Helsinki, Finland

I spent a couple of nights in Helsinki, home of the 1952 Olympic games, and home of many of the kids I once called classmates. Although I did not enjoy a sauna in the city, I continued my tradition of much walking and sampling of peculiar dairy products. One of the yogurt-like concoctions (maito rahka) that I ate is apparently not generally consumed alone. It seemed like creamed ricotta and was tasty enough – if somewhat too thick to swallow in spoonfuls – and is typically mixed with veggies or spices to make some sort of dip for crackers or chips.

Helsinki had many pretty gardens – somewhat surprising given it’s northern latitude – and a long history of occupation by both Sweden and Russia, which I found particularly interesting. Perhaps it was Russia’s influence rather than Sweden’s that led to the alcohol pricing; beer, while still costly, was much less expensive than any of the other countries in Scandinavia.

My time in Helsinki was spent at the home of a fellow named Mikko, who I met through the CouchSurfing web site. I thought CouchSurfing was an interesting alternative to hostels because it is less costly. In addition to the price advantage, it also means you’re living with a local who – at least in my case – was eager to indulge my questions about the language and national history. The experience was a good one, and stood in contrast to my experience at hostels, which has been really terrific, but generally involves more alcohol fueled adventures and less learning.

In Helsinki, I enjoyed some delicious tarka dal, naan and jasmine rice. Spooning piles of spicy dal on to a mountain of rice filled me with fond memories of similar meals in New York/New Jersey with Saurabh and Malavika (who I am excited to see in December, when the current phase of my trip concludes). On to Tallinn.