The night between October 27th, 2019 and April 3rd, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night.
. . .

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Helsinki: The beautiful heart of Finland

Helsinki: The beautiful heart of Finland
By Susan Fourtané
Published on
March 2010

Getting to know the heart of Finland means discovering what really matters in Helsinki: Its wondrous nature.

The best way to see and experience Helsinki is to do it from the sea. A sightseeing cruise to the islands around Helsinki is a ‘must’ when visiting the Daughter of the Baltic. A unique archipelago of three hundred green islands surrounds the city center. A Nordic Lunch Buffet on board in a relaxed environment can make the experience even more memorable.

The historical island fortress of Suomenlinna has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Dating from 1748, Suomenlinna offers a variety of cultural events being the home of many local and international artists. Suomenlinna is a wonderful place to spend the day exploring the island, visiting the picturesque cafés and restaurants without forgetting a visit to an old WWII-era submarine in dry-dock.

Many important things in the Finnish culture begin with an ‘S’: Sibelius, salmiakki, sisu and sauna. Finnish sauna is an essential part in the life of the Finns, and Finland is the only place in the world that offers a proper and real Finnish sauna. Don’t skip the unique chance to have a Sauna Ship experience.

A bungee jump and picnic in Kaivopuisto is a magnificent combination for giving your adventurous side a quote of adrenaline followed by a traditional summer picnic in Helsinki’s most famous park. Kaivopuisto’s cliffs offer astonishing views of the city and archipelago. Across the road that lines the shore is the popular Café Ursula.

Both Esplanadi and Bulevardi are elegant streets for a walking tour stopping at one or two cafés for a coffee and “pulla” and do a little Finnish design shopping in famous stores like Marimekko.

Helsinki offers beauty, a wide range of activities and festivals in all its four seasons. For me it is hard to tell which one I prefer. Nevertheless, I haven’t seen a more beautiful summer than the Finnish summer anywhere in the world. The days around the Finnish Midsummer are simply full of a unique, enchanting magic that culminates with the Midnight Sun during the Summer Solstice.

Cultural Note

The other three important S words in Finland:

Sisu: is a unique Finnish concept that cannot be fully translated into English. It could be explained as a special strength and determination to continue when someone else would have given up. Sisu has been called by The New York Times as “the word that explains Finland”, and the Finns’ “favorite word” – “the most wonderful of all their words.” During the famous Winter War of 1939-1940, the Finnish perseverance in the face of the invasion by the Soviet Union popularized this word in English for a generation, in what might have been the first use of sisu in the English language, on January 8, 1940

: is a Finnish candy that Finns are crazy for –and only a few foreigners who live in Finalnd, like me, too. Fazer’s Salmiakki was first marketed by them in 1939. The Salmiakki candies are traditionallyrhomb-shaped (to the extent that “salmiakki” also means a rhomb shape in Finnish.) Super Salmiakki candies are round and flat, but have rhomb pattern imprinted on them. Finland even has a society of Salmiakki lovers (Suomen Salmiakkiyhdistys Ry).

Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish composer of the later Romantic period whose music played an important role in the formation of the Finnish national identity. Finlandia, composed in 1899, is one of his most well known and beautifully emotive pieces.

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Bluffing beauty

Drizzle, sprinkle, mizzle
Cheesecake, apple pie and a whistle
White tea in the orange tea cup
A daffodil, a daisy, a dream
One is not enough if not a bluffing beauty
But an illusion forgotten in the sea of green.

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New designs on city life


AgriPuncture Greenhouse by Dylan Kwok. Photo by Dylan Kwok.


The world is rapidly evolving. In an era of social networking, environmental changes, massive overflow of information, people are constantly challenged to use and adapt to their surroundings in myriad new ways.

The visions of the spatial design degree students of the University of Art and Design Helsinki clearly expose ideas which concern real innovations in the city space. Can they succeed in inspiring public interest in developing their own city?

The exhibition What if . . .?, supported by The University of Art and Design Helsinki, Laitilan Wirvoitusjuomatehdas Oy and the Korean Student Association showcases some responses to this challenge.

Dylan Kwon, for example, outlines a strategy for reinvigorating older areas of downtown Helsinki by introducing small green space into urban courtyards to support a new sustainable lifestyle. In Dong Uk Lee’s vision, Hakaniemi Market Square would evolve into a futuristic urban space promoting social life in innovative ways.

What if . . . ?
Narinkka 2, Helsinki
Until 24 October

First published in the Helsinki Times on October 22nd, 2009.

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The art and tradition of swordsmanship


A brave knight in heavy armor, Highland Scots and medieval castles is what
probably comes to our mind when we first hear of The School of European
Swordsmanship in Helsinki.

Guy Windsor (left) and Ilkka Hartikainen Photo by Matti Hartikainen

Guy Windsor (left) and Ilkka Hartikainen Photo by Matti Hartikainen

A brave knight in heavy armor, Highland Scots and medieval castles is what
probably comes to our mind when we first hear of The School of European
Swordsmanship in Helsinki.

GUY WINDSOR, author of The Swordsman’s Companion and The Duellist’s
Companion, founded the school in March 2001 under the principle that the
practice of historical martial arts is good for the mind, body and soul.
The success of the school and the fast increase in the number of students
in Helsinki gave rise to the opening of five branches in Finland and
sister schools in Sweden and Singapore. The school offers training and
research, hosts seminars by visiting instructors in western martial arts,
and presents free demonstrations.

Helsinki Times: What was it like to start this non-traditional kind of
business in Finland?
Guy Windsor: Lots of paper work and red tape. It happened that I was the
right kind of foreigner- Finns are used to importing specialists, so I got
the benefit of the doubt. It was relatively easy except for finding an
accountant who speaks English.
HT: How did the idea of starting a school in Helsinki develop?
GW: I was working as an antique restorater in Edinburgh, which was making
me miserable. I thought I had two options, either move to the United
States or stay. Then it hit me: move to Helsinki and open a school. So I
HT: Are there different courses or there is only one type of course?
GW: After the beginners’ course, students usually continue with basic
training in medieval foot combat, before adding other stylesm such as
HT: How long does it take to achieve a good level of practice?
GW: It depends on the student, and how much they practice. I’ve been
training since 1986, and still have a long way to go.
HT: What kind of background has someone who wants to learn
European Swordsmanship?
GW: We have different sorts of people, from tax experts to journalists and
history students, united by a common interest in swords.

Guy Windsor learned from his grandfather, Dr Hector Apergis, the most important skill: extension first! Photo by Ilkka Hartikainen

Guy Windsor learned from his grandfather, Dr Hector Apergis, the most important skill: extension first! Photo by Ilkka Hartikainen

The regular 90 minute practice with the longsword includes five basic
drills, taken from an Italian Swordsmanship Treatise from 1409, Fiore
battaglia by Fiore dei Liberi. The classes are usually of mixed levels,
where the more advanced help the others through their own experience. This
helps the seniors with their understanding of the material, and boosts the
After the practice, I had a chance to speak with the students and learn
more about this fascinating discipline. Johanna Rytkönen told me she
enjoyed reading every fantasy book she could find in the library, so it
was easy to be lured by the magic of seeing herself mastering the sword.

HT: What motivated you to come to the school?
Johanna Rytkönen: When I was sixteen I saw a demo in a Middle Ages
Festival. That was six years ago. I joined the school and since then I’ve
been practising, with some breaks. Now I want to try back word, (a
one-hand sword). The practice gives me a secure feeling, something for not
being afraid when I walk alone in the dark streets.

The School of European Swordsmanship
Luiskatie 8, 00770 Helsinki
Beginner’s course starts on 6 October

Published first in the Helsinki Times on October 1st, 2009

Posted in Helsinki Times, Interview with . . ., Published Articles | 1 Comment

Poetry & Jazz and the autumn leaves

Joel Holmberg

Joel Holmberg

Poetical words and musical notes come along with the colourful autumn leaves in Helsinki. Theatre director, writer and poet Joel Holmberg had a word with the Helsinki Times on this autumn’s Threats of Poetry & Jazz Issued.

Helsinki Times: What’s the story behind the theme?

Joel Holmberg: At our initial meeting, everything is read aloud for the first time. I, as the director, listen very carefully and choose the best things. I also time everything to see that it fits into a one hour programme. Then I, along with everyone else, try to see if there is a common theme – or at least something which can be nudged into the major theme. We sometimes come up with several suggestions, but often at least one of us, usually Zoë Chandler, hears a common theme. This time, Lives and Deaths came up after hearing everything.

HT: Are the poets/writers performing original pieces?

JH: An invitation is sent out via FinnBritPlayers for anyone who is interested in performing should come to that initial meeting. Original material is preferred, but also acceptable is material by other people with their specific consent, or works in the public domain. The latter usually means the author has been dead for at least 70 years.

HT: Tell us about the backstage of this already classic event.

JH: I began the series in 200l with 2 performances per year – spring and autumn. It was initially in Café Engel, but we have moved over to Arkadia International Bookshop. The performer is completely alone facing the audience on floor-level with no one to fill in any mistakes or blank moments. My job includes making sure people speak clearly and not too rapidly so that everyone can understand – this is very important since many of the audience are not native English language speakers. What is wonderful is the variety of poetry, stories or dialogues.
If a writer doesn’t have the confidence to perform, but would like his/her piece to be heard, then I must determine who would be willing to perform it. This time around there is a new person who has never performed, but has some lovely poems. Because she is a bright and positive person, I spent extra time coaching her performance.

HT: How does the clarinet music fit within the performances?

JH: The clarinettist, John Millar, has been a standby for many of the performances. He is a classically trained musician and excellent with improvisation. He creates the proper mood for each piece. His major job is to keep the flow of the program moving so that there are no blank spots. He also has a solo piece in the programme. A word about the word Jazz: It is an overall word encompassing many styles. For the most part it has not been the driving, heavily rhythmic type which is often associated with jazz. It is more like the music of one of my favourite jazz musicians, Errol Garner.

HT: How would you summarize the programme?

JH: All programmes have had a great deal of feeling, which can extend from gloomy to joyful and humorous. There are pieces which internalize and others which observe and experience that observation. The audience is always very attentive.

Threats of Poetry & Jazz Issued
17 & 24 Sept at 19:00
Arkadia International Bookshop
Pohjoinen Hesperiankatu 9, Helsinki
Free entry

Image – Susan Fourtané

First published in the Helsnki Times on September 24th

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Planting trees for peace

Primary school students planting olive trees in Iraq with the help of volunteers. The plan is for each student to care for his or her own tree.

Primary school students planting olive trees in Iraq with the help of volunteers. The plan is for each student to care for his or her own tree.

ENO Environment Online started as a global virtual school for sustainable development in 2000. Based in Joensuu, Finland, it has received funding from the National Board of Education and has rapidly grown globally.

FOUNDED AND DIRECTED by Mika Vanhanen, the ENO Programme aims to plant 100 million trees by 2017. Schools in more than one hundred countries have taken part in Climate Change Campaigns. In 2009 cities were invited to join the programme. On 21 September at noon, celebrating the International Day of Peace established by the United Nations in 1981, around three thousand schools worldwide will plant trees in a call for global unity, a sustainable planet and world peace while radio stations play Imagine, by John Lennon.

Helsinki Times: What is the main goal of the ENO program?

Mika Vanhanen: To spread awareness about environment and encourage learners to work for their environment and sustainability.

HT: What is the impact of ENO Tree Planting in climate change?

MV: We have had three big campaigns; children have raised the issue locally, challenging people to do something to reduce the effect of climate change.
When planting trees they are doing some concrete deeds as trees tie carbon dioxide.

HT: Do you think the children of the world can make a difference by making leaders wake up to the reality of our planet?

MV: Yes, but not alone. Children can challenge people locally and globally. They can keep on reminding adults to prioritise environmental problems. It is said that It takes a village to raise a child, but we see it vice versa: It takes a child to raise a village when it’s about the importance of the environment.

ENO Programme

Image – Tero Koski

First published in the Helsinki Times on September 24th, 2009.

Posted in Helsinki Times, Interview with . . . | 1 Comment