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The Trip—Part 3

Our third genealogy stop during our recent Nordic vacation put us in Helsinki, Finland. We had no idea we would do anything but go sightseeing there when we booked the trip. That famous genealogy serendipity stepped in to change our plans.

A Finnish finder of lost relatives contacted me last fall and put me in touch with a couple of third cousins in Finland. I mentioned to them that I would be in Helsinki in June. “We must meet you!” they responded. And so we made a plan.

Our ship, the Zuiderdam of the Holland America line, docked in Helsinki about 7:00 a.m. the day of our visit. My husband/tech advisor had done some advance planning for us, and he knew of a bus stop in the docking area. We left the ship, boarded the bus, and headed into Helsinki.

We had arranged to meet my cousins at the new Oodi Central library in the heart of the city’s cultural district. Completed in 2018, Oodi serves as Helsinki’s living room. This peaceful, open-plan space has new facilities not formerly seen in libraries. Only about one third of the building contains books. A café, restaurant, public balcony, movie theater, AV recording studios, and a makerspace (complete with 3D printers and sewing machines) occupy the rest of the building.

The library was completed with the climate in mind, using local materials. The façade consists of Finnish spruce planks. The glass-enclosed upper floor offers a panoramic view of the city, including Kansalaistori square and the Finnish parliament. Already one upper corner has become known as the best spot in Helsinki for taking selfies.

My cousins could not have been more welcoming. One had reserved a study room. She promptly unpacked tea and cookies for us to enjoy while we talked genealogy. Another unrolled the massive family tree she had created. I brought along all the unidentified Finnish family photos I had recently received from a cousin in Minnesota. We talked and talked about our Finnish forbears.

At lunchtime we walked through a city park on our way to a restaurant. The cousins wanted to show me a statue there. My grandma’s cousin, Ida Andelin, had served as the model. The subject of the statue, the Weeping Woman, comes from a character in Finland’s epic poem, the Kalevala.

When we reached the Kuu restaurant, we enjoyed a traditional Finnish meal. My husband had venison stew, and I had perch. Being from a landlocked state, I order as much seafood as I can when I am near the water. Afterwards, my cousin handed me a few pieces of Fazer Pihlaja candy, the oldest candy produced in Finland. It’s good, and I have since learned that I can order some more. I plan to do so and share it with the rest of my family.

The day in Helsinki could not have gone better. I learned a great deal about my family. I had an insider’s view of Finnish life and experienced warm Finnish hospitality. My cousins urged me to return someday and promised that next time we would go to the sauna. We’ll see.

 

 

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