Architecture Feed

A Peek Inside This 'Vivid Living' Bungalow

Livingroom

As you might remember from our Dragon Flower Farmhouse tour, I'm a huge fan of color. Living in the rainy, grey Pacific Northwest for about 16 years, I took cues from the electric-green moss and Day-Glo orange fungus in the forests and painted my house accordingly. So when the real estate agent who sold us our St. Louis home Instagrammed these stunning pictures of a 'Vivid Living' house for sale, my heart grew like three sizes that day.

I mean, just look at this living room! From the ice blue mid-century modern ottoman (want) to the dried rose cage to the eagle-has-landed lamp–on a lime Slurpee-hued side table, no less–this place is a technicolor day dream. 

Let this be a lesson to ye who are afraid of color: You can totally make it work. How? Let's break it down. First, note the pattern harmony. There's the rug, the pillows, and the curtain. They work to pull the whole two-room spread of oldie-meets-modern collection together because they're the same type of pattern (bold abstracts), with the main colors overlapping and analogous (green and blue, mostly). Second, the other bold colors in the room come right out of that rug, too: salmon pink in the curtains (how cute are those tassels?), yellow in the standing lamp and corner shelf. The ice blue ottoman matches the blue seats on the also vintage dining chairs. Green and blue ground everything, and the other colors feel crisp and clean with them. The wood floors and window trim provide a warm counterpoint.

The cool blue hue carries through into the kitchen, where lo and behold, we have the most adorable theme imaginable: aqua and Elvis.

Kitchen

Are you DYING? I know. This is why you shouldn't automatically gut your kitchen, people. Those two (!) sets of corner shelves leap right out of this bungalow's 1929 birth and prove that new isn't always better. This kitchen comes across so well and balanced because the positively girly aqua is manned up with red accents and vintage Elvis. The thrift store-find collectibles make it especially Insta worthy.

As someone whose own kitchen is alive with turquoise and orange, I give this my stamp of approval. There might be some aqua cabinets in my future now, too.

The styling in this home has made me aware of a color combination I wouldn't have executed on my own: aqua and yellow. But look how awesome they are together. The primary, rain slicker-yellow vibrating against the pastel aqua keeps the two colors from going Easter on you real quick. Here's how it looks outside.

Outside

Incidentally, our outdoor table set is the exact same color, so admittedly, I'm biased. Ours is more of a 60s Space Age design, though:

Ouraquatableset

I've just never thought of pairing aqua with bright yellow, even though it looks great with the bearded irises in the background above. I love the effect.

Speaking of yellow, isn't it cool how your eye is drawn around the office below and then right into the center of the room to that desk chair? It's like the wall colors are there to highlight the velvet chair of the same shade. 

Office

I've never been a fan of yellow and brown, but the stained wood here works well against the yellow because everything else in the room is so fresh: the cute blue stool, the funky modern shelves in white laminate. And I love that the office vibe is softened by a pretty shoe collection. I mean, shoes are like little sculptures of their own; if you've got a great grouping of them, why hide them away in a closet? It's a cool idea for staging purposes, but I happen to know these stillettos have always been on display like this.

By now you're probably wondering who the genius is behind this lovingly curated collection and home design. Remember I told you the listing came to my attention when my former real estate agent posted pics on Instagram. Her name is Martina Devine, and not only does she live up to her namesake by being a truly divine individual, but she is also a sharp cookie when it comes to the business of homes. She persevered valiantly back in 2017 when we bought our house, navigating an unresponsive selling agent, misleading bank officers, the difficulties of having to list our previous home as a rental, and my husband and I being separated by a few thousand miles during the closing. Through all of this, Martina was upbeat and never more than a phone call away.

Well, imagine my delight when I found out via Facebook that she wasn't just the listing agent for this colorful home; the home is hers.

Now I knew that we shared a love of older features in a home; we'd bonded over that while touring houses for sale and settling on the World's Fair-era beauty. But now I see it's much more: Martina's got a great eye for vintage-made-current and a passion for holding onto pieces that tell a story.

There's so much intention here, with the classic Americana theme running through every room. Her velvet contessas in the office above aren't kitschy, though: They're honored.

Take a look at this sunroom.

Sunroom

Of course the orange accent wall balances the orange chair, with the blue rug tying it together and bookending the graphic rug from the first room. But the star of the show is that Hank Williams caricature. 

This house says: I know where I am, where I've been, and I'm proud of it all. It's a celebration of working class, old weird America, and I love it.

By the way, I invited Martina to tell you about her house herself, but she was in the middle of moving to her new home, with all of the stresses that naturally involves. BUT she agreed to write about the upcoming renos she's already scheming for that lovely abode. She explains:

We are buying a mid-century home that has all of the original metal cabinets and a sweet 70's knotty pine basement. I am flooded with projects for the new place that I am so, so excited to tackle. Still keeping ALL of the original features, but making it a bit more.... colorful 😎.

That could be a fun project to write about. At this point, as you can imagine, I am living in a house that feels less and less like my home as each day passes. It's bittersweet, but I live my life assuming that there's always a home project to be done. And once you realize they've all been completed, on to the next house!

By press time, Martina's vivid living bungalow already had a pending offer. But contact her for other beauties waiting to be snapped up in the River City. And let me end with a final image to prove that you can go vintage even in the bathroom because they just don't make 'em like they used to. Says Martina of the pretty pink powder room below:

We built that from salvaged finds, which took way more time and energy than we had anticipated, but it was worth every single second! I am super sad to leave my pink sink. Few things have been able to elicit as strong of a reaction from my husband and me as stumbling across that glorious Mamie-approved fixture!

Bathroom

Here's another fun coincidence: Martina's not the only one who's taken an old bathroom sink and put it back into a home. I once did the exact same thing with a powder blue number, complete with lucite-and-chrome legs. It totally made the bathroom, just like the one above.

What's your take on these lovingly appreciated vintage room stylings? Are you a fan? Not your cup of tea? Tell us in the comments below.

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Roundup: Arena Bricks, SLU Spotlight, Dreamslippers Series Features

Arena brick

This past Saturday we had a spare moment to catch our breaths and wound up at a place called Architectural Artifacts St. Louis. I follow them on Instagram (@architecturalartifactsstl), where I'd found out they had a crate of bricks salvaged from the St. Louis Arena, unearthed after 20 years.

Built in 1929 and demolished 70 years later, the St. Louis Arena was a sport and concert venue, a place where memories were made. The Blues hockey team played there, so I suspect many of the folks picking up a brick of their own are motivated by the current Stanley Cup playoff. I'm not a huge hockey fan, but even I can appreciate the fervor; the Blues haven't been in the Stanley Cup finals since 1970, haven't won since 1967, and this is the fourth time in history they've made it this far. All over the city, there are signs saying, "Let's Go, Blues!"

But my motivation for combing though the array of blue, yellow, and orange Arena bricks and choosing one to take home was different.

Arena bricks

In 1980s St. Louis, The Arena was the place to see a rock concert.

I saw Whitesnake and Poison there, and both L.A. Guns and Guns 'n Roses. I crushed on Joe Elliott when Def Leppard played at The Arena "in the round" in 1988. My boyfriend and I were close enough to marvel over Richard Allen's deft skill in playing the drums with one arm and both feet. Next came Mötley Crüe's Dr. Feelgood tour in 1989. Tommy Lee's drum kit extended out over the crowd, turned him upside-down, and spun. Yeah. I'd played in the rhythm section of my grade school band, so you could say the drummers stood out to me for that reason, but they certainly had their own draw.

I regret missing KISS when my parents grounded me for what I protested at the time were unfair reasons: When my boyfriend and I went to The Arena to get tickets, he parked in neighboring Forest Park to save on the parking fee, and we returned to find the windows on the car broken, his expensive stereo system gutted, huge baseball bat-sized holes in the sides of his Grand Prix. Dealing with a police report and taping up the windows against the cold winter air, we returned home well past curfew, and the grounding was my punishment.

In 1999 when The Arena was imploded, I walked from where I lived just a few blocks away to watch it. I still remember the birds emerging from holes in the ceiling the second the detonation went off.

As many of you know, I've moved back to St. Louis after 20 years away, so this brick marks that occasion for me, too.

While picking up the brick was my main goal, my husband and I also just wanted to check out the salvage finds at Architectural Artifacts. We hope to add some choice pieces as focal points and sculptures as we create Dragon Flower Farm. We have dibbs on a couple of items, like these triangular tiles, large-scale letter blocks, and a sphinx.

Triangles
Want.
Me
I think I would prefer "We."
Sphinx
Recovered from an elementary school. The church that bought the building didn't want the Egyptian icon. AASTL has two of them, the other in a bit better shape.

Speaking of getting in touch with one's roots... this year marks my 25th reunion from college (undergrad). As part of the reunion observances and festivities, SLU is creating spotlights on alumni and publishing them in the alumni email newsletters. I mourn the loss of one important professor in particular, so I focused on her for my spotlight:

SLU spotlight

In other news, my yogi detective series, the Dreamslippers Series, has received a couple of features, the first from indieBRAG, as all three books in the series won that institution's medallion, awarded to only the top 20 percent of books submitted. May was mystery month, so the series was included in that.

Mystery spotlight

The series was also included in a roundup wiki of top 10 paranormal mystery series, with a video intro here, the Dreamslippers reel starting at 4:04.

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That Finnish Lifestyle Is Hard to Beat

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We came back from Helsinki raving about what an awesome quality of life Finns have, and we'd like to give you a rundown of the three main areas that make it so. Finnish style is both Old World European and cutting-edge modern, and that's reflected in the cuisine, physical activity, and design.

Food

Notably scarce in Helsinki society: junk food and fast food. Once we left the airport, we really didn't see too many fast-food restaurants. There are a fair number of Starbucks cafes, which is not surprising, given the coffee-centric culture, and I don't know, maybe a Starbucks looks like a cool, exotic American place to get a coffee if you're a Finn. We avoided them, because why? 

There were also a handful of Subway restaurants, which bewildered us at first until I realized that Scandinavians are all about the sandwich, so to embrace a Subway footlong isn't beyond the pale. I did wonder if they eat it with a fork, though, as sandwiches are open-faced and consumed that way throughout Scandinavia. We went to a "Mexican" restaurant once during our stay, and our tacos came with a set of instructions for how to eat a taco (1. fold, 2. pick up with your hands, 3. eat). I figured that was due to the practice of eating open-faced sandwiches with a fork as well. The rice and beans were actually split peas and white rice, so there you go. Finnishized Mexican food.

There's a lot of soup in Finland, maybe because of the cool climate. We tried salmon soup three different ways during our stay, and the one at Story Cafe in the Old Market Hall was the best.

Salmon soup
A typical Finnish meal, with salmon soup, hearty bread, rhubarb crumble, and "overnight oats" also with rhubarb. They are big on rhubarb in Finland. Overnight oats is a grain porridge, a breakfast staple.

Back to my main point: Finns eat healthier than Americans. Probably not surprising, but the quality of the food is higher, too, with fewer processed food options and much, much less sugar and salt. They're big on bread and cereal; the national food is rye bread. But hold the usual overload of sugar and salt we Americans add to these foods. I find it interesting that the food cultures in European cities tend not to be gluten-phobic, as the U.S. is increasingly becoming. (A popular snack is Karelian pie, a rye pastry filled with rice porridge.) But neither is their bread processed with loads of fillers and chemicals and made from GMO wheat. Rather, bread is usually baked fresh, with just a few high-quality ingredients. Our hotel, for example, offered a daily brunch featuring sourdough rye baked early that morning. 

Yesyesyesdinner
Though the Finns like their meat, which ranges from bear to all manner of fish to reindeer, you CAN eat here as a vegetarian. Here's one of our favorite meals, from the veg restaurant Yes Yes Yes: Halloumi fries with pomegranate, arugula salad with hearts of palm, avocado-pistachio dip, and naan bread.

Meat and cheese are staples, too. Again, rather than dropping these items from their diets, Finns generally prefer to craft them from local ingredients, close to the source, rather than processing and adding preservatives and additives. I've noticed that I've been able to eat a much broader range of foods when I'm in Copenhagen, Barcelona, and Helsinki--all cultures that share this emphasis on high-quality, locally sourced food. (I've written about my experiences in Barcelona here.

Exercise

Finns are a lot less sedentary than Americans. Helsinki is a highly walkable city, with pedestrian-only streets common, along with plenty of walking and bike paths even on high-traffic streets. Beyond that, the Finns take great pride in their physical activities, with an active culture around swimming and using the sauna (Finns super-love to get naked and sweaty, and this is an occasion for a sandwich, too!) as well as a plethora of winter sport options. 

Finns are pretty wild about jooga (yoga). Apparently one of 12 undeniable proofs that you're married to a Finn is that you "yoga breathe in the passenger's seat." 

Jooga

We witnessed many Finns opting to take the stairs, which were more accessible than they are in America, where it seems in a lot of buildings they're only provided for emergency purposes. Our business associates, who've spent a good amount of time in the U.S., remarked that they always gain "at least 5 kilograms" when they travel to the States. They attributed it to the car-centric culture, types of food, and portion sizes. Which is not to say that Finns are New York-skinny; they're not. Finnish women, from what I've seen, look like healthy Midwesterners!

Exercise sort of blends in with the lifestyle, too, rather than being something designated as separate and requiring special clothing, a scheduled time slot, or a specific place to do it. Finns walk everywhere, and they walk fast, in regular clothes. Which doesn't mean they won't stop for a glass of wine in the middle of that activity.

Cafeursula

Design

Maybe it's not as direct a quality-of-life issue as food and exercise, but the place where form and function meet is definitely important to Finns. Things must not only work well, but they must please the eye as well. Conversely, if they're only pretty but not at all functional, Finns don't want any part of them, either.

Case in point: HVAC ductwork. The below circular art piece--I mean heating vent--is all over Helsinki. This one's from the aforementioned veg restaurant, Yes Yes Yes. 

Ductwork

What's remarkable about them besides how cool they look is that they seem to work a lot better than the ones we have here in the States. The little baffles circulate the air, rather than aggressively blowing it in one direction. You know that problem where you sit down and then have to move because the vent is spewing right in your eyes or making you too hot or too cold? Never happened to me in Finland.

Besides the HVAC, that triple-Yes restaurant was a triumph in fresh interior design, from the gorgeous patterned wallpaper to the simplicity of the retro pitchers and bright, happy colors.

Wallpaper

There's a love of domestic objects here, and a common theme of bright, uncluttered, natural interiors, with both an organic sensibility and clean lines. The natural world is a focus, whether that's how plants are displayed inside or in the design themes themselves, like the magical coffee mugs our hotel used, designed by Finnish firm Ittala

Ittala

I've shared my love of Finland here on the blog this past week, and I hope you'll experience it for yourself. Tomorrow, I'll list my top 5 travel accessories, and tell you about a very special discount, too!

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5 Cool Things to Do in Helsinki

Rock exterior
The Temppeliaukio Church, (The Rock).

We only had about three-and-a-half days to explore Helsinki around the time we'd scheduled for onsite work for Brunette Games. So we felt we'd barely scratched the surface. But I think we chose well, and that our trip was a good model for others to follow when visiting Helsinki for the first time. Here are the top 5.

5. Sinebrychoff Art Museum / Kunsthalle Helsinki

We put these two together as sort of polar opposites, for those looking for a Helsinki-specific art experience but open to both experimental/contemporary and a much more traditional style. I recommend bookending a day with these two and having lunch in between.

The Sinebrychoff Museum is part of the Finnish National Gallery and houses the country's largest collection of paintings by the Old Masters. The museum building was once the residence of the Sinebrychoff family, several generations of successful 19th century brewers. The home and its extensive art collection were donated to the state in 1921. The second floor is almost entirely a recreation of the family's apartment suite over the old brewery that had been housed downstairs. This part of the museum is free every day, and the Helsinki Card will get you into the rest for free as well.

Sinebrychoff ceiling

The Kunsthalle is on the opposite end of the artistic spectrum from the Sinebrychoff, as its focus is living artists with contemporary or even experimental expression. The Kunsthalle has no permanent collection of its own but is a lovely space for 5-7 special exhibitions and events annually. We toured the Young Artists show and were impressed that artists at such early stages of their careers were given the opportunity to showcase their work in such a grand hall. Notably, a recurrent theme across the art was a certain dark angst that seems to lie at the heart of Finnish culture, in opposition to the clean, friendly, safe quality of the lifestyle.

4. Waterfront Walk

It's not an official tourist designation or anything, but our business clients recommended that we simply walk along the Helsinki waterfront, and it proved to be the perfect way to spend our last day there. We started at Kauppatori. There you can walk across the Bridge of Love, a wide bridge festooned with padlocks bearing the names of lovers, a common phenomenon in many European cities.

Bridge of love2

The Old Market Hall is worth at least a walkthrough with its stalls of local food and gifts. From there, we followed the perimeter of Helsinki along the waterfront past cruise ships, sculpture, architectural wowzers on nearby islands, and stopped for a glass of wine at a picturesque cafe called Ursula's.

The whole southern tip of Helsinki has been devoted to parkland, and the view across the water over massive rocky outcroppings is something you shouldn't miss. This is a full afternoon's walk, but don't rush it. We saw Finns on bicycles, a man walking his cat, and a young boy zoom by on hoverboard. 

Pano waterfront

3. Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is an island off Helsinki that is only accessible by ferry. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island is home to an 18th century fortress and several museums and restaurants. The fortress, which dates back to Sweden's 600 years' rule of Finland, boasts 100 cannons and four miles of stone walls. We wandered the fort, which reminded us a bit of Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, though of course much older, and tried to imagine a Swedish king stepping through King's Gate at the island's far end.

Kingsgate
King's Gate, on Suomenlinna.

Cannon

The island is fascinating, with an impressive drydock, Suomenlinna Church, and the quiet habitation of its 800 residents. One cafe worker remarked to me, "I hardly ever leave the island; I have everything I need here." There's a long waiting list for people who wish to move to Suomenlinna.

Drydock
Suomenlinna drydock, one of the oldest operating drydocks in Europe.

The weather ranged from sunny to fluffy snowflakes to overcast and sleeting during our day trip there, so we were glad we were prepared. Still, we took refuge at the Suomenlinna Toy Museum & Cafe, which was both cozy and chilling, and not just because of the snow.

Creepygnome

Sadly, the Suomenlinna Church is now devoid of its original onion domes, as designed by the Russians when they held the fort. When Finland began to assert itself after becoming independent from Russian rule, down came the domes. But at least Suomenlinna boasts some fine examples of Finland's characteristic Mid-Century Modern design elements in the chandelier and other features.

Suomenlinna church
Suomenlinna Church.

You can catch the Suomenlinna ferry from Kauppatori, and fare is free with the Helsinki Card.

2. The Rock (Temppeliaukio) Church

Let's carve out a rock and set a church down inside it, they said. And the idea took hold, so they did.

Rockchurchgalleryshot

Called "the most interesting church in Helsinki" in our guidebook, the Rock for me is probably the most interesting church anywhere. It came about as winner of a design competition in 1961. The dome was constructed out of one continuous copper strip coiled into the dome shape, with windows to let in natural light. The light radiates around the dome, throwing deep purple reflections from the pew fabrics onto the copper panels of the gallery. 

Rockpurplecopper

The acoustics are well known for their excellence. We stumbled onto a children's band's dress rehearsal when we went, and the sound filled the space with a copper-like clarity.

This is a popular destination, so the guidebooks recommend an afternoon or evening visit in summer. We had no problem getting in mid-morning during the first week of May.

1. National Museum of Finland

National Museum

I know, you're probably wondering how we could put a history museum in the top spot, but this place blew us away. We actually went back for a second visit after getting only a glimpse before closing time the first day. Maybe it's because as Americans, our nation is just so dang new, relatively speaking, so we were totally transfixed by Medieval housewares and church artifacts from the 16th century.

National Museum2

But most of all, we couldn't get enough of the prehistory exhibit. It traces back the Finnish people some 10,000 years, giving a startlingly vivid picture of life in the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages. It's not often I feel called to read every bit of text in an exhibit gallery, but this one, I did. We lingered a long time during our second visit, drinking in the experience of getting to touch a Stone Age offering rock and gaze upon the impressive gilded burial costume of a Bronze Age woman chieftain.

Offeringrock
It's believed that people left gifts for their spirits on this rock, and the water that collected in its impressions was thought to hold magical properties.

This certainly isn't everything Helsinki has to offer, but it's a good list. Take your time for a deep dive in one area of interest, like we did with the history aspect, rather than pressuring yourself to see and do everything. I guarantee you'll have a much better time.

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Heading to Helsinki? Here's What You Need to Know

Wingshotice
Flying over vast stretches of arctic landscape is just one of the many lovely perks of a trip to Finland.

Helsinki, as we mentioned previously, is a great way to initiate your new overseas traveling habit. But there are 5 things you need to know ahead of time, rather than just winging it.

Language. You can totally get by with English, and no one will bat an eye. But why not try out a few Finnish phrases? Here's an easy one for you: Hei. It means hello, so that should be a cinch, right? It sounds a bit different, though, more like the American "hey." You can also say hello by saying moi. (The Finns pronounce each letter distinctly, so it's more like "mow-ee.") Here's another one you can pick up and master: kiitos. It means thank you, and when you say that to your Finnish friends, they'll appreciate it. Since most Americans don't learn other languages (75% are English-only), saying just these two words might feel to you like bricks in the mouth, but do it anyway. Soon you'll be shouting Kiitos! like it's the best word you ever heard, like my husband did. One shop clerk said she thought he was Finnish, but maybe she just wanted him to buy something.

Reindeermenu
There's a lot of English to be read in Helsinki, but don't limit yourself to your home language.

2. Money. Before you go, call your bank and find out what their foreign transaction fee is. This will likely be a percentage. If it's high, try another card. We called around and found that our business credit card would charge 3 percent, but the ATM card linked to our business would incur a minimal fee. Amazon Prime assesses no fee whatsoever (...and that's another reason why the Zon is taking over the world). Also, here's a tip: Finns don't really tip. It's customary to round up the bill, but the big 10-20 percent tips we're used to in the States will only just make you super popular with service staff. Trust us on this; we experienced it first-hand.

3. Helsinki Card. Get one. This is sort of an "all-access" pass that you can use to gain free admission to museums and attractions, as well as discounts at restaurants. It's definitely worth the price, and the sole drawback is that it's good for only 72 hours. We had a weekend plus an extra day and a half to explore, but these were broken up by onsite work days in between, so we didn't get to take advantage of it as much as we would've liked. (They have a card reader system that activates it the first time you use it.) But even so, we still got our money's worth on the museum entrance fees alone, and then we leveraged it for 20% off our restaurant bill twice. I was worried the restaurants included would be too touristy, or international chains, and there is a Hard Rock Cafe on the list, but we went with Savotta, a superb Finnish-themed restaurant (I had the reindeer) and Samrat, where you can eat Indian food that for me was in the top 10 I've had anywhere. By the way, you will see the Finnish world ravintola in signs all over Finland. It's the Finnish word for restaurant (the more you know).

Sinebrychoff museum
A peek inside the reconstructed apartment from a wealthy 19th estate at the Sinebrychoff Museum, one of many museums you have free or discounted access to with the Helsinki Card.

4. Weather. Helsinki is the northernmost big city in Europe, and that's something to consider. This is a place where the sidewalks are heated to keep from having to shovel them through long winter months. I understand that tourists flock there during the one-and-a-half months of true "summer" weather. But don't let that stop you from going at other times, when you're more likely to experience it like a local. You can avoid the crowds and enjoy lower prices during off-season as well. We went in May and had both days of lovely weather and not, which is fine. We got snowed on while out on an island off Helsinki, but we were prepared, and now we have a good story to tell! No matter what, pack so you can dress in layers, as even summers can be cool. In this way it reminds me of Seattle or even the northern Midwestern states in the U.S.

Helsinkirain
Who says you can't have fun in the rain?

5. Transportation. The train system in Helsinki is ridiculously good, especially considering you can just walk across the city if you have to. We took the HSL into the city once we landed, which was easy to figure out from the kiosk at the airport. 

There you have it; it's really as simple as that. Get yourself some salmon soup, say yes to the salty licorice, and try not to have a heart attack when you see the alcohol tax itemized on your bill. And remember, Yksi kieli ei ikinä riitä (one language is never enough)!

Check back on the blog tomorrow for 5 Cool Things to Do in Helsinki.

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