Thursday, September 20, 2012

Falling in love with Helsinki

A couple of weeks ago I spent some days in Helsinki. I have spent less time in our grand capital than most people, even though my best friend lives there. Back when I applied for university I also applied for Helsinki University (and Turku University). I never actually went to the application exams in Helsinki, because I decided I didn’t want to move to the capital. Partly because it’s quite expensive to live there, and partly because it is on the shore. After growing up in a shoreline city in northern Sweden, I was sick of the cold wind all the time. I don’t regret my choice to study in Tampere, but my original picture of Helsinki is rapidly changing.

What is it about broken yellow walls?

Lovely old arcitechture always gets me.

Since my work allows me to work out of office, I decided to spend a few days visiting friends in Helsinki. I have to say, for the first time this beautiful northern capital surprised me. This year Helsinki is World Design Capital, and it shows. There are loads of events all the time and the most difficult thing is to choose, especially if you have a limited amount of time. Luckily for me my best friend is very aware of all the happenings in Helsinki, so during the week I received loads of invites to fb-events. There was no doubt the weekend would be busy, busy, busy!

The ballerina was borrowed from the National Ballet.
During the weekend we had time to visit two bigger events. On Saturday we went to Töölön Kyläjuhlat, which is a cultural event with music and dancing. The event was held at Korjaamo, Linnakosken puisto and around these places. We heard a orchestra play, saw a beautiful ballerina and heard a great singer. At Korjaamo there is also a tram museum with different old tram cars from the past in Helsinki. On display there are also different uniforms, tickets and other thing. There is a lot of information about the history of trams in Helsinki and the museum is very interesting all in all. In another building there is a small shop with all kind of cool design things like notebooks and fun literature. In both buildings there is a café, in one of them you can have buffet lunch or drinks and the other one offers fantastic cake slices for the price of five Euros. There is also a theatre and various exhibitions. Even though the event only is held once a year, the place is still worth a visit at other times.

The old trams were quite fascinating!

Helsinki tagged is part of Helsinki Design Week. It contains 80 tags. I saw four.

On Sunday we visited the annual Design Market at Cable Factory. The Design Market is one of the most popular events during Helsinki Design Week and you can find the most famous Finnish designers there as well as smaller newcomers. The Design Market is a two day event and fashionistas all around Finland look forward to it all year long. I found it quite interesting and I found a lot of beautiful things. You can find clothes, jewelry, furniture and decorations. A lot of the things are handmade, and hence the prices are quite high. Since my pockets are not overflowing with money, I felt a bit sad, because I couldn’t really buy anything. But nevertheless the event is a very good way to get to know Finnish design.

On the opposite of design we have second hand. One thing I love about Helsinki is the open air flee markets that you can find every Sunday (at least in the summer). You can find some amazing things if you have the patience to go through old stuff. I bought two old keys that I'm going to use for a necklace. I'll show it to you when I have it ready. On that same Sunday there was also an event called Siivouspäivä, which mean cleaning day. It is held a couple of times a year and it is like the whole city is turned into this giant flee market, when people bring their stuff out on the street to sell it.

Delicious espresso at Signora Delizia.
Helsinki has a lot of nice cafés and restaurants. There are a lot of café and restaurant chains in Finland and they are all over the country. We have one major chain which is marked with a logo as a big, green S. There are several other ones but not as big ones. Well, I don’t really like chains. They are all the same and the prizes are usually quite high. And of course if you have the member card, there are always some discounts for specific products. I prefer the smaller places. They have usually more atmosphere, the food and drinks are mostly good and they have a personality. In Helsinki I found a few of these great places. At Katajanokka by the ship harbor there is a tiny café called Signora Delizia. It is a very tiny café with only a few tables. They serve the best espresso I have ever tasted in Finland, but then again it also is an authentic Italian café. They also have Italian delicacies so that you can cook Italian food at home. They have amazing pasta, olive oil, different pastes, artichoke and much more. I bought an olive paste and I’ve eaten it with white bread. It is simply divine. I’m just sad that the place is in Helsinki, otherwise I’d be there every day… During my four days in Helsinki I went to Signora Delizia like three or four times, that’s how good it is! The prizes are also quite cheap for being Helsinki, and especially Katajanokka. An espresso costs two Euros and for a piece of chocolate cake you pay three Euros. This is definitely a reason for me to consider moving to Helsinki, among other things of course.

Blinit was decorated in a very Russian style.
Another place my friend showed me was kind of a fast food place, but then again not. It was a Russian restaurant called Blinis. It is situated on the street Sturenkatu close to the amusement park Linnanmäki. When you step in, the feeling is very Russian. The walls are bright yellow, the counter and the window panes are decorated in a very Russian-style flower pattern. I quite liked it! The food was okay and the prices were not too bad. I had potato pelmenis, which can also be ordered with meat. I also had pancakes with caviar, smetana and onions. So it was kind of like blinis, but not quite. It was good considering the price, but it was no gourmet. Nevertheless I enjoyed it, and I would recommend the place, as long as you keep an open mind and aren't too picky.

There's something about words on a wall.


Maybe next time I will manage to also see the inside of the Uspenski cathedral.
 In addition to these places I also visited some other things, which I haven't had the chance to see before. I went to the old market hall in the harbour. (Sorry the website is only in Finnish and Swedish.) I was going to see the Uspenski Cathedral, but unfortunately it was already closed when I went there. Just walking around is very nice in Helsinki, as long as the weather is nice. There are a lot of beautiful buildings and you have a sea view from many places. On Thursday night we went to see the Finnish firework championships at Hietaniemen ranta, which was very nice even though it was cold. Bare in mind to bring enough warm clothes if you come to Finland in the fall, because the weather can change rapidly. After the fireworks we went to warm ourselves up at Henry's Pub in Kamppi. Other restaurants we visited was a sushi place at Sähkötalo and on the last day we had late lunch at Toscanini, which is a fantastic Italian restaurant on the street Bulevardi. Highly recommendable.

The shining white cathedral at the Senate Square.

A great new hostel close to the centre in Vallila.

A weekend, even a long one, is way to short to get to know Helsinki. It gives you a good peek though, and I know I started to fall in love with our beautiful capital. Finally!