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Keen on starting the season earlier than what is possible here up north, we decided to kick off this year's season in Winterberg, Germany. We booked flights and accommodation already some time in February/March for May 1-5. In fact, season's premiere even in Bike Park Winterberg was delayed until April 27, which according to our understanding is a few weeks later than their usual early-April opening. After all, we were lucky that the park finally opened just a few days ahead of our scheduled May 1 arrival.
We wanted find a place that is accessible from Stockholm and Helsinki in terms of flight schedules considering that we had a possibility to spend four nights at the destination. To maximise the amount of vertical and in order to make most out of the trip we preferred to consider only lift assisted riding for this particular trip. With these criteria we found Bike Park Winterberg an interesting alternative. Its location in less than a two-hour ride by a car from the Dusseldorf international airport and flight schedules that were suitable for us made it a quite ideal choice for this year's season premiere.
April 30 - May Day Eve in Helsinki
Our flight from Helsinki to Dusseldorf was scheduled to depart very early in the morning on May 1. We arrived from Stockholm to Helsinki a night before, on the May Day Eve. May Day’s Eve really is a very special for Finns. You may have heard stories about serious party in streets of downtown Helsinki. Indeed, it can be a very involving experience for foreigners to see the downtown crowded by people from early teens to pensioners. Behaviour of usually quite reserved Finns on May Day’s Even tends to be heavily influenced by a very liberal use booze. Some streets in the downtown area on that day are blocked from cars for partying. This really is a big event, probably the biggest party of the Finnish calendar year. Many university students start their celebrations already a week in advance, rendering the whole event a real endurance test. Most teenagers probably start early in the afternoon while some odd late-comers may wait until the early evening before getting drunk in public. Depending on the weather, streets in the downtown area may be occupied by tens of thousands of drunken and unpredictable locals. For foreigners, it is recommended to watch out for locals who may have a tendency to turn aggressive later at night as the alcohol content in the blood rises. Beware also that this is one of those days when leaking the beer overdose of all over the pavements is considered fine by the police.
With these thoughts in mind, we were quite excited but also slightly concerned when we were sitting in a cab and finally arriving to our hotel in the downtown sometime at around 20 CET in what appeared to be a quite chilly evening. To our surprise, everything seemed strangely calm when we arrived. Honestly, we had been expecting more people, more action and more the sense on danger. It remains open for a debate if the Finns have learned some of the more civilised European drinking habits over the past years or whether it was a result of the chilly weather that we didn't witness what we really had expected. After checking in at our hotel, we felt comfortable to take a walk outside for a quick dinner before an early bedtime ahead of a 05:30 CET wake up the next morning for an early flight to Germany.
A word about Helsinki hotels
Speaking of Helsinki downtown hotels, there are several quite nice alternatives nowadays. We stayed at Hotel Glo Kluuvi, located at Kluuvikatu street at the very heart of the city, just next to the city’s most upmarket hotel Kämp. Hotel Glo Kluuvi opened its doors a few years ago and has since been one of our favourites when visiting Helsinki. Despite being already a few years old, it is still in a pretty nice condition. Unfortunately, for some reason they re-built the reception and lounge area of the hotel earlier this year. Gone is the previous lounge bar that we regarded as one of the nicest lounge bars among Helsinki hotels. The new setup has a quite fresh Scandinavian design compared to the previously cozy, Spanish inspired style. Design aside, there is not much bar to talk about anymore. Most of the previous bar estate has been taken over by a restaurant which was previously located in the second floor of the building. The old restaurant premises heve been converted to a conference center. While none of this is a big thing for us, especially considering this trip, we were still disappointed to see the nice and lively lounge bar gone. However, this hotel still remains one of our Helsinki favourites, even though much less so now than before. For those looking for a quality but not too pretentious accommodation in a downtown Helsinki, we can recommend Hotel Haven which is slightly fancier with an almost as good location than Hotel Glo Kluuvi.