The Helsinki of Eva Sauphie, Author of Indie Guides Helsinki

Eva Sauphie is kind of like a cat: she’s had many lives. One in Paris, another in Helsinki, one where she almost died of asphyxiation in a sauna, another where she was a backup singer in an indie folk band, and finally her current life where she prefers to talk about music instead of making it. For the release of our city guide Indie Guide Helsinki, she told us about her favorite bands in the Finnish music scene, her favorite spots in Helsinki, and the best things about Scandinavian culture.

How does Helsinki influence your work?

Helsinki is a relaxing city, surrounded by lakes and the sea. It’s an attractive capital where you can find all the features of any dynamic city, but since nature is so dominant here, and the city is small (with only 600,000 people!), it makes everyday life very zen. That feeling of calm really lends itself well to creativity and provides ideal working conditions. In Helsinki, you can sit down in a café with your laptop for hours, and it will be perfectly peaceful. Everyone respects one another’s space.

Tell us about one of your guilty pleasures in Helsinki

Pulla! They’re Finnish sweet rolls and it’s impossible to resist the cinnamon ones (korvapuusti) or any Finnish pastries made with cardamom. It’s almost to the point where I don’t like croissants anymore!  

Tell us a funny/unexpected anecdote that’s happened to you in Helsinki

The time I got stuck in an 80-degree (175°F) sauna! The door was kind of old and got stuck from the inside. Lesson learned, we had to break a window to escape and avoid asphyxiation! But I’m actually not traumatized by it. I still love saunas: it’s an institution in Finland – a special moment for relaxation and well-being. According to custom, you’re supposed to have a few beers when you go to the sauna. Only the Finnish could pull off drinking at the spa!

What do you like the least about Helsinki?

The wet snow! That annoying time of the year – usually between February and March – when the city is melting, and it turns into a dripping, muddy mess. When that happens, it doesn’t matter how practical your clothes are – there’s nothing you can do to deal with that happy climate!

What would you miss most if you had to leave Helsinki?

How patient people are! Bagging your groceries at the register without feeling rushed, no one shooting you dirty looks or grumbling because you’re taking too long: priceless.

What’s your favorite food or drink in Helsinki?

Seasonal ingredients are rare in Helsinki – hello Nordic climate! So you have to learn to appreciate the rare local products we get in the warm season, like new potatoes – I’ve never tasted better! – and the many kinds of berries you can pick yourself. After that, you can come up with a nice salad, make a blueberry pie, and you’re ready for a picnic in one of the city parks like Kofari, following the famous tradition of pussikalja, which is basically brown bagging your beer!

What’s your favorite place to go to escape the city, even just for an hour?

Hands down, going to a mökki! There’s always a friend inviting you to their family cottage, even just a few miles outside the city, in Eespo for example. I prefer the really old school ones without electricity or running water. You have to go get your water directly from the lake – quite the experience for a city girl! It’s a great place to have garden parties far from the city with a group of friends, music, barbecue…and the best time for that is Juhannus – the longest day of the year, when night never falls.

What local artist should everyone know about?

Tom of Finland, an illustrator from the middle and the end of the 20th century. He died in 1991 and has been a strong figure of the queer and gay community. He was born in Kaarina but moved to Helsinki when he was 19. At the moment, I really like Jaakko Eino Kalevi, an indie electropop artist with lots of promise, and the bluesy folk of Talmud Beach.

After that, everyone should know about Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät a.k.a PKN, a punk band made up of musicians with autism or Down’s syndrome. They’re really incredible performers and I think they should have made it further in Eurovision 2015. Otherwise, I think the rap in Helsinki is worth knowing. There’s this local group from the suburb of Kirkkonummi a few miles from the capital, called Likanen Etelä: it’s thug life made in Finland!

In your opinion, what song best describes the ambiance of Helsinki?

Paha Vaanii by Marko Haavisto and Poutahaukat! It’s kind of dated, but it’s a song from the film The Man Without a Past by Aki Kaurismäki, a Finnish filmmaker I love, by the way. The song perfectly expresses the lovely melancholy of the city and its inhabitants in the winter.

What city do you dream of visiting?

San Francisco, or Dakar!

Discover more alternative and cultural spots in Helsinki with our city guide Indie Guides Helsinki.

Article translated by Andrea Perdue