To bear the title of the cleanest country in the world according to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a project developed by Yale University and Columbia University, Finland has proven itself to be really deserving of it. As I get used to seeing rubbish scattered everywhere, along with a pile of unrecycled material in every corner of the street, or a high level of air pollution, not to mention some bed (yes, it’s a bed, for sleeping on) or other strange object floating along our river in Indonesia, Finland was like some kind of heaven to my eyes.
I can’t say that Russia, where I live now, is dirty. It isn’t as dirty as Indonesia, for one thing, but I found it hard to find even small defects in Helsinki. I am a person that is quite hard to please. As a toddler, I learned to complain before I learned to walk. Thanks to my experiences in Indonesia, I have now become a master in complaining about anything that seems unsatisfactory. I do love grumbling, but believe me, deep within my heart, I won’t stop loving the things I am complaining about. So, it looks like I hate it, but I actually do no. I am just trying to find its weakness and show my love by telling them so they can be better in the future. This is a nice excuse for complaining.
My biggest complaint during my journey to Finland was my flight. Although the flight was pleasant during the first 30 minutes, it quickly turned into a real nightmare for an aviophob – as soon as our plane flew above Finland, it hit heavy turbulence. The plane started to shake and dance around, like a person dancing ecstatically at the discotheque. I remember grabbing my seat tightly and closing my eyes. I prayed to God and hoped the plane wouldn’t crash or something like that. That turbulence was the worst I had ever experienced. Then, we found out that we were flying on the same day that the storm was starting. A big strong storm. Congratulations!
One of the happiest moment in my life was finally landing on the runaway after a rough flight. My first impression of Finnish people was that they were extremely kind, polite, and helpful. The sign in the airport was clear enough to direct us to take the train into the city center. The ticket could be bought in the ticket terminal available on the platform. If you experience any problems, the officers are ready to help you with a big smile.
The train from the airport to the city center took around one and a half hours. As a real traveler and a cheapskate, we decided to reach our hotel by foot. That was a brilliant idea – not only could we stroll around and enjoy the city itself, but also save money on transportation.
The next sensational thing was when I found out that there weren’t so many tourists or even locals. I wondered where they were. They were working surely. In Indonesia, no matter how many people are at work at a given time, the city won’t ever be as ‘empty’ as it was in Finland. I guess Finland is not considered to be a tourist hot spot, except during the winter when it is frequented by skiers and snowboarders.
No matter how bad or strong the wind was, we always found some reason to go for a walk around the hotel. The good thing was, ours was located close to the harbor, only five minutes’ walk, and also not so far from Google’s version of sights to see. But, of course, that evening, we didn’t go sightseeing that much, only to Uspenski Cathedral, and then went straight to the supermarket, shopping for an assortment of local produce.
Talking about Uspenski Cathedral, it was a bit of a climb as it is set upon a hillside on the Katajanokka Peninsula overlooking the city. The wind blew hard as we tried to stand still in front of the cathedral. To be honest, that was my first encounter with a storm like that; we do have storms in Indonesia, but the wind isn’t as cold as this one. I felt as if the wind would blow me away or push me through the railing. The cathedral is Eastern Orthodox, and the exterior of the building reminded me of other cathedrals spread across Russia. No wonder, as the architect of the building was Russian – Alexey Gornostayev. There was no entrance fee for tourists.
view from the hill, right in front of Uspenski Cathedral
And how was Finland after a full day of storm?
According to the news, they had a really awful storm that destroyed some facilities and communications across most of Finland. The cruise that usually sails to Estonia or Sweden even had to stop operating for two days. What an experience to be welcomed by a storm on the first day of our holiday!