Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Pop-up Stairs

In Helsinki even the biggest construction companies are in for some surprising urban interventions; for example moving the stairs for pedestrians from one side of a bridge to the other. The temporary stairs are non-invasive, since they don't destroy the existing infrastructure. In order to get off (or onto) the bridge you have to climb over the railing. This little climb lifts you over the level of the cars. It might give you a (very) small shiver, when step over the edge on the scaffolding. And also I could not avoid spending a thought on, why people otherwise climb purposefully over a bridge's railing. The stairs also challenge your navigation skills and your daily routines (if you are used to the stairs across, four traffic-lines away).

Sunday, 9 June 2013

New Way of Greening Urban Space

When you live in the city, leaving your car untouched in favour of biking or walking has a lot of beneficial effects: It's good for the environment, it reduces congestion, it's supposed to be good for your health, and you spend less on gasoline. All in all it makes city life for you and your fellow citizens a little bit more pleasant.
However, lately I spotted in Helsinki a slightly unconventional way, how a parked car can improve the city. Around the off-road machine on the picture emerged in spring a small island of untouched green between the cobblestones. It took me some thinking to figure out, what caused the stimulating climate around the car: The machine wasn't moved for the better part of spring here. While everywhere else rolling cars smashed every little sprout that emerged between the cobblestones, there was a small sanctuary around this vehicle.
Considering all the cobblestones and all the parked cars on Helsinki's peninsula.... that could easily add some square metres to Helsinki's 75 square km of green area.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Helsinki Brezel Ranking

Generally I haven't experienced major attacks of homesickness, though I left my Swabian roots more than a thousand kilometres behind me. However, food is an exception. The Brezel plays a central role in Swabian diet and self-conception. A Brezel should not be confused with Bavarian beer-pretzels nor with the thing that allegedly caused some serious trouble for Georg W. Bush.
A Brezel is characterized by a harmonic shape, a gold-bronze colour, the perfect balance between a soft mouth and crispy arms and the right amount of coarse-grained salt at the right spot. Well, and it has to taste like a Brezel...
The quality of Brezels is a good indicator for quality of life in a town outside Swabia. The equation "quality of Brezel = livability of the town" can be expected to produce results at least as reliable as the Monocle city ranking.
It has to be a good sign that I found in Helsinki Brezels from four different places! But what about the quality? Lets have a look (and a bite):

4. The Phantom-Brezel

There's a German bakery in Helsinki (Crustum). I did see pretzels in the bakery's assortment. As far as I can remember, they looked like some salt sticks forced into pretzel shape. However, while working on the Brezel Ranking I visited the bakery three times without seeing any pretzels anymore. I like Crustum, but -without offence- no Brezel no ranking.

3. The Robot-Brezel
Lidl entered the Finnish food market in 2002. But that the Lidl-shop in Sörnäinen is selling Brezels, I learned only recently. So I tried. The shape is symmetric, very symmetric, it is so symmetric that I'm pretty sure the Brezel is looped by a machine and not by a human being. The rather thick (and not crispy) arms are an indicator for machine work, too. And salt all over the place! The colour is ok, but all in all the result is pretty dull. This means: Lidl ranks third.

2. The Underdog-Brezel
That a German supermarket chain sells Brezels is kind of predictable. That the Alepa in Otaniemi sells Brezels took me by surprise. And and even bigger surprise was that they're actually eatable. Shape: appealing. Colour: good, could be a little bit darker. Crispy arms: not quite. Salt: No salt at all on the first test-Brezels, but a well-balanced amount of salt on Brezels that I bought later.
Considering that Alepa is not known for being a deli food store, this is a very respectable Brezel. Alepa comes off second-best.


1. The Snob-Brezel
Stockmann, the Harrods-wannabe, the KaDeWe of Helsinki.... Well, in this department store I made experiences that are far closer to mockery than service. But they can bake Brezels! Flattering shape, wonderful dark colour, salt at the right spot. A taste that could make me forget all bad experiences. But then the arms....they should be crispy. CRISPY!
Nevertheless, considering that Helsinki is more than 1 500 km away from Stuttgart, somebody knows, how to bake Brezels.
Stockmann takes the gold-medal in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Brezel Ranking.