HELSINKI – WORLDCON, DAY ZERO

We arrived into Helsinki on Tuesday morning and caught the tram to our various destinations; some headed to the Holiday Inn near the convention center, others to Hotel Sokos Vaakuna by the central train station, while John and I had opted for an AirBnB a fifteen-minute walk from downtown.

It was a cute little place on Eerikinkatu, comfortable, with plenty of light, and most importantly; a kitchen. We were around the corner from Hietalahti Market Square, which has an indoor food market and a flea market outside. We had our first meal in Helsinki there, the first of many delicious hamburgers the city served up for us. Afterwards John relaxed and read his book while I looked around the flea market, and then we hit the nearby supermarket for groceries and mixers.

Although the official started of the con was on Wednesday, a reception was planned on Tuesday evening and John had wrangled an invite. We had a couple of hours before that was due to start and I still had to check in on the Fan Lounge and also hang my art in the Art Show, so we figured we may as well figure out public transit to Messukeskus.

Luckily John noticed right before our tram arrived that the reception was in fact taking place not at the convention center but instead at City Hall, a five-minute walk from where we were standing. As a consequence we got there half hour early wandered about till other early arrivals started milling in. We mustered our best fannish social awkwardness and elbowed our way into a random group of Finns and Swedes. Luckily, they were a friendly bunch and we chatted happily until the doors to the reception opened.

After a nice speech by a local politician we were free to mingle facilitated by wine and a lovely food spread. The salmon salad was particularly good, though the locals were obviously amused by our delight. Several Bay Area people were in attendance, a smattering of UK folks, plus a whole bunch of other assorted fans local and otherwise. From what I understand the invites had been at least partly as random lottery, but clearly an effort had gone in to spread the selection over a range of groups to encourage a good mix of people. It was fun chatting with local fandom and getting to see everyone in their finery.

When the reception let out I left John to the tender mercies of Finnish fandom and caught the tram to Messukeskus alone. The tram takes about thirty minutes to reach the convention center and wends through town. The sky was tinged pink with the sunset and as we crossed the river a colorful hot air balloon drifted lazily overhead, the effect was quite magical.

Upon arrival, I was able to pick up my badge but there was no information about staffing matters and the folks at registration didn’t seem to have any idea about ConOps or how I should proceed. They assured me the facilities would be closed at 8pm anyway. A bit skeptical, I hung about a while trying to figure things out, but eventually gave up for the night and headed back into town.

John was merry from drinking with the Finns and had been told about some karaoke thing happening that evening. We set out to find it, which was trickier than expected due to the fact that a lot of places in Helsinki seem are inside and/or underneath other places. We must have looked utterly lost because a random pair of women obviously on their own night out even stopped to try and help.

Our destination was a place called Kaivopihan Karaokekellari, a cavernous basement bar already packed with early bird fans when we got there. Third Row was ensconced in the back, our Stockholm travel group was already too, and it was just generally a heaving mass of drunken fandom. I didn’t sing myself but did enjoy watching fandom belt ‘em out till I called it a night.

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