Colourful streets, rocky hills and the scent of the sea – here grow my new roots

Posted on

This is a story of how I found new roots in Helsinki. It’s also a story of the power of the visualisation, and learning to ask the Universe for exactly what you want.

Now that Vogue has called my little country, Finland, the safest place to live, and our home town as the capital of cool, it’s time to share something of my hoods. Last year, before returning to Finland from our 4 months trip in the USA and Panama, we were homeless. We had moved out of a beautiful wooden house in the garden district of Helsinki, sold our car, and left Finland thinking we might find another home somewhere abroad. Maybe a story for another time?

After 4 months of travel and temporary homes we were at the end of our adventures and started thinking what kind of home we might like to have in Helsinki (Ok, to be honest, I personally started already panicking that we have no home to return to…). We are nature lovers, but our older kids’ school and friends will likely keep us in Helsinki for at least the next several years. I have always loved the sea, but spending some time onOcracoke Islandsurrounded by the ocean, I realised that I need to live in a place where I can smell the sea, feel the strong winds and rest my sight in a horizon while having morning walks with our dog. My husband, Thatcher, on the other hand was missing the city life of his former home town St Petersburg. So we decided to move from cosy and green garden district area to city center of Helsinki, near the sea, cafes and urban cultural. I had the ideal home and area of city center in my mind, and so I described it carefully, both visually and in words… and shouted that to the Universe with the help of Facebook. The post included a collage of images:

This is a mood board I made to describe our dream home.

Do you know an old, beautiful apartment, where the light beams in through old windows, and the old wooden floors squeak when you step into a room to be met by high sealing? And its kitchen, where everybody want to squeeze in during parties, and where you can grow a pot or two of herbs in the window?

The sea is nearby and in the summer you can hear the seagulls screaming. In the winter you feel the cold air trying to push in through the old windows, while hot water circulating in old radiators, and the old hearth in the corner keep you warm? This cosy home takes good care of its people, and that’s the home we are in search of.

This was 31. of January and less than a month from the date we were coming back. One day later, February the First, the Universe answered with a FB message from a friend: “I think I might have the apartment you described sitting empty…”.

See the photos below? This is a home we moved in only a month later I had sent out my wish. The name of the house is “Hoppet” (Hope in Swedish), it was built in 1903 when Finland was still part of The Russian empire.

We just simply love it! It has three original tiled wood-burning hearths, high ceilings, deep, wide window sills, and old white wooden floors. It’s few blocks away from the sea, and entrance to a bay that reminds us of St Petersburg with its canals and bridges. The area is beautiful old art nouveau buildings (btw. according toGuardian, Helsinki is one of the best cities in Europe to admire them), cosy cafes (and even a Moomin cafe!), and a wonderful dog park in a little island nearby.

And this is our actual home we moved in only a month later I had sent out the wish!

It couldn’t match better the wish I sent out, and we are super grateful and happy to live here!

These colourful streets and blocks are named by exotic animals. Our block is called Tiger, and if you’d like to explore the theme virtually or in person, there are over 200 blocks named after animals or plants anda new book called Helsingin korttelieläimetHelsinki Block Animals about them. These blocks hide many stories, some of them even related to my past:

My parents and also my grandparents lived few blocks away from our house. My mother lived in the area in the 60s when she was studying in University and ran the student house nearby (btw. the former Finnish president, Tarja Halonen, took the same job at the same place a few years later in that student house :). The student house was very international and my mom met many interesting and even life-long friends there.

At the same time, my dad lived a block away from our current home, my grandmother was working in the Elanto bakery nearby in Hakaniemi and my grandfather over the other side of the bay at the oil refinery. The winters in Helsinki have warmed since, but in the 60s they were so cold that my father remembers walking over the ice from Kruununhaka to Hakaniemi to an advertising agency where he worked.

Some evenings the music from the local restaurant Kirja, “The Book” (where my sister was later married) was so loud and alluring behind the stone walls, that dad decided to pull himself out of bed, pull on his dancing shoes and go out dancing.

The area we live in, Kruununhaka, “The Crown’s Pasture”, takes its name from the grazing herds of royal horses, which were pastured in the area. When the city center was moved from the Old City (Vanhankaupunginkoski) rapids, in 1640, this neighborhood became the new city center of Helsinki. The horses are long gone, but the memory of them still lives here, and when I walk our colourful streets covered with cobblestones, I sometimes imagine hearing clattering hooves echoing off stone walls.

I will grow new roots here, as my family before me, deep into these rocky and windy hills, with the scent of the unknown carried in by the sea.