Archive

Archive for the ‘2009 Helsinki’ Category

Helsinki Day 1 – Travelling

September 17th, 2009 No comments

A very early start today to pick my friend George up from her house in Canterbury before travelling to Gatwick for our flight to Helsinki with Easyjet.

The journey to Gatwick was quite quick and when we arrived at the car park it didn’t take long for a bus to arrive to take us to the airport. We had already checked in online so went straight through passport control but got stopped by security – they were checking quite a lot of people today. Not quite sure why my bag got picked maybe it was a random sample or maybe they were having problems with the machines.

Icky at Gatwick Airport with our plane

Icky at Gatwick Airport with our plane

Time for a coffee at Nero before walking to our plane. Boarding was a little late and the scrum for the plane was as usual but we managed to get an exit row which was great – I like extra leg room due to my long legs! The flight was uneventful and we didn’t see much due to cloud cover but we arrived in Helsinki on time. We took the local bus into the city and it went through all the housing estates on the way before arriving at the central train station 30 minutes later.

Me at Helsinki Harbour

Me at Helsinki Harbour

It was a little early to check in so we took a slow walk to the Eurohostel and took in some sights on the way such as the Orthodox Cathedral, Marina and Presidential Palace.

Helsinki Harbour

Helsinki Harbour

Helsinki Orthodox Cathedral

Helsinki Orthodox Cathedral

A photo of our room at the hostel

A photo of our room at the hostel

Another view of our room

Another view of our room

The third member of our group, Anna, was arriving another day but we let them know this so she could check in when she arrived. After checking in and travelling up a very questionable lift to our room we relaxed for a bit before randomly wandering the city to take in some more of the sights.

We are both quite tired and getting used to the cold so will have an early night ready for the next few days.

Share

Helsinki Day 2 – Sightseeing

September 18th, 2009 No comments

A fairly leisurely start to the day today.

Me in Helsinki

Me in Helsinki

George relaxing

George relaxing

The end of the peninsula

The end of the peninsula

After waking and having breakfast we went for a nice walk to the tip of the peninsula that Helsinki is on, past the ferry terminals and stopping to take photos on the way. After relaxing for a bit to take in the wonderful scenery we walked back into the city towards the cathedral where we took some more photos. During this random walk we also started our souvenir purchasing at a nice souvenir shop right next to the market square which was a little expensive due to the location but sold some very nice items – we shopped at the market for anything we wanted cheaper.

Helsinki's old streets

Helsinki’s old streets

Me at Helsinki Cathedral

Me at Helsinki Cathedral

The next stop of the day was the Temppeliaukio Church which is like a concert hall built into some exposed bedrock. There were some people practicing for some sort of televised event there – a few musicians were soundchecking and there were TV broadcast vehicles outside so maybe it was an annual concert or something.

The old church in the bedrock

The old church in the bedrock

Right opposite the church was a great souvenir shop that sold everything else we needed. I say everything else as the souvenir shop next to the marina combined with the market allow you to find most things but this shop has things like Christmas decorations and just silly little things that you can buy as presents for people.

We decided to wander back to town and wandered down towards the Tavastia club, which felt like some sort of pilgrimage. To compare, the Tavastia is like the London Astoria, the Key Club, or Radio City Music Hall – the legendary venue where everybody seems to play and that would be missed if it was demolished. Nightwish have played here a few times so it was nice to be able to see it.

Helsinki Tavastia Club

Helsinki Tavastia Club

Esplanadi, Helsinki

Esplanadi, Helsinki

Relaxing in Helsinki

Relaxing in Helsinki

Nobody should go to Helsinki without taking in a cruise around the harbour whatever the weather. We decided to do one with IHA Lines but went back to the hostel first to refresh, put on warmer clothes, put souvenirs in the room etc. We decided we were going to sit on the open deck to take in the sights so needed to prepare!!

George and Icky

George and Icky

Me on the boat called Doris

Me on the boat called Doris

Our cruise took us out into the harbour, past the big ferries and out to the western harbour where the cruise ships dock, freight is shipped out etc. This took us past some nice stereotypical Scandinavian buildings and allowed us to get some good photos of the city. Next stop was Suomelinna, the fortress built on the islands off of Helsinki to protect the city against attack. We didn’t actually stop on the island but went pretty close to it and got some good photos before heading further out into the harbour.

Helsinki by boat

Helsinki by boat

Me on Doris again

Me on Doris again

Suomelinna by sea

Suomelinna by sea

After a while cruising the harbour and seeing many of the beautiful islands we started heading back towards the city. By this time we were the only people still remaining on the upper deck as many people had decided it was too cold – indeed it was but we wanted to take some good photos.

The final stop was the part of the harbour where the ice-breaker fleet is docked and where there are many government buildings before returning to the dock past the big ferries. The cruise took about 90 minutes and was definitely worth it.

Helsinki Icebreaker Fleet

Helsinki Icebreaker Fleet

The National Geographic Explorer

The National Geographic Explorer

One thing I thought was quite nice after the tour we waited to let the large Indian tour group and other tourists get off first, during which time the tour guide was saying thank you to them all in English. However when we went to get off she said Kitos, which is thank you in Finnish, to us which was a nice change and was the first time we haven’t been marked as typical English tourists that only speak English. Even the girl on the checkouts in the supermarket talks to us in English before we even say anything!

Me and Doris

Me and Doris

If anybody is considering doing a cruise on the harbour there are two or three companies to pick from and they all depart from the docks near the market square / presidential palace. They usually take similar routes but some do slightly different things at different times of the day so pick up a leaflet from all of them to pick the one that is right for you. They mostly do tours with live commentary in Finnish and English but others may offer other languages, dinner cruises etc.

We had started to get cold by this point and it was starting to get late so we headed back to the hostel via the supermarket, had dinner and now it’s time for a fairly early night due to the long day tomorrow.

Share

Helsinki Day 3 – Nightwish

September 19th, 2009 No comments

Today was the day I had been looking forward to the most – the day I would see the final show in Nightwish’s world tour at the epic Hartwall Areena. We would spend much of the day at the venue queuing but decided to take in some sights first.

Helsinki is one of those cities where you can see as many things by just wandering as you can by planning a route so we decided to just randomly wander, although decided to go to the station to investigate tickets to the Pasila station near Hartwall Areena first. We weren’t sure what to do so went to the desks to ask about tickets but were told the tickets were only sold in singles, not return, and were only valid for an hour. This is completely different to the UK where, although the most expensive in Europe, tickets can be bought and used at any time of the day and can also be return tickets. This wouldn’t be as good for us so decided to go away then come back later after looking into tickets more.

The park in the middle of the road leading from the market square (Esplanadi) has free wi-fi so I decided to look online on my phone and found a one-day tourist ticket would be the most convenient for us. We decided to continue randomly wandering the city, taking in some more of the sights and doing some more shopping until we were ready to go to the station.

Back to the ticket desks to get the tourist pas, which they didn’t do. However they did direct us to a kiosk which sold them. We purchased the ticket and got on the train to the Pasila station which only took a few minutes.

Hartwall Areena

Hartwall Areena

We arrived at the venue somewhere between 12 and 1pm and there were already between 100 and 200 people in the queue, some of whom had been camping overnight judging by the comments that had been posted on twitter that morning. We decided this was far enough back so joined the queue.

Outside Hartwall Areena

Outside Hartwall Areena

It was warm enough to start with but when the sun started going behind the entrance to the car park that we were sitting next to it started to get quite cold. However we all managed to entertain ourselves with a mass karaoke session and random nonsense that always happens in a long queue for a Nightwish gig. During this time the security were also nice enough to let us all into the venue to use the toilets, providing that we picked up all of the rubbish that had accumulated throughout the day and night before.

Lots of people from various places visited

Lots of people from various places visited

Anna, the third member of the group, arrived an hour or so before doors and was able to join us in the queue – a short time later the queue started compacting up towards the barriers and she wouldn’t have been able to join us.

Security on the doors were quite strict so I’m glad I hid my camera in its usual hiding place as anybody that was found with one was made to join a separate queue to deposit it in the cloakroom which would have meant letting hundreds of people would get past us. On entering the venue there were a lot of fast-food chains to tempt us but, once we managed to work out that we were in the correct queue for the standing section, we decided not to leave it.

They tempted me with pizza!!

They tempted me with pizza!!

After 30 minutes or so the doors to the arena opened and we all rushed in – we think the other side opened first as there were quite a few people in there by the time we were in there but we were able to get around 10 rows from the front. There was no real pushing unlike shows in the UK so once we found a good spot we were able to keep it, give or take natural movement of the crowd.

Apocalyptica were on first and are the only band I’ve ever seen that have cellos as the main instrument instead of guitars. I’ve seen them twice before, including once at a music awards, but it was a good performance today as they had guest vocals on some of the songs instead of just being an instrumental act as normal.

Apocalyptica

Apocalyptica

Apocalyptica

Apocalyptica

Apocalyptica saying goodbye

Apocalyptica saying goodbye

After a tense wait Nightwish came on to a LOT of pyro which was very warm even from 10 rows back. We knew it would be a special evening and indeed it was – they had guest musicians, new songs that had never been played live, pyrotechnics, confetti and an incredibly moving water feature during the final song.

I didn't get too many photos of the pyrotechnics - the videos have that.

I didn’t get too many photos of the pyrotechnics – the videos have that.

The setlist was:
INTRO:
Finlandia (with Troy Donockley)

MAIN SET:
7 Days to the Wolves
Ever Dream
Wishmaster
Romanticide
Amaranth
The Sirenn(with Pekka Kuusisto)
While Your Lips Are Still Red (with Pekka Kuusisto)
The Poet and the Pendulum
Nemo
Sahara
Dark Chest of Wonders
The Islander (with Troy Donockley)
Walking in the Air Acoustic (with Troy Donockley)
Last of the Wilds (with Troy Donockley)
Meadows of Heaven (with Troy Donockley)

ENCORE:
Ghost Love Score
Wish I Had an Angel

OUTRO:
The Heart Asks Pleasure First

Tuomas in his boat

Tuomas in his boat

Emppu Guitar Solo

Emppu Guitar Solo

Pekko Kuusisto as a guest musician

Pekko Kuusisto as a guest musician

Anette dressed up for the occasion

Anette dressed up for the occasion

Emppu and Troy Donockley

Emppu and Troy Donockley

Anette from Nightwish

Anette from Nightwish

Overall I didn’t get as many photos as I do usually at Nightwish gigs as we were a bit further back but this allowed me to get some good videos and to actually experience the concert more with the confetti and general atmosphere.

Much of the talk during the show was in Finnish but a lot of the time Anette talked it was in English as she hasn’t quite mastered Finnish yet. They did make a point of saying see you on the next tour and that all of them would be on the next tour in case anybody was thinking Anette would be fired after the show like Tarja was last time they played the venue. The projection screen showed “see you in 2011” at the end so we have a bit of a wait but at the end of the gig while this was being shown we were in for a surprise – they played an unreleased song that will never be released over the sound system. It’s a song called “The Heart Asks Pleasure First” which is a cover of a song from The Pianist which was refused permission to be released from the original composer which is a shame as it’s a very nice song.

Nightwish at the end

Nightwish at the end

Inside Hartwall at the end

Inside Hartwall at the end

After buying the obligatory t-shirt with all of the shows from this tour on, which we later noticed were incorrect (London isn’t in Belgium for example), we proceeded outside and met up with people we had been separated from before heading back to the train station.

They have a good system in place for post-event trains. There is a walkway directly from the venue to one of the platforms at the Pasila station which just runs shuttle trains backwards and forwards into the city until everybody has been transported. It took a few minutes for the train to fill but only took a few minutes to get into the city, from where we walked slowly back to the hostel for some well-needed sleep.

Me, George and Anna in Hartwall Areena

Me, George and Anna in Hartwall Areena

Here are a few videos from the event:

This event was definitely a dream come true for me. Nightwish have been my favourite band for 7 or 8 years now and I’ve known them for 9 years since long before they even played the UK. I’ve been a fan through the hard times and during the times they built up a fanbase eventually playing 4000 capacity venues in the UK and to see a full show of theirs in something like a 13000 capacity venue in their home city at the end of their world tour. Unless you experience it there’s no way to really describe it. Just it was one of the best nights of my life and I’m glad I went!

Share

Helsinki Day 4 – Returning Home

September 20th, 2009 No comments

Today was only really taken up with getting home. We had a lazy start to the day, showered, packed etc then walked slowly to the bus station via the market square again for some last minute photos. The bus to the airport doesn’t accept tourist cards so we had to pay for another ticket but it was only 4 euros and got us to the airport in about 35 minutes.

George, Anna and a Tortoise

George, Anna and a Tortoise

Helsinki Market Square

Helsinki Market Square

Walking to the bus station

Walking to the bus station

We got to the airport about 30 minutes before check-in opened so just took things easy then joined the queue early enough that we would be in the first boarding group. Helsinki isn’t set up for online check-in, which is given priority boarding with Easyjet, so we had to check in at the airport and get there early to be able to get on the plane first to get a good seat.

Helsinki Central Station where we caught the bus to the Airport

Helsinki Central Station where we caught the bus to the Airport

There are plenty of shops and cafes in the airport so, after going through security and getting a strange look from the guard for having a bag of confetti from the Nightwish gig, we bought last-minute souvenirs before just sitting down and relaxing over a coffee.

We went through to the departure gates and relaxed for a bit longer before being called to our exact gate. When we got there we saw probably about 20 other people who had been to the gig – either because they were wearing Nightwish shirts or other random metal band shirts. On the bus to the plane we talked to some of them and decided it probably would have been easier to just charter a plane to and from Helsinki – there probably would have been enough people from the UK going.

I’ve had enough experience with Easyjet and have a good system worked out for getting a good seat which I won’t go into here otherwise you’ll all know it, but we managed to get the exit rows again on the way back which was great – I can’t fit in the seats without this extra bit of leg room.

Flying home

Flying home

The flight was uneventful, although we saw views this time, and we arrived back at Gatwick on time, where we split up and went through three different passport queues. Anna had one of the new passports so went through the automated booth, George has an old passport so went into the longer queue and I’m signed up for the iris recognition system so went to that booth – for which I was the only person in the queue so got straight through.

Anna got on the bus back to Oxford and we went back to the car park for an easy drive back to Kent. Overall I had a great time and would consider Helsinki again – and will definitely go to see Nightwish next time they play Hartwall Areena, although that isn’t likely to be until 2013 now!!

I found the way to Amarillo

I found the way to Amarillo

This deserves posting!!

This deserves posting!! George didn't notice I took it!!

There isn’t as much to do in Helsinki as there are in other major cities but it is possible to stay here for a few days to see all of the sights, or use it as a base to see other things in the local area, or even go to Tallinn in Estonia for the day. The Eurohostel was a nice, cheap, alternative to staying in the expensive hotels for which Scandinavia is well known. It has private rooms with shared facilities which, although basic and not soundproofed, are good enough if you just want somewhere to sleep before exploring the city.

Oh and did I mention they sell Mountain Dew in Helsinki? Here I am celebrating the fact I found some without having to travel to Uganda or the USA….

Me and some Mountain Dew

Me and some Mountain Dew

Share