Autumn tree tops, brown reeds reflected in the water, trams running over the bridge: my view of Helsinki from the hotel room. I am warming to a place where you can buy birch twigs in the market to thrash yourself to a healthy pink in the sauna. “Be sure to jump in the sea afterwards” said Olaf.

I am sitting in the internet room at the Scandic Continental, when I really should be heading out into the city to ride the trams, exploring all the places that were closed yesterday. First stop the Design Museum where I fear my four year old Nokia will merit a place in the display of mobile phones past. Or maybe the Museum of Contemporary Art promising an exhibition analysing our relationship with the landscape which should be interesting in a country which seems so self-consciously stylish. Even Helsinki airport is good to look at.
But first I am treating myself to a quick record of a few days in an extraordinary city full of trees and pedestrian spaces,where you can hop on trams, trains and buses with the same ticket. Helsinki has around 500,000 people which makes it roughly the size of Edinburgh but from my brief exploration it seems we could learn a great deal from studying how they manage their daily life.

Each city has its own character. After a week in Prague our first evening in Helsinki was a bit of a let down. Ten degrees colder outside and prices in the restaurants many notches higher. From an apartment with creaking wooden floors in the bohemian streets of the Czech capital to a bland air conditioned room in a streamlined hotel you could find anywhere in the world.

Ray digs into the guide to find solace in sightseeing. The guide book is clearly written for someone else. “Helsinki is a dish full of eye candy.” Yuk. But even bad writing can’t completely put us off looking for the church in the rock where there are free concerts every Sunday. Free is a nice word when we are starting to count the Euros (on Friday night in Prague two drinks cost the equivalent of one pound, here that is multiplied by ten).

And we would have paid plenty more than that for the experience in Temppeliaukio, a wonderful space blasted into the rock that most of Helsinki seems to be built on. A circular space roofed with copper wire creates an extraordinary acoustic so that the organ sounds would blast you off your seat while the soprano sends shivers down your spine.

There is a moment when a new place makes its mark on me and the organ recital on a cold October night in a granite circle in the heart of Helsinki was that moment.