I repeat that the
number of inhabitants in Helsinki is very low, and therefore everything
looks empty. You see far more cars than people.
By the way, this depends on the place and time of the day. On the
central roads, there are very many people and an incessant stream of
cars, but you only have to leave the road to discover lots of small side
streets like this one. Only the people who live here, come here, and
somewhere close by, the parking space for their cars is hidden... A
It's the same with the time of day. If you're outside in the morning,
just before the shops and offices open, there are quite a few people
around by Petersburg standards. In the metro during rush hour, people
stand in the middle of the carriage, as well as sit in the seats. But in
the evening, especially after 8-10 pm, the streets are literally dead.
All the Finns sit happily by their television sets, and afterwards, they
go to bed...
Hertoniemen ranta, the coastline of the Hertoniemi area.
This area is
situated by a strait. The small boats from the next picture lie only
20-30 metres from these houses.
The houses by the coast are more expensive than elsewhere.
The very place.
Besides everything else, my friends took me to the areas where the rich
live. Because we didn't walk around there, but drove through in a car, I
didn't take any photos. I can only say a few things:
Their houses are usually by the sea, with one house for one family.
They look impressive, both in size and scale. But this is still on a
level slightly above what is common for a middle class family in an
American movie. Some houses are surrounded by proper stonewalls similar
to the ones one often see on Petersburg's Kamenny Ostrov (Kamenny
By and large, one can see that rich people live there, but one also
feels a sense of proportion.
In general, Europeans are characterised by their wish to enter
into compromise and reach agreements (unlike us).
I remembered something about tolerance: I went on a train within the
city boundaries (this is a common type of public transport, they are
very frequent and the ticket system is like that of the bus, metro and
tram). In the same carriage, there was a group of tourists, and among
them was a girl who wore only shoes, shorts and a handbag (yes,
and a watch perhaps :) But nobody in the carriage reacted to this in any
way. Just like there was nothing out of the
On the photograph you see more houses by the sea. It's the same
Hertoniemi area coastline.
There is a separate beach for dogs nearby with corresponding facilities.
Another of the quiet side streets in the Hertoniemi area, away from the
sea and in the middle of the area.
And more about wealth:
You somehow don't feel that the Finns envy someone with a clearly
higher income than themselves. At least, nobody envies the rich
neighbour. This can be rather puzzling: One of the best city beaches is
in Marjaniemi, and beside it is the property of a very rich man. This
property is situated in a way that allows visitors to the beach a full
view of the man's house and backyard. Hundreds of people watch his lawn
while they tan, and they also watch his magnificent yacht by the pier
just down from the house. It's a swim of about thirty metres from the
beach to the vessel, which has several decks. And in general, this rich
man has no private life by our standards, and he would want a fence to
protect him from all the strange glances. But no, everything is quiet,
and the two sides don't take any notice of each other. It's just not
appropriate to intrude in other people's private life here.
As you already understood, there are many buildings with several flats
in them in Helsinki, and they are of different types and looks.
It's interesting how they manage to attain measured spending levels
to maintain all these buildings. For each type of building, you have to
produce a certain range of sections, details, and maintenance equipment.
It's impossible to standardise everything, especially because there are
many building firms.
Many buildings have large sections that are covered in glass. In a
climate similar to Petersburg's (even colder), this speaks of the high
quality of heating systems and technology in general.
Notice the glass
panels. They are constructed and adjusted in a way that one can open
them from inside and move the sections to the side. One may also move
all the glass panels in an accurate "pile" to one side. For example, you
may have a completely open balcony in the summer, and in the winter, a
closed one. This balcony at the moment has one open shutter, and it is
not a mistake in the construction, but how it's meant to be.
The Tammisalo area.
A house on the banks of a small river through a
park (also within the city boundaries).
A swan with ugly ducklings.
By the way, the swan is one of the
national symbols of Finland. There were even swans on the old coins and
notes of the Finnish markka, which was changed when the Finns switched
to the Euro.
A nice place, quiet and with clean air.
Well, the lawn opposite was
literally covered with ducks :)
In the previous century, apparently
because of the dangerous nuclear conflict, the Finns built quite a few
bomb shelters in the ground. One sees one also in the centre of the
city: by the railway station there is a sign with a blue triangle within
an orange circle.
Now, the bomb shelters are used for storage and other public service
For example, in one of the bomb shelters, there is a go-cart centre.
In general, the Finns like to have things under ground. Did you know
that the largest underground water pipe is a tunnel that is many
kilometres long, which was blasted through the rocks to provide the
Helsinki region with water? In the artificial underground river, clean
water runs from a group of lakes far away, by gravity. They say that
when some visiting American tourists heard that this record-breaking
construction was situated here, and not in the US, they became envious.
On the top of this hill, there is a small net fence. This is to stop
children, when playing, from falling down.
A square in the Puotila area.
A monument to Cubic.
A joke :)
Beside it is a mini golf course.
There are also proper golf courses.
The same area: people are slimming to
music and the cheerful voice of the instructor.
One of the covered "streets" of the
largest shopping centre in Scandinavia, Ityakeskus.
There are several shopping streets like this one, fully isolated from
the whims of the weather.
They lead to squares (you cannot see it in this picture, but one of them
is just at the other side end of the glass cupola) and then go off in
different directions again.
The "walls", several floors high, are
offices and shops. On the underground and roof levels there are parking
lots. Underground there is also a cinema, an attached interchange metro
station... The "streets" and "squares" in this "shopping city" are named
after real streets in "big" Helsinki.
The trees are real, and green the whole year.
The ventilation and heating make it nice to go into the shopping centre
in windy and cold winter weather and sit down on a bench in the warm
weather, under green crowns...
A memorial to friends by the Friendship
A typical, but far from sober Finn, who eagerly insisted that we should
first take his photo, and then he should take our photo. His friends,
also far from sober, were quieter and patiently waited for the process
to end :-)
In general, drunkenness is widespread among the Finns, but
it doesn't really hit the eye. It's said that they take to drink more
easily than Russians.
This appears to be at the genetic level.. But drunken Finns are
luckily mostly friendly disposed towards people around them.
In addition, when the police take them away, they don't "offend" them by
our standards. For example, it's possible a policeman cautiously leading
(by the hand) a tipsy, singing drunk, clearly a heavy drinker, away from
a pedestrian underpass in the centre of the city... And the drunkard
will use his free hand to hold on to his bottle in order not to lose it
:-) But of course, if the drunk is aggressive, the police respond
precisely and adequately. They say that the detoxification centres here
are expensive. :-)
Finally, I would like to show you a small
section of the seaside at Espoo, a neighbouring town to Helsinki.
Espoo is regarded as a relatively expensive town (for example, compared
It's interesting that it was deliberately built, and is
continuously developed, as a decentralised town, with alternating
built-up and green areas. There is no centre at all, only relative
central areas, like the "eastern centre", where there are more large
shopping centres and railway stations.
This is supposed to be more or less the
only high-rise building in Espoo.
Note that all the buildings look very
One would like to know whether this is because they are cleaned or
painted (I didn't see this going on while wandering around), or whether
they just use materials that attract less dirt?
It is at least partially because of the clean air: there is very
little dust compared to in Petersburg.
Nearby, trees alternate with low-rise
houses built for a few families.
How do our builders start the
building process? They mark off a foundation pit, and around it they
uproot all the old plants, at least ten metres away, if not fifteen.
("To allow the machines to enter..") Solid, nice trees are ruthlessly
uprooted. After the construction is completed, the house lies in the
middle of a desert of garbage, stones and sand, without any grass. Then
they bring in a lorry of turf and try to spread it around on the
Then they put down a few panicles around the entrance. They used to be
young trees, but they forgot a long time ago. And their end is more
often than not a sad one...
Now, how do Finnish builders start the building process? They mark off a
foundation pit on the site, cut off the grass layer accurately and put
it aside nearby. Afterwards, they use extensions to stiffen the trees
and wrap the tree trunks for protection. ("To allow the machines to
enter..") Even if this tree stands a few centimetres from the foundation
pit. I don't have to go on, you see the result in the photographs...
A hare was sitting right in front of the
entrance of one of the house. I tried to make a photograph of him with
the camera in my hands, but nothing came out of it, it was too dark. I
had to go around it and put up the tripod on the other side of it. I
made three photos with an exposure of four to eight seconds. The hare
sat patiently and waited without a stir, obviously understanding the
problem. When I had finished and took the tripod down, he jumped away
immediately, to look for the next photographer :-)
In general, the
wild fauna of the city merits a discussion of its own. In the green zone
by the houses there are not only hares (everywhere, not just one in this
yard or region), but also foxes (far less often), pheasants, hedgehogs,
and the very common squirrels. This is really wild fauna, they find feed
not on garbage heaps (the garbage heaps here are pretty well closed),
but look for it themselves.
To sum up on the basis of three
thoughtful visits to Finland, one to the Czech Republic (included
residential areas), I can say the following:
It is unrealistic to do
the same, with the same methods, in Russia. This is because the
existence and maintenance of what I have photographed here first and
foremost depends on the behaviour of ordinary citizens, and not of those
who governs them. It cannot work differently at all.
It is a realistic task to make everything look the same on the
outside in Russia (that is, clean, beautiful, with high technology,
etc.). However, the methods one would have to use to achieve this will
be completely different and not to the liking of the people who most of
all would want this beauty and high technology.
At the end, I would like to thank Mikhail Pyarnyanen and Aleksandr
Starkov for their comments, information and educational excursions in
Helsinki and Espoo.
From these two albums you may have had the impression that there are not
problems in Finland. That is of course not so. But it is already another
discussion, which has little to do with the quality of contemporary
housing and public management.