At the crossroads of east and west, the Republic of Georgia is a place that has long absorbed opposing influences, and its charming capital, Tbilisi is no different. With its crumbling Neoclassical buildings and winding streets, Tbilisi is filled with history. But as it emerges as a hot travel destination, the city is also embracing modernity as it strives to move beyond the cultural stagnation of the Soviet era.
As nights start to draw in and the winter air begins to chill, my thoughts always turn east to the Nordic countries. There’s just something about thinking about those cool, crisp countries that comforts me in long winter nights. I pick up my (guiltily) beloved Nordic crime novels, hunt for episodes of The Killing and The Bridge online, watch Aki Kaurismäki movies, listen to the glacial music of Rubik, Husky Rescue and Sigur Ros, remember my many visits and plan many more.
I met up with a woman from Helsinki last week for an article forthcoming for (614) Magazine and now I am dreaming of Finnish forests and remembering the last summer I spent in Helsinki.
Walking along the craggy shoreline of Suomenlinna, an 18th-century fortress island, made me feel far removed from the city — actually only a 15-minute ferry ride away.
The island is peaceful; almost silent outside of ferry arrival times.
Arriving at Market Square from the Suomenlinna ferry, you can choose from dozens of food vendors. The Old Market Hall, which dates from 1914, is best known for its fresh produce — it’s where the city’s chefs shop.
Töölö Bay is circled by a jogging/walking track and rowboats usually dot the bay.
The beautiful old villas overlooking the water are still inhabited. The terrace of Blue Villa Cafe has views across the Bay, as well as Finlandia House, National Opera House and Kiasma art museum.
The contemporary art museum, Kiasma features striking architectural design and programming.
Cutting-edge architectural and design is, of course, at the heart of Helsinki.
Everyday objects are designed to within an inch of their lives — including bicycles. The almost painfully hip fixed gear Jopo bicycle is the most stylish, and practical, vehicle for getting around the city.
Independent record stores thrive in Helsinki, especially in the Punavuori district.
Bars, clubs, music venues and cafes are rooted in Punavuori. One of my favourites was a combination of all four: Belly on Uudenmaankatu (which I fear may now be closed). They did a cheap buffet during the day and live music in the evenings.