I spent the last week in Helsinki, Finland. Some observations:
1. First, I wouldn't recommend late December a time to visit Helsinki....it is pretty cold once you add the wind and the temperature together.....MINUS-6 C (21 degrees F).
2. If you ever go....utilize the train system under the airport, to get into the city. It doesn't matter if use the P-train or the I-train.....they both end up in Helsinki in 28-to-32 minutes. You can use the bus deal but it's almost the same amount of time and the cost is virtually the same.
3. The VAT (sales tax) is 23-percent. So don't get any fancy ideas about spending money on anything other than travel stuff or food.
4. I often use the McDonalds or Burger King index to compare things economically. Germany is typically 15-percent more expensive than the US on a double-whooper menu dinner. Helsinki? It's about 25-percent more expensive than Germany. I sat there one night and had an average pizza....paying 18.50 Euro (one-person pizza). So it's not cheap there.
5. At some point, in the midst of the chill....I said enough, and talked the wife into a 30-minute warm-up in a low-scale artsy coffee shop. Naturally, I need to go and relieve myself in their fine toilet. So I walk into this WC in a building that is probably 250 years old, and been renovated a couple of times. I walk up to the urinal and kinda discover that it's attached pretty high up on the wall....in fact...high enough that I'm having to lean into the wall and lift my shoes half an inch....to appropriately reach the "magic height". This made me question the standard height of Finn guys and if they are exceptionally tall or just built different.
6. Generally, about every third dish in Helsinki.....no matter where you go.....has reindeer meat listed. In fact, it was hard to find any pork dishes at all.
7. If you've never been to Stockmans in Helsinki....it is an amazing department store. A true walk-through of the store (at least seven stories) would take at least five hours. They claim there's nothing like it in Sweden, Norway, Finland or Denmark. It's very much built like Macys in NYC.
8. It didn't matter where you went in Helsinki....you felt safe. It's odd to bring up that topic in 2017 but you rarely feel that way in most cities of the world.
9. In the heart of Helsinki, there is this decade's old pool called Yrjönkadun Uimahalli. It's an indoor spa with a fair amount of history tied to it. Oddly enough, they decided years ago to make a rule change to the pool. Three days out of the week.....it's a male-only entry deal. Three days out of the week....it's a women-only entry deal. They don't have problems with guys standing around and acting goofy or doing immature stuff. After all the various issues that I've seen in Germany over the past couple of years, I'm of the mind that the Finns might have the solution on public pools.
10. Oddly, there are a fair number of tourists in Helsinki in this New Year's period....of which I think a quarter of them are Chinese. A decade ago? You never noticed any Chinese as you traveled around Europe. Today....it doesn't matter if you go to Heidelberg, or Berlin, or Helsinki.....you have Chinese tourists.
11. Finns had a big problem with folks drinking, and went through the US solution....the prohibition period, and came to discover the same issues....junking it in roughly fifteen years. Today, if you want to drink wine or beer.....it's fairly easy to procure or buy the stuff. Hard booze? It's a step harder and only at special stores....taxed at a hefty rate. If you walk around Helsinki, that's the one thing you notice....no drunks. I stood at a Christmas market "bar" and purchased a glog-drink, with a sign up saying that you could only drink the glog-drink within the "bar"....it could not be taken outside. They have some rules to prevent drunken behavior.
12. One of the odd things you noticed at the airport as you got ready to pick up your bags....there's this painted line on the floor around the conveyor belt.....about three feet away. They don't want you to stand near the conveyor belt as the bags come out....only to step forward if your bag comes along. Strangely enough....everyone does this in an orderly fashion and avoids pushing people around.
13. Migrants and immigrants. There just aren't that many. Occasionally, you might notice a few here and there, but I get the feeling that Finland isn't on the top ten list. Maybe it's the climate.
It's an interesting country. I admit.....maybe I should have gone in June or July, but it was worth the five days.