Worldcon 75 — a trip to Helsinki, part 1

While we were in Kansas City last year, for MidAmeriCon II (Worldcon 74), I was asked if I could help run the Masquerade.  I said sure, and figured it would be a good opportunity to visit Scandinavia.  Stephen had been before, but I’d never been to that part of the world.

We researched flights, looked at the various hotels that had rooms associated with the convention, talked with our friends, and then made a plan.  The plan took us from San Jose to Helsinki to Stockholm to Chicago and then back home.

We arrived at Helsinki’s Vantaa Airport about 3pm EEST (5am Pacific), jet lagged and dehydrated.  We caught a cab at the airport, and were extremely impressed with the efficiency of the process.  Well placed signage, in multiple languages, and plenty of TaksiHelsinki vehicles to get us to our hotel, the Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna.  The hotel was built for the 1952 Winter Olympics.  It’s been well kept over the years, and I would say it’s more of a European business hotel than a tourist hotel.  That said, we were warmly welcomed and felt quite comfortable there.  They had plenty of power outlets for our converters, and we had a balcony room, which was a wonderful way to help us conquer jet lag.  So was the sauna, which is an expected feature for Helsinki hotels.

Monday we decided to do a walking tour of sorts, and play Ingress.  The mission set “Explore Helsinki” started right outside our hotel and took us around the downtown area.  We took our time to see the sights along the way, stopped in for coffee at one place, lunch at another.  We saw an advertisement for Worldcon in front of the tram stop (more about that later).  Tuesday we went to visit GE’s Helsinki office and meet some of the folks behind our operating room monitors and anesthesia machines.  And learned about the efficient and inexpensive public transportation system, as we took a bus and tram to get to/from the hotel.

Wednesday was the first day of Worldcon75.  I was there early, to meet with a couple of folks about tech, and generally help out.  The Masquerade Sign Up desk was part of the Info Desk, so I was extra staff for them.  We were not prepared for the deluge of people who bought memberships, most of whom were attending their first worldcon.  Despite best-laid plans, our signs couldn’t be seen easily, and line management was a challenge.  One lady who was asking about the schedule was visiting from Colorado and was there just for the day — she had been traveling to Helsinki for a completely different reason, heard about the convention from someone on the plane and decided to drop in!