Yesterday we had glorious sunshine and a deep blue sky, so we decided to go for a walk along the seaside. Helsinki has a lot of sea, and it’s possible to walk along long stretches, a pretty good compensation for the architectonicly largely not very picturesque cityscape. We went to Meripuisto in Eira (which is by the way one of the nicest parts of Helsinki), in easily walkable distance south of the centre, and walked from there to the market square. We passed a boating harbour, which was empty now, but in summer it’s probably a great view, when it’s filled iwth pretty boats. Outside of the harbour lies the small island Uunisaari (oven island). In winter you can reach it on foot via a wooden bridge, during summer the bridge is opened to let the boat traffic through. On the island there’s a restaurant, a sauna (of course), a nice beach and a row of changing rooms, which were originally built for the Olympic Games in 1940, which were then cancelled due to the war.
I think it’s fascinating to watch the sea during winter, as I’ve never before lived anywhere where the sea freezes over. The remaining part of this article is going to be much excited rambling about icy water, so if you are used to freezing sea, you might find this rather unspectacular and boring – in that case, just skip the text and find pretty pictures below =).
When it turned properly cold for the first time this year, the sea was steaming and thick wafts of mist rose from the water. Then it froze over and was covered with a thick layer of snow, here and there you could see footprints of people who had walked across, so that it almost seemed like you were looking across a large, snowy meadow instead of water.
Now it has been thawing for weeks already, and the ice has broken into sheets floating on the water. In some places, they are large. Here you can hear a constant rustling noise – similar to the sound of wind in leaves – caused by the sheets grinding against each other. On the edges of the sheets, there are little rims of ice standing up like small fences, also caused by the grinding. Picking some of them up, you can see that they are thousands of very thin sheets of ice pressed tightly. The light swell lifts and lowers the sheets, which otherwise almost look like solid ground. Watching them made me slightly dizzy, as my brain couldn’t process these conflicting bits of information. Close to the shore we could even walk on the stranded ice sheets.
At Uunisaari, the wind had blown ice against the shore again and again over the weeks, where it froze into wave-like sculptures. It was possible to walk along there, albeit very slippery. Behind this icy barrier, small bits of ice, more lumps than sheets, floated on the water close-packed. Where there was no movement in the water, the ice was still intact, although very thin.
When we had seen enough ice, we left the coastline to walk up the hill in Kaivopuisto, a closeby park. Although there is hardly any snow in Helsinki now, we saw a horse pulled sleigh, complete with jingling bells, with an elderly couple as passengers doing several rounds in the park, before disappearing along the street.