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Espoo Exposé

Another challenge with writing a guidebook is word count. There's an art to narrowing a hotel or restaurant down into two or three sentences, but sometimes you feel like you're not doing a place justice. Just as some ideas are bigger than haiku, some places surprise you and will need more verbage.

And so it was with Espoo - there just weren't enough words. It gets dismissed as a satellite of Helsinki, but officially it's Finland's second-largest city and yet maintains its campus feel and boasts the Nokia headquarters. Perhaps all the telecommunications cash has funded the excellent museums housed in the Weegee Centre. The warehouse-like building is the former printing house of Welin & Göös (hence WG and WeeGee) has enough room to host the Espoo Museum of Modern Art, which is better known as EMMA. The industrial-sized space can hold a big exhibition such as the huge paintings of Enzo Cucchi's current exhibition that toys with ideas of scale with tiny images lurking in his large canvases.
Regardless of the featured exhibitions, WeeGee has another good reason to make the half hour ride from Kamppi (the 110 and 106 buses do the trip regularly). Helinä Rautavaara was an intrepid Finn who explored the world as an anthropologist and playgirl. When she died in 1998 she left a large collection of African, Indian and South American artefacts that the city turned into personal museum.
Among her various ethnographic exhibits there's a lot of photographs and footage of a superbly coiffed Finnish woman dancing with tribal leaders and generally schmoozing her way around the world. It's proved to be something of a local controversy with local school children banned from visiting the museum in 2007 because of the ritual objects on display. Controversy aside, Helinä certainly seems to have led an exciting life and, as one of the early European proponents of reggae, was the only Finn present at Bob Marley's funeral. She was a character who was too big even for Finland's second largest town.


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