Category Archives: Restaurants and bars

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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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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Sausages, beer, pretzels and castles – you’ll find all this in…


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The typical Bayerian dish - white sausage, beer and pretzel. Served only in the mornings.

This time it’s not about my dear Helsinki but of Munich and Riga!

What’s the (only?) negative thing about spring? It doesn’t offer us workers any considerable holiday breaks. So I try to take advantage of any long weekend and travel around with my boyfriend. For Easter, we went to Munich and spent a night in Riga on the way.

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Riga panorama from a bar in a clock tower. The bar is a bit styless but the view compensates it.

My first ever visit to Riga was nice but brief. We wandered around, visited typical markets and slept in a hostel owned by Australians. Must go back in the summer, as Air Baltic offers very cheap direct flights from Helsinki.

Then Munich. Well, it never was a dream destination for me, but why not (the only cheap flights we could get for those dates with a coupon we had to spend).

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The best of Bayer: Neuschwanstein Castle. We were "lucky" enough to visit it in a middle of a snow storm - in April!

The Bayerian traditions sure are interesting. Like the rypical “breakfast”, white sausages and 1 litre of beer (with prezel, of course). Or the traditional costume dirndl sold everywhere – and people who so happily wear them on the street or in the traditional beer gardens.

Ah, the beer! Normally I’m not a fan of (Finnish) beer, but the Munich versions were excellent! Especially beer with lemon. I could easily drink a litre or two of that.

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The famous Hofbräuhaus Beer Garden in Munich. Here Hitler organized the first publicity and propaganda events in 1920.

Munich is the richest and the most expensive city in Germany, which you really notice. People look wealthy as do their cars. Munich is the home of BMW, and I really got a lesson on car history as we spent some hours in the BMW headquarters and museum – a deal we made with my boyfriend so we would later see some modern art  – well, in the end we skipped it for the lack of time. But instead I got some nice beer with lemon in the park.

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Our hotel remembered us with a bottle of wine. Nice. As my boyfriend doesn't like wine, well, a woman has to do what a woman has to do...

Still, after four days of Munich – and of snowstorms and rain – it was great to come back to the sunny Helsinki. The routine is not that bad when you get away once in a while. Yesterday we took out the bicycles from the winter shelter and tonight we had a great hot sauna. Now it’s just perfect to lay down on the home sofa with a glass of red wine, jamón serrano and picos. Not very Finnish but hey – mixing cultures is the thing of today. 😉

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Jamón ibérico de bellota (the best kind) and picos (Spanish bread snacks) for dinner. Home sweet home - Helsinki.

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The perfect job that never was

The sun is shining and it’s almost Easter, so I left the office early and called up a friend for a glass (it ended up to be 3) of rose in my new favourite bar next to home – Birds Cavabar that featured on the blog also yesterday… I don’t drink cava EVERY day though.

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Lapinlahdenkatu, the street of Birds Cavabar. Today it looked just like this - a pleasure to wait for my friend out in the sun.

Anyway, it’s great to see my dear friend, who works as producer for a talented Finnish photographer and who is going to open an art gallery soon. What happens nowadays is that we mostly talk about work – I guess something has changed, as before men (and various other subjects) used to come before the career.

My friend hadn’t heard what happened to me with my job interview a couple of weeks ago. In a nutshell, I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated at my current job, and been looking for “new challenges”. So I sent an application for a communications job at the Ministy of Internal Affairs. It sounded perfect.

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Ha! And I thought I was clever choosing well paid & interesting. But something essential was left out...

To my big surprise they called me for an interview! They had received 172 applications and interviewed only 5, so I felt fortunate. I spent days preparing: studying their webpages, reading their comms strategy, composing a clever answer for any possible question.

On the day of the interview I felt confident. People were nice and everything seemed to go ok… just that it didn’t. I had this strange feeling that something was wrong, and when I got out I texted my boyfriend that I don’t get this job.

And I didn’t. A week later I received an email telling that they chose someone else – the person who is currently doing the job (with a temporary contract). So, in the end it was a kind of a fake job offer – normally they always choose the person who they already have working – if he/she isn’t a complete disaster. That’s a normal procedure and perfectly just. What is not so just is that you have almost 200 people who honestly think they’ve got a fair chance: nobody told be what the situation was – and of course I didn’t realize to ask about it. Next time I will.

But it’s interesting that talking about my experience I heard many similar stories from my friends. Is this a common procedure? I couldn’t find any info with some Googling, but it sure would be interesting to know.

Well, there’ll be more jobs and mine is not that bad – at all. Still, looking for something new once in a while is good for you! It makes you evaluate your abilities and helps you to demand more at your current job – they shouldn’t take you for granted.

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The art of being sick – not again?!

It’s been a while since I blogged – the reason is that I’ve been lying half dead in bed for some days. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but at least I’m positive that my THIRD flu this year has been the worst one so far.

I noticed I wasn’t feeling too well last Thursday when I was having lunch at the university cantine near my job. It was this: pea soup and pancake (hernekeitto and pannukakku in Finnish), the typical Thursday dish here in Finland, no idea why. Wikipedia tells that in the old times eating pea soup (which contains pork) is said to be preparation for fasting on Friday. Anyway, the tradition still goes strong – and I love it!

My lunch last Thursday - the traditional pea soup with pancake and strawberry jam - notice the heart shape... And some salad to make it healthy.

Anyway, while I was eating I started to feel strange: totally exhausted with sore throat and runny nose – and without any appetite. Actually my appetite is still a bit gone. It feels strange not to get hungry when “you are supposed to”. So I’ve been eating light – except of the vanilla ice cream, as a doctor told me it’s good for your throat. Well, that was when I was 10 years old, but of course I still believe him.

The worst thing this time was getting sick just before the weekend! As they say, like the good workers do… You really should get compensated for losing your weekend. So unjust.

Today is the first day I feel normal, more or less – and it feels wonderful! Just sitting on the sofa with the afternoon sunshine, eating an apple that tastes of something again – and watching my boyfriend passing the vacuum cleaner around the house (hrm, I’m still a bit too weak to do some things… 😉

The sun makes me especially happy, as it gives faith that spring actually is on its way. It was already around the corner but then, suddenly, it started snowing a couple of days ago and the people of Helsinki got hysterical: what is this?!? Snow in April??!! Well, in the end it’s not that strange here in the North, but I understand them. After suffering a long winter you really grave for spring. So please: go away snow!

There are nicer things too, of course. Last week I discovered a great new bar just around the corner: Birds Cavabar. They have excellent  Can Paixano cava from a Barcelona producer – whose rosé is especially delicious. The next best thing is the price: 2,50 euros for a glass and 10 euros for a bottle (+ they give you free pistachios, not so common here in Helsinki…) They also serve fajitas (my friend tried and liked it) and salads for lunch. Highly recommended. And the place reminds me of the 6 months I lived in Barcelona… oh those times.

Birds Cavabar in Kamppi, Helsinki

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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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Restaurant Day – become a chef for a day

I enjoyed my dear  – and cold – Helsinki so much this weekend! On Saturday we had Helsinki Restaurant Day, a food carnaval, where anyone is invited to open a restaurant for a day. The concept was invented by a couple of clever young guys from Helsinki – it is an amazingly simply and just ingenious idea!

The restaurants can be anything, you can check out the Browse restaurants section on Restaurant Day webpage to get a glimpse… Only the founder’s imagination is the limit. Absolutely anyone can be a chef for a day, make some exotic or traditional culinaristic experiments and invite strangers to their homes, install a kiosk on the street or organise an open picnic in some corner of the city. Some of my friends, who are lucky to own a shop, convert them into tea lounges, muffin factories or even into a Brazilian-Iranian restaurant, as one of the shoe stores in Helsinki did on Saturday.

This Saturday morning me and my friend decided to visit as many as we could of these pop-up restaurants. The only two limits were: 1) your stomach is not limitless and 2) the weather was “a bit” challenging, almost -20C…

Actually, to fight the second condition, I got an idea to fill my termo with – surprise surprise – champagne! Haha even if it maybe wasn’t the most elegant thing to do with that expensive drink, at least it helped us to stay warm all day long and it cheered us up on the windy streets filled with snow! Here are some of the delicious things we saw – and tasted, of course.

Celebrating Restaurant Day with a style. Hipster muffins at Hiphip cafe, Punavuori - the hipster neighbourhood of Helsinki.

Parmesan cake at a home restaurant in a cool old stable in Punavuori, Helsinki. The cake? It was excellent! As were the chats with the other "clients" present in this nice couple's living room.

My friend's underwear shop Punavuoren putiikki was converted into a tea lounge - with a sweet atmosphere and even sweeter cupcakes.

Warm tea to keep you going in Restaurant Day

Muffin Top - more muffins and spicy tomate soup at a jewellery shop in Punavuori.

All in all, the experience was great – once again… The carnaval is organised about every 4 months and each time it gets more popular! Also the police (who at first disapproved all this) is now looking the event through it fingers. More of this kind of spontaneous community activities, please. By the way, the next Restaurant Day is celebrated in May… Welcome!

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Barhopping in Kallio

Kallio is the bohemian, cool neighbourhood of Helsinki. The place where poor workers used to live and which artists, students and hipsters have since conquered. Most of us have been living there at some point… But then when “the situation” changes (people start wanting more space, children, peace etc.) they go to live somewhere else.

One thing is sure: the best and the most original bars of Helsinki are in Kallio. So, last Friday we gathered 6 friends together and went to explore some of them – both old favourites and new acquaintances.

Here’s how it goes.

1. Rytmi. We started at one of my all-time-favourites, a bar near the matketplace of Hakaniemi. Rytmi is a place where all the hipsters go: during the daytime old gentlemen have coffee there and the creative workers create something big with their macs. In the evenings DJ starts to play jazz-etno music and you are sure to meet your friends and colleagues on the white tables. A relaxed place to start (and to finish) the night with. A big plus are the huge windows, art exhibitions and a mini terrace in the summer.

2. Sirdie. Luckily my friend is a good timekeeper, so after one beer and hour off we went! Sirdie is a tiny classic: a Kaurismäki movie styled place with friendly service and special atmosphere. Here “different” people meet, autentically.

3. Toveri. Some of us started to complain hunger. So we moved to Toveri, almost next door to Sirdie – as it was snowing a lot that night! Toveri is a very relaxed and quiet bar full of Brits (for some reason, that night) and nice tapas, filled crepes and a good selection of beers. On Wednesdays they organise a quiz -warning: it’s a very difficult one at least for me! With full stomach, we had energy to move on in the snow.

4. Abin baari (on Fleminginkatu 13). An interesting place packed with more or less drunken people (but in a nice way). The owner (a Moroccan guy?) has decorated the walls with a random selection of photos, pictures and items from all over the world. The bar has a very peculiar atmosphere (but better to stick with the beer, at least the gin tonic I was quite bad).

5. Kultapalmu. First time here! A small, dark place which seems to be very popular – for some reason! Like someone comments on TripAdvisor: “If I would get married, this would be the place for the wedding! Excellent company, excellet drinks!” Worth a visit – I guess getting to the mood of Kultapalmu (Golden Palm) would have taken a little more time…

6. Bar Molotow. First time here, too, an excellent new acquaintance! The place was really full of hipsters and fashion people and a nice music was played by a cool DJ. Well, the original reason why we entered just this place was that my friends noticed it was full good-looking men. 😉 As Molotow describes itself: a relaxed bar with 60’s decoration. Music ranges from alternative rock to punk and indie. Yep.

Well, 6 bars in a row, it’s an ok result for a Friday night everyone being very tired after the working week. More to follow when we repeat the tour – Kallio has a lot to offer!

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Thursday is for beer, pea soup and pancake

morning snow on Thursday, January 19, in Helsinki

Today we had a cool snow storm in Helsinki. Perhaps it influenced our minds too, as since the morning my colleagues at the office were restless and finally, after a 60-year-birthday party given for a colleague (with chocolate cake and cava) it was impossible to work.

Some opened a bottle of red wine. I tried to go back to work, in vain, so when a colleague suggested to have a beer – just one! – it was impossible to say no.

We explored a great Indian Bar Bhangra (Check Google maps, in Töölö, Runeberginkatu 28), decorated Bollywood-style and offering a nice selection of Indian beers, lassi, a shot roulette (scary) and Nepalese and Indian food. Also Bollywood music and movies, promises the bar’s Facebook page.

All in all, here comes the lesson: when a Finn suggests you “let’s go for ONE beer” in 99% of the cases it won’t stay in one. Neither today.

Luckily I was “wise” enough to leave home early… and when I arrived home, I just had to get pancake (pannukakku). Why?

For an unknown reason in Finland we have a tradition to eat pea soup (hernekeitto) on Thursdays. In the restaurant below my office too. The soup was good, but one thing was terribly missing – the typical, indispensable dessert to go with pea soup – the pancake! Typical for an unknown reason too…

Normally you enjoy pancake with strawberry jam and cream. Yummy. Here comes a photo of my masterwork – growing up in the oven… What is left over, I’ll take to the office tomorrow. Happy colleagues, happy work…

"Pannukakku", Finnish pancake growing in the oven

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