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By the numbers - two Helsinkis, 28 beaches, 206 bingo-callers...

The Finnish capital turns 462 today. Congratulations!


By the numbers - two Helsinkis, 28 beaches, 206 bingo-callers...
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By Susanna Pasula
     
      There is only one Helsinki, but it has two airports (Helsinki-Vantaa and Malmi). Well, actually the first of them is physically in Vantaa, but we won't go into that.
      The capital has three remaining public saunas (Sauna Arla, Kotiharju, and Sauna Hermanni), but the numbers will increase to four before very long, as thanks to the World Design Capital year we will be getting another one in Merihaka by the autumn.
      That will be called Kulttuurisauna ("Culture Sauna"), and it will be the first public sauna where one can go for a dip in the sea.
      Oh, and just in case anyone is confused, the concept of "public sauna" does NOT include saunas that happen to be in swimming halls or hotels and suchlike. These three are dedicated saunas and nothing but.
     
Helsinki has five city managers, but only the mayor Jussi Pajunen is a barefoot Helsinki boy.
      He was born here and before he went into local politics he made a career at the head of the Pajunen family's Alepa retailing business.
      All his four deputy mayors are out-of-towners by origin, from the boondocks.
      Pekka Sauri (Public Works and Environmental Affairs) comes from Hämeenlinna, Hannu Penttilä (Planning and Real Estate) was born in the strawberry municipality of Suonenjoki, Laura Räty (Social Affairs and Public Health) hails from Äänekoski, and Ritva Viljanen (Education, Culture and Personnel) is from Karkkila.
      One hopes they all have our best interests at heart.
     
The heart of the Helsinki residents is warm, but we cannot really say the same for the city's mean temperature, which is just +6°C.
      To be fair, Helsinki is warming up, and in a hundred years the mean temperature (that's for the whole year, winter and summer extremes all thrown in together) will have climbed by more than one degree Celsius.
     
Helsinki is the locomotive driving the nation's economy, and it also pulls in population from outside, albeit that housing prices sometimes make them think twice.
      Nevertheless, for all its position at the sharp end of the economy, not all the residents of the capital are doing so well, as the local rate of unemployment is 7%.
     
In these summer months, the Helsinki way of life is at its most authentic in the city's markets.
      There are eight of them (Kauppatori or the Market Square, Hakaniemi, Hietalahti, Fredrikintori, Haaga, Kannelmäki, Töölö, and Malmi), and the market squares are in their turn also populated by countless numbers of extremely bold and badly-behaved Helsinki seagulls.
      According to Wikipedia, Helsinki can boast nine lakes, all of them rather on the small side.
      The largest is Porolahti, out east between the neighbourhoods of Roihuvuori and Tammisalo. The smallest is in Munkkiniemi, and it is so tiny it doesn't even have a name to its name.
     
A total of ten species of owl have been observed in the Helsinki area (Eurasian eagle owl, boreal owl/ Tengmalm's owl, northern hawk-owl, great grey owl, tawny owl, long-eared owl, short-eared owl, snowy owl, Eurasian pygmy owl, and Ural owl).
      The greatest of these is of course the legendary urban eagle owl named Bubi, whom we all remember fondly from his intervention in the Finland-Belgium football international back in 2007.
      Apropos of owls, some people hereabouts also recall an incident at around the turn of the year in 2000, when a number of snowy owls turned up unexpectedly on the islands off the shore of the capital.
      Bird enthusiasts rushed to rent boats and attempted to spot the blotches of white on the rocky islets through their binoculars. There was no snow on the ground at the time, but plenty of snowy owls.
     
Helsinki has 11 cemeteries. Right now we have to advertise Hietaniemi Cemetery, where the lilacs have been in bloom for a couple of weeks, flooding the place with heavenly scents.
      Visitors' ears can also be delighted by the whistling of the thrush nightingale (Luscinia luscinia, but there is no sense in even trying to spot one.
      Someone has calculated that there are 12 so-called "cellar mosques" in Helsinki, where adherents of Islam gather and kneel in prayer, pointing towards Mecca.
     
Today, thirteen Helsinki infants will be celebrating their first birthday.
      When they were born in 2011, it was a steamy hot Sunday.
      The weather forecast for today suggests it might struggle up to 20°C, but there is a risk of some showers.
     
Finland's laws are decided upon in the Parliament House on Mannerheimintie, the facade of which is fronted by fourteen columns with Corinthian capitals.
      Up the steps and between these columns march the Helsinki Members of Parliament - 21 of them out of a total complement of 200.
      It is often claimed that the home-town MPs do not go into bat for the capital quite as eagerly as members from elsewhere lobby on behalf of their respective regions.
     
Helsinki has fifteen neighbourhoods whose name contains a forename of some description.
      Examples include Eira, Hermanni, Maunula, Marjaniemi, Marttila, Pirkkola, Tapanila, Ullanlinna, and Vesala.
      As so often in life, male place-names outnumber female ones in the various districts of the capital, in spite of the fact that women outnumber men in the population (now heading towards 600,000) by a ratio of 53% to 47%.
     
And now we are rapidly approaching the limits of the column-inches this article has been permitted.
      So we shall have to up the pace a bit and leave out a few numbers in between.
      The Helsinki resident borrows an average of 16 books a year from the public libraries.
      There are 17 Metro stations (with a few more to come as the line expands towards Espoo), 20 McDonald's outlets, 28 bathing beaches, 36 theatres, and 42 churches.
      Helsinki is situated pretty squarely on the 60°N line of latitude. Other cities of note this far north include Anchorage in Alaska and the port of Magadan on the Sea of Okhotsk in far north-eastern Russia.
     
Helsinki currently has 92 citizens who have passed the age of 100.
      The oldest of them is a woman of 106.
      A total of 138 snow leopards have been resident in Helsinki's Korkeasaari Zoo, which also maintains the international breeding registry for this endangered species.
      The representatives of a total of 165 different nationalities are currently registered as living in Helsinki.
     
Helsinki has 173 veterinary surgeons, 185 student careers counsellors, 186 conductors (no, not classical music conductors), 206 bingo-callers or casino croupiers, 230 dressmakers, 247 midwives, 256 occupational health & safety inspectors, and 262 welders.
      There are 271 tram-stops, a healthy 315 islands (remember Helsinki is two-thirds water), and 316 statues.
      Just so we would not get too jolly about all these numbers, a total of 352 people were killed in Helsinki in aerial bombing during the Second World War.
     
And now we have arrived, more or less: today the capital celebrates Helsinki Day and chalks up yet another birthday - 462 years young today. Congratulations!
     
Errr... actually, if we are strictly accurate, that opening sentence about "only one Helsinki" is not quite true.
      There IS another Helsinki out there.
      1495 Helsinki is a small planet - a main-belt asteroid - that goes around the sun somewhere between Mars and Jupiter.
      The other Helsinki is a cold, dark, dead place that does not support life.
      It was found - and named - by the Finnish astronomer Yrjö Väisälä in 1938.
      As you might have guessed, Väisälä was from Turku. They never forget that they were once top dog.
     
     
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 12.6.2012


See also:
  In the annexing department, Helsinki has a history of getting its way (5.9.2006)
  Excuse me, could you direct me to the absolute centre of Helsinki? (25.4.2006)

Links:
  Visit Helsinki: Helsinki Day 12.6.
  City of Helsinki website
  Helsinki Urban Facts

SUSANNA PASULA / Helsingin Sanomat
susanna.pasula@hs.fi


  12.6.2012 - THIS WEEK
 By the numbers - two Helsinkis, 28 beaches, 206 bingo-callers...

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