Any city is like a person. It has many features, sometimes contradictory and confusing. It has a past that is reflected in its present and will continue to affect its future.
When we meet a new person, we get to know him or her slowly, through conversations and observations. It works for cities too – listen and observe, explore its districts. They are original, dissimilar, and each one has a story to tell.
Today I want to introduce you to Eira. It’s a small downtown neighbourhood of Helsinki, located in a close proximity to the seashore. There are very few tourists here, although Eira is a 20-minute walk from the Esplanadi, Stockman and other places marked on all touristic maps as “must see”. If you find yourself in Helsinki, come here. Take the road less traveled 🙂
There are quite many embassies and old villa-like mansions in Eira. The active building phase took place from 1905 to 1917, when this part of the city was a suburb.
Eira district takes its name after the local hospital. “Eir” is the old Scandinavian goddess of healing.
Eira is mentioned in a famous movie by Finnish movie director-star Aki Kaurismäki “Calamari Union”. It’s a story about sixteen men named Frank and one Pekka trying to escape Kallio (another Helsinki district) and move to Eira, a prosperous and well-off place, where people can live “lives of dignity”. I watched maybe 30 min of this movie – although it’s really nicely done, it’s too weird to my taste 🙂
Eira is particularly famous for its art nouveau or Jugend style architecture. I, personally, like these buildings a lot. Maybe because most of them resemble elements of a castle, I feel very peaceful when I walk around these stone giants.
Most villas are in a very good shape and look well-kept.
Some are uncared-for, although they still look quite charming and somewhat mystic.
My personal favorite is Villa Johanna. It was built in 1906 by Selim A. Lindquist for a businessman Uno Staudinger. The villa was named after Staudinger’s wife. This house is like from a fairy-tale: a magical creature, fanciful stone patterns and even a tower with a tiny window.
The roads nearby are rarely busy with traffic, and the area is very calm, with a couple of cozy parks, children playgrounds, and gardens. It’s a perfect place to enjoy a good book and a cup of coffee on a sunny day.
Talking about coffee, there are plenty of cafes nearby: Pingviini kiosk (ice cream, coffee and korvapuusti – famous Finnish cinnamon pastry), Helsingin Jäätelotehdas kiosk (ice cream), Cafe Caruseli (coffee and snack or meal), Mattolaituri (a great place to sit outside with a glass of champagne and enjoy the sea view).
Hope you visit Eira and enjoy it as much as I do!