Metropolitan Times 2/2022

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MAGAZINE FOR VISITORS 2/2022 IN THIS ISSUE Once were strong, silent men Page 10 Very Finnish Problems Page 14 Online images and porcelain cats Page 21 An inventive nation Page 26 A column by mAgdAlenA HAi The author’s hotels Page 28 please leave this magazine for the next guest –thank you!
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Welcome to the Metropolitan area 8 Once were strong, silent men 10 Very Finnish Problems 14 Map of metropolitan area 16

Hotels & hostels providing Metropolitan Times 18 Online images and porcelain cats 21 An inventive nation 26 The author’s hotels – Column by Magdalena Hai 28

Metropolitan Times Magazine for Visitors Issue 2/2022


ISSN 2489-2688 (print) ISSN 2669-8277 (online)

Published by Mobile-Kustannus Oy Brahenkatu 14 D 94 FI-20100 Turku, Finland

Editor in chief Roope Lipasti

Publisher Teemu Jaakonkoski Sales manager Raimo Kurki Tel. +358 45 656 7216 Sales Pirkko Puurunen Tel. +358 40 507 1002

Graphic design & layout Petteri Mero Mainostoimisto Knok Oy

Printed by Newprint Oy 4041 1018

Cover photos Helsinki sauna culture.

Photo: Maija Astikainen / Helsinki Partners Oodi by night.

Photo: Valentino Valkaj / Boksi

Restaurant Kappeli – skagen. Photo: Yiping Feng & Ling Ouyang / Helsinki Partners Helsinki south harbor at night.

Photo: Alex Bao / Helsinki Partners

Magdalena Hai. Photo: Juha Törmälä

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 (see pages 16–17 and 18). The next issue will be out in May 2023.

21 26 10 14

Korkeasaari Zoo

– near the city but far from the rush

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. 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 every day of the year, even on Christmas. There is a restaurant on the island, or you can bring your own food. You’ll find a free map at the entrance to guide you through your visit. Check the opening hours on

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. Four of them along the railway, and the fifth connected to 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.

The global pandemic may have temporarily affected our travelling habits, but as we move forward, the longing for new thrilling experiences has become stronger than ever. Helsinki is creative, safe and a unique place where bubbly urban life meets fascinating, diverse nature.

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!

Vantaa is an innovative city

Vantaa celebrated its The New European Rising Innovative City award during the Innovation Festival week, October 24–30, 2022. During the week, we arranged innovation-themed webinars, events, as well as published the best proposals of the Urban Innovations of All Sizes competition.

The European Innovation Council (EIC) chose Vantaa as a European Rising Innovative City in 2021. The €500,000 recognition was given on November 24, at the iCapital Awards ceremony arranged in Brussels. In the international competition, Vantaa's trumps were growth, myriad small social innovations, the growing Aviapolis economic zone, as well as the city’s ambitious climate goals.

We spent the prize money on arranging the Urban Innovations of All Sizes innovation competition, open to everybody, that ended in August. We received a stunning total of 174 proposals! A sum of €300,000 was awarded to implementing the selected ideas.

The webinars presented Vantaa innovations to an international audience from three perspectives: green transition and cooperation; social innovations to promote involvement and wellbeing; as well as digital education and life-long learning. The English-language webinars were open to everybody.

The webinars offered inspiration for work, as well as a wide review of Vantaa’s sources of joy!

pHoto: SAkAri mAnninen pHoto: olli urpelA pHoto: Jetro StAvén
mAyor of vAntAA p H oto: Ju SS i Hell S ten / Hel S inki pA rtner S
Ritva Viljanen
Tickets 9-46 € from Ticketmaster sales points and Helsinki Music Centre box office Mon-Fri 9-18, Sat 10-17. 8.11. Joshua Weilerstein Ossi Tanner Jonas Silinskas 28.2. Johannes Gustafsson Javier Perianes 27.11. Gustavo Gimeno Christoffer Sundqvist Otto Virtanen 6.12. Independence Day Gala Concert 17.1. La Damnation de Faust 27.3. Andrew Manze Tami Pohjola 13.11. & 14.11. Matthew Halls Steven Osborne 11.12. & 12.12. Hannu Lintu Gerald Finley 22.1. & 23.1. Sakari Oramo Anu Komsi 1.4. & 2.4. Klaus Mäkelä Vikingur Olafsson 4.3. & 5.3. Han-Na Chang Yuki Koyama 13.3. & 14.3. Jukka-Pekka Saraste Elena Pankratova Mikhail Petrenko 8.1. & 9.1. Hannu Lintu Olli Mustonen 18.3. Rafael Payare Alisa Weilerstein 14.2. & 15.2. Nicholas Collon Pekka Kuusisto Chamber Music on Sundays 20.10./24.11./ 8.12./19.1./16.2./ 15.3. 22.11. Olari Elts Andrea Mastroni 31.1. Alain Altinoglu Augustin Hadelich DEC 2 & 7 Kreeta-Maria Kentala conductor and violin soloist Louise Alder soprano DEC 6 INDEPENDENCE DAY GALA CONCERT Jukka-Pekka Saraste CONDUCTOR Carolin Widmann violin DEC 16 Nicholas Collon conductor Peter Jablonski piano Elisabeth Brauss piano JAN 13 Nicholas Collon conductor CHAMBER MUSIC ON SUNDAYS JAN 15 FEB 12 MAR 19 APR 16 MAY 14 JAN 18 & 19 Nicholas Collon conductor Kirill Gerstein piano JAN 27 David Robertson conductor Orli Shaham piano FEB 1 Sir Mark Elder conductor FEB 10 Nicholas Collon conductor Patricia Kopatchinskaja violin FEB 15 & 16 Maxim Emelyanychev conductor MAR 1 Tabita Berglund conductor Jakob Dingstad viola MAR 10 MUSICA NOVA HELSINKI FESTIVAL Anna-Maria Helsing conductor Tuuli Lindeberg soprano MAR 15 & 16 Nicholas Collon conductor Nicholas Daniel English horn MAR 24 Kazuki Yamada conductor Lise de la Salle piano MAR 29 & 30 SAKARI ORAMO conductor Anu Komsi soprano Helsinki Music Centre Choir APR 7 ST. MATTHEW PASSION Nicholas Collon conductor APR 12 Nicholas Collon conductor Jukka Harju French horn may 10 Joana Carneiro conductor Yeol Eum Son piano apr 21 Tugan Sohijev conductor may 19 Nicholas Collon conductor Anna Denisova soprano Giorgi Sturua tenor Stefan Astakhov baritone Helsinki Music Centre Choir apr 26 & 27 Nicholas Collon conductor Boris Giltburg piano Helsinki Music Centre Choir may 24 & 25 Nicholas Collon conductor Jonas Silinskas trumpet may 5 József Hárs conductor Piotr Anderszewski conductor & piano Tickets 9-67 € at Ticketmaster sales points and Helsinki Music Centre box office Mon-Fri 9-18, Sat 10-17.

Once were strong, silent men

Tony Soprano is frustrated. He complains to his psychiatrist that men like Gary Cooper (or actually, Cooper's character in the film High Noon) don't exist anymore. In his opinion, Cooper was the perfect man: a strong, silent type who got things done and never complained.

The most famous gangster in TV history could just as well be talking about the past giants of Finnish sport. Running legend Paavo Nurmi was the most silent of the silent, the strongest of the strong. The image of a man who tirelessly runs around the track with a stopwatch in his hand, smashing one record after another, has gone down in history. He never complains; he always does what a man has to do. When Nurmi thought the fee offered by a race organizer was unacceptably low, he didn’t bother arguing. Instead, he stopped his 10,000-meter run 2,000 meters before the finish line,

p H oto: p A i m A ge S / Al A my Stock pH oto
1976 Montreal Olympics – Men's 5,000 m final. Finland's Lasse Virén (301) wins the race with New Zealand's Dick Quax (691) taking silver. West Germany's Klaus-Peter Hildenbrand (falling right) has hurled himself over the line to snatch bronze.
Written by Matti Mäkelä translated by Christina saarinen

running exactly the distance he thought the fee was worth. When Nurmi was prevented from competing in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932 due to accusations of professionalism, he remained silent for decades about how much the decision – and the loss of a tenth Olympic gold – had wounded him. He kept quiet and grew bitter.

“He faced down the Miller Gang when none of those assholes in town would lift a finger to help him!” Tony Soprano exclaims in praise of the solitary sheriff of High Noon. The “High Noon” moment of Finnish sport was the men’s 5,000-meter final in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Lasse Viren, chasing his fourth Olympic gold, started the last lap in the lead, but in a seemingly hopeless situation: “He can’t win – no, that would be completely impossible. Dixon and Quax could run 800 meters five seconds faster than Lasse,” writes journalist Matti Hannus later in his Montréal Olympics book. As they open onto the final straight, “they loom behind Lasse like a tidal wave,” and Dick Quax pulls up next to Viren. As Quax appears to pass, Viren briefly turns his head toward his rival and smiles. In that moment, the duel is over. Quax is left behind and Viren runs on to victory. “Fifty meters before the finish line, I saw out of the corner of my eye how they were grimacing and looked like they were suffering, and that’s when I realized I would win,” Viren said after the race.

In August 2022, Viren was a guest of honor at the European Athletics Championships in Munich, where he had won his first two Olympic golds 50 years earlier. “Why bother reminiscing about that anymore,” he says, turning down media interview requests. Tony Soprano nods his approval.

In the words of the newspaperman who discovered the real killer of Liberty Valance and kept it to himself: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

WHile tHe erA of men like Gary Cooper is over, it seems that Tony Soprano isn’t the only one who misses them. This year, the Finnish women’s national ice hockey team gave a terrible performance at the World Championships, finishing sixth, the team’s worst ranking of all time. Scapegoats were made of the team’s star player, Susanna Tapani, who missed one of the preliminary-round games to attend a friend’s wedding, and the coach, Juuso Toivola, who gave her permission to go. Although Tapani’s decision was unusual for a top athlete, and nothing hurts team spirit more than giving special treatment to certain players, instead of criticizing team operating models, commenters mostly demanded a return to old-school attitude: You do your job! And you don’t complain!

Shane's stooped figure continues to ride away, even as the family's admiring little boy shouts after him, like reporters pleading with Viren, “Shane, come back!”

With his laconic comment, Viren takes Finnish sports heroism from High Noon to Shane. At the end of Shane, the main character rides off into the mountains, toward the setting sun, after having rescued a farming family from the clutches of a gang of thugs. Shane’s stooped figure (whether mortally wounded or merely battle-weary, we will never know) continues to ride away, even as the family’s admiring little boy shouts after him, like reporters pleading with Viren, “Shane, come back!”

THe liveS of strong and quiet men aren’t always an uninterrupted string of wins. Unrequited love leads John Wayne’s hero to destruction in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Dean Martin’s gunslinger to alcoholism in Rio Bravo. In Finnish sport, ski jumper Matti Nykänen and skier Mika Myllylä play the same kind of “knight of the sad countenance” role. Their destructive lover was the Finnish public, and their downward spirals were accelerated by the shame brought by Myllylä's doping scandal and by Nykänen's many life management problems.

Taking on the role of John Wayne or Gary Cooper is a heavy burden precisely because it is a role, a role you have to constantly embody, and which is nearly impossible to get rid of. Javelin thrower Seppo Räty – the 1987 world champion and a six-time medalist in major competitions – was an extremely uncompromising and conscientious athlete. But when the media asked about his his training methods leading up to the World Championships, his answer matched his manly role: “Drinking beer and playing cards.”

The same kind of criticism was heard a few years ago, when a snowboarder selected for the Olympics stated that winning a medal would be nice, but the most important thing was taking part in the international community of snowboarders touring the Games. Those who were shocked by the comment wanted the athlete’s selection revoked because in their opinion, this hippie had clearly not internalized the most ancient wisdom of sport: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”

The collision of the old world and the new is also a frequently recurring theme in Westerns. The men of the past world are destroyed because they lack the desire or the ability to adapt. The conversation between Harmonica and Frank in Once Upon a Time in the West sums it up: Harmonica: “So, you found out you’re not a businessman after all.” Frank: “Just a man.”

As the men prepare to duel, Ennio Morricone’s music playing in the background, modern society approaches in the form of a railroad. In Finland, this collision was seen after the 2011 Ice Hockey World Championships. The young players celebrating their championship gave measured and analytical statements to the media, while at the same time, a member of the coaching staff collapsed, utterly drunk, in front of media cameras, and another was sent back to the hotel to sober up.

Tony SoprAno Still sits in a cafe. Suddenly, he’s gone, and the TV screen is filled with snowy white noise. s

The Sopranos (1999–2007), HBO Original Series

Matti Hannus: Montreal: Olympiakirja (1976)

John Ford: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Howard Hawks: Rio Bravo (1959)

Sergio Leone: Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

George Stevens: Shane (1953)

Fred Zinnemann: High Noon (1952)

K A M P P I , H E L S I N K I H I E T A L A H T I , H E L S I N K I H A U K I L A H T I , E S P O O FISKEN PÅ DISKEN MERIMAKASIINI H a u e n k a l l i o 3 , 0 2 1 7 0 E s p o o H a u k i l a h t i w a t e r t o w e r w w w . r a v i n t o l a h a i k a r a n p e s a . f i + 3 5 8 9 4 5 2 4 2 5 4 r a v i n t o l a h a i k a r a n p e s a @ k o l u m b u s . f i HAIKARANPESÄ FISH RESTAURANT & SEAFOOD BAR FISH & SEAFOOD RESTAURANT PANORAMIC RESTAURANT K o r t t e l i , 5 t h f l o o r o f K a m p p i S h o p p i n g C e n t e r U r h o K e k k o s e n k a t u 1 , 0 0 1 0 0 H e l s i n k i w w w . f i s k e n . f i + 3 5 8 4 0 1 9 7 1 1 5 7 i n f o @ f i s k e n . f i H i e t a l a h d e n r a n t a 1 4 , 0 0 1 8 0 H e l s i n k i H i e t a l a h t i P o r t w w w . m e r i m a k a s i i n i . f i + 3 5 8 5 0 5 3 5 5 4 2 5 r a v i n t o l a @ m e r i m a k a s i i n i . f i

Very Finnish Problems

Joel Willans presents Finnishness in such a funny way that even Finns take note.

It wAS tHe usual story: Joel Willans was sitting in a bar in London when a blonde Finnish woman tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to buy her a drink. Then they got married.

Actually, it isn’t a very typical story, but that’s how it happened anyway. For the first five years, the couple lived in London, both of them working in advertising. Eventually, they felt they had at least gotten a glimpse of all there was to see around there, so they set off to travel the world for a year.

“When we eventually landed back at Heathrow and everything was foggy, rainy, and dreary, I suggested we go to Finland after all,” Willans says. “That summer happened to be especially warm and sunny, so I wanted to stay here longer, though my wife of course reminded me that autumn and winter were on the way.”

p H oto: Joel w ill A n S 14
Joel Willans.

The couple still had time to live in Peru for a little while before having children, which cemented their future in Finland. Around that time, Willans made a bet with himself. He would create a Facebook page that talked about Finland through the eyes of a foreigner and gain 10,000 followers.

And he did it. The satire page Very Finnish Problems now has more than a million followers – not on Facebook alone, but still.

Weather, language, food

“More than half of my followers are Finnish,” Willans explains. “The next biggest group is from the United States, followed by Sweden, Great Britain, and Germany. Finns probably find it interesting to see their country from an outsider’s perspective. On the other hand, in the United States, there are a lot of descendants of Finns who moved there long ago and have never even been to Finland, let alone speak the language, and have some sort of romantic idea about Finnishness. Very Finnish Problems is a chance for them to get a glimpse at things over here. It’s probably the same with the Swedes – there’s also a large Finnish minority there.”

He’s been at it for more than five years now, so there seems to be no shortage of odd things about Finland.

bodies and realize that few of them look like what the magazines have on offer. It’s healthy.”

Another thing to marvel at was the winter.

“The cold is so different here than in England. It gets into your bones and your core. On the other hand, it’s fascinating to go outside at 25 degrees below zero, when your eyelashes frost and your beard starts to crunch – and this goes on for three months! On the rare cases in Britain when you saw snow in the morning, it meant you wouldn’t have to go to school, or anywhere else, for that matter, for several days, because the whole country stopped.”

Mämmi on my mind


Of course, there are many other strange things in Finland besides sauna. For example, things like salted licorice or ice-hole swimming, both of which can be difficult for a foreigner to comprehend. Or mämmi, an Easter dish made of rye that looks as though it was fished out of a toilet bowl. Many people think it tastes like that too.

“There are the basic strange things like the weather, language, food, and customs. The prime minister, Sanna Marin, has also been fantastic material – she has a certain kind of social media stardust. When the video came out during the summer of her dancing with her friends at the prime minister’s official residence in Kesäranta, I wrote about it for The Sunday Times and shared the video on Twitter. It was viewed over five million times. That post blew up and Marin received support from all over the world.”

Naked with the family

Very Finnish Problems is humor and, above all, satire. The idea is to highlight all kinds of strange things a foreigner might come across in Finland. Willans has also written two books on the subject; the subtitle of the first is descriptive: “The Foreigner’s Guide to Surviving in Finland.”

So what kinds of strange things are we talking about?

“When I first came to Finland, the sauna, for example, was a shock. I wasn’t at all prepared for being naked with the whole family. I myself come from a very liberal family, but that sort of thing would not have been heard of in Britain. I remember when my mother, who is a very open-minded woman, went to a swimming pool (and sauna) in Helsinki. She was stunned because she had never seen so many naked people before.”

But since getting over his culture shock, Willans has warmed up to the sauna. And more than that: “Saunas would be great to export to the world precisely because in saunas you see different kinds of

“No, I haven’t gotten used to mämmi. My wife’s family always makes it for me at Easter, even though they know very well that I don’t eat it. Another thing that makes no sense is the autumn ritual of eating crayfish: so much trouble and so little to eat. So my integration hasn’t been perfect. I’m also ashamed of how badly I speak Finnish.”

Though Finns deserve part of the blame for that.

“They speak such good English that whenever I try to speak Finnish, they immediately switch to English. At some point I had the idea that the children would help. That somehow, I would learn the language through them, but they’re actually my worst critics and say right away, ‘Dad, don’t speak Finnish. It’s so embarrassing!’”

Distance gives perspective

Having lived in Finland for twenty years now, there are of course some things a citizen of two cultures misses from his old home country.

“The bath is one example. And now, when I look at things from a bit of a distance, I’ve noticed how lovely British small towns are. My childhood village of Sudbury in southeast England is 1,300 years old. We lived in a 200-year-old house, for example, and my school was from the 18th century. They’re things I used to take for granted.”

Another is football, of course.

“I’ve been a supporter of Ipswich Town since I was seven years old, but I wasn’t able to see their matches on TV for many years –nowadays, of course, it is possible – so it was great to be able to go to a match for the first time in years last summer. Another thing I miss is sausage rolls. Whenever I go to England, I run to a bakery first thing to buy them.” s


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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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p H oto: Ju SS i Hell S ten / c ity of Hel S inki
Season`s delicacies, small snacks combined with the matching wines. We also serve lunch. Modernly furnished with a relaxing ambience. Address: Kellosaarenranta 2, Helsinki Phone: +358 10424 9830 @faroravintola TERRACE • FRIENDLY STAFF • FREE WIFI +358 45 6789 045 | | @theglasshelsinki | Kämp Gallery K1 floor, Mikonkatu 1 Google 4,9/5 Dinner Booking 5,8/6 Facebook 5/5 photo: @angelinilmast Seasonal Flavours from Nordic Bistro in the heart of Helsinki Artesan Wines Classic Cocktails Impressive Rum Selection The Glass 200x142mm Metropolitan Times_2022.pdf 1 5.5.2022 14.44

The art museum where the past, present, and future


Open Wed – Mon Closed Tue

Online images and porcelain cats

The fall exhibition at The Finnish Museum of Photography's K1 exhibition space dives deep into the image culture of online marketplaces

The fall 2022 exhibition at the K1 exhibition space of the Finnish Museum of Photography is Learning from eBay by the American photographic artist Penelope Umbrico. The exhibition delves into the people, consumer culture and use of photographs during the internet age. The exhibition is open from October 14 2022 to February 5 2023.

Written by VilMa MalMgren translated by toMi ristola

Umbrico’s exhibition is located in the new K1 exhibition space of the Finnish Museum of Photography on the lowest floor of the Kämp Galleria in the center of Helsinki. The exhibition space was opened in 2020 to accompany the museum's original exhibition space at the Cable Factory. By the K1 exhibition space you can also find the gift shop, The Object, and the museum restaurant, The Glass, which draws inspiration from Nordic cuisine. The exhibition space and restaurant together allow visitors to enjoy a comprehensive experience combining art and food.

With the K1 exhibition space, the museum wants to bring photographic art even closer to the bustle of the city center and to offer quality art experiences to an even wider audience. “Through photography, we look at the world from many angles. K1 exhibitions feature lots of international photography without forgetting Finnish photography either. We want to offer photography experiences to a large audience,” says museum director Elina Heikka

Learning from eBay

Penelope Umbrico’s exhibition consists mainly of photographs she has collected from online marketplaces. The photos people use to sell items on eBay, Craigslist or play an important role; few of us would buy an item without one. What do these photos tell us about people, internet culture and the current uses of photographs?

So far, K1 has exhibited a wide range of photography art from different decades. These have included street photography by the hugely popular Vivian Maier and early magazine photos by film director Stanley Kubrick. The leading front of modern photography has been represented by the ZAZISE exhibition by South African Zanele Muholi depicting gender and racism, and the retrospective Love by the late top Finnish photographer Susanna Majuri

Umbrico's exhibition is further evidence that the number of photographs is huge nowadays and growing exponentially. “Photographs are present in our culture more than ever,” notes Heikka.

Umbrico, who started her career in the visual arts, began working with online images in the late 1990s as the internet grew more common. During her career, she has worked with images from online marketplaces as well as photos uploaded to the image sharing site Flickr. Her series Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (2006- ) consists of thousands of almost identical photos of sunsets on Flickr. The artist is interested in how our uploaded photos start to resemble each other, as well as what sort of communal dimensions this entails. Umbrico’s methods resemble that of an archivist: she examines the online image streams and compiles the images she finds into different series. For her, online images form a sort of archive that serves as the basis of her work and against which modern culture is mirrored. “Thinking about the web as an archive is a useful tool for me to make a body of work. I’m using the web as an archive of humanity, as kind of an index of who we are,” says Umbrico.

Umbrico’s interest in image streams from sites such as eBay, and Craigslist is not very common. The images found on online marketplaces are not usually seen as having any artistic value; their main function is to sell an item. What appeals to the artist in

Penelope Umbrico: 49,309,225 Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (Partial).
“Thinking about the web as an archive is a useful tool for me to make a body of work. I’m using the web as an archive of humanity, as kind of an index of who we are,”

these seemingly random, low-quality images? “The same way that photography in general is kind of an index, like all the photographs ever taken are a kind of archive of who we are as human beings. Any image online is equally that,” Umbrico says.

On the other hand, these images can be much richer in meaning than it first seems. The photos in the series TVs from Craigslist at the exhibition are from television ads downloaded by Umbrico from Craigslist. At first sight, the images are strikingly simple. Often the low-quality photos portray only a TV, but on closer inspection they reveal something intimate and personal about the photographers themselves. You might see a reflection on the TV screen of the photographer and the room in which the photo was taken. For Umbrico, these reflections offer access into private homes. “I specifically look for things in those contexts that will reveal a certain kind of domestic intimacy. For example, TVs are often placed in people’s bedrooms, so we get a reflection of their bed. There is something about being invited in to these very private, intimate spaces, willingly.”

While the images of televisions for sale reveal something about the photographers, they also function as a window into the history of the development of camera technology. Photos from the early 2000s have poor resolution and the reflections on the TV screens are blurry. As technology has developed, reflections have grown in size and television screens have become flatter. Nowadays, smartphone cameras enable photos to be taken without a flash even if it’s dark indoors. The resolution of the photographs is higher, which makes

Ceramic cats as an embodiment of emotions

The final room of the exhibition has a surprise in store for the visitor. The room is full of white ceramic cats of different sizes sitting next to each other on top of small parcels. Cute cat figurines that resemble each other have been ordered from online marketplaces in Finland and the US. They sit on top of the mail parcels they were delivered in.

Online marketplaces are full of ads for used cat figurines. Often sellers of cat figurines photograph them from different angles and include in their ads text such as: “Take this cute cat home, it will warm up your life.” Even though ceramic cats cannot feel emotions or love us back, we project all sorts of emotions on them. “The cat figure is just a piece of clay; it has no emotional anything. And yet people project all this emotion onto it. But I’ve been thinking that actually that’s real. That cat really does have emotion because I’m projecting this emotion on it,” says Umbrico. A group of white ceramic cats resembling each other makes the viewer think about people’s interaction in the internet age on a wider scale. For Umbrico, cats are a manifestation of internet culture. They are everywhere, as gifs, videos and emojis. Cat emojis, videos and gifs represent us and convey emotions on social media and various instant messaging apps. Few of us have been able to avoid the influx of cats. s

the images more detailed. This in turn allows for a better peek into the photographers’ rooms.
THE K1 EXHIBITION SPACE Kämp Galleria, Mikonkatu 1, Helsinki Opening hours Exhibitions are open Mon–Fri 11 am – 8pm, Sat–Sun 11 am – 6 pm. Ticket sales end half an hour before the museum closes. p H oto: t uom AS u u SH eimo
Penelope Umbrico: Used Same White Ceramic Cats - eBay, 2014–2022
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An inventive nation

Year after year, Finland is among the top ten most inventive countries in the world based on inventions per capita. In Europe, Finns are usually among the top five in terms of number of patents. Did you know that the following inventions are Finnish?

The Molotov cocktail

The Molotov cocktail is a simple explosive device, made from a bottle, that Finns used against tanks, especially during the Winter War of 1939–40. Similar bombs already existed, but the Finns made improvements to the bombs’ ignition so they would be less dangerous to ignite. The contents were gasoline, spirits, and tar, and the bottles were manufactured at scale at a liquor factory.

The maternity package

Every child born in Finland receives a gift from the government: a large cardboard box filled with items the baby will need during his or her first months. The box can also be used as baby’s first bed. These days, there are 43 different items in the package, including clothes, hygiene and feeding items, a board book, a cuddly toy, a blanket, and a bed sheet. It’s also possible to take cash (170 euros) instead of the goods, but you’ll end up spending more if you buy the items yourself. The maternity package has existed in some form since the early 1900s, but in 1949, it was written into law, with all mothers entitled to receive it.

The Finnish Long Drink

The Long Drink has also been called Finland’s national beverage, so it’s definitely worth a try. This innovation was first prepared for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Finland at the time was a poor country where you’d be hard-pressed to find even a Coca-Cola, so something had to be invented for the Olympic tourists. The state monopoly liquor

store, Alko, asked the beverage manufacturer Hartwall to develop a new drink. The result was a drink made of gin, grapefruit juice, and water, which was so delicious and popular that production continued even after the Olympics. "Lonkero", as the drink is commonly called, has retained its popularity to this day.

Icebreaker technology

Finland’s status as an icebreaker nation began in the 1950s. Of course, icebreaker ships were not invented in Finland, but there have been many Finnish icebreaker innovations. One important innovation was to add propellers to the ships. In 1954, the world’s first such icebreaker was built, with no less than four propellers, two in the bow and two in the stern. With the propellers, the icebreaker could clear ice much more quickly, and less slush and ice floes were left in the channel. In the 1990s, the Azipod thruster was developed, which is used in both icebreakers and cruise ships. It is more powerful than its predecessor, and it also saves energy consumption by up to a quarter.

The reflector

It’s dark outside in Finland for a large part of the year, so pedestrians’ lives are at risk if motorists can’t see them. the 1950s, a farmer, Arvi Lehti, lost a horse to a traffic accident in the dark and was spurred to action: he built – in what had been his horse’s stall – a plastic machine and started making reflectors. After a little product development, a snowflake-shaped reflector was born and became an instant hit among children.

k on
/ m u S eum c entre of f inl A nd 26
Written by roope lipasti translated by Christina saarinen
H oto: Seppo
S tig

Winter tires

When a rare snowfall occurs in southern Europe, motorists are in trouble due to slippery conditions. Drivers in Finland are spared such concerns because in winter, Finns put winter tires on their cars. Winter tires resemble normal tires except for their steel studs, which bite into the ice and make driving safer. The first winter tires of this type were patented in Finland in 1959.

The Ball Chair

The Ball Chair, launched by Eero Aarnio in 1966, is the kind of design that leaves no one cold. It has appeared in a James Bond movie and on the cover of numerous magazines. Nothing reflects the pop spirit of the ’60s better than this fiberglass classic.

Fiskars scissors

While Fiskars is known for its high-quality tools overall, its scissors are downright legendary. Of course, they are excellent scissors, but they have one important feature beyond their function: the handles are orange, which has become a Fiskars trademark. The scissors, designed by Olof Bäckström, shook up the scissors world when they were introduced in 1967: they were beautiful, comfortable to hold, and their handles were made of durable plastic. And they cut well, too. Even today, every pair of Fiskars scissors is tested before being shipped to stores. That’s why Fiskars has sometimes said that it sells ‘used’ scissors. The orange color was happenstance: the color happened to be in the machine when a test batch was made, and everyone liked it.

The faucet-mounted bidet sprayer

The faucet-mounted bidet sprayer is perhaps the most under-appreciated Finnish invention. Bidets are an old invention and exist all over the world. But bidets, intended for washing one’s bottom, can be cumbersome to use and take up space. The Finnish version is more convenient and doesn’t take up space—that’s its genius in a nutshell. The sprayer, developed by Oras in 1968, is connected to a bathroom sink faucet, and when you turn on the tap, the sprayer is ready for use. In addition to washing one’s rear end, it’s also handy for cleaning the toilet itself, or things like hosing off children’s muddy rain suits.

The heart rate monitor & the Oura ring

Every self-respecting athlete, along with more and more casual exercisers, monitors various things while working out. The most important of these is heart rate. Before 1979, this required attaching lead wires to the skin, which in turn connected to a machine that measured heartbeats. Of course, it wasn’t very convenient when running outdoors – you would have to have very long leads, at least. It was the Finnish company Polar who introduced to the market a wrist-watch receiver that measured heartbeat from data sent by a transmitter strapped to the chest.

Development along these lines has continued, and a more recent significant Finnish invention is the Oura ring, which measures a person’s sleep quality and much more.

The text message

Nokia ruled the mobile phone market for twenty years from early 90s and during that time, applied for and was granted thousands of patents. One of Nokia’s most famous inventions is the text message. The first text message was sent from a computer to a phone in 1992, ushering in the text-based phone era. The text itself was short and

concise: “Merry Christmas.” Matti Makkonen is often mentioned as the developer of the text message, but in reality, there were many engineers involved – as there generally are.


High cholesterol is extremely prevalent among Finns. Benecol margarine, produced by Raisio Group, was introduced in 1995 and is a functional food that reduces blood cholesterol. Its active ingredient, stanol ester, has been named one of the most important discoveries in the field of nutrition in recent decades.

Nordic walking

Nordic walking became a trend in the late 1990s. The concept was simple but innovative: to combine skiing and walking. In other words, it’s walking with ski poles, which is much more effective from a fitness point of view, as the upper body is also working all the time. So what if the kids laugh at such a middle-aged activity!

A waterproof wood composite

In 2019, a new type of bathroom fixture entered the market. The fixtures weren’t made of porcelain or plastic as usual, but of wood. And it wasn’t just any wood, but a waterproof wood composite developed by Woodio. It’s manufactured from woodchips and can be used to make things like sinks and bathtubs. The material was born when researchers mixed different ingredients for fun at a Christmas party. Fortunately, they still remembered the formula in the morning.

These Finnish inventions never made it big abroad: liver casserole and mämmi

Liver casserole is prepared from ground liver and rice, and even Finns either love it or hate it—there are many who also love to hate it! Mämmi, on the other hand, is a malty, rye-based dessert eaten at Easter, which looks like something that’s been fished out of a toilet bowl. These two dishes have not spread very far beyond Finland’s borders, so it appears there is a need for continued product development – or at least for better branding. s

p H oto: m u S eum c entre of f inl A nd / S A t A kunn A n m u S eo p H oto: m u S eum c entre of f inl A nd / Seur ASAA ren ulkomu S eon kokoelm A t
One of Nokia’s most famous inventions is the text message.

The author's hotels

I’ve Seen mAny hotels in my life. These days, I mostly travel for work, to make author appearances in different parts of Finland and occasionally beyond. Traveling for work offers me a great opportunity to see hotels and places I wouldn’t necessarily come across as a tourist.

In one town made famous by its cross-country skiers, the hotel I stayed in was a studio apartment upstairs from a local restaurant. The view from the room looked out onto a cemetery. But it was only fitting – at the moment, I was working on a plan for a collection of horror stories. From the windows of another lodging establishment, founded by two young women in Northern Ostrobothnia, the view was endless misty ice. From the windows of a hundred-year-old hotel in Barcelona, I saw only a narrow slit of a courtyard. In Cologne, in a room on the seventh floor, I remember a broad windowsill, the length of the entire wall, with space enough that I could stand up on it. That trip inspired me to boldly throw myself into the novel I was planning at the time.

After making an author appearance, a hotel room is above all a place for rest and relaxation. But sometimes stories – and some certain stories – are born more easily in the self-imposed isolation that hotel living affords. Creativity flourishes in bounded spaces. So I also check into hotels to write.

Hotel life is a way to detach from the everyday grind, a way to step into a bubble where an adult person can let themselves be taken care of. Goodbye dishes, goodbye mental load! Living in a hotel feels safe and predictable, with its small check-in rituals, understated white plastic key cards, friendly chambermaids, and breakfast waiting in the morning. The writer is stripped of other responsibilities and has no choice but to write.

I like to believe that I’m an easy hotel guest. My first task is to hang the sign on the door that politely asks others to leave me alone. In the modern monk’s cell of my hotel room, I am both separated from the world and one with it. The sounds of traffic and people behind the window are no distraction. On the contrary, the muffled

conversation of a group passing by the room or the soft bang of a door remind me that life goes on outside my writing bubble. Maybe that’s why my memories of hotels often revolve around windows and the worlds beyond them.

Hotels are an excellent breeding ground for stories, even if only for the traveling itself. I’m not the kind of writer who, like a nocturnal predator, nabs real conversations or people to use in their stories. But spending time both surrounded by human life and simultaneously on its edges revs a story engine that is fueled by being in this liminal state, by transience and movement.

Checking out of a hotel is rarely a sad moment. I’m often already missing home when I close my suitcase, pull on my shoes, and check for the third time whether I packed my phone charger. Closing the room’s door for the last time and returning the plastic key card to reception is both a mechanical task to be executed and a sacred ritual of taking leave. When I depart, I know that while I may never stay in that hotel again, I will always find myself back at a hotel. s

Magdalena Hai is an award-winning Finnish children’s and young adult author whose books have been sold into more than twenty languages. When at home, she drinks too much coffee and photographs the invertebrates in her garden.

pH oto: Ju HA
p H oto: e nv A to
t örmälä
Written by Magdalena hai translated by Christina saarinen
Sometimes stories - and some certain stories - are born more easily in the self-imposed isolation that hotel living affords.
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