When I walk through Itis (Itäkeskus), so many good things come to my mind. I see childhood faces, former crushes, friends… Itis is my Helsinki.
It is hard to believe while taking a stroll through Itäkeskus that cattle was grazed and cabbages grown here as recently as the 60s. Nowadays, the area by the Itäväylä highway houses Itis, one of the biggest shopping centres in the Nordic countries, along with the new mall Easton and a selection of hypermarkets and supermarkets. Itäkeskus has grown into an essential shopping district since the 1970s. It was also the last stop on Helsinki's original metro line.
The landmark of the area is the 19-storey Helmitorni ('Pearl Tower'). Originally built as an office tower, Helmitorni has since been converted into a residential complex.
The diverse neighbourhoods sprouting from Itäkeskus include Puotinharju on the other side of the road with its vintage shopping mall Puhos – also the biggest in the north when it was completed. The Puhos of today houses many immigrant-run restaurants, tea rooms, and grocery shops.
The cultural centre Stoa is found right beside Puhos. St Matthew's Church shares the same block with Stoa, and the adjacent Puhos houses a Muslim prayer room. Itäkeskus underground swimming hall is found only a few steps away.
The first buildings in Puotinharju were mostly high-standing element houses erected in the 60s. Between them, a view opens around East Helsinki from the rugged rocks.
On the southern side of the Itäväylä highway, the district of Marjaniemi is known for its maritime feeling and many individual houses. During the prohibition, the area functioned as a smuggling hub. Today, boats and canoes are a common sight in broad daylight. In summer, the beach at Marjaniemi is dotted with sunbathers and in winter, tour skaters on the ice between Itäkeskus and Marjaniemi form a vintage vignette.
For more than 70 years, the Marjaniemi Community Garden a.k.a. Marjis has been home to plot gardening, many kinds of events, and a public sauna.