Category Archives: Finland

Lingonberries are super food, but only for the brave

The Finnish forests are now full of free-for-all superfood! The blueberry season is almost finished, but now it’s the perfect time to go and pick lingonberries for the winter!

This weekend I’m visiting my parents in my dear old hometown Tampere, always relaxed and nice. Also the weather was on our side, so this afternoon we decided to be brave and head to the forests.

Why brave? The challenge of picking lingonberries in the perfect spot that “only” my parents know is that one is not alone there. These hoods are packed with nasty deer flies (in Latin Lipoptena cervi, in Finnish hirvikärpänen), who come there because the forest is also popular among elks.

Someone would think we are exaggerating looking at the preparations below, but covering everything you can and closing your sleeves with some painter’s tape was only a clever and quite necessary precaution before entering the forest… as we immediately found out.

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Super stylish berry picker ;)

A super stylish berry picker… not! 😉

I don’t have photos of our little friends but after we returned to our car after 2 hours in the forest (and with 35 litres of lingonberries, all the buckets full!) we found these flies all over our bodies. Disgusting! Especially my dad seemed to be popular among them, as he’s the biggest one and these flies look for human heat.

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But it was worth it, the forest was beautiful and gave you some special energy. Looking and tasting the lingonberries now makes one feel satisfied. Tomorrow we’ll freeze the berries and enjoy extra vitamins in the winter.

What is a lingonberry? Wikipedia tells that lingonberries are native to boreal forest and Arctic tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Eurasia to North America.

The berries contain many organic acids, vitamin C, A and B (B1, B2, B3), potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They also contain phytochemicals that are thought to counteract urinary-tract infections, and the seeds are rich in  omega-3.

The amazing fact is that 90 per cent of this super food is left in the forests of Finland. And at the market lingonberries cost about 4 euros per litre. What a waste! Maybe the deer flies are too big a challenge for us.

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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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More about running & nature in the city

Inspired by my own post on running I took some photos from along my favourite route yesterday afternoon – well, one of the favourite routes.. Here they come.

The photos are also to demonstrate how , living in the centre of the capital of Finland in the neighbourhood Kamppi, it’s possible to find pretty nature and the sea just 5 minutes (running) away from home.

Some people comment to me that they don’t want to live in the centre of Helsinki as it’s so “hectic” and “no nature around”.

For me, Helsinki is a green small town compared to most of the capitals in the world. You can see these “city rabbits” running around outside our house and when I open our window in the summer, singing of the birds is sometimes the only sound I hear. Quite amazing, if you think about it.

Or actually it’s no wonder, as forests cover 75 percent of Finland’s land area. For every Finn, there is nearly 4.5 hectares of forest… so it’s logical that some of the trees fit in the capital, too.

Sometimes I miss the urban feeling you get in the big metropoli but most of the time I just love to be close to the nature, trees and the sea – and still have enough people and things happening around me.

PS: it feels good to see these photos from yesterday, with sunshine. Today it has been raining all day. Feels like autumn already… :

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The old hospital premises of Lapinlahti. This used to be the first mental hospital of Finland, and it still has a special feeling running around its now quite abandoned garden and buildings right by the sea… The hospital use finished in 2008, and now The City of Helsinki wants to repair the area and give it to the use of the Department of Social Affairs.

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Running by the sea – perfect, I say! You can follow this nice path all through Ruoholahti till the bridge of Lauttasaari.

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Running really is a drug

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photo: Naturalrunningcenter.com

I used to run only to catch a bus, if I really was in a hurry. I hated running. It makes you sweat and it hurts everywhere in your body. At school me and my friends walked the Cooper test as a protest.

So it’s a big surprise that today I can’t live without running! It really is a drug, like they say (although I never believed it before).

How did it happen? I don’t remember, but I’m sure that I was alone when I discovered the real joy of running. This has happened to me with all the sports I didn’t like at school but later on I’ve come to adore.

I guess I’m a bit of a rebel and a free soul so I don’t like if someone tells me to do something – especially if it involves moving my body physically.

Probably I just one pretty day, a couple of years ago, went for a walk and suddenly decided to run a bit. And the next day a bit more. And more and more. Little by little I noticed that it’s actually fun and feels good, if I can decide the velocity, when to stop, where to do some streching and when to stop to admire the view. I only run outside and I’m picky with my routes.

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Luckily near our home in Kamppi, the centre of Helsinki, there are some excellent paths. My favourite ones are the one around Ruoholahti, first running on one side of the canal till the bridge and then the other side back.

My other favourite is the sea path behind the cementery of Hietalahti. Amazing views right by the sea, and normally not too many people either.

I always run alone. Only a couple of times I’ve gone running with my boyfriend but it’s just not the same. I guess I’m not of those runners who can chat about their day at the office, what to cook for dinner etc. routine stuff while running. For me running is quality time of my own, with my music and personal rhythm.

Nowadays I need my weekly dosis of running, normally I run 2-3 times a week, half an hour at a time. But this depends.

I’m completely hooked, because I get anxious if I can’t go running for one reason or another. I’ve postponed dates to go running (+ shower afterwards) and now I reserve time for my running sessions in the calendar.

After running, I feel happy and relaxed. Always.

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This post on running is my response to Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write. Thank you for the inspiration!

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How is it living in a cold country like Finland?

A question I’m constantly asked by foreigners when traveling anywhere outside the Nordic countries. Well, maybe Russia and Baltic countries included.

So, how can people live in a country where it’s always cold?

Ok, first of all it’s not cold all the time, all year round. Of course not. Otherwise we’d have all now emigrated to the Southern Europe.

Helsinki can also be like this! My favourite rocks at Eiranranta

A small forest with morning sun in Tampere, Finland

Also, cold is a relative term – the human body can get used to very strange conditions, also to -20C. At least for a couple of days of the year.

I feel many Finns have some genetic mutation, as they almost never complain about the cold. Or the weather in general. They also think it’s not good behaviour to do it – believe me, I’ve heard so many times the comment “please don’t complain, it could be worse“.

Well, here the criteria for bad weather is quite different as in most of the countries.

If you’re interested, here comes the average temperature of Helsinki during different months, as published on Travelhappy Climate Charts for Helsinki.

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You can read more about the Finnish seasons (the change is amazing!) on the page of Ilmatieteen laitos, the Finnish Meteorological Institute. They offer interesting info on the Finnish weather and its different phenomena in general.

Anyway, today I seriously reflected the question about the weather. We’ve been 2 weeks island hopping in Greece with my boyfriend with a temperature of 25-30C and guaranteed sunshine every day.

The thing is that I’m a person that seriously loves sun and warm weather. Especially in the winter, I ask myself why was I born in Finland where most of the time I’m freezing. (I also complained about the chilly wind in the evenings in Greece so you get an idea of my desire for hot weather).

Actually one of my life goals, which I confirmed this summer, is to be able to spend one entire year in a summer dress and flip flops. Let’s see when and where…

Today, when we returned to Helsinki (wearing my summer dress and flip flops) it was raining and +19C. Literally a chilly welcome. Eventually the sun started to shine and the temperature rose a bit.

Still, I wonder how this kind of very unpredictable weather affects the Finns living here? Does it make one suspicious towards the world… and everything? You can never trust that it will be sunny even for 3 days in a row – and the weather forecasts change all the time.

Winter evening in Kuusamo, Eastern Finland. To admire a snowflake you must go outside…

So the final answer to why reminds in the air – and in the minds of the ancestors who came to live in Finland.

Of course there are many excellent reasons for living in Helsinki. And the few hot sunny days we have really are wonderful!

Also there are many people in Finland who don’t share my view. Their attitude to weather is stoic.

Or maybe they mystically forget the bad days and remember only the best of all our seasons: the bright snowy days, spring blossoming and autumn leaves with amazing colors…

Autumn at its best! At Billnäs village on the South coast of Finland

Yes, of course all this is nice. Personally I just can’t forget that many many mornings you wake up and the world is grey and you go to sleep and the only change is that now the world is black. For me this is pretty depressing, for many Finns not.

I guess that’s the trick of living here! You need a bad memory or some genetic modification…?

Rowing my little boat on a rainy day, in Tampere, Finland

Rowing on the same lake on a sunny day. Quite a different feeling.

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We want local food – but what is it?

Where do you come from, broiler?

Local food is a big thing in Finland these days. It’s truly in fashion, at least the trendy people of Helsinki constantly talk about how they want their food local.

New (expensive) stores selling local products pop-up all around the city. Like this one, Anton&Anton in Töölö.

Of course, the elder generations know better and have been consuming local food all their lives – without making a fuss about it. Still, I think this one is a good trend – as long as it doesn’t make the prices go up too much. And there is another major problem: nobody really knows what actually is local food?

This weekend I’m visiting my parents in Tampere and yesterday the local newspaper Aamulehti published an opinion about local food, which will surely provoke debate.

A guy called Visa Merikoski, the director of MTK Pirkanma, the local division of Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, claimed that soon even broiler from Brazil will be considered as local product, if the current trend continues.

He says that yes, local food interests the consumers a lot, and this is way so many supermarket chains are now thinking hard how to take the advantage of the trend. They sell images and when it comes to local food, the tendency is to lie – just a little bit.

Why? Because “at its worst” Polish wheat, Danish pork or Brazilian chicken might end up being local food as in most supermarkets one can already find products, whose origins are not announced correctly.

As consumers prefer local food, it seems logical that the main reason for hiding the origins is that they are not from near here… not even from Finland. In the end, the consumer believes he/she’s buying something he isn’t. This could be called cheating, or at least hiding the truth.

The thing is that everyone has the right to define local food from their own point of view. The consumers think that only small-scale production means local and they hate the idea of industrial production. Some connect local food to organic food.

The food production industry thinks that what counts is where the food is made, not from where the ingredients come from.

Then there are the farmers, who want ingredients that arrive from as near as possible – at least from inside Finland.

And the food production workers think that domestic work is very important.

One might guess that all these different ideas cause a mess when it comes to marketing local food.

(Finnish?) rye bread

For example, Mr. Visa tells that in one local supermarket they don’t tell the origins of a pork product, whose name refers to something 100% local (the product in this case was Tapolan ylikypsä kinkku). Probably it had been made right here in Tampere, but not telling it makes one suspicious… naturally.

So why don’t the producers tell the facts, when the information would attract more consumers??

One might also find bread – on the shelf reserved for local food – whose wheat has travelled a long way. The bakers tend to explain that domestic wheat is not always available, so they cannot commit to using it. This is not true: one can always get domestic wheat, it just might not be as cheap as the foreign ones.

In brief, every Finn has encountered products that carry a Finnish flag or other symbol referring to it being national, even if the product might be something totally different.

Does this mean it’s Finnish – really?

If we don’t talk about this openly, the same tendency will continue – and someday we won’t have any means to know from where our bread, salad, fruit, meat, fish or chocolate comes from. No thanks, we have the right to know – and to be able to choose.

Everyone (the politicians, media and food producers) know well what’s going on – so please do something about it!

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Post-vacation Blues – What to Do?!

One part of my nice and long (but not long enough!) summer vacation I spent in Spain… visiting old friends and enjoying the easy life. More about this great trip shall follow a little later in the blog… This photo is from my friend’s flat – what a view to live with!

Freedom is a dangerous thing, at least for us office workers. When you get to taste a bit of it, (or maybe not even that little as I was free for most of the summer, almost 6 weeks…anyway) going back to the office is tough and the routine seems totally absurd: running from one meeting to another, receiving and answering random emails and eating lunch fast always at the same time and with the same people.

Worst of all is to sit the typical 8 hours 5 days a week inside the office – these hours seem like an eternity… Why, oh why, as during the vacation I was able to fit so many (nice) things in just one day – AND sleep late, if I felt like that!

been there…

The positive thing is that human being is a flexible creature and gets used to almost anything – amazingly fast. After 2 weeks in the office I have already almost forgotten the wonderful empty days and my freedom. Without complaining (too much) I wake up early from Monday till Friday and spend the whole day sitting on a chair in front of a computer inside the office, even if the sun is shining outside. Well, my colleagues tell me that the third week will be better. Let’s see…

However, I also notice that something curious is happening to me these days. Before the vacation I was quite ready to start looking for a new job. I felt frustrated with processes that become too big and messy and never result in anything concrete and frustrated with of my job description composed of 1001 miscellaneous things…

But most of all I got tired of the routine (as they say, the routine kills): having to spend 8 hours a day doing something that I wasn’t that convinced about. Why?!? In brief, my feeling was that I was wasting my days while the potential fun and interesting  life and all kinds of cool opportunities were drifting away from me – oh, if I only was brave enough to go and catch them!

However now, after summer vacation, I feel somehow more peaceful and positive. Perhaps the glimpse of freedom made me realize that in the end nothing in this life is permanent and that I CAN change my life whenever I want to.

So, instead of starting to look for another job, I now try to concentrate on the positive aspects, do my work as well as I can and try to develop personally, enjoy my colleagues and just ignore the negative things. Amazingly it really works! Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that tonight, surfing the Internet, I found this article:

If Your Job Sucks, It Might Be Your Fault; Let’s Fix That

And so it is! Before or later all the jobs start to suck:

“It’s inevitable. After enough time at any job, you have a day that really sucks. Then, eventually, maybe another. And another. Suddenly the job you loved starts to feel like, well, work. And bad work at that. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

But before leaving, there are many tricks and ways to try to make it all better… I would say that in many many cases these tricks truly work. And if they don’t, well, then it probably really is time to go. I’ll hang on – for some time now, at least – and with a smile! 🙂 Knowing that the day I honestly get enough, I’m free to move on…

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Visiting old friends in Turku – yes, we’re getting somewhere!

Last weekend I continued my small road trip through Finland and visited my “old” university friends in Turku. It’s always a big pleasure, as we used to be very close while studying and nowadays we meet too rarely. However, the positive thing is that we’ve remained so close that the conversation continues from where it was left the last time. That’s a sign of a good friendship.

As to City of Turku, everything looks the same. There are some improvements, though, as the city seems a bit more lively now. Friday night there was an event in the old Brinkkala quarters were local psychedelic bands were playing – not exactly my kind of music, but the idea is great!

We also visited Naantali, a little town near Turku – where they say the sun is always shining. And it was also this time! To me, Naantali is one of the prettiest towns in Finland, it has a special maritime atmosphere in the summer. No wonder that the summer house of our president is situated there. And Moomin World, Muumimaailma, a big amusement park built around these sympathetic fictional characters.

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Aura River – the heart of Turku, the old capital of Finland. Now with some huge ducks (plastic ones).

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Turku public transport offers you many choices!

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“Luckily everything is fine.” A writing in the bathroom of one of our favorite bars, Kuka.

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Visiting the old quarters of Naantali is like going back in time. This street is called “Cat’s Tail”.

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The Church of Naantali. Especially I liked the sandglasses – maybe for controlling that the priest didn’t talk for too long? 😉

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And old time picnic in the park of Naantali. So pretty!

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While men take photos of themselves with expensive cars, I wanted to be photographed with Moomin train in Naantali.

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Lunch in Naantali in one of the restaurants by the sea.

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In the night, we visited a wonderful birthday party in an old school building converted into flat. The photo could be named “Mosquito”. (And not the only one…)

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Dancing the summer night away…

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The first blueberries of the summer found at my friend’s backyard. Superfood for free!

However, the most interesting thing in Turku is to follow where all my friends are heading in their lives. During the student years nobody really knew what we wanted to do with our lives, where to work, whether to have children or not and all the typical choices. So we spent many many long evenings in cafes and bars thinking and talking… like we still do!

This weekend, while sitting in Cosmic Comic Cafe, where we always end up, we started to think whether we’ll ever feel like adults and mature persons? And if that’s a good thing anyway… Someone suggested that maybe it’ll happen when (and if) we ever have kids. I doubt it.

On the contrary, I think that we have already matured a lot, we just don’t notice it. In the end we have come far from the university days, we have chosen to follow some paths and closed some doors on the way, too.

Some friends have got married – and even divorced – some have got children, some are still single but have got a permanent job and an own flat. Some are still doing their thesis or working on whatever they find. One friend is going to Nepal to do voluntary work.

Old friends serve as a mirror to my own life. They know me from many years ago and in many cases they have great suggestions about what I should and shouldn’t do. The best thing was that, while sitting in a bar having a beer and talking of this and that, one friend suddenly said to me that, even if I’m not very happy with my job etc., I look very good and seem a lot more happier now than during our student days. That was a nice thing to hear – and I guess it’s true.

So it’s completely OK to become older and wiser – as long as your friends are getting older with you. 😉

PS: Sorry for the varying quality of the photos: I had iPhone and my boyfriend a real camera…

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A summer house where living is easy…

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Yesterday we visited the summer house of my godparents. It’s a pretty old wooden house, where all their four children with their kids, husbands and wives fit well. In the old days, the sister of my grandfather used to live alone in this big house – till’ she got 100 years old and died. An amazing, strong lady!

So we are very happy that the house stays in the family, as everyone has good memories of the place. It’s about one hour trip away from Tampere, so it’s easy to take the car and spend a day or two there.

This time I went with my mom. The moment I stepped in I remember how much I love old wooden houses, their smell and sounds. It’s always been my dream to live in one. The atmosphere is special, especially in this house were I remember most of the objects from my childhood and I know that elder generations have been living years in these same rooms, painting the walls, having sauna and planting all the flowers and trees.

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However, at the same time I start to feel very nostalgic about how fast time passes and dear old people die. Just two days ago I heard that the husband of the sister of my grandfather died at the age of 97. They had been married more than 60 years, so it’s a big shock to her – she’s also 95 years old. The couple has always been living a very healthy life, but even if their life has been happy and full, it breaks my heart to hear that it’s now over.

But that’s life, and everyone shall die someday – maybe tomorrow, maybe in 50 years. You never know, so the only option is to live your life as full as possible and spend a lot of moments with your loved ones.

Anyway, not to get too melancholic, back to the summer house! The best thing was to hear about my relatives daily routine there. They are now retired, so they spend most part of the summers in this house or with their children in Helsinki or in their other house in Northern Finland – they are free as birds to change address whenever they feel like!

While in the summer house, they wake up early and start working in the house or in the garden – in an old house there are always so many things to do. And they love this kind of simple physical work and look so healthy and happy. They work all day, then in the evenings they eat something simple and nice, home-made food made from local ingredients bought from a market place or a small eat factory nearby. Then they go to sauna (every evening), chat and read a bit and go to sleep. No TV and a mimimun of Internet. No running water. Total peace and simple life.

Oh, how I envy them these days as my daily routine consists of office work: filling reports, sitting in the office and attending more or less boring meetings and processes that don’t have an end. I talked about my discontent also with my godparents. They agreed and truly supported me in looking for other alternatives… I’m so happy I have such a supportive family!

Well, for now I’m on holiday and have more time to think about my future and what I really want from life. Don’t know if leaving the city life behind and going to live in the countryside would be an option for me, but everyday I understand better people who make this choice, too.

All photos: Helsinkimylove

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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

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