Tag Archives: Finland

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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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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Back to blogging – and it feels so good!

This must be one of the most common comments/explanations/excuses for a blogger, but I can’t avoid it either: I’ve had a crazy spring with a new job (which is excellent!) and too many (too interesting) freelance writing and proofreading projects accumulating… ln brief, my poor blog has been abandoned for some months.

However, all that is now gone. We enjoy summer even here in Helsinki and I’m full of inspiration and with a long list of interesting things to write about!

Most of them include the word Helsinki, but as I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel quite a lot this summer, I must tell about these trips too…

Actually right now I’m lying half dead on our dear home sofa after 2 weeks of heavy island hopping in Greece. The best souvenirs are a happy and relaxed mind, suntanned skin and about 100 photos from Athenas, Sifnos, Milos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros and Antiparos… more about these islands we visited when I get the photos and mind arranged.

Ah, it feels so good to be back. 🙂

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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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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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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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Let it snow – but not too much!

This morning, well it was almost midday, I went out to enjoy the wonderful sunlight and snow  we have also here in the centre of Helsinki (and there’s a lot!) Then I crashed into this quite scary snowman that someone had created on our home street – it even had green colour. Not for children…

Not all the snowmen are "nice"

Anyway, the morning was beautiful and it was Sunday, so not even a scary snowman could stop me. We went with my boyfriend to see a beautiful documentary film Vivan las antípodas! in DocPoint, a marvellous documentary film festival organised every January in Helsinki. I love documentaries, and this one was interesting – telling about the opposite geographical places and peoples’ lives there… In the end we are all the same everywhere, that was clear once more.

After the cinema we did the typical Sunday walk of Helsinki people: around Töölönlahti Bay. It’s a beautiful nature area practically in the centre of the city. In the summer the paths are full of runners and even today (with -5C and a chilly wind) some brave (or crazy?) people were running around. Brrr.

Töölönlahti Bay in January

Töölönlahti Bay in January

To warm up our deep-frozen toes went up to have a nice warm drink in Torni (a bar with aview upstairs of Tower hotel). Well it’s a super touristic venue, but not without a reason: the views over Helsinki are amazing, especially from the ladies’ bathroom, but unfortunately so are the prizes. (A hot chocolate with a touch of Baileys = 10 euros) But we got ourselves warm and could continue our adventure in the winter wonderland.

in January 2012

Helsinki view from Torni

Helsinki view from Torni 2

Now we’re off to see another documentary film – and it will be a complete surprise! Sometimes it’s nice to take a risk and go to see a movie without having ANY prejudices. So we’ll see…

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Presidential elections in Finland – the first gay president?

Will he be the new president in 2 weeks...?

Sunday is not one of my favourite days – you can already feel the Monday approaching… So, it’s important to do nice things for yourself.

In the evening, we  (my boyfriend and an old friend visiting us from Stockholm) wanted to follow the counting of the votes of the first round of the Finnish presidential elections. So we went to a bar called Rotterdam and ordered some wine to make it easier… Long story short, if nobody gets more than 50% of the votes there will be a second round between the two most successful candidates in 2 weeks. And this is what happened – so the excitement continues…

The amazingly good (and quite surprising news!) for me and most of my friends was that Mr. Pekka Haavisto, the candidate of the quite small and not-so-significant Green Party (Vihreät) got to the second round.

Pekka is an excellent statesman, clever and considerate etc. but the interesting thing is that he also is openly gay, having an Ecuatorian boyfriend. It would be interesting to get the first gay president for Finland -yesyes, even if the sexual orientation does not matter AT ALL in the decision.

So let’s see what happens in 2 weeks, today the campaigning continues… The “enemy” of Pekka is the candidate of the more conservative National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), Mr. Sauli Niinistö – actually and luckily he happens to be an intelligent and nice guy too, so the situation is not that bad whatever happens…

Check out the article by Huffington Post “Pekka Haavisto, Finnish Gay Presidential Candidate, To Face Off With Former Finance Minister in Race”

And here’s an interview with Pekka in English on Youtube.

And there is plenty of more info on Internet on this, naturally! 🙂

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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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