A delightful meeting in Helsinki – despite a misbehaving jetstream!

The global family of Flying Rotarians came together again in early August – this time in Helsinki, Finland, when members from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and USA were hosted by IFFR Scandinavia. The misbehaving jetstream, far further south than normal, which has led to the fires the Mediterranean has also given us weeks of unstable weather in Northern Europe. Although the De Bruyns flew in from Belgium, the Davys from the UK, Tollef, Rolf and Peter and Ellen Wenk made it from Norway, and Janis and his wife came from Riga, the rest of the participants refrained from flying themselves, opting instead for a comfortable commercial flight.

Our meeting started on Thursday morning at Numella Airport – the new Helsinki GA airport with greetings from the Mayor of Numella, the Airport Director and the President of the Vihti Nummelan Rotaryklubi. A great Rotary welcome starting an awesome weekend of Flying Rotarian Fellowship. After lunch, we headed back into the city with some time to relax before we all met for dinner in the nearby Restaurant Teattri.

Friday started with a guided tour of the amazing Oodi Library – not just a library, but a community focused learning centre. Then, in line with Rotary’s focus area of peace, a fascinating symposium “Finland, Sweden and NATO: the future of Nordic Co-operation” moderated by Ambassador Stefan Lindström with guest speaker Parliamentarian Dr Risto EJ Penttilä. Some very interesting perspectives on some big questions: How will Finland deal with their new membership of NATO? What are the implications for the whole Nordic region if Sweden also joins NATO? What does the future of all of Western Europe look like from a Nordic perspective? And how will the war between Russia and Ukraine develop?

After lunch at the nearby music conservatory, there was time for an afternoon exploring the city and shopping.

In the early evening our hosts held their Section AGM – at which the members voted to rename as IFFR Nordic Section and Section Leader Svend presented Bo Johnson with a PHF in recognition of his decades of service (still continuing) to IFFR

. Finally, a superb Gala Dinner at the Guildhall. World President George awarded a Presidential Citation to Bo as he steps down, after well over 10 years, as IFFR webmaster. And the Nordic Aviation Trophy was awarded for 2023 to our host for the weekend Eric Rosenlew. Another great day of IFFR Fellowship.

For the more adventurous, Saturday started with a pre-breakfast sauna and outdoor swimming. Splitting into three groups, the morning was spent on a guided walking through the residential area close to the hotel brimming with architectural gems in Art Nouveau surrounded by quiet parks and views of the Baltic Sea. Then it was on to the former home of Marshall Mannerheim, often regarded as the founder of modern Finland – still completely furnished with the family’s personal belongings. A short walk down the hill took us to our lunch at Café Ursula, overlooking Helsinki Bay.

In the afternoon, we were free to explore Helsinki and its beautiful waterfront on our own, before we assembled early evening for a superb evening dinner cruise around the islands of the Helsinki archipelago, accompanied by a local musical group who started their singing for us in the Helsinki Central Park.

Sunday came all too soon. For us, there was time for one last drink in my favourite haunt at Helsinki Airport before boarding our flight back to London.

But we are already looking forward to meeting once again in Riga, Latvia next summer.

Many thanks, in particular, to Erik and Charlotta Rosenlew for a great weekend.

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