Unboxing Helsinki

Looking down on a half pink and green table, split vertically, where an arrangement of items have been placed neatly on top of it. On the table are a striped shirt, old-style Nokia phone, cinnamon bun, sports watch and coffee mug amongst a few other items.
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Children’s book author Linda Liukas discovers the surprising joys of Helsinki - in a box!

Homescreen Helsinki

Ever since the Covid19 pandemic started, the world shrunk. My life was contained in a few square kilometers up and down the coastline of Helsinki. Home, and especially the homescreen, became the primary way the world got mediated to me.

Sometime last spring I started to play the YouTube channel lofi hip hop radio. In it, an anime girl does her homework and gentle hip hop plays on an endless loop. There is a cat on the windowsill, a pair of scissors on the forefront. Sometimes it’s day, sometimes it’s night. She keeps studying, focused and at peace.

At any time, there are up to 50 000 co-listeners present and a lively discussion is happening in the chat. There are listeners from all over the world, asking for homework advice, recommendations for something to cook and sharing pandemic stories. Browsing the YouTube channel feels like visiting a tiny city, sharing a space with strangers.

Unboxing Helsinki

What does visiting a city mean? Before the pandemic, the answer was quite straightforward. You went somewhere, experienced something, maybe formed a memory, came back.

Now, it’s different. I can’t invite you to visit Helsinki, but I can offer a shared presence around a few of the core ideas of what I think make Helsinki a special place. Some of Helsinki’s best features can also fit in a box, as I recently found out when unboxing a sample package.

So let’s take a look!

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Perfect virtual Helsinki Day

If studying together can happen by gathering around a YouTube channel, visiting a city can probably too. My perfect virtual Helsinki day would look something like this:

1. Start by baking cinnamon buns and making a cup of strong coffee. The Swedes coined fika - but our pastries have the best names (these are called Korvapuusti, a slap on the ear!). More funny translations here.

2. MyHelsinki has put together a list of virtual visits to the Helsinki sights. If you find yourself already in Finland, check out these self-directed sculpture trails by HAM Helsinki (the bambi is my favourite!)

3. The new Tove Jansson movie is out now and shows some lovely, historic Helsinki sights. Pair with the Winter Book, which has twenty of her short stories, many of which take place in Helsinki.

4. Put your woolly socks on and play some Sibelius by Pekka Kuusisto and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Or, keep silent, the Finnish way.

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Children’s book author Linda Liukas discovers the surprising joys of Helsinki - in a box!