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Saturday, February 20, 2010

FINAL THOUGHTS FROM HELSINKI

I tomorrow leave for Copenhagen. Some final thoughts about Helsinki:

1. The tap water is drinkable.

2. It is possible for your face to instantly go numb when you suddenly walk into a gust and the wind chill factor is minus 25C. If I were to live here for any length of time, I would purchase one of those helmets worn by luge competitors. The plastic covering your face and overall protection of your ears should work. Then, if you slip on an invisible layer of ice, there will be protection when your head hits the pavement.

3. When you lean back on the toilet of the Hotel Kamp, this activates the flush button, and if you're sitting, there is a sudden high volume rush of 1C or 34F water from the front that provides a frightening and freezing inundation of your entire bottom. The solution is simple. If you don't wish this experience, don't lean back, and make sure you are not sitting when you flush.

4. Just about everyone on the street speaks English, unless they're from a foreign country. Tipping is not necessary. They are extremely thankful if you do, but not particurly aggravated if not.
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5. The people are not as outwardly friendly, but very considerate and courteous. The drivers are careful and stop if you want to close the street at an intersection. (Don't try this in Viet Nam and India. ) The problem in Finland, though, is that the car does not necessarily stop when the brakes are pressed.

6. I've reflected on the cost of these fantastic meals I've had on this trip and have come to a conclusion that, on average, as they are cheaper than a night in the hotels I've been staying in, they are well worth the memories (the eating experience, I mean). The top 50 restaurants listed by Pellegrino, though, all feature mostly European cuisine. #20, Les Creations de Narisawa, in Tokyo, for example, is a French restaurant. Some exceptions include, #27, Masa of New York, which features sushi, and is said to be the most expensive eating establishment in the USA ($600, not including drinks). Another New York dinery, Momofuku Ssam Bar, at #33, is eclectic, with a fusion concept including Korean and Southern Soul. Hakkasan, at #36, is in London and features Chinese food (for around $100).

7. I'll have fond memories of Helsinki, for it is here, after my fourth Olympic city (Seoul, Barcelona, Munich) of this trip, where it occurred to me that the only hope Hawaii has to overcome what some are predicting to be a terrible economic future, is to host Hawaii Sustainable Expo 2020: Visions for Blue Planet Earth. We need to transcend current attitudes and transform our thinking.

8. The higher the cost of a hotel, the more you will pay to connect to the internet. It is at least $25/day at the Hotel Kamp. This is free at many cheaper hotels, around the world. Finland is among the most wired nations, or, should say, wirelessed.

9. Chez Dominique might well have served the best meal of my life. See below.

10. Most people, like me, should travel to Finland in the summer. I should mention, though, that this is the snowiest winter they have had in 30 years. Global warming? They could use that here.

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Tropical Cyclone Gelane is safely easing south and east of Le Reunion.


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