I spent a few days in Helsinki over the course of this summer for the first time since moving to Finland, and discovered that Helsinki is a strangely nostalgic city for me. In the spring of 2002 when Jeremy and I were living in Moscow, we took a trip to Estonia and Finland and spent a day and a half in Helsinki. But WHAT a day and a half! Coming from Russia, as we were, Helsinki seemed to us to be almost unbearably tidy and bright. We ate at a Subway (it was amazing), we saw a movie (A Beautiful Mind - in English with subtitles in two languages, not dubbed into Russian), we met one of Jeremy's old friends from his mission days in Siberia (he lives near us in Turku now and our kids are besties, life is weird sometimes!).
This summer, in Helsinki, after not having properly visited there for 16 years, I was flooded with memories of spring 2002. And the most formative memories are of the time we spent wandering around Stockmann department store.
See, we had a small Stockmann in Moscow, too. And we knew it was a Finnish department store, and that it had the best (to our tastes) milk and cheese (Valio brand!). I have many, many memories of going to Stockmann in Moscow to buy milk and cheese and rye crispbread and then lugging those things home, on foot, in the dark. It was a labor of love and it was worth it.
So to walk through the gigantic Stockmann in Helsinki in 2002 and see the motherland of our favorite dairy products was quite the experience. We also bought a Moomin keychain and a wooden butter knife there, which, interestingly, got lost when we moved from the UAE to Finland in 2015. We bought another knife at the Christmas Market in Turku and I tell myself that, cosmically speaking, it's the same knife as the one we bought in 2002 and used for 13 years.
On Wednesday, I went to Helsinki to meet my brother and found myself with an hour to spare before he arrived. I had the whole city available to me and I chose to go to Stockmann! Aisle after aisle of gleaming dairy products still inspire a little bit of awe in me, because food is delicious, but I can still feel what an especially dear treasure those things were to us 16 years ago. I found the souvenir area and sure enough, there were still Moomin keychains and wooden butter knives for sale. I'm sure I looked ridiculous to anyone paying attention - walking around aimlessly in a Stockmann, with a vaguely beatific smile on my face, buying absolutely nothing.
It was a welcome hour of nostalgia, and one of those times where I just marvel at the twists and turns life takes. If you had told me, 16 years ago, that I'd be there in that Stockmann again someday on a day trip from my home in Turku...well!