Category Archives: Events

Helsinki today: restaurants & a huge fleamarket

Today I got to taste Helsinki the way I really like it: with lots of happy people on the streets and with good weather!

This is not so easy combination that the people living in warmer climate might think… But when Helsinki wants to show its good side, it really is something! There’s a special feeling in the air…

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Today we had decided to take part in a huge fleamarket (in Finnish kirpputori), organised every now and then in different parts of Helsinki.

This time the association of Kallio, Kallio-liike, arranged a very popular street market in the bohemian & hipster Kallio neighbourhood, where everyone could just come and start selling their things – for free.

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The only requirements where to take all your unsold things back home with you and to make sure that the day would be fun & nice for everyone. And it really was! The sun was shining, there were lots of people selling and buying (perhaps more or less we were the same people but anyway) and everything went smoothly.

It’s so great when people quite spontaneously “occupy the urban space” and use it to strengthen the sense of community. The Vaasankatu street was closed to cars (actually it has been like that all the summer). Another good thing,

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However, the fleamarket wasn’t the only event happening in Helsinki today. A lot bigger one was Ravintolapäivä (Restaurant Day), which took place all over the city – and Finland – and internationally!

In short, it’s a food carnival where anyone can open a restaurant for a day – and it’s amazing how many people do it in very creative ways! You just have to take a walk in Esplanadi park, like we did, to get a good glimpse of the variety.

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Their enthusiasm is amazing, as is the fact that one gets to taste the most interesting things… Today I was mostly selling stuff at the fleamarket, but I still tasted typical Maleysian soy bean rolls with shrimps and Vietnamese frittata with cabbage. Or something like that… Unfortunately there are no photos of these delicacies, I was too hungry to think about photos at the moment. 😉

Only the creativity of the chefs is the limit when it comes to the food and locating the pop-up restaurants: they can take place homes, gardens, parks, streets, balconies, shops etc. Naturally now in the summer the most of the restaurants are outside, in the November or January edition of Restaurant Day it’s a bit different…

Thank you for today, Helsinki! Looking forward to seeing more days like this, with the city alive and many smiling people around.

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Post-holiday blues… back to Helsinki

Returning from holidays is a funny thing. You never know what feeling to expect. Sometimes it’s just wonderful to be back home, have a good shower, fill the fridge with your food and lie down on the sofa going through all the photos from the past weeks in the sun. Doing absolutely nothing.

Last night was like this for me, after returning from a wonderful 2-week island hopping tour in Greece.

But this morning I opened my eyes, spent some seconds relocating myself, and when I understood that I was back home in Helsinki and that tomorrow I was to go back to work, I felt a cold shiver going through my body. Even if I like my life, work, home and Helsinki.

Then I almost got into tears while sipping my coffee and thinking that this was it (I tend to be a bit dramatic sometimes, as my boyfriend well knows). I thought it’s goodbye to freedom, sun and warm weather. Welcome another year of routine, coldness and darkness. Days that pass by without leaving a trace. I got scared and sad, just like that.

Of course I rationally know it won’t be like that. Every day brings new and good things, and I have lots of plans. For me, a new year starts in the autumn, not January 1.

I also feel this year will bring positive changes and adventures with it. For a long time, I’ve been up to starting something “to call my own”, apart from the day job. I already work as freelance journalist and do communications projects but this has been very unorganised and casual.

Now I want to concentrate myself on what I really want to do and put my full attention into it, hoping that some day it’ll carry far.. the typical dream, I guess. 🙂

Anyway, for all this and for some unexplainable reason today I felt anxious and sad. My boyfriend understood this and took me for a walk to see something I like: Helsinki with people and action.

An empty city on a Sunday morning is depressing, but luckily we encountered all this…

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One of the best places of Helsinki in summer mornings is Hietsu, the huge kirpputori where people sell things they don’t need  – but someone surely does!

You can make discoveries and the atmosphere is friendly. There’s also the inside markethall Hietalahden kauppahalli, which has reopened its doors after many years. Inside you’ll find fresh (but very expensive) vegetables, nice cafes and restaurants. I recommend Soppakeittiö, which sells big portions of yummy soups, changing daily.20130811-142643.jpg

Another thing that cheers me up are spontaneous ideas that people have to take control of the urban space. Like this note someone had left near Ruttopuisto at Bulevardi:

“Thank you Helsinki for these years and wonderful moments. Rest in joy. I will be back.”

20130811-142650.jpgI love bump into events that I didn’t know about – it gives you a feeling that the city is alive! Today we found a big International Market at Kamppi, where people from all over (well, mostly from Italy, Germany, England and Finland) had come to sell their products. Apart from food you could by clothes, jewellery and typical “festival stuff”. 20130811-142702.jpgAs part of my new, even healthier life that shall start next week, I finally bought something I’ve been recommended many times by my friends.

Arctic Chaga powder (pakurikääpä) is a fungus growing on trees and a superfood that’s becoming more popular in Finland – and abroad. I bought this pack from a nice lady from Lapland who repeated all its health benefits.

Thousands of years of Chinese medicine and many studies can’t be wrong, so I spent 20€ and bought 73 grams of the powder. This small amount should last for a long time. Tonight I’ll try cooking the stuff and tell more about it a bit later!

Enjoy your Sunday, wherever you are! Now I’ll go for a small run: another thing that is guaranteed to perk one up.

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Mänttä – a little Finnish town full of contemporary art (and naked men)

Yesterday we visited Mänttä, a little town 1,5 hours from Tampere (by car). It was a nice excursion, which we repeat almost every summer with my parents. “The dying industrial town” Mänttä has been able to do something admirable – it has converted into a lively centre of contemporary art! And now Mänttä is a bit stronger, as it was merged with the municipality of nearby Vilppula in 2009.

Mänttä Art Festival (Mäntän kuvataideviikot) is an event of contemporary art that represents mostly new Finnish visual work. There are some established names in the exhibitions, but the festival is also known as a show of experimental and daring art. The artists are invited every year by a different curator. The main venue is Pekilo, a converted factory now filled with art.

And then the verdict. For me, this year’s exhibition was OK, however I didn’t enjoy the it as much as last year – probably because of this year’s curator… for me, the exhibition could have been a lot more daring and focusing on one, interesting theme.

Anyway, there’s a lot more to see in Mänttä, as interesting exhibitions are held also in The Honkahovi Art Centre and in the two Serlachius museums: Gösta Joenniemi’s villa and Gustaf Serlachius Museum, which mostly tells about the centre of Mänttä life in old times – the Serlachius factory.

Here it all began – Serlachius paper factory in Mänttä.

The town has an important industrial past – it’s the former residence of industry magnate R. Erik Serlachius, who practically governed the town with his huge paper factory. The famous Finnish toilet paper Serla was born here. These big guys were luckily interested in arts and culture, too. The factory owner G.A. Serlachius and industry magnates Gösta, R. Erik and Gustaf Serlachius have all contributed to Mänttä becoming a flourishing art town. Now their great collection of famous artworks can be enjoyed by everyone in their museums.

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Pekilo – factory building converted into art museum. Quite ugly outside, full of contemporary art inside.

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Images from this year’s Mänttä Contemporary Art Festival main exhibition at Pekilo.

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This piece was composed by miscellaneous stuff found near the venue.

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At Honkahovi we enjoyed lunch (champignon soup) while admiring the peaceful lake scenery. The villa has also what was once the biggest one-piece window glass in the Nordic countries.

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Sculptures in the garden of Honkahovi by the lake.

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Joenniemi villa. Inside you can find some wonderful artwork from the Serlachius family collection.

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A typical old Finnish wooden house next to Joenniemi villa – inside there is a nice cafe-restaurant.

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We also passed by the centre of Mänttä – and saw some naked guys on the street. I would say this was the most daring performance I saw at the Contemporary Art Festival this year!

Credit of all these photos: Helsinkimylove

Juhannus – Finnish Midsummer is special

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The midnight sun. Credit: YLE.

Last weekend we celebrated juhannus, the Finnish Midsummer. It’s an important party here in the Nordic countries, I would say the second after Christmas.

Our Midsummer traditions have pre-Christian origin. Like most of today’s Christian festivities, also Midsummer used to be a pagan holiday. The Christian faith then associated the date with the celebration of the nativity of John the Baptist. That’s practical.

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“Kokko” in Pispala, Tampere. Tens of people came to see the lighting of this bonfire waving Finnish flags. The weather was wonderful, too.

Anyway, some of the old traditions still go strong. For example the bonfires, kokko, which are burnt by the lake or the sea. We also get a couple of young birch trees and place them at the front door – with lots of flowers everywhere!

Midsummer is a night full of magic, so it’s the perfect time for performing some rituals like putting 7 flowers under your pillow for dreaming about your future husband or wife… mostly the tricks are for young maidens seeking suitors and fertility. Probably it’s a high time to update the rituals!

The true star of the party is the midnight sun. This time of the year, the night does not exist. And you don’t really feel like sleeping either, which is both good and bad, of course…

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It’s not midnight sun… but almost. Juhannus in the neighbourhood of Pispala, about 11pm.

During Midsummer, Helsinki becomes a desert city, as everyone heads for the countryside and the summer cottages. Even if every year there are more and more activities also here in the city for those who decide (or have to) stay.

As the idea of renting a cottage felt quite stressful, we chose a “a middle” plan and spent the Midsummer with my parents in Tampere. It’s quite a big city but as my parents live by the lake, it’s almost like being in a cottage (without thousands of mosquitos, which my boyfriend fiercely hates).

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The traditional “ball” grill, pallogrilli, for preparing “makkara”, the Finnish sausage. My parents have one just like this.

It was a perfect choice! My parents were happy and, as many music festivals are organized on the Midsummer, also near my parents’ place there was Pispala Festival that took place on the beach of a lake – with 20 bands performing during two days.

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Sauna inside a tent at Pispala Festival. Cool idea and even better as it’s only 10 meters away from the beach.

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Pispala Festival was organised for the first time this year – and it was a big success!

Pispala is the hippie-punk-alternative-bohemian neighbourhood in Tampere (still, even if there are more and more yuppies moving in) so the place has a vivid alternative culture scene. There’s also a 100-year old public sauna, Rajaportin sauna. I highly recommend it, if you ever go to Tampere!

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Finnish traditions include beating your friends with “vihta”, a bunch of birch boughs tied up in a special way. It’s good for your blood circulation! Credit: http://www.pispala.fi/rajaportinsauna/satavuotta/jutut.html

Barbacoa is the thing to eat for juhannus. My parent’s are not so much into barbacoa, so we only did it once with the typical Finnish makkara that has different flavours. Then we had sauna, where we beat each other with vihta (another tradition) and drank some beer. Well, we drank very little taken into account that heavy drinking is closely associated with juhannus. Actually it’s very sad, as every year we calculate the dead after the party is over. This year at least 15 people got killed, and most of the deaths were related to alcohol: traffic accidents, drowning in the sea or a lake, fires… I wish one day we would learn to drink a bit more moderately. Let’s see what happens the next juhannus…

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Finnish juhannus – theory and practise. There’s a point here, even if this year we had sunshine. 😉 Credit: Naurunappula.

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At a Spanish wedding – Where’s the crisis?

This weekend I’ve been feeling so lazy. Luckily today I got an excuse to stay at the sofa, write and listen to music – thank you, heavy rain.

I also checked the photos I took at the wedding we attended in Spain earlier this week. My boyfriend’s little brother got married in their hometown, Albacete in Castilla-la-Mancha. Our brief visit of 5 days (2 of them travelling) included eating, drinking and meeting lots of family!

This was the first time I attended a wedding in Spain – or abroad. My Finnish friends are not of a marrying kind either, nor myself, so I didn’t know what to wait for.

Spain, with its serious economic problems and unemployment rate of 25% (the rate of young people is a terrifying over 50%!) have filled the headlines also in Finland. So I expected to hear a lot about “la crisis”. I was wrong. Luckily most of my boyfriend’s friends and family are working, so things don’t seem that bad. Still, at some point all the conversations led to the crisis and I could sense that people were very worried about the future.

Some kids hanging on the stairs of the cathedral before the wedding.

In this context, the wedding seemed overwhelming. More than 150 guests gathered at the big cathedral of the city in the evening, dressed up in a fancy way… I heard this is typical for Spanish weddings, while the Finnish ones tend to be a bit more humble. Inside the church the Mexican Catholic priest gave us a long discourse on the marriage and love, the rings were exchanged and the soprano and pianist performed some nice tunes (to keep the audience awake, maybe? 😉

The young happy couple in the process of getting married. The proud parents stand behind. Symbolically, the mother of the groom and the father of the pride.

All in all, the service was quite similar to Finland, which makes me think how globalised we are – or probably it’s the Christian religion with its codes. “Luckily” some details where new. For example, the bride and the groom exchanged coins -as a symbol of sharing their goods! For me, this seemed a little strange even if the marriage is (also) a financial agreement.

After the ceremony, we continued to a restaurant nearby – and started eating! This continued till’ morning and I lost count of the dishes after 10… amazing! Before I thought that we eat a lot in Finnish weddings, but now I know that would be just the tapas. I have no clue how people were able to digest all that food. I had to leave almost half, which was a big pity, as everything was delicious: fine salads, patés, seafood, fish, meat of many kinds… and 3 desserts, of course. After eating it felt good to dance a bit and drink a couple of digestive gin tonics from the free bar. At 6am we went to sleep, but naturally the party went on.

My favourite dish at the wedding – I love seafood and this was of excellent quality.

Next day we continued the eating, drinking and family reunion at the summer house, where more than 50 persons gathered. We enjoyed tapas: an entire jamón serrano and a huge manchego cheese followed by paella and gazpacho manchego. The mother of my boyfriend was a bit upset as people didn’t eat enough – after eating all night and day – in the end more than half of the paella had to be thrown away.

Fruit dessert with special effects.

I always feel very bad when food is wasted, and we talked about this with the family. We asked, why there has to be so me much food then, if everyone knows beforehand that nobody is able to eat it? The answer was that it’s the tradition. As in many countries, it’s important to show that there is a lot of food and things are fine – especially now, when there’s the shadow of the crisis cast over. Anyway, I hope this attitude will change, little by little – at least my boyfriend is now very conscious and doesn’t approve throwing away food.

An entire ham, jamón serrano, was cut and served in front of us. It’s a special process.

This might not look like gazpacho as we know it, but sure it is! It’s gazpacho à la Castilla-la-Mancha with different kinds of meats.

An excellent seafood paella prepared by a bar nearby, it just fit in the car… Unfortunately everyone was too full when the plate arrived.

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Being a Refugee in Finland

The last couple of days I’ve been in Seinäjoki, a city about 3 hours’ train trip away from Helsinki. Seinäjoki is the capital of the province of Southern Ostrobothnia, and with a population of 58 000 it’s one of the fastest growing urban centres in Finland. Even if you wouldn’t believe it.

It was my first visit to this town, which seems very small and, sorry to say, ugly. Well, this is nothing “personal” as it happens with most Finnish towns. During the fast urbanization in about 1970s, most of the old pretty houses were torn down and replaced by boring concrete blocks. This destruction is a tragedy for our cultural history.

Anyway, to compensate there is some fine Alvar Aalto architecture. Lakeuden Risti is the symbol of the city.

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The church by Alvar Aalto is the proud of Seinäjoki – with some other building designed by Aalto. Credit: Yle.

It was my first time in Seinäjoki. Sometimes traveling inside your own country is a lot more exotic than going far away. You think you know what you’ll get, but nope: people act different, they speak another dialect etc. Very eye-opening!

Why was I there? At my work we organise events called Markets of Possibilities, which take place around Finland in about 20 cities each year. So we travel to see how they go.

In these events Finnish NGOs tell about their work and offer “exotic” food and program. The aim of is to bring out the multicultural side of Finland and tell the locals what they can do “for a better world”.

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Markets of Possibilites are fun events. Here’s the Choir War in process. Don’t know about the technical quality of the signing, but these ladies were devoted.

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Flashmob by local students. They had also danced in supermarkets etc. Go Seinäjoki!

There, I met there The Refugee Woman of the Year, Malalai Rahim from Afghanistan, as she participated in a panel about refugees’ replacement in Finnish cities. Finland has agreed to receive 750 so called “quota refugees” every year, but the problem is that some municipalities don’t want to have them.

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Malalai Rahim, this amazingly active lady, seems to know everyone in Seinäjoki.

This year, Seinäjoki has promised to receive a group of 20-30 people from Congo, but the neighbouring towns have said “no”. It’s a sad thing, especially as we talk of so small numbers. I think Finland, being a wealthy country, could receive more people. But our country is still very homogenous and people are a bit afraid of “opening the borders”. Even if we’ll definitely need more foreign work force in the future.

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Panel discussion held in Seinäjoki about quota refugees and their replacement. Speakers included a representative of UNHC, vice mayor of Seinäjoki, immigration officer and Malalai Rahim.

Malalai Rahim made a big impression on me. She spoke very good Finnish and her story is amazing. The talebans threatened her life, as she was a woman working as a doctor in Afghanistan, so she had to leave. In Finland, she studied the language and went to the university to get another degree, to be a gynecologist. Now she works in a hospital in Seinäjoki, has 5 children and is actively involved in local politics trying to help newcomers. Me and my colleague, who were just about to complain how tired and stressed we felt, fast shut up.

Malalai made good points about refugees’ integration in Finland. We need to make our social integration program a lot more efficient! It’s not enough to give people a bit of food and money; everyone needs to feel meaningful and get to work, too. Otherwise you stay at home, get isolated with your problems and soon you are not even able to raise your children. I really hope this idea has some impact, coming from the mouth of someone who truly knows what suffering and life as a refugee are about.

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There is already one Congolese family living in Seinäjoki, and in the fall there should be some more quota refugees from Congo arriving. Getting ready for the Finnish winter… Credit: Yle

As a refugee, one should never lose faith and become bitter for what you have to go through. You MUST raise your head and go on. But a little help is needed, and it’s our responsibility to offer it.

Everyone should remember that things can change fast. What if one day we need to leave our country? How would you like to be treated? We have experience about this in Finland, as during The Second World War almost 80 000 children were sent to other Nordic countries as refugees. They were called The Finnish War Children.

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Finnish war Children in Turku. Credit: Wikipedia.

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What is a quota refugee? Within its refugee quota, Finland accepts for resettlement persons defined as refugees by the UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and others who are in need of international protection. The refugee quota is verified in the state budget for each year.

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Helsinki: design, design and sponsored beer!

Last Thursday my dear friend, who owns a growing illustrations agency here in Helsinki, published a book! The book is called “Keltainen Kaupunki“, The Yellow City, and it features seventeen Helsinki themed stories by prolific Finnish authors. These stories are illustrated by some wonderful illustrators from my friend’s agency.

This year Helsinki is the World Design Capital, and the book project is part of the year’s events. Honestly, I don’t know how many people know about this year outside Finland (and Helsinki) but at least inside the design quarters of Punavuori, Helsinki, it certainly is a big thing. A couple of my friends are working in the Design Capital office, so I’ve stayed more or less tuned on what’s going on. And the good thing is that many young, prominent artists get new opportunities thanks to this special year. I only hope the good things shall continue in the years to come…

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A new, still unfinished gallery in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki. Looks good!

Anyway, it’s always a pleasure to attend an opening or a publication party of any big project: observing the relieved faces of the people, happy of the luckily finished cooperation and, for us visitors, sharing their joy and catching up with old friends. The party was organised in an old factory compound in Jätkäsaari, the newest neighbourhood to-be here in Helsinki, at the moment still under construction. But there’s already some vivid cultural activity going on there.

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Carlsberg, good bread and cheese - all you need for a good party. Well, maybe some wine too...

My friend was even lucky enough to get the Danish beer Carlsberg as sponsor. To accompany the beer, we enjoyed some big fresh bread with cheese and grapes. Basic but so good – both for your eyes and palatals. Here’s another blog entry about the event – and the beer – by one of the illustrators of the The Yellow City.

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There was also a DJ playing some smooth music and on the second floor we could visit a photo exhibition about Finland – the big images looked great in the empty, unfinished loft space and some of them were quite impressive…

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Yes, in Finland people like to be naked. Sauna and all. A work from the photo exhibition in Jätkäsaari.

All in all, it’s great that interesting cultural things are going on in Helsinki. And what’s even better is that my friends are taking so active part in them! These moments I feel so proud of my city.

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Easter the Finnish way – eggs, lamb and mämmi

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Easter decorations. Credit: Kotiliesi

This evening I’m off to Munich for Easter holidays, so I probably won’t get to experience all the Finnish Easter stuff. At least I can write about our Easter traditions – some of them are quite interesting.

Our Easter celebrations started last Sunday. On Palmsunday (Palmusunnuntai) children go from door to door dressed like Easter witches and doing “virpominen” by waving decorated tree-branches and wishing a good year with a rhyme. The kids give the branch away – if they receive sweets or coins in return. A bit like Halloween’s “trick-or-treat”.

I used to love this when I was small. We dressed up with my friends, went around the neighborhood and finally shared our “catch”. Good candies were worth a lot more than “boring” coins. Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs  we liked the most. And I still do, even if now the selection of chocolate eggs is a lot wider.

Unfortunately we didn’t receive any witches at our door last Sunday – well, we didn’t have any candies either – as in the city the entrance doors are locked and the kids can’t get in. 😦

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Little witches doing "virpominen". Credit: Yle

Tomorrow it’ll be Easter Friday. While I’ll be walking around Munich, I know many Finns stay silent at home. When I was a kid, my mom didn’t let me do almost anything this sad, gloomy day – even if my family wasn’t religious. In Finnish the day is called “Long Friday” (Pitkäperjantai) and it really felt so! According to tradition you weren’t even allowed to smile with your teeth this day.

At Easter you decorate your home with twigs and branches and grass you cultivated in jars or tins. You also hide cholocate eggs around the house and then children look for them. Well, my mom still does it for me and a colleague just told me that she hides eggs for his boyfriend. So the tradition goes on.

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Lamb is a typical thing to eat for Easter. Credit: MTV3

Special dishes include eggs in different forms, of course, and lamb – to celebrate the end of what used to be fasting for Easter. And it still is, for some.

A truly special Easter delicacy is “mämmi”. Foreigners normally hate this stuff that reminds closely… poo! If you are brave enough to taste mämmi, you’ll notice that it’s not that bad – with sugar and cream. At least I like it! Once a year, that is.

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Mämmi. You love it - or hate it. But you've got to taste it! Credit: Wikipedia

Another typical dessert comes from Russia, Pasha. This is heavy stuff, so taste it – but not too much. Compared to mämmi, this is a more “normal” thing to eat, I guess. 😉

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Pasha, the Russian contribution to Finnish Easter. Credit: Wikipedia

So, “Hyvää pääsiäistä”, Happy Easter! Have a rest and eat enough chocolate eggs.

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Today I’ve been working from home office, well, actually from a cafe near our home in Kamppi. The place is called Deli&Cafe Martta and it’s a very comfortable place, owned by The Martha Organisation, a traditional Finnish home economics NGO, founded in 1899, to promote the quality and standard of life in Finnish homes.

They also organise courses on ecological cooking etc – and bake excellent korvapuusti pulla – a cinnamon bun called “slapped ear” for its form. I even found a recipe in English on ScandinavianFood.com.

The smell of fresh bun is amazingly strong here, the sun is shining in and they have brought fresh daffodils to my table… Summa summarum: a hundred times better option than sitting in the boring office!

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Martha Deli delicacies - if you get too hungry to work...

Working from “home” is one of my tricks to fight the spring anxiety. It always arrives more or less at the same time. I get a strong feeling that I want something has to change: I need new ideas, challenges and adventures, traveling away and all that”exciting” stuff. Life seems too routinous and common . I have no idea why this suddenly to me, every spring.

Before, when I got this feeling, I started to look for a new job. However, this time I’m (still) quite happy working in the NGO where I started 1,5 years ago. Everything is relative: some friends say that I should stay here for a while and “get established” while others are surprised that I’ve been in the same job already for more than a year!

Well, I haven’t been changing jobs that much – and normally the reason has not been me, as my previous contracts have been of temporal nature – that’s very typical here in Finland that the university graduates must jump between various temporary jobs before someone gives them a “real job”, with a permanent contract and all the benefits it includes.

I hope this anxiety will go away with small substitutes: walking in the sunshine, working less, hanging out with friends. For example tonight we’re going to Literary Death Match at Korjaamo Culture Factory. There famous Finnish writers read examples from their books and judges choose the winner… The concept is created by Todd Zuniga, the editor of Opium magazine. Interesting.

Ah! Talking about recipes, yesterday I baked excellent bread (baking is a great way to relax too…). The recipe includes whole wheat flour, carrots, dried fried onion, linseeds and of course yeast, water and a bit of salt. Mmm. There’s nothing better than fresh, warm bread.

Bread with carrot and dried onion makes you happy.

Sun, cinnamon buns and spring anxiety

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Shrove Buns – the last chance to eat greasy stuff in 40 days!

Oh no! Being ill with a flu almost made me forget what day it is today: Shrove Tuesday (Laskiaistiistai in Finnish). This means that today we go all take our toboggans and go to ride a slope (check the video of a bit longer ride in Northern Finland!) and after that the tradition is to eat pea soup, pancake and laskiaispulla –  the delicious Shrove buns! Well, I would say most of the people have skipped to first and even the second part as on Tuesdays they work etc but only few don’t want to taste a bun.

So, about the buns. Basically, you make normal Finnish buns but the fun part is that for laskiainen you can tune them according to your taste! And you can find them everywhere: in cafes, supermarkets – and offices. Today at my workplace we have buns for all the employees. Also in the restaurant near the office you can every year prepare a pulla with your favourite accompaniment – and they have quite a selection.

Tonight a friend is even organising a traditional “pulla party” at her place – and over 30 friends have said YES to pulla in the Facebook invitation. Also everyone has to tell in advance what kind of pulla they prefer. In the end, only you imagination is the limit…

In short, it’s hard to avoid a pulla overdosis today.

So how is this delicacy?

Here it is, laskiaispulla. So good - but only once a year.

There are two options on for to put inside  your pulla – and this truly divides people! You can either be strawberry jam person or almond paste person. If you come to Finland on laskiainen, you’ll definitely face with this difficult question! Also pulla contains whipped cream and some sugar on top. And, like I said, only the imagination is the limit on what to put inside your original sweet bun…

People even compete who makes the best pulla

Most of the people concentrate on eating and comparing pullas but there’s a deeper reason for Shrove festivities, of course. After today, Shrove Tuesday, a period of 40 days of liturgical fasting before Easter begins and during that time you can only eat simple foodstuffs. The Protestant Finns do not observe Lent anymore, but the Orthodox usually do. Some people use the fast as an excuse to eat healthier – maybe even I’ll try to quit eating candy. Hmm I must think about it.

Anyway, today is the last chance to eat a lot of heavy stuff, as people believed that food had to be very greasy today so that the pigs and cows would get fat in the spring. Now the tradition lives on only in laskiaispulla, I guess. And unfortunately it’s us getting fat, not the cows…

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