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Saturday, March 10, 2012

More Helsinki Winter Streets

Now that the Finnish winter is on the cusp of fading, at least here in Helsinki, I figured I'd post my final shots of how the Finns adapt to winter.  My comments will illustrate how poorly I've adapted! :-)

This was the corner across from the tram stop in mid-January; it's also what it looked like about a week ago. Actually the sidewalk is somewhat deceptive.  What looks like dirt is, even at that stage, packed ice.  Yes, my ice cleats were glued to my feet from January until I got back from St. Petersburg and even at times after that!  At least now I can get a carton of milk without taking my life or limbs in my hands.

And then the winter hit.  Helsinki in late January!  Heck, it actually looked like this on the day that my wallet was stolen and we were running all over town dealing with the consequences!

Yes, this was what we were walking on while crossing the park until about March 12.  That's the road between our building and the building next door where my Dad's ex-student lived.  Even though it's getting hard to see where the sidewalk ends and the road begins at this stage, it was worse by late February.

My footpath.  You know, the one that isn't slippery.

Imagine the fun of driving these city streets even with snow tires.  I've actually gained great respect this winter for Finns' abilities as drivers.  What I find the most astonishing, though, is watching them parallel park in the stuff at the bottom of this photo.  No wonder it can take 30-45 minutes to dig out in the morning.  I'm amazed it doesn't take that long to dig in!!

Welcome to my world by mid-February.  Yes, we're expected to walk through that.  Sisu, remember, sisu.

This is probably the thing that amazed me the most when I first saw it and that I grew to accept the most quickly as ordinary.  In city center Helsinki many of the buildings have semi-flat or at least lower sloping roofs.  I find this odd given that I've always been taught that you want heavily sloping roofs in snowy climates; on the other hand, if you had such heavily sloping roofs here, not only would you lose a lot of building space but people would be in danger throughout the winter from snow falling from 6+ stories.  A little different than falling off an A-frame.

And, believe me, the threat of death from snow is real.  In fact, when I got into the elevators at the Towers on February 21st, there was this note warning all of us to be careful of falling snow and obey the barricades placed around dangerous areas because just the previous day a woman had been killed by falling snow in DOWNTOWN HELSINKI.  Agh.

That's where this picture comes in.  The owner(s) of every building are required to pay for snow removal from their roofs and any part of the building where falling snow or ice might constitute a public hazard.  For that reason, from January on, all the time we'd see scene like this one where a truck with a cherry picker would raise guys to the top of the building where they'd scrape the snow onto the sidewalk below using--and I'm not making this up--shovels and scrapers!

(I love how the truck is balanced here.)

This is a gang going up for snow removal from one of the old warehouses downtown.  What I find particularly amazing about this is that they don't have any safety equipment on.  I guess the yellow vests are so that they are noticeable while falling to earth!!

(Actually this is the only time I saw workers without safety harnesses.  I guess they felt they didn't need the precautions because the building was only 3 stories tall and they'd be falling on 8" of snow and ice.)

I had to put this here.  If you look closely you'll see a Peruvian band playing in the snow.  They really are an international phenomenon!

And, yes, this isn't some tourist shot.  The steps to the Helsinki cathedral really got so covered in snow that they made a killer, in multiple senses of the term, sledding run.  Even now, mid-March and above freezing for over a week, there are still only paths up the stairs; the rest is covered with snow and ice, although they've been doing snow removal on the open area in front of the church.

I wish I could take credit for this one, although I saw something like it one night when I didn't have my camera.  This is the road that leads alongside Senate Square up by the History Department and the heart of City Center Campus on a foggy winter's night.  Painfully atmospheric, I know, but cool nonetheless.

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