Helsinki has a size that fits – no need for something bigger.
When the author and news anchor Matti Rönkä moved to Helsinki to study in 1979, there was a festive mood in the air. "I arrived in the city wearing an army uniform, found my way to the Domus student campus from the train station, and stopped by the Anttila store in the city centre to buy some bed sheets." Rönkä had spent his childhood in Outokumpu, Northern Karelia. His arrival in the capital from Eastern Finland kicked off a long adventure as he did not know the city before and had only ever visited shortly twice before.
Rönkä's favourite sceneries are in the northern districts of the city: Tapanila, Malmi and Puistola. Rönkä has called Tapanila home for almost three decades already. "My lifestyle has adapted to this area. I have my exercise spots and sports facilities, a library, train connections and a pleasantly informal neighbourhood feeling."
The main character from Rönkä's crime novels, private detective Viktor Kärppä, is also a resident of Northern Helsinki. "Kärppä has an office in Hakaniemi but he lives in Tapanila. He also owns property in Tattarisuo, and an industrial space in Suutarila. My novels feel and taste of these blocks and landscapes," Rönkä shares.
Rönkä also enjoys the many historical layers of Tapanila. Other parts of Helsinki tend to also live through layers. "The city districts have been formed in a funny way. They are rebuilt and then different types of new generations move in. Of course I could long for an old block or a stretch of street, but this is what development looks like!"
Rönkä is not one to get excited about overflowing urbanism, or someone who wants it. "Helsinki is a city that does things in moderation – not too big and with no endless summer."
This is where I signed up as a student, and where I picked up my diploma. There was and still is a spirit of an unfaltering commitment to knowledge, and a celebration of culture. Nowadays I visit the building less, but fairly regularly a friend of mine will defend their dissertation there or give a lecture upon their retirement.
Back in the day, I used go to Tattarisuo area to look around for spare car parts at the scrap yards, as well as construction materials later on, at Helsingin Metalli ja Rauta (Helsinki's Metal and Iron), also known as the ‘poor man's Stockmann department store’. My favourite car shop Starcar System is there, managed by Erdal Karakaya, along with several small shops with all kinds of necessary knickknacks and services. I have also used Tattarisuo as a backdrop for many fictional events in my books.
Especially the new 'temporary' hall. My regular route includes the Lentävä Lehmä cheese shop, and after that Liperi for some pasties, and shredded ham from Kestoleike.
Tapanila has been my home village for almost 30 years. There is a scent of smoke and sawdust. The author Leena Krohn has said that Tapanila has houses inhabited by architects who would no longer design such houses for others. At the bakery Rönttösrouva, you can run into more actors and screenwriters than in Cannes.
A holy gathering for everyday sports culture. The immense space has a cohabiting mix of rugged weightlifters, tiny gymnast girls and diverse ball sports players. And a coating of historic dust, from the days of the old fair centre and Olympic boxing matches once held here.
The ski tracks running through the field by the river are my favourite of the lengthy ski tracks in Paloheinä. Such a luxury in the middle of the city. In sunny weather in early spring there are sometimes hundreds if not thousands of skiers, all smiling.
You can enjoy a long peaceful meal. The waiters don't trouble you with rehearsed speeches about spruce sap powder sprinkled on a lightly fried fillet of perch, but instead engage in half-teasing, friendly banter.
Formerly called 'Turkkilainen ravintola' [lit. 'Turkish restaurant], and with a location description as the 'old Teboil gas station'. I often have lunch at the many ethnic eateries found in the northern and eastern suburbs. This place has plenty of charming effort and lots of flavours. The starter buffet is plentiful and tasty, with salads decorated with cucumber and melon sculptures.