Tag Archives: finland

Helsinki Worldcon – Day 1

I got up early Wednesday since the Lounge and the art show were still pending. John got up at the same time and made toast and eggs with fish from the supermarket, plus of course coffee. He did this every day we were there, on most days we had this amazing smoked salmon that I really miss now.

We took the tram up to Messukeskus, and while John went to get his badge I headed to the Exhibits Hall. Once again it took a while to find someone who knew how what was what, but eventually I managed it and checked in with Clare Boothby. The Lounge was pretty much set up already thanks to industrious volunteers so I did some minor rearranging before going to hang my art.

The art show was impressive, with a lot of artists that I had never seen before as well as some familiar ones. I was positioned beside the delightful Lisa Konrad and had a pleasant chat with her as we both puzzled over the lovely but intimidating plain white panels. We’re both accustomed to the traditional convention pegboard. Eventually we armed ourselves with the hammers and nails provided and just went at it. I am happy to say it was a very successful art show for me and I sold 10 of the 12 hand-painted fans I brought.

Art and Lounge all sorted, it was time for my first cosplay of the convention. Bryan and Mette had organized a group costume as the Scandinavia and the World webcomic. My choice was King Europe and John was England, natch. I had a lot of fun in my crown and moustache and John seemed disturbingly at home with his monocle, I was please at how many people recognized my costume even without the rest of the group.

The convention center had a pretty decent selection of food options, none were cheap but neither were they much more expensive than the rest of the city. I had a really tasty jacket potato filled with a shrimp mayo mix for lunch and afterwards attempted to hit some panels but they all had insane queues and filled up quickly. The convention did its best to handle the situation and got extra space on subsequent days, but attendance was definitely higher than anticipated and they restricted at-the-door sales to just day passes, with limited amounts available each day.

Towards evening a few of us decided to go into town for dinner, to a place called Naughty Brgr about ten minutes from our AirBnb. By the time we got to the restaurant I was feeling unwell, very similar to how I felt that first night in Stockholm, in fact. I left the gang to their own devices, took my burger to go and went back to the AirBnB to have a lie down. Given the previous experience I decided it was wisest to call it a night. Doing the math, I realized both times I’d had a shrimp meal I was knocked out, so I reluctantly decided to give shrimp a miss for the rest of the trip. The evidence is anecdotal but I had no further problems, so there is that.

Helsinki Worldcon Day 2

I woke up feeling fine, so after another delicious husband-cooked breakfast we headed out. The previous night John had figured out where to catch the train proper to Messukeskus, instead of the tram. It’s very simple once you know and much quicker, we were onsite in ten minutes instead of thirty. The convention provided every member with travel pass good for the week, which meant there was never any hesitation about just popping into town; free, fast, and frequent is hard to beat.

I spent a few hours in the Lounge, had a wander through the Trade Hall and exhibits, then headed to the AirBnB to do some laundry. And here we ran into the one disadvantage to the AirBnB situation, one that most vacationers probably won’t run into but which we managed to confront twice; we had one key for two people. I didn’t notice until after I’d stopped at the supermarket and gotten some flea market bargains, so I parked myself at a café and waited for John to come rescue me.

I got back to the convention in time for the very end of the Clipping concert, basically just the encore. I hadn’t rushed back since by all accounts the room was full, but I’m glad I decided to poke my head in to catch the encore. Daveed Diggs legendary speed rapping was on display and I enjoyed the brief glimpse I got.

Worldcon 75 did not have room parties, which has been the case at all the non-US conventions I’ve been to thus far. I dearly miss them, and the lack of them at Loncon was one of the things I thought really did not work. But in Helsinki what they did was set aside a couple of areas near the lobby for parties in the evenings. It wasn’t quite room parties but it was a decent alternative under the circumstances.

One was a largeish room, while the other was a hall area near the entrance bar and café seating. The result was essentially three areas, two of them designated to a different party each, plus the seating from the café.

This meant that the alcohol available was mainly from the bar, with some of the parties offering tokens to exchange for libations. It wasn’t quite as nice as room parties, décor was limited and the same space was of course used on multiple days, but it worked reasonably well. One advantage over the Loncon fan village model was that it wasn’t in a massive high-ceilinged conference centre hall. It was cosier and the atmosphere more party-like. Having a separate space from from the daytime convention activities also meant that it felt more properly like an evening treat instead of a very long extended day.

Talking it over with John we agreed that the main advantage was the feeling of possibility, having everything all in one space feels limited, it becomes one big stream of sameness. Different and separate spaces add expectation; you go to see what’s up and check out the room next door, the potential just seems greater. Knowing you could easily head out to a bar in the city definitely helped as well, it just felt more dynamic and fun to me.

This night the party hosts in the hall were San Jose 2018 (Worldcon 76) while Chinese fandom had the room; we spent a few hours hanging out and chatting, then a bunch of us got the train into town to check out the Tractor Bar which some folks had had dinner at the night before. It was a combo restaurant/bar/nightclub in a farmhouse theme, including a real, fullsize tractor right there on the dancefloor. We drank some nice local liquors, at least one terrible one, and at one point a Polish fan taught us some Socialist worker songs.

Afterwards we went to a terrible little club called Lady Moon which we spotted lurking up a seedy looking alley, we were super drunk by then so we managed to have a pretty great time anyway. John caught up with us at the Black BBQ burger truck outside the station and we staggered home about 4:30am, a trend that continued most of the con.

(Old post recovered from Dreamwidth)

Helsinki Worldcon – Day Zero

We arrived into Helsinki on Tuesday morning and caught the tram to our various destinations; some headed to the Holiday Inn near the convention center, others to Hotel Sokos Vaakuna by the central train station, while John and I had opted for an AirBnB a fifteen-minute walk from downtown.

It was a cute little place on Eerikinkatu, comfortable, with plenty of light, and most importantly; a kitchen. We were around the corner from Hietalahti Market Square, which has an indoor food market and a flea market outside. We had our first meal in Helsinki there, the first of many delicious hamburgers the city served up for us. Afterwards John relaxed and read his book while I looked around the flea market, and then we hit the nearby supermarket for groceries and mixers.

Although the official started of the con was on Wednesday, a reception was planned on Tuesday evening and John had wrangled an invite. We had a couple of hours before that was due to start and I still had to check in on the Fan Lounge and also hang my art in the Art Show, so we figured we may as well figure out public transit to Messukeskus.

Luckily John noticed right before our tram arrived that the reception was in fact taking place not at the convention center but instead at City Hall, a five-minute walk from where we were standing. As a consequence we got there half hour early wandered about till other early arrivals started milling in. We mustered our best fannish social awkwardness and elbowed our way into a random group of Finns and Swedes. Luckily, they were a friendly bunch and we chatted happily until the doors to the reception opened.

After a nice speech by a local politician we were free to mingle facilitated by wine and a lovely food spread. The salmon salad was particularly good, though the locals were obviously amused by our delight. Several Bay Area people were in attendance, a smattering of UK folks, plus a whole bunch of other assorted fans local and otherwise. From what I understand the invites had been at least partly as random lottery, but clearly an effort had gone in to spread the selection over a range of groups to encourage a good mix of people. It was fun chatting with local fandom and getting to see everyone in their finery.

When the reception let out I left John to the tender mercies of Finnish fandom and caught the tram to Messukeskus alone. The tram takes about thirty minutes to reach the convention center and wends through town. The sky was tinged pink with the sunset and as we crossed the river a colorful hot air balloon drifted lazily overhead, the effect was quite magical.

Upon arrival, I was able to pick up my badge but there was no information about staffing matters and the folks at registration didn’t seem to have any idea about ConOps or how I should proceed. They assured me the facilities would be closed at 8pm anyway. A bit skeptical, I hung about a while trying to figure things out, but eventually gave up for the night and headed back into town.

John was merry from drinking with the Finns and had been told about some karaoke thing happening that evening. We set out to find it, which was trickier than expected due to the fact that a lot of places in Helsinki seem to be inside and/or underneath other places. We must have looked utterly lost because a random pair of women obviously on their own night out even stopped to try and help.

Our destination was a place called Kaivopihan Karaokekellari, a cavernous basement bar already packed with early bird fans when we got there. Third Row was ensconced in the back, our Stockholm travel group was already there too, and it was just generally a heaving mass of drunken fandom. I didn’t sing myself but did enjoy watching fandom belt ‘em out till I called it a night.

Ferry to Helsinki

The Silja Serenade is apparently a cruiseferry, which is a term I wasn’t familiar with but which perfectly describes her. Sort of a plush ferry or downsized cruise ship whose interior has that casino feel and rows of cabins looking inwards. There was shopping and restaurants, a couple of bars and night spots, and even a casino with a live band, the casino was tiny but the band was exactly as cheesy as you would hope for. Most importantly there was a duty free, so we bought some gin to buffer us against the even higher Finnish liquor prices.

The best part by far was the deck; we all spent the first few hours drinking beer and enjoying the view. Sweden is basically a series of archipelagos and we watched them go by, first lots of them covered in houses with small boats all around, then still lots of islands but more trees and only the occasional home or small dock peeking out between the foliage. We watched a police boat go past and a couple of guys on jet skis play in our wake for a good half hour, but finally we were in the Baltic proper and there was almost nothing but trees and water as far as the eye could see.

We had a burger for dinner and then went out on the lower deck to see the sunset and watch the wake of the boat for a while, the white noise of the motors plus the fractal nature of the churning foam was mesmerizing and soothing. After a certain amount of running around and missing each other we ended up in the British pub with the gang. It had terrible service but was otherwise pretty alright, and there was even a group of Swedish fans in a corner booth who spotted John’s Helskini bid hoodie. We took over the booth beside them for a while, bar hopped a little, and eventually ended up back on the top deck, this time to watch the moon. I managed to spot a fallings star at one point, and it was all just generally pretty great.