Every Saturday morning I visit the suburb of Kumpula for yoga at the Uni gym. When I first started classes in summer last year, the place was a lush green wilderness full of huge leafy trees and car-less paths. On my first trip I took a back route short-cut and I although Google Maps told me I was very close to the campus, I felt sure I was lost in the middle of a Finnish forest.
Now at the end of winter the paths around Kumpula look quite different.
There are three things I particularly love about this area. Firstly, I’m absolutely crazy for the old wooden brightly painted buildings. This area was previously a working class district and fortunately many houses built in that era remain. Their bright colours are especially beautiful during winter, when the snowy ground and grey sky can otherwise feel monotonous.
Most are red or yellow but there are also the odd blue or green ones.
If I were to buy a place to live in Helsinki, it would have to be here. I love the space for a front and back yard- with a veggie patch and maybe an orchard and in winter the houses seem to be the perfect spot to hibernate indoors in hyggelig style with candles, and an open fire, reading old books and eating cinnamon buns whilst drinking hot chocolate. The streets even have festive lights during the winter months.
The second thing I love about Kumpula is the allotment gardens. Established in 1927, these are the second oldest allotment gardens in Helsinki, and often include a small cottage. The gardens can be leased from the city of Helsinki if you are a resident and provide a welcome escape from city life for relaxation and a place to grow veggies.
There are also similar allotment gardens in neighbouring Valilla.
The third thing I love about Kumpula is the beautiful botanical garden, with picturesque historical buildings and a nice little cafe open in the summer months.
Recently I read about the neighbouring suburb Käpylä in a great book about Helsinki written from the perspective of a group of locals (I’ll post shortly about this book and others I’m reading in 2018). Käpylä was described as the perfect place for idyllic slow country living within a 30min tram ride of the city centre.
To me this perfect combination of country and accessibility sounded exactly like the houses I’d seen near the Uni gym in Kumupla and for a long time I thought I had already walked across to Käpylä. Actually I had still been in Kumupla. Last weekend I finally ventured further to the real Käpylä. To get there I walked through an old Olympic village (Olympiakylä) and a large peaceful forest/park area.
Finally arriving in Käpylä I found more old barn like houses, a church (not a very attractive one) and ice hockey field, which I imagine is a soccer pitch in summer.
While the houses were bright and rustic looking, I found that overall, those in Kumpula were more charming.
By now I was starting to feel cold and pretty tired from yoga and wandering, so as I came across another street I was ecstatic to see a tram stop nearby. This was the start of tram line 1 and took me the 13 stops home.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight to my explorations of Helsinki… next weekend- line 2: Pasila.