Helsinki freezes over - February 10
Photo © Ben Fenner
Scene from a Russian dream
Steve and Amanda in the land where night and day meet
Big freeze on the Baltic
From the moment our plane arrived somewhat perilously on the ice-covered runway at lunch time Friday 5 Feb, it was obvious that we were in a land of snow palaces and tinkling sleigh rides. But then again, managing in extreme weather conditions is the very thing that seems to characterise the Finnish approach to living. In England at the merest hint of a snowflake airports shut down, trains grind to a halt, bicycles are left in ditches and everyone stays at home, according to the recommendations of our own Ministry of Sludge... Thankfully like stoic villagers in a Hans Christian Anderson world the locals in Finland just knuckle down and celebrate life with a smile; they carry on partying through blizzards as if there was no tomorrow!
Architecturally Helsinki has an exotic Slavic feel. It's often doubled as Russia for film makers, particularly those with St Petersburg in mind. Apparently part of Reds starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton was shot in the majestic square just outside our hotel. The city houses every single style of international cuisine, each watering hole rammed to the rafters with customers. Fun continues around the clock oblivious of frozen ferry waterways whilst Tequila still flows like nobody's business! It was late nights and snowball fights as the band and crew spilled out of a local Mexican restaurant before sliding off to the Land of Nod.
The gig at the Savoy Theatre was one of the band's best ever, probably due in no small measure to the fact that we were able to set up a whole day ahead of time - a complete luxury compared to most shows where the rock circus arrives in town, sets up, plays the show, breaks down and scuttles off into the night, all in the space of a (sticky bun if you're lucky) day. The name of the game is "feel no pain", especially for the crew whose brief is to create the conditions for liftoff to music heaven in a mere five or six hours...
I remember a great show, an eager crowd blowing smoke rings with their breath as they trudged through freezing streets beneath overhanging icicles. I can't wait to go back to experience the extraordinary hospitality of a people who were as warm as their land was cold. Helsinki we salute you.
February 8th 2010
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