Metropolitan Times 1/2023

Page 1

philosophy for young and old
to take a sauna
Page 10 Summer follies Page 14 The right way
leenA PArkkinen Clean sheets and bullfights
leave this magazine for the next guest –thank you!
Page 20 International
art meets
the treasure island of art Page 23 A

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Metropolitan Times Magazine for Visitors

Issue 1/2023


ISSN 2489-2688 (print)

ISSN 2669-8277 (online)

Published by Mobile-Kustannus Oy

Brahenkatu 14 D 94

FI-20100 Turku, Finland


Welcome to the Metropolitan area 8 Moomin philosophy for young and old 10 Summer follies 14

Map of metropolitan area 16

Hotels providing Metropolitan Times 18

The right way to take a sauna 20

International contemporary art meets unique nature on the treasure island of art 23

Putin’s critic 26

Clean sheets and bullfights – Column by Leena Parkkinen 28

Editor in chief Roope Lipasti


Teemu Jaakonkoski

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Raimo Kurki

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Cover photos Helsinki Pride.

Photo: Mika Ruusunen / City of Helsinki

Playing with a dog.

Photo: Michelle Ketter / Boksi

Dance House Helsinki.

Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo / Helsinki Partners Eira district.

Photo: Skyproduction / City of Helsinki

Leena Parkkinen.

Photo: Jonne Räsänen / Otava

Metropolitan Times map application for mobile phones and tablets: The magazine is available in selected hotel rooms and lobbies in Espoo-Helsinki-Vantaa metropolitan area
pages 16–17 and 18). Next issue will be out in November 2023.
design & layout Petteri Mero Mainostoimisto Knok Oy
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23 10 26 14 © m oomin c h A r A cters™ 6

Korkeasaari Zoo

Korkeasaari Zoo is uniquely located on an island in the Baltic Sea. It’s just outside the city, you can literally see the Helsinki Cathedral from the zoo. It takes only 20 minutes to get here by local bus (no 16) from the Railway Station or a ferry from the Market Square during summer. Meet animals from the Himalayas, Siberia, Mongolia, Finland and the Asian rainforest – more than 150 species in total – while enjoying the silence and peace of the Finnish nature surrounding you.

Animals who are not afraid of cold

It is not a coincidence that the snow leopard’s only bare spot is the tip of its nose or that the snowy owl is white and fluffy. Animals have their ways to adapt to cold climates. At Korkeasaari Zoo we want our large animals to enjoy outdoor life throughout the year. Therefore, instead of seeing a giraffe or a hippo, you will see a wolverine, a forest reindeer, an Amur tiger and a Bactrian camel – all species adapted to extreme winter. On a windy day, follow suit from the animals and dress warmly. If it gets too chilly, take refuge in the warm tropical houses.

To visit Korkeasaari Zoo is to act for nature

Our mission is to conserve biodiversity. We want our visitors to value the importance of biodiversity and aim to motivate behavior change for conservation. In cooperation with other modern zoos, we breed endangered species to maintain a healthy and viable zoo population. Zoo populations have already saved various species from extinction. In order to support our mission in protecting wild animals and their natural habitats, we donate annually to various field conservation projects. Bring your coins and donate to the project of your choice. By visiting Korkeasaari Zoo, you support our work as defenders of biodiversity and endangered species.

From zoos to the wild

Do you know what European bison, bearded vulture, European forest reindeer and Przewalski´s wild horse have in common? All these species have been lost from the wild locally or globally, and brought back from extinction with the help of zoos, Korkeasaari Zoo among them.

Korkeasaari Zoo is open all year round daily from 10 am. There are restaurants and kiosks on the island, or you can bring your own food and have a picnic. You’ll find a free map at the entrance to guide you through your visit.
– near the city but far from the rush

Welcome to the Metropolitan area

Urban culture and experiences in nature!

Located just a metro ride away, Espoo is a vital city, offering each and every one interesting things to see and experience.

Espoo has a lot to offer for those craving culture: visit a fascinating museum in Exhibition Centre WeeGee or participate in one of our city’s many events.

Large natural areas are characteristic of Espoo: seashores, the archipelago, the wilderness in nature reserves and the waterways of the lake highlands. The cultural landscapes, constructed environments and natural areas of Espoo are like Finland in miniature.

The special feature of Espoo is an urban structure that relies on five different centres. All of them along the railway or the metro line.

Espoo is growing fast, and the growth is focused strongly around the metro stations. Espoo has twice been ranked as the most ecologically, economically, socially and culturally sustainable city in Europe. We have also been invited to act as one of the pioneering cities implementing the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in cooperation with Aalto University and companies. We want to ensure that our city will grow in a manner that will provide future generations with equal or better living conditions than those enjoyed by us.

Welcome to Espoo!

Dear reader,

Warm welcome to Helsinki! You have made an excellent choice on your travelling destination. Of course, from my point of view, Helsinki is one the most exciting and interesting cities in the world and I am delighted for your choice to experience the many adventures our capital has to offer.

Helsinki is creative, safe and a unique place where bubbly urban life meets fascinating, diverse nature. Our city is a joyful, surprising, and experientially rich city with an international feel – a place where art and culture are held in the highest esteem. Also, Finland has once again ranked as the World's Happiest Country for the sixth year in a row and I can assure that Helsinki as the capital of Finland reflects the atmosphere of the world’s happiest nation exquisitely well.

Helsinki lives and breathes throughout every season of the year. Sometimes this means sun or snow – other times it means slush and rain. But don’t you worry – Helsinki is always fun, exciting and provides unexpected experiences regardless of the season.

I can assure you every day is a new adventure in Helsinki and I can’t wait for you to explore our best features! We have collected all the best tips for your stay into one service:

Enjoy your stay – and I hope to see you back soon!

to Vantaa!

When you land at Helsinki Airport, you have arrived at one of the best airports in Europe!

Airports Council International awarded the airline company FinAvia the Airport Service Quality award, which was based on passenger feedback on customer service and guidance they had received, as well as check-in, shopping and dining options. Finavia also received an honorable mention for its long-term efforts to maintain customer satisfaction.

The airport has been redesigned so that all passengers depart through the new departure hall. The departure hall contains check-in areas, a baggage drop-off, as well as a security check and currency exchange. The security check utilizes next-generation technology: you can now keep electronics and liquids in the bag during the security screening. There is a separate line for families with children.

All passengers will enter the same baggage hall from their flights. You can get to Vantaa from the entrance hall by public transport or a rental car. How would you like visiting the SFT-certified Fazer Experience Visitor Center as your first destination, where you can see how Finnish chocolate is made?

Photo: sAkAri mAnninen Photo: olli urPelA Photo: Jetro stAvén Welcome
P hoto: h eiko m üller / h elsinki P A rtners
Ritva Viljanen mAyor of vAntAA


A great DAY TRIP destination: Only 30 minutes from Helsinki main railway station and 15 minutes from the airport!

Lohja – City of experiences

For over 700 years, we have called this place home. Our long history has taught us to take a deep breath, slow down, and appreciate the beauty of our city, where we have the space to live close to nature and pursue our passions. And if you happen to work in the capital region, you can still enjoy the best of both worlds, with easy access to the hustle and bustle of the big city just a stone’s throw away.

Experience the best of both worlds in Lohja. Located just a stone’s throw from the capital, yet far away from the noise and stress, Lohja offers a unique blend of urban excitement and natural beauty. Here, you can have it all - indulge in the vibrant cultural scene while staying firmly grounded in the great outdoors. No need to choose between the city and the countryside - in Lohja, you can have the best of both.

Open the window to thousand lakes! As an urban gateway to Finland, the land of a thousand lakes, we’re proud to boast 200 of them right next door to our cafes, restaurants, museums, theaters, and concert venues. But that’s not all - just a few steps down, you’ll find the Tytyri Mine Experience, a hundred meters deep and bursting with a thousand stories waiting to be uncovered. Come explore the endless possibilities of Lohja - where urban sophistication and natural wonder meet.

BEAUTIFUL LAKE SCENERY, RICH CULTURAL HERITAGE – AND SPACE TO BREATHE. THE OLDEST SOUVENIR SHOP IN HELSINKI OPPOSITE THE TEMPPELIAUKIO CHURCH Knitwear Finnish knives Reindeer hides Handicrafts Målerås crystal Souvenirs Fredrikinkatu 68, 00100 Helsinki | Tel. +358 9 445 823 OPEN EVERY DAY

Moomin philosophy for young and old

Tove Jansson’s first Moomin book was published 77 years ago. It hasn’t aged a bit.

Tove – yes, she is Tove to Finns, known by her first name because she’s familiar to everyone and easily approachable, like the Moomins – loved yellow roses. Though actually, she loved everything beautiful and pleasurable: dancing, parties, flowers, laughing. And that side of her personality also shines through the Moomins, who have slowly become loved all around the world. It remains a great injustice that Tove never received the Nobel Prize in literature.

But Tove’s lightheartedness and zest for life are not the whole picture. Underlying her joy in everyday life were weighty and important values that can also be found in her Moomin books, values like courage, love, and freedom.

Or friendship, nature, and tolerance, which are also supporting pillars of the Moominverse.

Equal but different

Though the Moomins are timeless, of course, similarities can nonetheless be found between the present and 77 years ago.

Tove wrote the book The Moomins and the Great Flood in 1939, but it was published only after the war, in 1945. As at the time of the book’s writing, we are now again in a situation where freedom is not self-evident. Years of coronavirus and now the war in Europe have made people remember what is ultimately most important: their friends and loved ones.

The Moomin books are also current in that different personalities and views of life are all given a voice, but everyone is united by the values of equality and diversity. Everyone is always welcome at the Moominhouse, and its door is never locked, even at night, as the theme song from the Finnish-language version of the animated series says.

© m oomin c h A r A cters™ 10

The characters of Moominvalley are allowed to be exactly who they are, different and unique. Sniff is greedy but fearful. Moominpappa is the head of the family, but rather irresponsible. Moominmamma takes care of everyone, to the point of exhaustion. Snufkin is a good friend, but despite that, he always leaves. And so on. The inhabitants of Moominvalley have many sides, just like humans. They also evolve.

Not bad at all

The characters’ multidimensionality is also their charm. They have annoying features, but also lovable ones. Children may see one side of the Moomin characters, but adults see something else, which is probably one reason for their popularity – everyone finds something in them. For Finns, there’s also an element of nostalgia: since most Finns have read the books as children, the Moomins unite them.

The Moomins are universal and deeply human. One distinctive feature of the Moomins is their positivity. There’s not a single bad character in all of Moominvalley. The Groke is undeniably scary, but at the heart of it, she’s just lonely, like many people who seem scary in real life probably are. As for Stinky... well, he tries to be a bandit, but nothing really comes of it.

Did you know?

The first drawing of a Moomin was created in the early 1930s on the wall of the outhouse at the Janssons’ summer cottage. Tove named it Snork. The character later grew into Moomintroll, changing a little along the way. He reached his chubbiest form in 1954. At that time, Finland was starting to recover from the war, and perhaps there were plenty of treats to be had in Moominvalley too!

Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was an artist, writer, caricaturist, and cartoonist who is best known as the creator of the Moomin characters. Thirteen beloved Moomin books were published, and they have been translated into more than 50 languages. Tove Jansson is Finland’s most translated author.

The significance of the sea

Everyone recognizes the tall blue Moominhouse, but few know it was inspired by a real-life building, the now-demolished Glosholm Lighthouse near Porvoo. Tove and her partner, Tuulikki Pietilä , had their summer place near Porvoo, on a barren cliff without any comforts – well, hardly any: the story goes that Tove would order gin from the local grocery store on her radiotelephone when she needed it – it could be arranged, even though grocery stores in Finland aren’t allowed to sell gin, at least not at the time.

The sea was an important element for Tove, both in real life and in the Moomin books: it’s a symbol of freedom and a place for swimming and sailing, but also something that no one can control.

The sea is also apparent in the work of artists Tove was inspired by. In illustration, she admired Swedish artists like John Bauer and Elsa Beskow, but she also absorbed influences from other artists as well, such as the famous seascape painters J. M. W. Turner, from England, and Hokusai, from Japan.

Tove considered herself first and foremost a painter, and she was an excellent artist. But she will always be remembered above all for the Moomins. They are so beloved that since 2020, the Finnish flag is flown in Tove’s honor on August 9, her birthday. s

Tove’s Moomin book one-liners are unparalleled:

“If you’re not afraid, how can you really be brave?”


“All nice things are good for you.”


“All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured.”


Tove Jansson working at her studio.
00100 Helsinki
© m oomin c h A r A cters™ © m oomin c h A r A cters™
© moomin chArActers™
THE ONLY REAL STEAK HOUSE IN HELSINKI IN OUR HOUSE, MARBLED BEEF ONLY Eteläranta 14, 00130 Helsinki +358 50 4198 000

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Summer follies

Sitting on anthills, throwing boots, competitive sauna bathing, carrying your wife through an obstacle course - would you call these things sports? According to Finns, they are.

The best place to start telling the story of Finland’s strange summer sports is the same as for any other story about Finnishness: the sauna. In 2010, the World Sauna Championships were organized for the twelfth and final time. After six minutes, the competition was stopped and the organizers removed the disoriented finalists, Russia’s Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy and

Finland’s Timo Kaukonen, from the sauna. Both were suffering severe burns, and Ladyzhenskiy died at the scene despite efforts to resuscitate him. Kaukonen suffered burns over 70 percent of his body and was in a coma for two months but survived. Today, Kaukonen is back to sauna bathing.

Jari “Lyde” Lyytikäinen’s attempt to set a world record for standing in a swamp nearly ended as tragically. Lyytikäinen, who calls himself a life artist,

P hoto: Antti Aimok oivisto/ l ehtikuv A
The boot throwing World Championships 2005 were held in Kokemaki, Western Finland. In picture Swedish Jarmo Kieleväinen (3rd) in his throw.

was caught off guard by the powerful suction of a bog hole, and only the quick reaction of his assistants saved him. “When I realized what sort of bog hole it was, I thought I was done for,” Lyytikäinen said later in a TV interview on MTV3.

Lyytikäinen has had more success with sitting on an anthill and in a freezer – both sports of their own. The world record for the former stands at a respectable five hours. “These are one-time deals. Once you’ve done it, you don’t really want to do it again. You’re competing with yourself there. The result is the reward,” Lyytikäinen said.

Both Lyytikäinen and Kaukonen represent traditional Finnish unyielding heroism. They’re like the beloved character Lieutenant Koskela from the classic Finnish war novel The Unknown Soldier, who is said to “eat iron and shit chains.”

An even closer point of comparison could be the world-famous Finnish stunt group the Dudesons. This is how the audience was warned about the group’s activities in the opening credits of the TV series Dudesons in America: “Most of the stunts in the series are dangerous and stupid. The Dudesons are professionals and jerks. Don't try to imitate anything you see on the show.”

MAny other Finnish summer sports don’t dive as deep into the dark heart of toxic masculinity – they’re simply weird. The most famous around the world is probably wife-carrying. World championships in the sport have been held annually in Sonkajärvi since 1992, though they were cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic. The idea of the sport is to carry a woman who weighs at least 49 kilograms through a 253.5-meter obstacle course as quickly as possible.

At best, representatives from 15 different countries have participated in the championship, and wife-carrying differs from sports like boot-throwing or sitting on an anthill in that it’s not a given that the winner will be a Finn. The two most recent victories have gone to Lithuania, and the world record in the sport is held by Estonians. It speaks to the wide interest in the sport that in 2005, basketball superstar Dennis Rodman attended the championships to try it out. He didn’t participate in the actual competition, however, citing health problems.

Although many Finnish summer sports seem as if they were invented while solidly drunk, to freely quote Shakespeare, “there’s always a method in Finnish madness.” Considering the weirdness of the competitions, their rules are surprisingly precise. For example,

Why do PeoPle participate in these strange sports? The most cynical explanation is that since Finns are no longer successful in their old favorite sport, athletics, they’ve been forced to come up with new sports that other countries don’t want to or can’t be bothered to participate in. Perhaps it can be taken as evidence of this that boot-throwing uses the same runway as the javelin, whose globalization has drastically reduced Finland’s chances of success (in the past, the only people who seriously trained in javelin were the Finns and one Norwegian).

Another possible explanation is that it’s simply so boring in the Finnish countryside that people have to come up with something to do. This theory is supported by the fact that the sports described here are specifically rural amusements: tourists in Finland’s largest cities don’t need to dodge flying boots or fear bumping into someone sitting pantless on an anthill in the park.

The reasons are of course also related to economics and image. The competitions are held in small towns, and without the Wife Carrying World Championships, Sonkajärvi (population 3,768) couldn’t dream of holding a summer event that would attract over 3,000 spectators or be featured as a humorous kicker story on TV news and sports programs abroad. The visibility record for Finnish summer sports was probably achieved in 2004, when the Japanese television company Nippon Network made a documentary about the World Sauna Championships, which was seen by a whopping 40 million viewers in Japan alone.

A third explanation is based on Finns’ unique national character, the core of which is the world-famous Finnish sisu (sitting on an anthill is certainly not very hygge). Here’s how journalist Heini Kilpamäki describes it in her book Suomalaisen tyhmyyden ylistys (In praise of Finnish stupidity): “Even today, Finns are portrayed as wild and raw – and what could be better for the image and brand factories? Being wild seems rugged in an otherwise bland world. A slight feeling of danger has always been intriguing.”

Kilpamäki describes stupidity as an unconventional energy that results in new ideas and breaks free from familiar patterns: “Stupidity steps off the trail to find new paths. As the ancient philosopher Heraclitus said, madness is the source of wisdom.” s

Although many Finnish summer sports seem as if they were invented
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Helsinki became the capital of Finland in 1812. Back then, it was merely a village, although it was founded as early as 1550. Nowadays Helsinki has got 630,000 inhabitants and is the largest city in Finland. More information:


The first mention of Espoo dates back to 1431, but it was not granted city rights until 1972. There are several centres in Espoo, of which Leppävaara is the largest. It is the second largest city in Finland with 275,000 inhabitants. More information:


Vantaa is Finland’s fourth largest and the oldest city in the capital region: the first mention of it dates back to 1352. Helsinki Airport is located in Vantaa. Just like Espoo, Vantaa has several centres. Inhabitants: 235,000. More information:


Kaunainen is the smallest commune in Finland with only six square kilometres and 9,600 inhabitants. It is surrounded by Espoo and renowned with its wealthy residents. More information:

Greater Metropolitan Area

The metropolitan area and the municipalities or cities of Hyvinkää, Järvenpää, Kerava, Kirkkonummi, Nurmijärvi, Sipoo, Tuusula, Mäntsälä, Pornainen and Vihti form the greater metropolitan area with a population of about 1.4 million inhabitants. Together with the cities of Porvoo, Lohja and Riihimäki, the population of the greater metropolitan area rises to about 1,557,000.

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03 hilton helsinki AirPort

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04 hilton helsinki kAlAstAJAtorPPA

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E N J O Y T H E C I T Y O F H E L S I N K I U P F R O M 4 0 M E T E R S S k y W h e e l H e l s i n k i o f f e r s y o u a m a z i n g v i e w s o v e r t h e s e a , c i t y a n d s u r r o u n d i n g i s l a n d s C O M E A N D H A V E A R E G U L A R R I D E O R T R Y O U R S P E C I A L E X P E R I E N C E S V e u v e C l i c q u o t V I P E x p e r i e n c e O r i g i n a l S k y S a u n a K A T A J A N O K A N L A I T U R I 2 , 0 0 1 6 0 H E L S I N K I W W W . S K Y W H E E L . F I

The right way to take a sauna

If you spend more than a few days in Finland, odds are you’ll come across a sauna. You’ll find one in almost every house, summer cottage, hotel, and apartment building, and of course at swimming pools and other well-equipped swimming spots.

The sauna is one of the world’s finest inventions, but the concept can be strange at first if you aren’t used to it, and there are many unspoken conventions that apply. Here’s a short guide to sauna etiquette.

Nudity. Yes, people are naked in Finnish saunas, though usually women and men go to sauna separately. There are exceptions, however, and depending on the situation, swimsuits may also be worn – for example, in mixed-gender saunas at ice-hole swimming spots. As a general rule, however, you go to sauna naked, though it’s not as if it’s written into the Finnish constitution. So you won’t wind up in jail if you decide to wear a bathing suit or wrap yourself in a towel. However you go, the most important thing is to enjoy it.

Most swimming halls explicitly forbid swimsuits in the saunas, but if you use a pefletti, it’s hard to see what harm a swimsuit would do. A pefletti is a disposable, single-use bench cover. They are generally available at public saunas for you to use.

P hoto: mA i JA Astik A inen / h elsinki P A rtners
Relaxing in the sauna at Löyly.

Whisking. In the summertime, in particular, it’s traditional to make sauna whisks out of birch branches. The branches are tied into a beautiful bundle. The whisk is kind of like a sponge, or perhaps a medieval torture device, depending on your point of view. The idea is that you use it to beat yourself on different parts of your body – or, perhaps, your benchmate’s back (it’s a good idea to ask permission first). The whisk is softened by soaking it in water, so it not only gets your skin clean, but it makes the sauna smell nice too.

Throwing wAter. In a Finnish sauna, water is thrown on the hot stones of the sauna stove, or heater in case it’s an electric one. The resulting steam momentarily makes the sauna very hot. The hotter, the better. However, if you aren’t alone in the sauna, it’s good to ask the others how much steam they are comfortable with. If the heat is too much for you, you can move to a lower bench. Finnish men are unlikely to do so, however, because it would be a sign of weakness. That kind of attitude is unfortunate and old-fashioned and has even led to deaths.

If the bucket of water is empty and you are about to leave the sauna, it’s polite to fill the bucket and return it to its place.

Cooling off. After taking a sauna – or between turns in the sauna – it’s good to cool oneself off from time to time. So step outside for a moment to cool off. During the winter, you can jump into a snowbank and make snow angels or take a dip in an ice hole – a large opening made in a frozen lake or sea, sometimes large enough to swim in. It’s nicer in the summer, though, when there’s no option to do either of those stupid things, and you can settle for something like a cold drink.

SociAlizing. In Finland, going to sauna is often compared to going to church, meaning that taking a sauna is practically a sacred event, during which people are happy to sit quietly. Or at least to show restraint while chatting. On the other hand, Finns may take a sauna as an opportunity to talk, and even to discuss big, important topics. In the sauna, when everyone is naked, even titles and status are left in the dressing room.

S A unA night. It’s a very Finnish tradition: going to sauna somewhere with a group of friends. It often includes having dinner and some drinks. In other words, for Finns, taking a sauna is both intimate and social. While Finns don’t generally talk more than necessary, if you’re naked in the sauna, talking is okay, even with strangers. s

From holes in the ground to apartment buildings

The sauna is not a Finnish invention, but it tells you something about Finns’ sauna madness that there are an estimated 3 million saunas here, in a country of only 5.5 million people. Though perhaps it’s not surprising: up in the northern latitudes, it’s quite a luxury to have a warm place where you can bathe.

The earliest known Finnish saunas are earth pit saunas from the Bronze Age, about 3,000 years ago. However, these saunas probably existed already 10,000 years ago. The idea was simple: stones were heated in a pit, and when they were hot enough, a kind of tent was spread over the pit and a sauna could be taken. Starting in the 6th century, dedicated buildings were constructed for saunas, usually from logs.

Nowadays, there are many types of saunas. The rarest, but perhaps the most valued and atmospheric, is the smoke sauna. A smoke sauna has no chimney at all. Instead, after the big pile of stones has been heated, the smoke is aired out of the sauna. Heating up a smoke sauna takes time and is somewhat dangerous – smoke saunas have burned down often enough. However, the steam in a smoke sauna is uniquely soft, not to mention that smoke saunas are usually beautiful. A small downside is that you usually come out of a smoke sauna a bit dirtier than when you went in, due to all the soot on the walls.

Traditional wood-burning sauna stoves are common, especially in older detached single-family houses: the steam in these saunas is also good and soft, and they can be heated as hot as you like.

Nowadays electric saunas are the most common and easiest to use. They don’t require a chimney and can fit into small spaces, making them suitable for apartment buildings, for example. They’re also effortless, as all you have to do is switch them on. On the other hand, they use a lot of electricity and the steam generally feels quite dry. And they’re not at all as atmospheric as a wood-burning sauna.

Public saunas can be found in all the big cities, so go ahead and give it a try!

P hoto: Aleksi Pout A nen / h elsinki P A rtners
New Sompasauna in Verkkosaari. Sompasauna is a woodheated self-service public sauna open around the clock and free for everyone to use.

Helsinki’s famous goldsmiths in the 1800s


KAISANIEMI Botanic Garden Kasvitieteellinen puutarha LUOMUS.FI
Welcome to the private Toy Museum and Tea Room Café Samovarbar in the sea fortress Suomenlinna, Helsinki! #toymuseumhelsinki #cafesamovarbar Metropolitan Times 2022.indd 1 5/2/2022 10:25:29 AM

International contemporary art meets unique nature on the treasure island of art

In summer 2023, Helsinki Biennial will spread across Vallisaari, HAM Helsinki Art Museum, and other places around the city.

Outstanding international contemporary art will be on display around Helsinki in summer 2023 when the greatly popular Helsinki Biennial returns to the city. The event was organised for the first time in 2021. This year, the event has two main venues: Vallisaari Island and HAM Helsinki Art Museum. Vallisaari is just a short ferry ride away from the Helsinki Market Square and the capital’s centre. On the mainland, HAM Helsinki Art Museum’s large arched halls will be filled with the biennial works. Additionally, the event will spread across the city in the form of artworks and various events. Helsinki Biennial will also feature six online works that will be displayed on the biennial website.

CoMpiLation: reetta haarajoki / haM & heLsinki bienniaL
P hoto: Adrián v ill A r r o JA s, neon found A tion 23
Adrián Villar Rojas, The Theater of Disappearance, 2017 Installation view, National Observatory Athen/ Greece; Courtesy of Adrián Villar Rojas, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York | Paris | London and kurimanzutto, Mexiko City.

Titled New Directions May Emerge, Helsinki Biennial 2023 reflects on some of the major issues of our time that appear irresolvable, such as environmental damage, political conflict, and the impact of technology. Helsinki Biennial 2023 is curated by Polish-born, UK-based curator and scholar Joasia Krysa.

Vallisaari is a combination of maritime Helsinki, diverse nature, and living cultural history

From a visitor’s perspective, Vallisaari is a versatile package. In addition to contemporary art, it comprises diverse nature, visible cultural history, and maritime Helsinki. Over the years, unique flora and fauna have developed on the island. The plant population has also been affected by human touch, as the disintegration of limy mortar and concrete fed rare moss and lichen colonies. At the same time, many species started to flourish among the diverse flora. An

incredible number of species thrive on Vallisaari, including various endangered bats and butterflies. In addition, the only protected alder swamp in Helsinki, a generous half hectare in size, is located here. Well-preserved buildings and constructions of a historical military fortress emerge among the abundant plant population. The island is to be explored on marked paths. This way, we protect nature’s diversity, the culturally and historically valuable retreat, and people’s safety. Metsähallitus nature services is responsible for taking care of Vallisaari. Biennial is carried out in cooperation with Metsähallitus and the Finnish Heritage Agency’s specialists, considering the island’s unique nature and cultural history.

P hoto: Jussi v irkkum AA P hoto: mA tti Pyykkö / h A m / h elsinki b ienni A l
Well-preserved buildings and constructions of a historical military fortress emerge among the abundant plant population.
Lotta Petronella: Asking the Island, Tarot Herbarium.

New commissions and works operating in dialogue with their surroundings

This year, Vallisaari will have a particular emphasis on outdoor artworks that subtly operate in dialogue with the surrounding environment and its unique ecosystem. Entirely new commissions will be on display inside the island’s former gunpowder magazines, exploring alternative ways of living in, and understanding, the world, whilst envisioning various potential futures.

On Vallisaari Island, Finnish artist Lotta Petronella will collaborate with Sami Tallberg, an award-winning chef, food writer and a foraging pioneer since 2005, and Lau Nau, Laura Naukkarinen, a composer and performer who works with analogue synthesizers, acoustic sounds, human voice, electroacoustic experiments, and field recordings. Together they have created a transdisciplinary artwork of healing, song, and ingestion, interacting with the diverse inhabitants of Vallisaari Island through live events and performances.

Adrián Villar Rojas will present a site-specific sculptural work, from the series The End of Imagination (2023), which expands from his ongoing series Brick Farm. Inspired by the Argentinian hornero bird – which makes its nests from mud, straw and rubble, adapting them to human-built surroundings – Villar Rojas’ nest-shaped

sculptures will be scattered across the island, attached to trees, rocks, and buildings. For this iteration, the sculptures have been designed using an amalgamation of software collectively described as the ‘Time Engine’.

On the Southern-most part of the island, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley invites visitors to take part in a role-playing performance event and installation which explores a speculative Black trans mythology of Vallisaari Island. With live events taking place in June, August and September 2023, visitors are invited to explore Vallisaari and meet various characters in the form of physical sculptures along the way.

Nearby, Sámi artist Matti Aikio presents a new multichannel video and sound installation. With a background in reindeer herding, Aikio’s practice focuses on the historical treatment of the Sámi population and the appropriation of indigenous identity; all themes related to Sámi self-determination, which have been under recent political debate in Finland. For the biennial, Aikio raises questions related to the utilization of natural resources, preservation of nature, generation of fossil-free energy, and human relations with other forms of life. s



12 June – 17 September 2023

Main venues:

Vallisaari Island and HAM Helsinki Art Museum

More information about the biennial and artists:

More information about the ferries, schedules, and island services:

Read more about Vallisaari:

P hoto: h A m / mA i JA t oiv A nen
Visitors are invited to explore Vallisaari and meet various characters in the form of physical sculptures.
Suorranaddame, installation, HFT 2013, Hammerfest. Image courtesy of Matti Aikio.
Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, YOUR CHOSEN PILGRIMAGE, 2023. Courtesy the artist.

Putin’s critic

Artist Kaj Stenvall ridicules and criticizes power by painting Putin every day, putting his subject in a wide variety of settings.

The studio floor is littered with dozens of paintings, either drying or just otherwise complete. Most of them depict Russia’s dictator, Vladimir Putin, but Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, former president of the United States Donald Trump, and even a few Finnish politicians make their appearances. But by and large, the paintings are of Putin. He sits in The Hague looking miserable, stares in a mirror and Hitler looks back, is hiding in a toilet bowl. And so on.

Although you might imagine otherwise, Stenvall didn’t start painting Putin after last year’s invasion of Ukraine. He actually started much earlier, the last time Putin attacked Ukraine in 2014, when the world hadn’t yet taken much notice.

“Actually, it started with the Olympics in Sochi. I watched it on TV and saw how Putin was strutting around among the athletes there. Even before that, he had appeared shirtless in public and built up his macho image, but that was when I really started paying attention to it. It was just too much. A little while later, Crimea was annexed, which was the last straw and got me to start making these. It was a concrete sign of Putin’s agenda, which was not staying inside his own country,” Stenvall explains.

P hoto: r oo P e l i PA sti Kaj Stenvall. 26

A villain and a hero

The explicitly political paintings were also a counterweight to what Stenvall had been doing for the last 30 years or so. He is famous for his duck paintings, which feature humanoid ducks in all kinds of situations. Often, they are pastiches of famous paintings, with the main character replaced by a duck. Stenvall’s duck paintings have been extremely popular, which has given Stenvall the financial leeway to paint Putins – because there can’t be too many people who want one on their living room wall, can there?

“It’s hard to say. There have been a lot of inquiries, but I don’t know if it’s a question of putting them on display or an investment. In any case, I haven’t sold them. Well, I did sell two: one to a member of parliament in Berlin and the other to a member of parliament in Prague. But the idea is to keep the collection together and expand it, so that at some point I can have a bigger exhibition.”

Actually, there is also one painting in Ukraine: a year ago at midsummer, a young Ukrainian celebrity died on the front and became something of a national hero, so Stenvall made a painting of him. The painting was supposed to be sold at auction, with the money donated to Ukraine, but in the end, the painting went to Ukraine along with the Finnish foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto

“It was a show of sympathy for the Ukrainian people. I have also done paintings of Zelensky. It’s kind of nice to paint heroes, too, and not always just villains. On the whole, this is a mission, something important. And because I am able to do it, I feel that it’s also a kind of duty. At the same time, it’s a way to unload my own anxieties about the war, through critique and ridicule.”

Back to the underground

In fact, painting Putin – or other powerful people – is ironically not so terribly far from Stenvall’s duck-themed paintings. Through the ducks, Stenvall was able to explore different aspects of humanity, and a similar thing is going on with the Putins and the others, though the war soon brought its tragic addition to the mix.

Politics itself is not a new thing for Stenvall and his generation: Originally from Tampere, Stenvall was born in 1951 and started studying art in Turku in 1971. It was still the time of the underground movement, and all kinds of politicization – including of art – continued throughout the ’70s.

“The underground was one of the reasons I came to Turku. It combined different kinds of elements, including from real life, and there was always a message or a point, and that’s actually what I’ve come back to now. I’m interested in how people experience their position, the fact that they have power. I’m trying to get to the person there, deep inside. For example, the painting of Lavrov is based on a news photo in which he was criticizing the West with a Western watch and cellphone in his hand. I put him in a hoodie, so he would look like a rapper. In the painting, his face reflects sheer helplessness, the fact that he is completely lost.”

From the media to media art

According to Stenvall, the response to his Putin paintings has been largely bewildered.

“When I put the first images on Twitter in 2014, I got a few comments, but people from Finland in particular were confused and somehow afraid of the issue. Finlandization was quite strong even then. One art critic’s column ran under the headline ‘Does it make sense or not?’ quoting a song by the ’70s Finnish rock group Sleepy Sleepers. The message was that maybe I shouldn’t make paintings like these because it’s dangerous to mock the leader of a neighboring country.”

Dangerous or not, it’s clear that Stenvall is making internet art, or, more broadly, media art: Stenvall pulls material from the media, refines it, and puts it back into the media. The image that goes out is always different from when it came to him:

“The pieces themselves are quite small, so I can do them quickly. Online, it makes no difference what size the original is. The idea is to be able to comment on things practically in real time.”

Stenvall’s pace and work ethic are formidable. In the morning, he takes his kid to school – the trip serves as a kind of commute –before returning to his home studio to start painting. At that point, it’s nine o’clock. By the afternoon, the painting will be ready to be photographed and put online.

“Spontaneity is the thing, getting it done all at once. It’s three and a half hours of really intense pressure, and afterwards my head is spinning. Developing the subject matter is a big and time-consuming part because I want each painting to be different and to have a specific point. I’ve done maybe 130 or 140 of these, so quite a lot of angles have already been used.” s

See more paintings at:
Here is still room, 2022, oil on board.
Mariupol is Destroyed, 2022, oil on board. Don´t Blame Me, 2023, oil on board.

Clean sheets and bullfights

When I hAd a child, my relationship with hotels changed. What used to be merely a necessity for business trips became instead a luxury. Clean white sheets without crayon stains, on a bed someone else has made, in a room someone else has cleaned and drinking coffee while it’s still hot was my idea of paradise. How wonderful to sleep uninterrupted, without a little person climbing into bed beside me at three in the morning. Not to mention the shower, where I could stay as long as I wanted without anyone banging on the door, shouting “Mom, mom, mom!”

Before I had a child, I had thought the word “mom” from the mouth of a small child might be the most beautiful word in the world. Nowadays, I think it might also be the most irritating.

For the first three years of my child’s life, I parented entirely on my own. In practice, it meant that I was never alone. After having a baby, I didn’t particularly miss parties, or Pilates classes, or being able to wear earrings or pants that didn’t have elastic waistbands. I missed being able to occasionally sit on the sofa and read an entire magazine, from start to finish. I had friends who had babies at the same time as me. When they wanted to stop nursing, they got a hotel room in town and left their children with their fathers to wean. I don’t think I have ever been more jealous of my friends in my life. My own first night alone in a hotel was still years in the future, which made it all the more wonderful. I will never forget the dear hotel in Pori where I slept eight blessed hours for the first time in years!

For me, the most important thing in hotels has always been the breakfast. I always say that my sister has such a good memory that,


even years later, she can remember every detail about the things that are important to her. For my sister, desserts are especially important. She can remember every single lemon meringue pie she has ever eaten, and where she ate it. I’m not as talented. I only remember good breakfasts. I remember how the hotel in Puerto Vallarta had its own breakfast tortilla chef, from whom you could order what you wanted. Mexicans are breakfast people in general. They say a Mexican eats like a king in the morning, a prince at lunch, and a beggar at dinner. I made a habit of eating mostly huevos rancheros, “ranch-style eggs,” for breakfast, which were cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and eaten with tortillas.

There was a breakfast chef in Beijing, too. There you could order your own breakfast noodles and smoothies. But the best breakfast of all was in Vaasa. My daughter was very small then, and when I traveled to literature festivals, I took both her and my mother with me. I have a photo of me nursing her between talks. What I remember best, however, was how I got to make myself a waffle, topped with homemade cloudberry jam. Perhaps the most beautiful thing you can say to a breastfeeding woman is: “Your waffle is ready.”

If you’re lucky, you might also have the chance to get to know some very interesting people in hotels. I once played cards with a Russian spy and a Japanese soldier in Kyrgyzstan. But perhaps the most exciting person I’ve met was Father Armando, the headmaster of a Catholic school where I had given a talk. After the literature festival, the locals took us to eat at the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant was famous for its gigantic steaks, which was slightly problematic

because I was a vegetarian. Father Armando had just organized a fundraising event for his school, a boxing match with ticket revenue benefiting the school. To raise additional funds, Father Armando had participated in the boxing himself. His black eye hadn’t completely healed yet. But things had apparently gone better than the previous year, when Father Armando had organized a bullfight. The bull had punctured Father Armando’s lung. What wouldn’t a man or a priest do for his school!

The older I get, the more I understand writers who want to live permanently in a hotel. s

Leena Parkkinen is an author, who loves crisp sheets and breakfast. She is also an award-winning writer, whose books have been published in twelve countries and is loved by both readers and critics.
/ o t A v A
Photo: Jonne r äsänen
Perhaps the most beautiful thing you can say to a breastfeeding woman is:
P hoto: e nv A to
“Your waffle is ready.”
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In Kamppi Helsinki you will find the largest MUJI store in Europe and almost 130 other retailers, including international and Finnish fashion stores, lifestyle stores, beauty and lifestyle services and much much more. There are also nearly 50 restaurants and cafés, offerering delicious food, drinks and pastries! See you soon!