I’ve been in Helsinki for two days now, and I’m still trying to get a feel for the city. It’s so different compared to every other European city I’ve ever been to, but it’s charming in it’s own way. It’s pretty obvious that it’s an older city, the buildings show it, but it doesn’t look grungy the way older buildings in North America end up looking. Once thing that’s definitely starting to throw me off is the lack of sunlight. I thoroughly enjoy the dark. I, typically, could go a full day at school without going outside and seeing daylight (the advantages to having gone to a school with tunnels linking every building) but, this is on a whole other level. Waking up at 8am yesterday to pitch black skies was a very foreign way for me to start the day. Although, because of when my flight landed, I was able to watch the sun rise from my seat on the plane, which was really cool!
On my first day, I just walked around trying to get acclimated with the area I’d be living in for the next two weeks, and try to prepare myself for the tournament. I tried walking everywhere but, even with a map, it was really hard trying to understand where I was. Very rarely do I get lost but, that day, I got very, very lost. Luckily, every native Finn I’ve encountered here speaks almost perfect English so, it isn’t too big of an issue that I only know how to say “hello” and “goodbye”. While walking around the city, I realized just how early the sun sets here. It’s strange though, the sky itself is actually still pretty light but, it’s the clouds (and the fact that the moon comes out so early) that make it look really dark outside.
I also learned on my first day that the entire city closes down on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and December 26th. Unless a business applies to remain open with the federal government, they can’t operate on those three days, everyone’s expected to be home with their family, regardless of whether they observe Christmas or not. I don’t think I expected anything less of a country who’s essentially known as the Christmas Capital of the world! Finland is the founding country of Santa Claus, you know. This made my life kind of difficult because there weren’t any restaurants for me to eat at, or even order in from. I thought my hotel’s kitchen was open but, it wasn’t.
Thankfully, the receptionists in my hotel were really helpful. They gave me a website to order pizza from. Upon scrolling through the lists of pizza, I realized they are very different recipes than I’ve ever tried. I’m an adventurous eater, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat pizza with tuna on it. I just couldn’t. The next morning, I went down to the restaurant in my hotel for breakfast, hoping to have fruit or something similar. They had normal cereal and eggs, lots of Danish-type pastries but, they also had a full filet of salmon. Everyone else down there was going hard on some salmon and I couldn’t do it. I’m a big fan of salmon but not after having just woken up.
At this point in my trip, I’d have to say, my biggest struggle with adapting is the food. I’m willing to try anything once, when travelling I feel like that’s how you have to be. We went for an authentic Christmas dinner at a beautiful restaurant on the water (literally on the water, it was located on top of a dock – can be seen in an above picture). The views were awesome. A warm tea-like drink they served us, Glogi (forgive me if I’ve just butchered the spelling of this) was awesome. The most accurate way I can describe it is “it tastes like a fall candle smells”. The food, wasn’t so awesome. We got ham, thinking it was pretty difficult to mess up ham but, it came back looking more like turkey. It didn’t taste bad but, they put a Dijon flavoured gravy on top that I wasn’t a fan of. The carrot, turnip and potato casseroles they had as a side were very good. I may end up eating those types of dishes for the rest of my stay!
At this point, I’ve been to both Hartwall Arena and the Helsinki Ice Hall at this point, and the way they’re designed is so different from professional hockey arenas in Canada. Hartwall is probably the closest to an NHL rink, which isn’t surprising considering it’s home to the KHL’s Jokerit. The Helsinki Ice Hall, while still housing a professional team, is more like an arena in-between an AHL and an NHL rink. I’m making this comparison based off the only AHL rink I’ve ever been to, Ricoh Coliseum, which seemed pretty small to me. It has more seating, and definitely more space surrounding the arena for fans to walk around/buy concessions. I’m based primarily out of the Helsinki Ice Hall, where Canada and USA are playing their round-robin games but, that could change depending on what happens in the medal round games.
For our first day of working, we didn’t have much to do in regards to our actual job but, we got to do some pretty cool tasks. We helped set up zones and place signs through the arena for media to be led to their designated areas, whether it was the media centre, media tribune or mixed zone. All of the team pictures were being taken on Christmas Day so, we helped the photographers move their equipment on and off the ice between team practices. I didn’t think one could wear street shoes on the ice but, I was wrong apparently. I attempted to walk on slippery wet ice, in heeled boots without falling over in front of people I was going to be working with for two weeks, which must have been an entertaining sight.
I’m really looking forward to Boxing Day, the first day I get to do my actual job, not almost fall on ice in front of former NHL players and coaches. It’ll be a great experience!
Which Boxing Day game are you looking forward to most?