And then, through the trees, I saw the lonesome yellow building with boarded-up windows.

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Long time no blog! The past six months have been gruelingly busy with very little time left for adventuring. The season, too, has been hands-down the worst we’ve had in years. Instead of snow drifts, clear-blue skies and winter funtimes, South Finland has been dealt slush, gloom and whole months with literally no sunlight at all.

Two weeks ago, however, we had a bit of a mini spring! I’d already been extreme-picknicking with my love on the beaches of my old favorite hideout, Kallahti (I say “extreme” because despite the blessed light it was still cold and windy as heck) on the Friday. On the Sunday I decided to try something new: the unspoilt woods and shores of Kivinokka, Saunalahti and Fastholma.

I started my walk in the part of Kivinokka where teeny tiny cottages dot the forestscape like magic mushrooms popping out of the tussocks. It was quite lovely, and I came across some curious sights on the way: a twig teepee, a couple of long burnt out campfires, a steel gate protecting the entrance to the city’s sewer system, a set of moss-covered steps carved in stone and leading nowhere, and so on.

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And then, through the trees, I saw the lonesome yellow building with boarded-up windows.

As I was informed later by Google, this was the Fastholma villa. I had heard the name, but wasn’t aware of the story. Built by family Lohikoski in 1910, the house is now 104 years old and owned by the City of Helsinki since the Lohikoskis let it go in the 1980’s. There have been efforts by the city to find new residents, but not very serious ones as far as I can tell, and so the building has stood empty since 2011.

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By no means is it abandoned, however. There are some 350 individuals organized into a kind of a Friends of Fastholma movement that throw voluntary work parties and campaign towards preserving the fantastic site and redeveloping it into “a summer cafe, business gardens, fruit garden, sauna, summer meeting spot for city people, party, meeting and work space, an art gallery…” Last year on Restaurant Day, a pop-up restaurant opened on the site.

But I knew nothing of this at the time of visiting. This is the beauty of exploration: sometimes you come across something you had no idea was there, and you still have no idea what it is, so the only thing left to do is just walk around and take it in, bit by bit, and let your imagination run free. These moments don’t come by often in this interconnected day of ours, so I’m grateful for each and every one.

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As the main building was completely sealed off and I’m not in the business of breaking and entering, I let it be and looked further.

I saw a smaller building that, based on a wildly confusing mishmash of evidence, appeared to have simultaneously served as a medical station, a woodshop, an artist’s studio and a sauna; two ramshackle sheds; a tree house so far gone that the closest comparison would be the Leaning Tower of Pisa, if the Leaning Tower of Pisa was small, completely broken and made of wood; and a children’s playhouse that looked eerily like the children had left just yesterday.

Even on this ice-cold March day, I could see that only in a few weeks’ time, once the spring set in for real, the place would be transformed into the perfect (and non-extreme) picnic and chillout spot to bring your friends, family or sweetheart to. In the meanwhile – why not pop by one of the work parties?

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  1. Watch your step out there, looks pretty scary. Great pics – good eye!!

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