There’s still a little snow in Helsinki – mostly in shady areas and spots where it got piled up in all those places presumed to be out of anyone’s way. Like in areas that in the summer are taken over by terassis or outdoor eatery or cafe or, let’s be frank, drinkery (Finnish: juottola) but that in the winter are quite simply redundant, spots to rush past or at least to ignore. Like the area outside Restaurant Elite, gearing up, our informants tell us, to a liquid summer in the comfort of warm blankets. (The photo below was taken ten days ago – those particular blobs of snow have since disappeared).
If you weren’t familiar with the Nordic world, or the Arctic, for that matter, you might not be aware that there was such a thing as “plus zero” degrees. There is. We had it the day before yesterday – almost. And the sleet. And some hail. So we know it wasn’t -0° but +.
Finns, for the most part, are not made of sugar though. A little nip in the wind and a complete absence of anything that most Europeans would recognise as warmth hasn’t prevented Helsinkians from wrapping up to roll up on their terassis. I’m not keeping track scientifically, but I would almost put money on there not having been as many outdoor drinking opportunities a couple of years ago at this time of year as there are now. Admittedly the country is gearing up to Vappu (May Day with a twist) a festival of inebriation that does tend to herald the beginning of the summery season, in a mental sort of way if not in a meteorological sort of way.
Those heaters will come in handy if people want to start the let’s-pretend-we-live-in-Southern-Europe season this early, with or without blankets, especially if they think overcoats are so last century. Maybe it’s the smoking ban that accounts for why so many chairs and tables have been out for quite some time, as they have across the road from the Storyville overflow terassi (above) being fixed up for another summer of jazz, conviviality and ever so slightly over-priced beer.