Category Archives: Sightseeing

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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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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Home Alone. How to Make Yourself Happy?

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This is how my poor phone looked like this morning…

At 6am this morning I became widowed by football for a week, as my boyfriend headed for Gdansk, Poland, to follow the European Championships.

Mostly for sleeping badly, I’ve been tired all day and the first thing I did when I arrived at the office was to throw my iPhone to the floor so that the front glass broke.

And that was only the start. As the hours passed, my bad mood got worse. My boss seemed a bit negative to my ideas and I had only boring things on my to-do list. I felt so frustrated that I even surfed the web in search of The Perfect Job waiting for me. Well, I found nothing but still: it always makes me feel a bit better to realize that there are other jobs out there and I won’t be stuck in this office for the rest of my life. Well, hopefully not in any office. But still, I get very impatient when I get the urge to move on and feeling that my capacities are getting wasted in what I do.

Anyway, in the end breaking my mobile phone turned out to be the best thing of today. It gave me an excuse to leave the office early and take the metro till Itäkeskus, a big shopping centre and a suburb around it in Eastern Helsinki. My friends told me that there I’d find the fastest and cheapest place for repairing iPhones, iTapsa. And it truly was an excellent experience! My bad mood was wiped away when I stepped in a little room in a “hotel of offices” where this young guy smiled at me and said encouragingly: “it will take only half an hour”. As an extra, I got a new yellow cover for my phone. Pretty.

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Itäkeskus – a multicultural and a bit rusty shopping centre in Eastern Helsinki. Worth a visit, definitely. Credit: Wikipedia.

After that I checked out the shopping centre. I hardly ever go there as I live in the centre – It’s amazing how fast one gets stuck in the same quarters. Well, Itäkeskus, “Itis,” is a multicultural place full of life and people from all corners – like a mini-visit abroad.

This afternoon I also went running, as the weather was perfect – finally! Normally I can only run for 30 mins but today I run around for an hour! I felt proud when resting a moment by the sea in the new suburb Jätkäsaari. For now it’s a huge construction site – and I love it! I have a special feeling for abandoned wastelands… do idea why, maybe they make me feel free.

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Jätkäsaari under construction. I love to run around here at the construction site by the sea. Credit: Helsingin Sanomat.

After the run I went to the sauna of our building, alone. It felt so relaxing and I threw a lot of water to the hot stones enjoying the almost +100C.

A glass of wine after the sauna culminated the evening. And now… I’m watching football! Spain against Ireland, and Spain shall win. I was begged to check out the match and try to spot my boyfriend and his friends in the audience… an impossible task.

Well, what I learned today was that a good trick to enlighten any bad day is to do something completely new and unexpected. Even a small thing. Like taking the metro / bus to a new suburb and wonder around among strangers.

Another well-known trick is to do some physical exercise. The third one is to enjoy a glass of good red wine and the fourth… of course the sauna. All this really works. Now I’m smiling, even if this morning I felt like crying for all the frustration and my broken phone.

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Our tiny Urban Agriculture project makes me happy, too – our basilica growing on the window. The photo is a bit old, today the plants are a lot bigger!

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… and our amazing orchideas make me smile daily! They’ve been blooming for months already and it’s a little miracle for the little care we offer them…

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Finnish summer: “short and with little snow”

The last 5 days I’ve was in Spain, mostly very involved in the wedding celebrations of my boyfriend’s little brother. This was the first time I attended a wedding abroad – or anywhere for many years, as my friends here in Finland don’t seem established or at least willing to get married… or if someone does, they do it in secret or in a humble way.

Well, this Spanish wedding was anything but small and humble. What mostly struck me was the amazing amount of food we were offered – all the time. Anyway, more about this experience later as now I’m back in Helsinki. And at work, unfortunately. However, you always appreciate what you have at home more when you go away – even if only for 5 days.

When we returned to Helsinki-Vantaa airport last night at 11pm, the sun was still up, the green of the trees had got a deeper tone and I felt that finally summer is about to arrive here in the North. So far it’s been cold and rainy, and I’ve been feeling a bit down – no wonder, as we Finns spend all those cold months waiting for the summer to come and when it doesn’t arrive the way it should, well, that’s just depressing. A couple of days ago in Sweden the temperature went even lower than during last Christmas Eve. No, no, no.

But now there is hope. Today we had lunch outside with my colleagues (even if the wind was chilly) and after work we went with my boyfriend to enjoy an ice cream by the sea in Kaivopuisto. That was OK too, if you avoided the cold shadows.

Helsinki West Harbour seen from the top of a building – actually from our post office in the new suburb of Jätkäsaari. I never knew there was a terrace with a view up there, till we decided to climb up today.

Baana, thw new recreational zone of Helsinki, was opened yesterday. It looks great and the best thing is that it’s only a couple of minutes from home.

The most positive surprise of today was Baana, a big recreational zone and bicycle route opened yeasterday. It’s built on an old abandoned railway track that crosses the centre of Helsinki, which gives the place a special touch.

I feel Baana is the best thing the city of Helsinki has created for its people in a long time! Today I got even emotional as I saw Baana filled with people enjoying the sun and the new facilities with their bikes or playing petanque, ping pong or basketball, practicing their long board skills or having a picnic. Thank you, Helsinki!

Luckily Baana is not the only example of a new “more open and human Helsinki” that I feel is slowly surging out there… Thanks to many active citizens who have created projects such as the delicious Restaurant Day or the popular Urban Agriculture project (kaupunkiviljely) started up by an organisation called Dodo. For me, this new Helsinki means inclusive, free and creative things that make our city a better place to live. The most important thing is to create the feeling of ownership and offer some free space to the people – after that anything is possible.

Urban agriculture means that farming comes where the people are – making us aware of where our food comes from and making our lives a bit happier taking care of these little gardens. Credit: Kaupunkiviljely.fi.

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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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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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Flea markets make you happy. Why?

You can find kirpputoris’ (flea market, also literally) all over Helsinki. There are tiny ones put up among friends in someone’s livingroom and huge ones organised in old warehouses and such.  There are the daily self-service ones and the ones that attract hundreds of people to sell their extra stuff in a big hall early in the morning.

Valtterin kirpputori is such a place. A couple of times I’ve been selling there with my friend. We woke up at six, packed our sandwiches with all the stuff we hoped to sell and joined the crowd. Valtteri takes place mostly in weekends in an old warehouse in the neighbourhood of Vallila. The atmosphere is special.

I love kirpputoris. Why?

  • For me, kirpputori brings out a special solidarity among people. We are all there, together exchanging: one’s trash is another one’s treasure.
  • Buying gets personal. You chat with the person from who you are buying a thing and hear the history of the item. Today I bought a blouser and found out that the owner had bought it from Paris and it’s been dear to her. Nice.
  • It’s ecological, so you feel better buying, or “giving a new life to an item”.
  • You save money and find things and cool clothes that you never would at H&M etc. Kirpputoris’ got popular in Finland during the recession in 1990s. Today my boyfriend bought 11 good CDs for 6 euros.
  • All kinds of people go there: snobbish ladies and poor students, immigrants and even children (with a little help for the parents.)
  • It feels so good to get rid of things! I just packed 3 big sacks of clothes for kirpputori. And it’s a special feeling to meet the person who will be the next happy owner of your jeans, book, toaster, mug…
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Snow angels and flea market shopping

Saturday! And finally some snow and sunshine in Helsinki. One of the best walks you can do in Helsinki on a day like this is to wander around Kaivopuisto neighbourhood and greet the cold sea. This place is wonderful also in the summer – a completely different experience to see all the sunbathing people heading towards the many little islands near Helsinki to have a picnic and a swim and, while waiting for the ferry, eating ice cream from the local Helsingin jäätelötehdas kiosks.

Not it’s January, so you can make some snow angels (check the basic model on the photo) and admire the pale light of the winter sun on the cold water… just beautiful.

To warm up, we dropped by in one of my favourite flee markets, a bit posh but still nice Kaivarin Kanuuna. This time surprisingly, I found nothing for me but the boyfriend found some classic albums by Verve and Oasis for only 1€.

We continued our walk to Wanha Kauppahalli, (The Old Market Hall), where among the many sellers there is a wonderful place to get warm: Soppakeittiö (Soup Kitchen). They offer a menu including a couple of soups every day, and normally the taste does not disappoint you. During the weekends, the queues might be long, though.

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