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The district of Kamppi lies at the heart of Helsinki, Finland. The name comes from the Swedish Kampen, "Field", thus named since back in the 1600s it was a wide field right next to the historical center. Soon turned into a training ground for the Imperial Russian army, the area got its first landmark in 1833 when the Turku Barracks (Turun kasarmi) were completed by architect C. L. Engel. A ragged quarter of wooden houses sprung up around it, housing Russian and Polish merchants.

During the Finnish Civil War (1918) the barracks were almost entirely destroyed, leaving behind only one building. In 1935, this building was renovated and turned into the Central Bus Station, a role it plays to this day. The grounds themselves were devoted to local bus traffic, and over the years the public transport system grew and grew until the entire field was paved and filled with buses. The Helsinki metro reached Kamppi in 1982.


During the 1990s some of the buildings around the square were renovated. The grandiosely named Glass Palace (Lasipalatsi) -- a unremarkable squat white box of a building by modern standards, but revolutionary when built in 1937 -- once again hosts trendy restaurants and caf├ęs, as well as a TV studio and Internet facilities. Nearby Tennis Palace (Tennispalatsi), which served as the basketball arena during the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, is now a gigantic cinema multiplex.

Still, the bigger upheavals are only starting: bus passengers have been shivering outside for half a century waiting for their buses, but now the terminal is finally moving underground. Starting in autumn 2002, a hole 300 by 100 by 10 meters wide will be dug for the new terminal, which is planned for completion in late 2004. The newly liberated space atop the terminal will be used for the construction of a giant department store and three large office/apartment buildings. With all traffic shunted underground, the space between the buildings will be made into a series of plazas and parks dedicated to pedestrian traffic.


But one thing will stay. Take a look at busy Solomon Road (Salomonkatu) on the western side of Kamppi, and you'll see the lanes of the road split and join back together around a giant willow tree smack dab in the middle of the road. This venerable tree has been growing there since the 1800s; it was declared protected in 1924, and has been subsisting ever since on a steady diet of exhaust fumes. On the completion of the terminal the road will once again become a purely pedestrian street, and the tree will doubtless be offered steady streams of liquid fertilizer courtesy of the hordes of beer-drinking Finns traipsing through the area on weekends.

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