Tag Archives: Worldcon 75

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.

Stockholm – Helsinki Worldcon day 1

The Helsinki Worldcon was many years in the making, so it feels a bit surreal that it finally came and went and is now just a memory.

Loncon 3 had been my first Worldcon outside of the US and now Worldcon 75 was to be my first one outside of the anglosphere. Having never been to northern Europe I was delighted when Bryan and Mette invited us to join in their plans to fly into Stockholm and then take the (in)famous ferry to Helsinki.

Altogether there were eight of us in our little group; Mette and Bryan, our intrepid local guides, Kevin and Andy, SMOF powerhouses girding their loins for the last Worldcon before chairing San Jose next year, along with Kevin’s sister Kelly and of course Warren from Vancouver.

John and I flew in Saturday morning, a few days after the rest of the group had arrived and made our way to the hotel, the Haymarket Scandic, an Art Deco palace which started out as a trendy department store where Greta Garbo worked in the 1920s and launched her career by modelling hats.

The flight from London was uneventful and transit into the city delightfully clean and efficient. We found the gang, dropped our suitcases off, and went to find our first Swedish meal! In this case an expensive (the whole place is expensive) but delicious repast of sandwich cake and an open-faced shrimp mayo kind of thing. Afterwards there was just enough time to freshen up before heading downstairs to get a beer and watch the Stockholm Pride Parade go right past the hotel windows. We had a prime location on the lounge level and it was a fantastic way to start the trip.

When the parade ended we wandered into the crowds and ended up at the Mosebacketerrassen at Södra Teatern, a terrace bar high on a hill overlooking the city. The view was spectacular, and although we got rained on a bit we did also get to see some vintage biplanes fly by, close to our own height.

We were driven back down to sea level by hunger but found most places packed with Pride revellers, and eventually descended further to a basement tapas bar. It was warm and had available tables so we settled in, but unfortunately the food was just okay and the service slow. The wait did allow us to marvel at the oddest bachelorette party entertainment I have ever seen, a magician/MC/stand-up maybe? There were haphazard costume changes and it was all closer performance art but trying to puzzle it out passed the time nicely. By the end of the meal we were falling asleep in our seats and I was feeling a bit unwell, so took the train back to the hotel, I crashed hard and slept until morning.

On Sunday morning after a lovely breakfast buffet we all went to Djurgården, which is basically an island full of museums.

First stop was Skansen, an open-air living history sort of place with buildings from different eras in Swedish history. A row of workshops at the start house at work, while further on the residences have guides in period costume who will explain the history and customs.  We got to see a glass blower making cunning little turtles, an 18th century blueprint printer (think of the fanzines you could print off that!), and learn a bit about linen processing and Sami culture. We also got to see reindeer with their calves, a pair of moose, and some trained seals in the indigenous animal enclosures. At midday we split the group, most opting for lunch while John and I walked over the to the Vasamuseet which the rest had already seen.

The Vasa is a 17th Century warship that sank on its maiden voyage barely out of port which was rediscovered and raised whole in the 1960s. Even realizing it was a flawed vessel, it’s a breathtaking sight; a massive oak ship, covered in ornamentation and bristling with cannons. The museum covers every part of its history starting with the context of its construction all the way to its preservation today, including an interesting look into the salvage operation. If you see one thing in Stockholm I doubt you can do better than the Vasa. We grabbed a little snack at their outdoor café to tide us over till dinner and watched the nearly tame, fat little sparrows that clearly live primarily on tourist snacks.

We rendezvoused with the group and took the ferry back to Gamla Stan, the crossing is short but fun and gives a better perspective of the archipelago that is Stockholm. We arrived just in time for our reservation at Aifur, a Viking restaurant!

Aifur is also a basement restaurant, with arched ceilings, decorated to evoke a Viking longhouse. We ordered a pitcher of mead for the table and for myself I got a lovely perch in a hazelnut sauce. John ordered boar meatballs, also delicious. The ingredients and recipes were period appropriate, the mead was great, and soon we were all happily tipsy.

And if one Viking experience is good well then two must surely be even better. We poured ourselves out of the restaurant and headed directly to Sjätte Tunnan (The Sixth Barrel) an bar attached to the Here we had lots more mead including some that resembled beer and a delicious blackberry one, and enjoyed listening to the revelry in the restaurant below where they loudly announce incoming parties in the manner of a medieval court.

By the end we were feeling very happy indeed, we had a little wander through the night streets and saw Stortoget plaza, scene of the Stockholm Bloodbath in 1520. On the walk back to our hotel we passed a group staging a sit-in to highlight refugee issues and joined them, though all too briefly, when we passed the next day they were still there fighting the good fight.

Our ferry was on Monday afternoon, so we had the morning to explore daytime Gamla Stan. We visited their excellent SF Bookstore, purchased Cuban cigars, tried some softserve ice cream with outstanding chocolate sprinkles, bought some honeycomb candles, and generally wandered about being touristy until it was time to make our way to the ferry terminal.

(Old post recovered from Dreamwidth)