It is the first week in November and the temperature in dark grey Helsinki is 9C, while here in Valencia the temperature is 22C and the sun is still shining in the evening sky at 18.00h. Your correspondent has just returned from a 15 km walk through the city, past the harbour to the Malva-Rosa beach where the sea is blue and the long sandy beach looks appealing, but perhaps not for swimming just now!
A huge delicious salad with chicken, beer and coffee costs just €10 at Mas Bonita and a nice apartment nearby costs less than half of what we pay in Helsinki. The University campus here is modern and huge, and shops and small restaurants fulfil your every wish…
Valencia is certainly a big ugly impressive and untidy cosmopolitan city with low mountains and the sea surrounding it. The mountains are mainly high empty spaces, with small quiet villages dotted here and there, where the old folk sit in bars and outside their houses. Younger men drive tractors and repair and renovate the walls and windows of the houses. A single municipal worker brushes the streets and others, dressed in red work jackets, cut away the cactus and bushes that grow between the dry stones and earth.
There are many old castles from 1200 and later still standing strong in strategic places. Mountain climbers hang on to the sheer face of high sheer rocks making you sick in your stomach just by watching them knee their way up and down.
The motorways are fast and straight – the Romans were here first to plan and lay down the first roads. They are still in heavy use. Big lorries from all over Europe trundle along in long lines, one behind the other to stay in the slipstream.
Helsinki is a lovely place to live in as a foreigner and as a Finn. The houses and apartments are well built and everything works. The traffic is light and public transport is fantastic, healthcare is efficient, and public education works wonders… but we have this weather, this geographical position, and even though we may believe that our politicians are not so smart, we can always rely on our very careful senior civil servants who try their best.
So the question is what is the best place for young and older folk to live in – Helsinki or Valencia?
You can try to make up your mind by listing what you find important. Do you want warmth and sunlight and a big city throb or do you want a clean, reliable but a little dull life in a smaller less cosmopolitan place?