A Whistle-Stop Tour of Worldcon75, Helsinki Day One

I got to go to a cool thing: Worldcon75, the global convention for SFF, this year based in Helsinki, Finland. In a dangerous move, Angry Robot sent just me and Penny Reeve, our inimitable publicity manager, to brave the crowds of geekdom. A day of travel got us into Helsinki airport at 11.30pm and we bumbled through bus routes to our quite lovely, if super-heated flat, by a mere half one in the morning.

Day One – Aug 8: Wandering Free

Dead animals at baggage retrieval, boozing, molesting statuary
Tommyknocker Craft Beer Bar

Refreshed and energised we rose for a day of acclimatisation (getting lost). Our flat was way over in Arabiata (check it out, you too can enjoy the weird sexually abusive Donald Duck artwork, and the nice view). First up: loading our flat with breakfast and lunchables – we rolled on sandwiches, bitches. So many delightfully familiar Scandinavian meats and cheeses and breads. Joy!

We selected BICYCLE as our vehicle of choice, swayed by the 10 Euro a week rental. The con venue was relatively easy to find, though Google Maps yelling incomprehensible Finnish placenames in my ear was quite stressful. It was closed. Since it was the day before the con, that made sense. We had found the most important place. Second most important: beer.   

This is not the rock church

Finland is definitely catching up with craft beer, but it’s got a way to go. We finally found Tommyknocker Craft Beer Bar, having discovered the worst thing about the bikes was finding one of the official places to park the bloody things. Very friendly, fine range of beers. We also found what Penny was convinced was The Rock Church, which turned out to be a pile of rocks, next to Storyville (the finest jazz club in Helsinki, apparently). We plunged on, frequently cycling on the wrong side of the road, and for a while with the loudest squeaking wheel imaginable.

We rode sea-lions, we mounted tortoises, we took a ferry to Suomenlinna. Boats and I are not friends, but we tolerated each other. It was a very smooth 20 minute trundle across the water. Suomenlinna  used to be a fortress island, but is now a weird community of 800-odd souls living in and around a bunch of museums. It’s very pretty. Having cycle-bumbled around for much of the day we only really had time for one thing – and it was an obvious choice: we went to the creepiest part we could find: the toy museum. Fuck me… Amongst the terrifying dead and ever-seeing eyes of the dolls were genuine treats like a stack of doll heads and limbs, a cute Nazi doll, nightmare hedgehogs, and of course, Moomins. My favourite part is that the creepiest, and weirdest things were presented with no explanation at all, like the Nazi doll. It also gave me a massive flashback to BRITAIN’S SPACE, a joy I had totally forgotten about. Thank you Finland, I shall now explore eBay… Penny and I demonstrated various ways to hug a bear.

After escaping from the fortress we took pictures of fancy buildings until we succeeded in making contact with one of our authors. A new venture: find the fucking restaurant. This was an exercise in rage, Google Maps and a three dimensional environment. As it turns out, Helsinki puts buildings on top of other buildings. That’s why we cycled under and around a massive Mega-City One style block forever until we saw some stairs that might, maybe lead upwards. I shall shelve my ire. We found the place – Bali Bagus. Amazing Indonesian food, and a great place to meet our author Alex Wells, Skiffy and Fanty podcast co-host Paul Weimer and their excellent friends.

I have no recollection of the rest of the evening… It’s possible that we got back at a reasonable time and grabbed some Zs.

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