08.11.10 – When I have the time, I like to walk home from my Finnish class because it takes me through a beautiful section of Helsinki where most of the major embassies are located. A small neighborhood between Kaivopuisto and the Baltic Sea is home to a number of official private residences of several ambassadors to Finland. I had always heard that the US Embassy was nearby but I had never seen it, so I decided to look it up on my iPhone while walking home.
The main street the embassies are on, Itäinen Puistotie, was easy to find and the neighborhood has a wealthy residential feel. You know, big beautiful homes, plenty of gates and very little life. I saw only one person at or inside any of the “compounds” and it was at the British Embassy and the guy looked like a sniper perched on a top-level balcony.
When I first saw the American Embassy, I have to admit, I started getting a lump in my throat. It actually felt good to see the Stars and Stripes. As I got closer though, I noticed a round turret like gate which served as the entrance. It wasn’t very inviting. Also, there’s a brick and iron gate that surrounds the complex and plastered every 10 feet were “no photo” signs. Kind of a bummer. What made it even sadder was the fact that workers were inside the gate and were hanging Christmas lights. It was an odd juxtaposition.
I really wanted a few pictures of the US embassy for the blog but I wasn’t about to get busted for the stealthy talk-on-the-phone-snap-a-picture move because I’m sure they’re used to that one. I already had a shot of the Russian Embassy because it’s separate from all the other embassies and they didn’t have “no photo” signs. There was a really cool brass plaque by a gate to the embassy so I ran across the street for a close up. I was framing the shot, standing about five feet from the plaque, when an intercom at the gate clicked and a non english speaker said “hallloo.” Me, being the friendly person that I am, answered “hi, how are you?” Next they said something in some other language, maybe German, but definitely a verb and it didn’t sound Russian. He said “mine-a.” Maybe I’ve read too many John le Carré novels but I was afraid I was going to wake up in some cinderblock cell with some KGB officer saying “Velcome to tallest building in Helsinki. Here from basement you can see Siberia!”
I decided that embassies may look pretty but they aren’t the most friendly places.
- Stockholm to investigate US embassy surveillance (guardian.co.uk)
- Why build a $500 Million Embassy in Kabul? (rupeenews.com)
- Visa hassles and a visit to Stalin’s place – Tbilisi, Georgia (travelpod.com)