Surprising mix of Architecture, Culture and Nature: that’s Helsinki
From 3 to 6 August, IFFR Benelux was present with a nice delegation during IFFR Scandinavia’s annual Fly-In. This year, Helsinki was on the programme.
What could we expect? The Finnish capital and also the country itself are a great unknown to many of us. Unjustly so because the city has a character all its own and exudes a quiet cosmopolitan atmosphere. That the Russian border is only about 150 km away is hardly noticeable in the oldest part of the city.
Helsinki is some 2,400 km from Brussels and Amsterdam. Unstable weather conditions also meant that most participants refrained from flying themselves but opted for a safe commercial flight. Of the IFFR Benelux participants, only Tony and Edith De Bruyn flew their Marchetti to Helsinki, with 1 stopover in Roskilde, Denmark.
Arriving in Helsinki, the first impression was somewhat bleak. Driving through the city’s suburbs, you immediately felt that you were in a northern capital with residential blocks and straight-on straight streets. Very sleek, austere and, yes, somewhat boring. But the closer you get to the old city centre, the greener the city becomes. And the sea is everywhere present.
On Friday, the programme was rather limited: a reception at Nummula airport, about an hour’s drive from Helsinki city centre where we were offered lunch and received by the airport director. As quite a few participants had already arrived the day before, Erik & Lotta had arranged transport to the airport. Quite an experience as apparently some drivers had some trouble finding their way. After returning to the hotel and checking in, there was some free time before we headed to the restaurant on foot through the pouring rain. The day ended in the hotel bar to socialise with all the participants from UK, Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia.
On Saturday after breakfast, we headed into town as a group. After a walk of about 20 minutes during which we already got a good impression of the vastness of the city, we stood in a majestic square with the parliament building, the music conservatory and a beautiful example of contemporary architecture: the Oodi library. Here we were given a guided visit with more explanation of the building’s construction and use.
This was followed by a fascinating and very enlightening presentation by Mr Lindström and Finnish parliamentarian Risto EJ Penttilä.
How will Finland deal with their new membership to NATO? What are the implications for the whole Nordic region if Sweden also joins NATO? And what does the future of all of Western Europe look like from a Nordic perspective? And how will the war between Russia and Ukraine continue? Compromising will be necessary and here the Nordic countries have the helm. Lots of food for thought… especially for Belgium and the Netherlands, which are losing their privileged position in Europe. But we’ll leave that to politicians to ‘wake up’ in time.
After the visit, it was time for lunch at the music conservatory. After lunch, everyone was free to explore the city. As the weather gods decided to bless us with another few downpours, shopping in the typical Finnish designer shops was top of the list for most. Ingrid, Dirk, Mia and Edith had other plans and decided to visit the Russian Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral, followed by a walk on the Katajanokka peninsula. With the marina, home of the Finnish icebreakers and the beautiful old warehouses, it was a fascinating walk.
The day ended with a gala dinner in the ballroom of the Handelsgillet, Helsinki’s trade guild. Here we were told an important piece of news.
IFFR Scandinavia becomes IFFR Nordics
George Ritchie, our World President, announced that as a result of Mr Pentillä’s presentation IFFR Scandinavia had decided at their AGM to officially change their name to IFFR Nordic. This name is more correct because not only the Scandinavian countries are part of the section. The Baltic States and Poland are also part of it.
In addition, we were invited to attend the Fly-Ins of UK and Germany/Austria that are still scheduled in September. Svend Andersen of IFFR Nordics announced their fly-In 2024 will continue in Riga, Estonia. And Kris De Keyser, our president, already invited all attendees to the fly-in of IFFR Benelux which will take place next year in Mechelen, Belgium. The exact date will be fixed later.
On Saturday, we are again ready to explore the city in three groups. We will go to a different part of town where embassies and diplomats feel at home. But first, the brave among us will first go swimming in the outdoor pool near the port. After the dip in the pool and a visit to the sauna, they were refreshed and fit to join us on the tour too.
First on the programme was a guided walk through a residential area close to the hotel. Brimming with architectural gems in Art Nouveau surrounded by quiet parks and views of the Baltic Sea everywhere: downright beautiful. Fortunately, the sun is also out which makes everything extra cheerful. Afterwards, we visit Field Marshal Mannerheim’s house. Actually, you can call him the founder of modern Finland. The house is still completely furnished with the family’s personal belongings: you would expect Mr Mannerheim to come out of his office to welcome us.
A short walk is followed by another lunch at Café Ursula, overlooking Helsinki Bay. After noon, there is free time again for everyone. Some dive back into the shopping streets or stroll along the waterfront under the steel-blue sky with warm sunshine. In Belgium and the Netherlands, a heavy depression passes at the same time and everyone whines about the autumnal cold chilly weather. In the evening, we have an appointment at the harbour for a cruise with dinner through the archipelago of Helsinki.
On Sunday, it’s already time to return home. Flight plans are ready, check-ins and boarding passes are downloaded and many goodbye hugs later, everyone leaves.
Appointment with IFFR Nordics is for next year in Riga, Estonia.