comments:

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

I went to college in that area. Coldly beautiful, is the best way to describe it, I think.

Merry Christmas!

 
At 10:11 PM, Blogger Thotman said...

Richard send an email to thotman at hotmail...would love to send you something via email...thanks for your visits and for filling in the gaps about your experience in Finland...

 
At 3:25 PM, Blogger Norma said...

This week my husband finished a painting of those distinctive red buildings along the river in Porvoo. A lovely town we enjoyed very much.

 

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