Helsinki is big enough for an introvert like me to find my own peace. Here everyone can participate in their community as much as they want and are able to.
For the musician Aleksi Pahkala, the best thing about Helsinki is its suitable size and untouched beaches. Those are the bits of coast that he often runs along. "Helsinki has 130 kilometres of shoreline. I like the fact that it is not all built up and developed."
Pahkala grew up in the Vantaa suburb of Rajatorppa in the 1970s but often rode the bus number 362 into Helsinki to spend his allowance at the Fennica and Oskun Divari record shops. He moved to the capital right away when it became possible. "Helsinki felt more free and open than Vantaa. Streel-level shops, culture, record stores, clubs, and more people like myself." Selling and buying records also became a profession for Pahkala later on. He worked for years at the legendary Stupido Shop record store on the central pedestrian street Iso Roobertinkatu. Community was at the heart of the job. "I was like a bartender without booze at the check-out. Titles didn't exist and any customer walking in could have been a perfectly ordinary guy or a millionaire. We discussed any and all topics, from family troubles to world politics and music."
"Brick-and-mortar shop culture needs to be nurtured"
Today, Pahkala is head of the All That Plazz record label, and also works as a musician and presenter. He hopes that brick-and-mortar culture will not be wiped out due to high rents and the Internet, and instead lives on also in the future. "Small local streetside shops and services are gems that are important for the community. We should nurture this type of culture."
Pahkala refers to himself as an "on-off human rights activist". He has participated in the organisation of large-scale anti-racism demonstrations. "Community is really important for Helsinki. If difference is not accepted and if people feel that they do not belong here, we are diving into a very deep end with no return."
Pahkala thinks that doing things together and understanding other people are all part of Helsinki. He feels that the whole country has work to do in the equal treatment of all people.
"There is still a large group of people who struggle to make ends meet. Such items should not be out of sight and out of mind. They should be something to discuss in a more open manner amongst people in different societal positions."
Profession: Musician, journalist, human rights activist
Lives in: Töölö
What you didn't know about me: "We used to glue posters on electricity boxes all over the streets in the 1990s with Wallu Valpio, even if it was illegal at the time. I still like to go around furtively glueing posters and posting stickers on all kinds of grey surfaces."
This pizza place has super pizzas by top chefs, and they play a mix of sleazy punk, sometimes rock, sometimes rap. It's rare that there is such a range of music but no attempt to please everyone. The pizza is the best in the world.
I tend to find a lot of treasures in this record store that I previously missed. They have lots of music that for some reason has not reached collector prices, such as 1990s Finnish indie. A great place for tourists to make good finds.
The bookstore Nide is a giant gold nugget, one of Helsinki's finest streetside shops. It's worth asking for tips at the counter.
As a former resident of the same street, I am happy that the McDonald's was replaced by one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the world. Yes Yes Yes is a mind-blowing venue, even in global comparison.
When the Radio Helsinki studio was located at the Abattoir for a while, I followed closely the area's first steps to becoming an urban oasis. There are terrific places to eat and drink, such as the Helsinki Distillery Bar, B-Side Bar, B-Smokery, the Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo café, the Jädelino ice cream shop, and more. The Abattoir is an area that I wish would bloom even more wildly.
The corner café and Italian deli hosts a canopy kiosk at the Tove Jansson Park in Katajanokka. The venue combines a great community vibe with a nice rough-around-the-edges attitude. Sometimes there are secret parties where everyone is invited, no matter who they are or where they are from.
One of Helsinki's best coffee roasters and cafés. Latin America and Finland meet in a fine way. An amazing place.
A lovely sister restaurant to the classic Bar No. 9. Harju 8 is part of the new restaurant scene in the Kallio district. It's a great place for hanging out. The summertime terrace is super nice.
Common is a lovely small Japanese-style interior shop by Viiskulma in the southern downtown area. You can find lots of great items there from woolly socks to plates and magazines.