Tuesday, May 08, 2007


First job for the day was to visit Acer Computer's repair outlet to see if they could do something about the power outlet on my laptop, which, since my first day in Tallinn, requires that I insert the plug at a strange angle in order to have any effect. Because it's impractical to hold the plug thus, I have to invert the laptop so that the angled plug can be wedged in at the right angle, usually aided by the leg of a coffee table holding the laptop rigid. I usually get little more than an hour of effective juice to work with, which is insufficient to download photos from my camera, clean them up, back them up, and type and upload blog entries, let alone do route planning or hotel booking. So I'm left to run shifts of battery-charging and work.

Acer doesn't provide any method of contacting them prior to a visit, with only a phone message (in Finnish) to deal with. Since it's a Monday, turning up on their doorstop after opening time is the easiest course, that doorstop being conveniently located midway between my hotel and central Helsinki.

After 15 minutes of ringing a doorbell that doesn't seem to work, I finally get someone's attention, and explain that I've brought it in under the International Traveller's Warranty (allowing people like me to get quick service in remote places). He's never heard of it, and after half an hour of entering details into their service system and explaining the problem and that I'll be leaving Helsinki with the laptop, fixed or not, tomorrow morning, I leave it all with them. He gives me a service job number to look up on the web. I tell him to phone or email me today with any news ( the patron imp of repair technicians chuckles somewhere in Hades ).

On Helsinki's western fringe, or that is to say, neighbouring Espoo's fringe, sits Hvitträsk, the home of the architect Eliel Saarinen, designer of the Helsinki train station. Built jointly with colleagues Lindgren and Gesellius, Saarinen took over exclusive use of the dual home/studio.
We got there about an hour before opening time, but that was fine as Bondi was able to have a walk in the surrounding woodland. Behind the house are steps to a large lake, with waterside sauna.

The house itself is full of unusual artistic details, and the basement has a little exhibition about Eliel's son Eero Saarinen, who eclipsed his father's fame as an architect, with such signature workes as the Washington Dulles International Airport, the Miller House, and the Jefferson memorial arch in St Louis, Missouri. The exhibition is called "Will you draw me a horse?" as that is what he asked young architects to do when applying to work in his firm.

Studio; Exhibition

Eero with family Dane, possibly on same lakeside beach as Bondi is headed towards

On the way back towards central Helsinki, I thought I'd stop into the Tapiola area. Sibelius was commissioned to write a work of this name, and the resulting tone poem was programme thus:

Widespread they stand, the Northland's dusky forests,
Ancient, mysterious, brooding savage dreams;
Within them dwells the Forest's mighty God,
And wood-sprites in the gloom weave magic secrets.
The real Tapiola is more like Canberra with public servants weaving gloomy secrets, that is if you don't look at Helsinki in toto as Canberra writ Scandinavian. Lots of white buildings interspersed with tracts of forest, and very few people on the roads outside of peak-minute. The local information centre is cunningly hid on the 10th floor of an office building - you have to join the dots between the road signs and the lobby sign hidden behind 3 zones of glass. Locating the centre is as much stimulation as you may encounter in Tapiola on a Monday as the only local place recommendable by the hidden information centre was the art museum...closed Mondays.

Another of Helsinki's architectural attractions is the Temppeliaukio kirkko, an underground church built in granite.

With all the Eurovision fever around me, I picked up a copy of Tim Moore's 'Null Points', comprised of his followup on a dozen singers (usually of Scandinavian origin) who failed to score any points in the annual contest. I was snickering over one passage at the dinner table of my hotel when the appetiser arrived. Realising that I hadn't been supplied with any cutlery, the waitress muttered something under her breath and returned with a large pot full of knives and forks, which she placed at my right elbow. From this excess, I wondered if she was then going to strap herself to a large rotating wheel, inviting me to throw silverware at her for failing to lay the table properly.

After dinner I took Bondi for a walk near a lake behind the hotel, which I had not known of until I spotted it from my dinner table. A Finnish home would be incomplete without its own sauna and lake.

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