Flashback from Finland (part II) – about food, fun and Finns

| | ,

P1010727

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Unknown

But we did have places to go! And we did not want any snow. I still had one more day of sighseeing before my work meeting. And when Monday arrived, we had decided to explore an area called Hakaniemi
(Hagnäs), where there is an old market hall. We did not have the guts to try the subway
with Eero’s power chair, so we decided to wheel along the harbour over the bridge to Hakaniemi. On our way, we passed a guy doing some ice fishing. And it gradually sank in (via our freezing toes and fingers mostly) that winter was definitely not over.

The harbour was still covered in ice the first week of April.
The harbour was still covered in ice the first week of April.
P1010728
Saluhallen (Kaupahalli) had a ramp to get inside and a secret lift behind some ‘curtains’ to get to the 2nd floor. Alas there were no accessible toilets.

When we reached the market hall my whole body was so cold that I needed a brandy to feel slightly warm again. And perhaps it was the brown liquor that went straight to my head? Because the whole food court experience felt slightly absurd…! Gamla Saluhallen definitely has some nice groceries and traditional Finnish food like reindeer meat and cheeses.

P1010729

But the market hall also offered a lot of pretty weird and quirky stuff. It was fun to watch, but I would most definitely not buy any of it. Who would, actually? I even found a store for what I decided to call ‘great grandmother’s clothing’. Finally I know where the really really old women go to get their aprons! I kept asking myself how those booths on the 2nd floor could survive, with hardly any customers. And some of them didn’t even have a saleswoman. A bit Twin Peakish, I must say…

P1010731
The great grandmother’s clothing shop…

As a punishment for my evil thoughts, the weather gods decided to give us a real snow storm on our way back to the hotel. Fortunately we were able to ‘go underground’ part of the trip from the train station, since Helsinki has a lot of subway tunnels you can also go through. Don’t get lost though!

P1010732
C-c-c-cold! Spring is definitely not in the air anymore.

And since we didn’t want to face any more snow storms we ended up in an American burger joint beneath the hotel for dinner. It was absolutely ok, but not a memorable meal. I would rather recommend these places for food & drink extravaganza:

P1010706
Coffee and sweets at Stockman.
IMG_1309
Reindeer stew at Lappi.

The places I have mentioned are all possible to get into with a wheelchair. There might be a small threshold here and there though. But I am sure there are plenty of other opportunities to choose from as well. I must admit that my suggestions are definitely not on the backbacker budget list.

So I learned that spring in Helsinki (as in Oslo) will definitely try to cheat you. The first week of April is probably not ideal for a spring break in Finland. I have been to Helsinki in June-July before, and that is definitely to be recommended. Long Nordic nights is always nice, and my travel tip would be to arrive (or leave) via the boat to Stockholm. The Silja Line ships are very nice and wheelchair accessible. And the Helsinki harbour, with the view to Suomenlinna castle, and the Stockholm archipelago is something you will definitely remember.

IMG_2382
View to Helsinki harbour from the ferry to Stockholm.
Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) fortress seen from the boat.
Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) fortress seen from the boat.

And even if it has its limitations (including the random cobblestones), I would say that Helsinki is probably one of the more accessible cities for a long week-end. Most of the city centre is fairly flat. But some areas like the Töölö neigbourhood are quite hilly and will require some help (or a power chair).

To cross Mannerheim street, you will face some cobble stones.
To cross Mannerheim street, you will face cobble stones many places.
The Sibelius monument
The Sibelius monument
Kiasma
Kiasma interior

To sum it up, these are my top 12 things to do while in Helsinki (in summer time):

  1. See an art exhibition at the Kiasma
  2. Take a selfie in front of the Helsinki Cathedral (but don’t go inside)
  3. Visit the Rock Church (Tempeliaukkio)
  4. Feed the tame squirrels at Seurasaari Open-Air Museum
  5. Eat reindeer stew at Lappi
  6. Watch people & eat pastry at Esplanadi
  7. Watch art and people at Tennispalatsi
  8. Drink brandy and be puzzled at the Market Hall (Gamla Saluhall)
  9. See the Sibelius monument
  10. Visit the fortress Suomenlinna (unfortunately I cannot remember how much of it was accessible)
  11. Visit the Market Square (there will be cobble stones)
  12. Relax at the Kaivopuisto Park
IMG_2364
From the Kaivopuisto park.

And then it just needs to be added that Finnish people are both nice and friendly, although quite quiet and reserved (the squirrels are actually more lively, when I think of it). If you are a huge fan of smalltalk, perhaps you should go somewhere else…?

ekorn

Give them a beer (or 8) and the smalltalk issue might improve. And no, I am not talking about the squirrels now. Or some cava. And say Kippis! And “I love your beautiful city and Finnish design!” (I am sure that will work as a conversation starter).

And Hyvää matkaa (have a nice trip)!

Previous

Flashbacks from Finland (part 1) – art and architecture

Dear SAS – Come Fly With Me I

Next