Sokos Hotel Torni, in Helsinki, is like a miniature skyscraper, or an urban lighthouse. Its very name oozes anecdotes related to Finland’s struggle for independence, both in dominance and in culture.
As my readers know, a big change has just taken place in my life: I moved from London, the city I felt spiritually so connected with, to Finland, a country where my Rio de Janeiro born sidekick has found his spiritual cradle. To ease up the transition, I got us a room for our first Finnish night in one of Finland’s most historic hotels, Sokos Hotel Torni, in Helsinki. Now that a new life awaited, I wanted to push my limits and decided to start something new on the blog as well: so step in, dear readers, to Crumbs of Rain’s first official blog collaboration!
Torni (i.e. “the Tower”) is situated on a small hill in central Helsinki, and for a long time it was the city’s tallest structure with over 70 metres. The Torni Hotel must have been a magnificent construction when it was erected in between 1928 and 1931, epitomizing the time’s functionalistic and futuristic atmosphere. Now, from the upmost floors, you’ll see the old and new Helsinki mingling below in yellow, white and brownish lines, dotted with a few more colourful spots, a few cranes by the industrial harbour, a new Ferris Wheel by the sea. My eyes stop for a moment at the green dome of the Tuomiokirkko, Helsinki Cathedral.
This rooftop terrace is located in the original side of Torni Hotel and here Ateljee Bar, with somewhat bohemian reputation, has served Finland’s coolest cocktails for decades. The tiny yet not crammed bar has been exhibiting young artists monthly since the 1950s. Today I see Emmi Johansson and Mikko Annila hung on the walls, and Hanna-Mari, the Hotel Manager, informs me that from each exhibition the hotel gets one sample to its collections. I wonder how many Finnish masterpieces Torni holds in its art vaults.
In fact, Torni’s connection with Finnish culture is present everywhere: in its history, urban legends and visitors’ memories. Yet, in an unassumingly non-touristic manner, for example Wikipedia has very few words to tell about Torni: how it holds annual ceremonies for the ‘knights of Torni’, how Finland’s most famous courtesan’s murder was plotted in its rooms, how both foreign and Finnish presidents have enjoyed its hospitality – not to mention the visiting celebrities from Josephine Baker and Jean-Paul Sartre to Roger Moore.
Our room, or more accurately, a suite, is situated in the Jugend side of Torni. As my readers know, I am fond of the history behind constructed cityscape and architecture, especially the Georgian period. But, as I haven’t got a chance for this revelation, no one really knows that it is, in fact, the art nouveau, or Jugend style, which is closest to my heart what it comes to the stylistic elements of buildings. Maybe this is because the colour palette is appealing to me, maybe because of the mixture of strict and seemingly unruled lines, maybe because of the occasional use of animals to liven up the whole. But I haven’t ever had the chance of living, even for a night, in an actual art nouveau room.
I sighed and started to feel that maybe, in some parts of Finnish life, I had a spiritual counterpart also. Needless to say, my sidekick was impressed after all those hotels of full carpeting, frilly curtains and crammed design; in Torni, it seemed to be the lightness of living and unassuming elegance that dominated the room’s atmosphere.
Torni Hotel welcomed us in the best Finnish style and our stay in Kyllikki wing was by far one of my best stays anywhere – and, as I was proud to point out, I was in my home country! I could easily imagine myself going back to Torni year after year (as many do), stay in my suite and work on some elegant ideas. There would be enough inspiration, as one of my favourite philosophers, Jean-Paul Sartre, has stayed in Torni, too. Although, as I was ready to close my eyes in the too-comfy-for-your-own-good-bed, a question arose: how could this man have such a gloomy outlook on human nature and life (hell is other people!) when staying in such surroundings?
At breakfast, I was blown away by the well-chosen and balanced selection of breakfast items, the coffee and the easygoing friendliness of the staff. My sidekick noted that the atmosphere was very Finnish: calm even with a full house. Around us, Helsinki had already woken up to its Wednesday’s routines, and couples and families were planning the day ahead – yet I could hear a couple at the next table turning the pages of Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.
And after breakfast, only one question remained: why hadn’t I saved some space for the pancakes?
Some Personal Thoughts: Thank you Sokos Hotel Torni, and H-M Riihimäki for the opportunity to stay in such an elegant and historic room, room 431. I approached Torni myself with the idea of blog collaboration, as I knew the hotel is not only an integral part of Helsinki’s history since the late 1920s but a flag ship in Finnish culinary culture, too. I had visited the building before, just to see the lobby’s famous architecture (the upper floor bar was closed as it was early), so I knew what to expect. Yet I and my husband were genuienly impressed by the whole atmosphere: even after midnight, when you have a good excuse to be short with words, the reception handled us with such ease and friendliness that I thought I had fell asleep on the airplane and landed in some other country than my own, so famous for its grumpy customer service!
For more Finnish Crumbs, please read:
On Finnish Culinary Culture: A Visit to Restaurant Juuri, Helsinki
A Cup of Coffee in Helsinki: A Perfect Find by the Sea!