Hello from Helsinki!
I'm writing this from my hotel room in Helsinki, at about 5:00am local time. Kathleen and I arrived yesterday afternoon and, of course, the ten-hour jet lag is causing a little sleep-cycle disruption.
We're here for the 25th annual International Puzzle Party (IPP), an invitational gathering of serious collectors of mechanical puzzles. The definition of "serious" is pretty vague, but is intended to exclude the merely curious. (Though, as anyone here would admit, there are a number of pretty curious people here nonetheless.) To give you a sense of how serious "serious" can be, though, my collection of 600-700 puzzles is well down at the low end of the size distribution. There are many people here with several thousand puzzles, and a few amazing collections of 25,000 or 30,000 puzzles or more, some dating as far back as the 13th century. Believe me, Kathleen's getting off easy in the "whacko spouse" department (as least as regards collections).
The party location rotates every three years among Europe, the United States, and Asia. There will probably be around 200 collectors here, many with their families, from 25-30 countries all over the world.
The party doesn't actually start for a few more days yet, but we decided to come early to give ourselves extra time to explore the area and to get over our jet lag. To our inexplicable surprise, several other folks had the same idea, so the puzzle conversations have already started echoing around the lobby here.
I hope to be posting pretty actively for the next while, so keep checking back for more on Helsinki, puzzles, and Norwegian coastal cruises!