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Helsinki: Day One

Posted on Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Dave!"Why in the hell are you going to Helsinki?"

I must have heard that (or a variation of that) at least a dozen times. Which is fine, I suppose, because it doesn't seem to be a big travel destination for Americans.

The honest answer is "Because I haven't been there before."

Or, more accurately, "Because I haven't been there before and they have a Hard Rock Cafe."

The interesting thing about my day was how shocking the weather was. In no way could it have been identified as "summer"... or even in the same ballpark as "summer." It was cold, windy, rainy, overcast, dark, and very much "Fall-like." Some people would find this horrible. I look at the weather back home where it's 100°F and I am totally loving it.

Since it was raining, I decided to wander around the more non-touristy areas and save the "big attractions" for tomorrow when the weather is supposed to improve. This allowed me to soak in the Finnish architecture, which is mind-bogglingly great. Especially the human column support designs, which are awesome...

Finnish Column Support

Finnish Column Support

Finnish Column Support

Finnish Column Support

Finnish Column Support
Trying to stay dry in the rain, I suppose...

Then it was off to St. Johns, which is a very nice church with an especially nice painting above the altar...

St. John's Church Helsinki

St. John's Church Helsinki

St. John's Church Helsinki

From there I headed down to the southern waterfront and then up to Observatory Hill, where there's a really cool statue called "Haaksirikkoiset" (Shipwrecked) by Robert Stigell...

Helsinki Waterfront
I CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM MY BOAT! (St. Petersburg is 185 miles away)


Restaurants are insanely expensive here. To save money, I decided to pick up a few groceries to make my own meals a few times. As I headed out, I noticed some cool old buildings across the street...

Helsinki Square

And, of course, there's the Hard Rock Cafe. It's in a mall of some kind, and is small but nice. Since it's a newer cafe, they've used the shitty "Hipster Lounge" design aesthetic, but they (wisely) took a step back and made sure to include a good selection of memorabilia, which is great.

Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki

One of those pieces of memorabilia is some hand-penned lyrics to an unfinished (and unused) Nirvana song. Much to my dismay, Kurt Cobain doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're" which made me want to grab a red pen and scrawl a correction on it...

Nirvana Lyrics Corrected

I ended up having a "Caribbean Black Bean Burger" because the Helsinki Hard Rock didn't have the usual "Veggie-Leggie" burger. The flavor was pretty good. The problem was that it had a marinated black bean patty and some kind of sauce on top, which made the burger a wet-hot mess. It was so slippery that it was impossible to keep in the bun. Which was a soggy bun, because the marinade had soaked into it. Making this the singular most stupid fucking "burger" I've ever attempted to eat. Which begs the question... when this was dreamed up, did they ever bother to fucking try one before putting it on the menu? Because there is no way this should be sold like this. The thing costs $23 (with fries!) and I was only to eat half of it because even attempting to eat it with a knife and fork proved futile. I don't expect amazing food at a Hard Rock, but I at least expect it to be edible. The "Caribbean Black Bean Burger" was a disgusting inedible mess.

Sometimes when traveling to foreign lands, people will ask me "Is it weird over there?" To which I always have the same response... "Not weird, just different. The USA is by far the weirdest place I've ever been. And I'm being completely honest. When it comes to seeing absolutely bizarre shit, nobody tops America (WE'RE NUMBER ONE! WE'RE NUMBER ONE!).

Which is not to say there aren't weird moments. But most of those come from finding American crap in the country you're visiting. And Helsinki has a lot of that. A prime example is some pillows advertising Lexington, Kentucky that I saw in a shop window. Which is not too weird until you see that they're advertising Lexington seafood at a restaurant that I don't think even exists. In particular, they're advertising Lexington crab... when Lexington isn't anywhere near the ocean... or any crabs. So, yeah... kinda weird...

Lexington Crabs in Helsinki

But the weirdest thing in Helsinki so far? Tex-Mex restaurants. I've seen quite a few, so I'm guessing that it must be a popular cuisine here...

Tex-Mex in Helsinki

Well that's not too weird, I suppose.

Until you look at a menu and see that they have a kind of "Tex-Mex Cajun Barbecue" fusion thing going on...

Tex-Mex Cajun BBQ!

It's like somebody wanted to serve American cuisine at their restaurant and just said "Fuck it! I'm putting all their regional shit in there!" Which has me totally inspired to create a "Spanish Italian Greek" restaurant when I get back home.

And take a gander at the menu prices there... Cheese Fajitas are 18,90€ which comes out to $25 USD... FOR FRICKIN' CHEESE FAJITAS!! Salsa and Chips? That'll run you $7.70... which is made even more horrible when you consider that most US restaurants serve them to you for free so you have something to snack on while you wait for your food.

I'm almost afraid to try the salsa here. Odds are it's made with herring.

Anyway, it's just turned 2:00am, so I suppose I should try and get some sleep. Sightseeing is so much more interesting when you're eyes are actually open.


  1. Carl says:

    Fascinating travel stories, and your photography is superb. Wish I knew how you get such sharp, clean interior shots.

    On the cuisine side, why order a “Caribbean” dish in Scandanavia? It’s like going to a steakhouse and ordering fish and chips. Seriously tho, I read your blog enough to know you’re not a meat person and are good about opting for local foods.

    Your travels and blog are inspiring.

    Best wishes.

    • Dave2 says:

      I just point my camera and press a button… somehow things come out sharp and clean automatically!

      As for food… as you note, I am vegetarian, which severely limits what I can eat (the “Caribbean Burger” was the only vegetarian item on the menu). I am also allergic to mushrooms, which are a pretty big deal here. On top of that, I don’t like rye, so there goes a lot of native breads and desserts. Still, I’ve been eating pastries and berries that are a staple for Finland, so I’m not entirely deprived!

  2. Justin says:

    Do you have more pictures of the Hard Rock Cafe you can share? I would love to see more of it! THANKS!

  3. Yacob says:

    I had a similar experience in a “mexican” restaurant in downtown Auckland. Im mexican and so I wasn’t expecting much accuracy. Lo and behold, the menu had mexican-ish dishes, tex-mex, colombian, and costa rican to boot! I’m sad to report that all the food we ordered tasted like Taco Bell.

    Thank you for the hard work you put into your blog, I read every night!

    • Dave2 says:

      I am kind of curious to know if the Tex-Mex is any good here… but am hesitant to try it in case it tastes awful and I end up spending $50 for a meal that sucks!

  4. martymankins says:

    More photos of the inside of HRC #151.

    The colors in that church are stunning. Looks like a nice place to visit, albeit expensive.

    • Dave2 says:

      I can only guess that the colors are to offset the dreary weather… but they could have other meanings as well. All I know is that it’s really, really pretty to walk down a street with such beautiful buildings.

      And yes, it’s hugely expensive here. Take out a loan before you come!

  5. Sarah says:

    I love your pictures. It makes me want to visit so many places. Hopefully I’ll get to travel more soon!

    • Dave2 says:

      I hope you get to travel more soon too! It’s one of my favorite hobbies, and seeing the world has given me an entirely new perspective on people. Which is a good thing… I think. 🙂

  6. James Bow says:

    Hey, Dave. Your blog post inspired me to write one of my own in response. I hope you like it!

  7. damn, dave. you can’t post photos of all these strong guys holding up buildings and expect me to be all calm about it. I WANNA GO TO HELSINKI NOW!
    anyhow, back to me thanking you for sharing your experiences with us. that church is magnificent and you make helsinki move up higher on my travel list than i ever would have imagined.

  8. also, i forgot to ask if are you insinuating cobain is still alive because you said he *doesn’t* know the difference between “your” and “you’re”

    • Dave2 says:


      Or I am in the habit of referring to events within the time-frame they happened for clarity. If I were to say “he didn’t understand” that would imply that at the time he wrote the lyrics, he didn’t know the difference, but at a later time perhaps he did. I don’t know that, so I put myself in the time-frame of the lyrics and speak to that alone.

  9. ohmyfuck, i also forgot to ask if you bought a crazy lexington crab pillow! as a cancer, and lover of weird shit, i am now in need of the pillow with the image of the crab on it. need, dave. NEED. how much to make it happen?

    • Dave2 says:

      Wow… I have no clue where I even saw them. I don’t know that I could ever find them again to see how much they cost!

      Sorry. 🙁 If I see them again, I’ll check!

  10. i think that’s a great reason to go to finland!

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