Friday, October 22, 2010

What happens in HEL

Well...due to errands, an excellent fall tv lineup, the MLB post-season, (When the Sox are out, I watch to see the Yanks choke. Don't let me down Texas.) the start of hockey season and some good old-fashioned procrastination...I've been rather delinquent in sharing the story of our trip to HEL and back. But I've realized that our photos aren't going to edit and post themselves so I decided it was about time I get around to it.

Plus, it's Wednesday night (Well, it was when I wrote this part. Clearly there was some serious procrastination between Wednesday and today.) and the Hurricanes are currently in the middle of a west coast road trip so I need something to do that will keep me awake while I wait for a 10:30 pm puck drop.

Ready to roll... A fellow 'Canes fan got one of our Finns, Tuomo Ruutu, to write "What happens in Helsinki stays in Helinki" in Finnish and autograph it for her to put on a t-shirt for everyone.

Ten days away in winter temperatures = much luggage.

And just in case we forgot where we were going or what year it is, AAA had these handy reminders made up for us.

And after what Jason and I decided was our worst flight of all time ever in the history of our travel lives, (And I think we're all aware just how many transcontinental trips we've taken over the years. Ahem. LOTS.) we finally reached our destination. We were so exhausted by the time we got there that we had nearly forgotten where we were, just as AAA predicted. But our luggage was back at the hotel! What ever would we do?? Thankfully, the restaurant where we had dinner suspected this might be the case and offered us a hint with our dessert.

We managed to stay up late enough to get us on the right track for the time adjustment and woke up on Monday bright and early and ready for a daytrip out to Porvoo. Porvoo is one of the quaintest and most picturesque places we've ever been.

And because there's absolutely no reason for commentary here since all our photos are of very ordinary things (Here's a red building next to a pink building. Isn't it cute? Here's someones bright red front gate. Isn't it cute? Here's a colorful cobblestone alleyway. Isn't it cute? Here's a row of old salt storage buildings along the river. Aren't they cute?), I'll just offer up a photo tour of Porvoo.

Now, wasn't that cute?

And we were back to the city in time for a sundowner at a rooftop bar.

Tuesday, we were ready to explore more of Helsinki and the skies were an insane shade of blue. Perfect for picture-taking... So where better to go than to Senate Square to see Finland's most photographed building? And, hello bonus!! We discovered the Buddy Bears from Berlin had made the trip to Helsinki too! I guess they heard we were coming.

Some countries went the artistic route; some took a more literal approach. Like Moldova for example... On the bear's belly, there's a cartoon of a guy with a pointer in front of a map and he's saying "Here's Moldova!" Very helpful and practical. (I'm not entirely sure Moldova understood the assignment.)

Anybody remember the post from Berlin where I was all "Hey, what are the freaking chances that the US and UK bears are next to each other?!?!?" And then I was all "Well, pretty freaking high I guess, if the bears are arranged by country in ALPHABETICAL ORDER."? And since I made Jason take a photo like this the first time around, he insisted it was my turn now.

And here's the original... Looking at this, I'm realizing the Buddy Bears in Helsinki were significantly larger than the Buddy Bears in Berlin. What's going on here??? Who are the imposters?!?! To quote the modern-day poet Eminem, "Won't the real Buddy Bears please stand up, please stand up??"

Still blissfully unaware of the imposter Buddy Bears, we merrily continue our tour of the city, heading to the harbor.

And, hello double bonus!! Our trip just happened to coincide with the Annual Herring Festival! Buddy Bears, hockey, and now herring?!? Luckyyyyyyyy!

Since Jason is a pretty adventurous eater, he was up for trying some muikut - a small fried whitefish eaten whole. It was great when we were walking by all the food tents and this one chef was calling out his offerings like an auctioneer, in Finnish of course...and when Jason indicated what he wanted by pointing at the muikut, the chef just stopped short and said "Garlic sauce?" and without missing a beat, picked right back up with the Finnish auction.

So just imagine something like this: "...perkaa muikut jos haluat pieniä ei tarvitse mut jos muikut on silakan kokoisia niin perkaa ota syvä lautanen ja ripottele osaa ruisjauhoja ja osa vehnäjauhoja sekoita joukkoon suolaa ja valkopippuria mielesi mukaan myös sitruunapippuri on hyvää garlic sauce? laita jokaiselle pannulliselle aina uudet nokareet voi öljyä ettei kärähdä pohjaan myös kannattaa paistaa kohtuu lämmöllä ettei pala kalat..."

(By the way, that's just some Finnish I c&p'd from the internet. I think it's part of a recipe for muikut but I don't really know. So I take no responsibility if it's a string of Finnish profanity and culturally insensitive Yo Mama jokes.)

Muikut: it's not for everyone. Not the most appetizing looking thing I've ever laid eyes on but Jason insisted it was delicious.

The ominous shadow of this predatory sea bird waiting on top of the dining tent agrees with Jason.

After he had his fill of fish, we jumped on a boat for a quick ride over to the island of Suomenlinna, a military fortress. We had been off the boat for all of two minutes when Jason discovered there was a brewery on the island. I'm telling you, they just find him.

This guy can sniff out a beer tasting anywhere. And might I add, this was a very generous "tasting". Good thing we had planned to split it between us.

The island was beautiful. So, much like Porvoo, I'll just let the photos tell the story...

Now, wasn't that beautiful?

There were helpful reminders of where we were all over the place. The luggage tags, the Finnish flag in our dessert and now this. I guess this one's for all the people coming to the city via boat. You know, just in case we forgot where we were going during the ten minute ferry ride from Suomenlinna.

We spent the afternoon exploring some less touristy parts of the city. And that's how we found the Beaver Bar. But, not so fast. We'll get to that soon enough. First, check out my fight with a tiny statue of a boxer. I went for the uppercut but forgot to protect my own face. Rookie mistake.

Back off Beiber. Beiber fever is so yesterday. It's time to feel the beaver...beaver fever! I don't know what kind of bar this is.

But I sure couldn't wait to find out! I know you can't tell but that beaver is winking. (And giving a thumbs up.) Which is why I'm winking. (And giving a thumbs up.) That's not a facial spasm. Just to be clear.

As hilarious as the beaver fever was, that wasn't even the most hilarious part of this place. We have no idea why but this sign was on the door. Don't even think about wearing a lanyard up in this place. Don't. Even. Think. About. It. I popped this text into Google translator and this is what it says on the lanyard: "I'm fucking important." And then below: "You are not." The Beaver Bar wants you to know that, lanyard or not, you are not important. So much for self-esteem.

And as hilarious as the No Lanyards sign was, even that wasn't the most hilarious part of this place. There are no photos so you'll just have to trust me on this one but pretty much all the bar patrons were emo types dressed in head-to-toe black and...wait for and white face paint. Like Brandon Lee in The Crow. Yes, I'm serious. Just like this:

Let's just say I didn't quite fit in with my fuscia cashmere hoodie, grey duffle coat and Louis Vuitton bag. But we sat down for one beer, just so we could say we did.

Then we quickly made our way back to our own part of town and to the pub across the street from our hotel, where we settled in for what would become a little routine for us during our stay in Helsinki. A very relaxing late afternoon beer and round of trivia...

On Wednesday, the jetlag beat us. We forgot to set an alarm and ended up sleeping in till 11:00. Oops. We missed the hotel breakfast so we had to find a coffee shop to get our fix. And boy, did we ever find one. Not just a coffee shop. A roastery. Smelling the beans roasting right there in the same room elevates the coffee experience to another level. Even the foam on my cappuccino upped its game. That's art in a coffee cup right there.

Once we were good and caffeined up, we made our way to the seaside...

...for lunch at Cafe Ursula, a very popular place by Kaivopuisto park. We had the inside track on what to order. And it was a beauty. The shrimp sammich with a hidden treasure - a hard boiled egg in the middle! So between the egg, mayonnaise and pickled asparagus it was essentially shrimp salad. Deelish.

And then we set off on a walk along the shore and through the park to burn off that mayo.

First Beaver Bar and now Bar Llamas - they sho' do like an animal themed bar in Helsinki. And you know me; I can never resist a good mimic.

But, back to business. With Phuze's arrival imminent, Jason and I decided we'd better pay a visit to the Helsinki City Museum so we could stock up on some knowledge to drop on Phil since he's always schooling us good and proper everywhere we go. In the "crime and punishment" section, there was a hilarious fully illustrated story about a distillery watchman's inappropriate behavior. It was too good to keep to myself so here you go.

"Henrik Bostman, watchman at the distillery came drunk to the evening Epiphany service in the Church of Ulrika Elonora in 1787." I'm not entirely sure what sort of shenanigans Henrik is getting up to in the corner there.

"Bostman vomited several times during the service and a pungent smell of spirits wafted to the nostrils of those sitting near him." BLURP! indeed.

"Bostman tried to clean up the mess with a handkerchief." And apparently, a dismembered hand.

"Despite requests to leave, he refused and continued worshipping piously." I love the illustrated progression of his forward slump. I'm pretty sure by "worshipping piously", they mean "continued his gradual descent into unconsciousness".

"Bostman said that his conduct was due to a 'sudden illness'." I believe you Bostman. I, myself, was stuck by this very same sudden illness many times in college.

And finally on Thursday, the real reason for this trip was upon us. Our first trip to Hartwall Areeeeeeeena (those Finns sure do love a vowel!) was for a 'Canes practice.

I love this vintage style graphic on the outside of the areeeeeeena advertising the upcoming matchup between the two local teams - Jokerit and HIFK. Jokerit plays here at Hartwall and HIFK plays just down the road. The Hurricanes' own Tuomo Ruutu played here for Jokerit prior to making the move to the NHL.

After the practice, we had lunch with the team and coaches and that was a pretty awesome once in a lifetime kind of experience. Jason and I had the huge honor of sitting with Tom Barasso - a two time Stanley Cup winner, hockey hall of famer, and current goaltending coach for the 'Canes. We had a great time chatting with him. He doesn't have to be quite as political as the players are trained to be when dealing with fans so it let's just say it was a rather candid conversation. And let's just say it was awesome.

By game time, we were rollin' VIP stylie. And we've got lanyards with credentials to prove it. Out of my way, peasants! I've got a lanyard! I don't care what you say Beaver Bar! I AM IMPORTANT!

And if my sweet lanyard isn't enough for you, how about my sick fingernail decals? Do not mess with me. I have HURRICANES on my FINGERNAILS bitches! Anybody can rock a face tatt (which I did) , but it takes a hardcore to step up your game with an NHL manicure.

Fresh ice, ready and waiting...

Ready for the anthems - the flags of USA and Finland.

How cute are those little pint-sized hockey players with the 'Canes? You may be looking at a future NHL star...

Jason and his special helmet. "Put me in coach!" I didn't have the heart to tell him that helmet would do him no good whatsoever out there on the ice.

Lots of Caniacs in the house...

And in the end, our Hurricanes made it well worth the price of admission. They won both games against the Minnesota Wild, with our 18 year old draft pick Jeff Skinner being the shoot-out hero for the second game. I almost felt a teeny weeny bit bad for the Wild fans who paid all that money and came all that way, only to see their team drop two in a row. And I probably would have felt a teeny weeny bit bad had it not been for the total jackoff Wild fan who sat behind us at one of the games. All the other fans we came across were very nice but this one guy carried the douchebag torch particularly well. You know what they say. There's always one...

By the end of the game, I'd had enough of his mouth so after we won, I turned around, pointed at him and yelled "Rocked YOU like a Hurricane!" (Ahem. I blame the rush of the win. You know what they say. There's always one...) His response? He gave me the double middle finger! It was awesome. I haven't seen that one since about 5th grade! I almost retaliated with an "I know you are but what am I?" but thought better of it. I didn't want to get involved in a whole "I'm rubber, you're glue..." kind of situation.

But enough of that. Word from the team was that they were pretty blown away by the number of fans who made the trip over for this. We had 300+ Caniacs in attendance (by far more than any other team who's ever opened the season in Europe), compared to about 80+ from Minnesota. And after the last game, the team skated out with a stick salute to the fans to show their appreciation. Personally, I was way too busy jumping up and down and cheering to snap a photo but luckily, a fellow Caniac and photography enthusiast (the same one who organized the "What happens in Helsinki..." tees) captured the moment. And what a moment it was.

{Photo taken by and used courtesy of Jamie Kellner.
See more at flickr - jbk_ltd.}

So that's part one of the trip. Part two (the part where we get Phuzed) is forthcoming but if you just can't wait, you can see a bit of it here. But you've been warned. Suze's account of events is a load of crap. She lies. It's pathological. You'd be best served to just wait for my post. Forget I even mentioned it. Just stay away from her blog. It's all rubbish.