Snow falls on Taka-Töölö

posted: 09 January, 2009

I welcome snow after 4 years without seeing much of it. Glasgow would get one or two light dustings each winter; I have one memory of a snowball fight (with my boss at the chain computer store I worked at), but not much more. My winter in Kentucky contained a very memorable icestorm, but it was over Christmas and I hit the worst of it in Ohio, on the way home to see my family; the rest of the winter had only a few light snowfalls, nothing like the unforgettable Blizzard of '93.

But this scene is one of relative normalcy here. Waking up slightly earlier than normal, I walked through the calm white blanket, my neighborhood quiet apart from the occasional dogwalker. It's hard to believe that a horrible upsetting war is raging in this same time zone; here, in the world's second-most stable country, it's the clichéd Winter Wonderland.

It's better here when there's snow; since the reduced daylight hours causes everything to appear dim and grey, and at least snow brightens the scenery. The uniquely Finnish take on Northern European brutalist apartment architecture - that of pastel yellows, blues and greens - is accentuated by the surrounding whiteness. It transforms mundane urban scenes into slightly more pastoral landscapes.

The locals say that this is mild; global warming or something has made the last few winters 'warm'. Yes, that's the sea under there - frozen at least partially, immobile under it's snowy covering. It used to freeze so deep you could drive across it, thus making the route to Seurasaari or Espoo much more direct than this.

Though winter isn't new to me, winter on the sea is. I don't know how solid the ice is today - certainly not enough to drive on, as the temperature is hovering around zero today - but I'm tempted to take a few steps. Only my mother's deep programming of "Fear of being trapped under ice" keeps me back, out of respect for her..

The familiar residue of parked cars is everywhere, though unlike Pittsburgh the locals don't place a chair in the spot to reserve it. This unwritten law of Pittsburgh streets is the most widely renowned symptom of Pittsburgh parking psychosis. I've heard numerous stories about enraged locals smashing windows, making physical threats, and even pushing other people's cars down the road with their own - all due to some perceived encroachment upon their parking territory.

My Antipodean partner, despite a few cold winters in Berlin, still sees snow as an exciting novelty. She complains about when the snow is too thin, where she finds walking on it to be equivalent to the 'fingernails on chalkboard' feeling (except she doesn't mind actual fingernails on a chalkboard). I tire of snow quickly; it's lovely when it's falling but we forget how quickly it turns ugly. Winter becomes an endless succession of trudging through piles of brown muck, deposited all over the city, slowly melting. Though I'm welcoming it now, I'm fully expecting to be grumpy and miserable about it in a few weeks.

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