(FINLAND 2009)


Greetings from the land
of the Finns!

The trip was a total success, the weather was either indescribably 
horrid or gloriously pleasant, local delicacies in the form of berries 
and mushrooms were consumed in mind blowing quantities, 
various alcoholic beverages sampled
and sweat produced every night
in the sauna at 90 C.

I'm particularly fond of a sausage called Kabanossi which you
can grill (you get the best results on the sauna stove or open
fire) or even eat raw (!) and my favourite tipple is a gin
and grapefruit soda concoction
Long Drink,
affectionally known as "Lonksu".

During this trip I must've eaten and drank my own bodyweight 

of the two! I'm surprised, as are many Finns, why this 
refreshing drink has never been producedor 
sold outside of Finland!

I started my trip by taking a train from Helsinki to Imatra
where my Gran Aune, Aunt Helena and cousin's daughter
Julia live. First I went to see my Gran and my dad
popped over as well. In the evening me, Julia and
Helena stopped to watch the Imatrankoski
Rapids Show (below) before
heading out to dinner.

The following day Julia drove me and Helena to her
son Vesa's (my cousin) summer cabin "Käpyranta"
Puumala which the close family gets to use as well.

I spend the next couple of days with my mum
and Helena while Julia had to go back to work.

Above from the top left: 

The turning into the yard with the "Käpyranta" sign, 
the main cottage, the little sleeping cabin ("aitta") 
I favour, if it's free that's where I crash out! 
The new sauna/cottage next to the lake,
the jetty, views of the lake.

Above from the top left: 

A wooden bear carved by my cousin Vesa's wife Ritva's 
sisters husband! An old bike we have for bombing about,
 the "food bell" which was rang to call workers for 
lunch and dinner in the ye olde days when
they were working away at the fields, my favourite
piece of metal in the world: the key to the sleeping
cabin, old horse "bits", the door of the sleeping cabin,
view from the path leading down to the new sauna,
a fire on the beach, Helena and mum
on the road and in the forest.

Mum and Helena are world champions when it comes 
to gathering the natural foods and goodies that
grow in the surrounding forests.

They also grow loads of veg themselves as well, both of
them are vegetarians so pretty much the only thing
they buy during the summer is wine!

Above from the top left: 

The ladies are sorting the rubbish out of the blueberries 
they've picked, a pile of wood they've gathered from 
the forest for firewood (the sauna stove and the 
stove in the main cabin are wood burners),
Helena finds something interesting (she has an
incredible nose for finding Chanterelles!), they
hang the onions out to dry, some cranberries.

Above from the top left: 

The veg plot that produces most
 of the food for mum and Helena (and the rest of 
the family) during the summer. Cranberries and 
blueberries the ladies picked (those are 5 litre buckets) 
and some Chanterelles in the ground, the onions,
 beetroot and carrots, the ladies cleaning the 
Chanterelles, red onions, raspberries grow 
along the road in huge bushes.

The most astonishing fact I read in a newspaper while over 

there is that 96% (!!!) of the berries (blueberries, cranberries, 
raspberries, cloudberries (which are mainly found in Lapland) 
and edible mushrooms found in the Finnish forests are 
left to rot as people only pick what they need for personal use.

The local counties have even brought in foreign workers
to pick the crops to sell abroad but still almost all
of it remains uncollected. During a summer mum
and Helena pick probably about 50 litres of both
blueberries and cranberries each which they
freeze and make into various
products including jams.

Above from the top left: 

Firewood piled up ready to use, bark of a Birch tree, 
leaves on the bottom of the lake, a type of "Jäkälä" 
(lichen) that Finnish Moose (elk) and reindeer 
eat, nice colours in the forest,
branch of a pine tree.

On Friday I drove to meet my good friend Sanna who had
invited me and her friends Sanna and Ulla to her family's
cottage on the island of Nyysaari on the lake

We started a new tradition: A Ladies Weekend, no men
or kids allowed! Julia joined us later, she has her
own cottage on the other side of the island.

Above from the top left: 

The beach at Pistohiekka (the road between Puumala and 
Mikkeli (where the Pistohiekka area is) has been voted 
the most beautiful in Finland many times, you literally 
drive on the lake!), provisions for the weekend
waiting to be loaded onto the boat. Judging by that smile

Sanna is obviously happy to get rid of her 4 kids and 
hubby for the weekend! Random view of the shore, 
Sanna The Captain in action, another view, 
approaching the cottage, the main cottage, 
inside the cottage, view from
the steps towards the lake.

Above from the top left: 

The covered grill area which is used day in day out 
for cooking during the summer, the view of the
second jetty (there are two), the sauna cottage where I
sleep whenever I'm there, the view from the sauna
cottage veranda, various views from the
island towards the lake.

Above from the top left: 

Sanna (left), Sanna, Julia's dad Paavo and Julia  having a 
laugh at Julia's cottage, the main cottage, the new grill 
area she has built during this summer, Julia pretending 
she's in Miami Vice (note the horizontal pony tail!)

The blueberry pie Sanna baked from berries my mum and 

Helena picked and gave me to take to the island, the grayfish 
and sparkling wine we had for lunch on Saturday (thanks 
to Sanna's boyfriend Riku!), Sanna and Ulla swimming,
Sanna emerging from the lake, Ulla (left) and the two
Sanna's, the massive vege (all fresh from mum's
and Helena's patch) wok dish we cooked
in candlelight Saturday night.

Above from the top left: 

A nice iron ornament in the window of the kitchen 
in the main cottage, an old carriage wheel
on the jetty, the door of the
"savusauna" (smoke sauna),
the raspberries and desert wine we had on Saturday,
Sanna pouring the sparkling wine about 11 o'clock Sat
morning (we decided to start as we meant to go on!),
Julia (left), Sanna, Ulla and Sanna saying Cheers!
before tucking into the crayfish, a pine tree and
a "tukkijätka", a local roach which
I haven't seen since I was a kid.

Me and Julia left the island on Sunday and returned to the
family cottage. She had to leave to go to work and I spent
the next few days with mum, Helena and Toni (my cousin
Vesa's son and Helena's grandson) and Edi the Rottweiler
who'd arrived while we were on the island.

They acted as my companions and chauffeurs for
the following 4 days. The chauffeuring was done by
Toni, as clever as Edi is unfortunately he lacks
the motor skills to operate a vehicle!

Above from the top left: 

Toni and Edi taking a walk, Edi performing his favourite 
task: ripping a piece to wood to shreads, Edi sitting 
at my feet looking towards the lake and contemplating 
life (or most probably thinking about a sausage), 
Toni and Edi in the evening, Edi and the fire.


My grandad Toivo's lime green Open Ascona A from 1972. 
It's stored under a tarpaulin at the family cottage and the 
dream is to get it up and running one day !

Me and Vesa used love having rides in it with Toivo,
back then (in the early 70's) the main gravel road
was like a rally track (in fact it used to be part of the
World Rally Championships) and there were high
bumpy bits where you'd get proper air under the
car if you went fast enough!

One day me and Toni decided to escape the berry and mushroom 
picking monster machines (mum and Helena!) and drove 
to Savonlinna about 80 km away for a bit ot shopping 
and general roaming around. We (my family) lived 
there in the late 60's for a bit and I've been back 
countless times, it's a nice lakeside town.

Above from the top left: 

The Olavinlinna castle (built 1475), one of the most 
popular tourist destinations in Finland.
The largest Opera Festival in the country is
held there every summer.

The bell which was used to call for the boat (before a bridge 

was built) to get from the mainland to the castle on the island.
 And old "kirkkovene" (church boat) which were used 
to ferry up to 20 people to church across
lakes before proper roads were build.

An old fence, and old cottage now used as an restaurant, a view 

towards lake Saimaa from one of the towns boulevards, 
a valkokylki boat which were used for commuting 
between the lakeland cities but are now mainly 
employed as tourist sightseeing vessels. An old cinema
neon sign, a boulevard next to the lake.

Above from the top left: 

The Black Ram (page 18) by Anton Ravander-Rauas (1964) 
outside the castle, a statue of Erik Axelsson Tott
Swedish statesman and regent, the founder of 
Olavinlinna castle (see Toni, I did remember!), 
old wood covering a window, an old sign made out of 
wood and stones at the mouth of the harbour.

Back at the cottage me, mum and Helena went to look
at some nearby stones (below) in the forest left over
from the ice age. They were massive, some
of them size of a house!

Then it was time for me to carry on with my trip and Toni
drove me back to Helsinki. The roads (below) were hectic as
usual! NOT! Finland is a driver's (and especially
motorcyclists) dream, no traffic anywhere! Well,
you might get 3 cars at traffic lights in
the rush hour in Helsinki!

At Helsinki I stayed at my good friend Satu's flat about
15 min tram ride from the centre of town in Alppila.
The first couple of days while she was still at
work I had a wander around town.

Above from the top left:

 The Finnish National Gallery Ateneum, Central Railway Stadium
the old Bus Station is now used for art exhibitions, Kolme Seppää 
 (The Three Smiths) statue at the corner of  Mannerheimintie and Aleksanterinkatu, some statues above a shop 
doorway on Aleksanterinkatu, The Tuomiokirkko 
Helsinki Cathedral at  Senaatintori Square, 
statues and lamps on Senaatintori.

Above from the top left: 

A building to the east of Senaatintori
Sederholm House (The oldest stone building 

in downtown Helsinki from 1757, now a museum), 
part of wall at the south end of Senaatintori, 
The Brummer House (the official residence of the 
Mayor of Helsinki) from 1823, a courtyard on Helenankatu, 
a lamp outside the Swedish Embassy on Pohjoisesplanadi.

 Uspenski Cathedral (Orthodox)  on Kanavakatu, bottom 
half of the Havis Amanda statue from 1906 at the corner 
of Eteläesplanadi and Unioninkatu, part of the restaurant
Kappeli (Chapel) at the east corner of Esplanadi
Park, a horse & carriage waiting for
business in Esplanadi Park.

Above from the top left: 

Eteläesplanadi park, The Parliament House, Police on 
horseback, a fountain outside the Pikkuparlamentti 
(Little Parliament, an additional building of the 
200-member unicameral Parliament), art outside
 the Kiasma (the museum of contemporary art), 
Äidinrakkaus (Mother's Love) statue by Emil 
Cedercreutz from 1928 at the corner of
Kaisaniemenkatu ja Unioninkatu in Kluuvi.

Above from the top left: 

Statue on the wall of the Vanha Ylioppilastalo (Old High School 
Student House known as "Vanha") on the corner of 
Mannerheimintie and Aleksanterinkatu, a Helsinki tram, 
gargoyles on Aleksanterinkatu, The Fazer Rooster 
on Kluuvikatu from 1991, The Helsinki Cathedral.

Presidential Palace currently occupied by Finland's
first female premier
Tarja Halonen who is serving her
second term in office. A lamp outside the Presidential
Palace, a window of the Sederholm House,
Muikku (whitefish) stand at Kauppatori
(Market Square), The Havis Amanda Statue.

Above from the top left: 

Statue of Johan Ludvig Runeberg,
the national poet of Finland in Esplanadi park, the
clocktower of the Central Railway Station is currently
covered with a huge "sheet" for maintenance work
but I heard the locals on the tram saying they
still automatically look up to see the time!

The Parliament House, a pub called
St Urho's on Museokatu.
It's named after
Urho Kekkonen (affectionally known as
Urkki, he's first name means "brave"), the most popular
President in Finland's history: he held the office between
1956-1982. In the pub sign he is seen drinking out of
a wooden sauna bucket. The
Gone Heroes statue by
Eila Hiltunen(1982) outside the Pikkuparlamentti
(Little Parliament) on Mannerheimintie.

On my second Saturday me and Satu headed out to Sibeliuspuisto 
park in Töölö, the northwest corner of central Helsinki. 
The park is one of the most visited in Finland as it has the
 Sibelius Monument, (below) sculpted in 1967 by 
Eila Hiltunen to honour national
composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957).

Adjacent to the statue there is a face of Sibelius, cast in
stainless steel in 1910. Just follow the exhaust
fumes of the various buses ferrying tourists
from all over the globe and you'll find
the statue no problem!

From the Sibelius Park we walked over to the
Temppeliaukio Church in Lutherinaktu. The church,
which was excavated out of natural stone and looks like
a UFO from the air, was designed by architects and
brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen,
and opened in 1969.

The copper walls inside cast the most beautiful
colours from certain angles (below). The
ceiling is made out of copper wire,
kilometers of it!

From the church we carried on to the The National Museum
of Finland on Mannerheimintie. Below various
photos from the exhibits.

We also planned to visit the City Museum and Suomenlinna
fortress but simply ran out of time! In the evening
we met my friends Tero and Riitta for dinner at the

Kolme Kruunua (The Three Crowns) restaurant
on Liisankatu in Kruununhaka.

Various food pics, above from the top left: family lunch
in Mannilaniemi in Puumala, from the left
Julia, Toni, Helena, my mum.

Dinner with Tero (left), Riitta and Satu (front right). 

My steak at Kolme Kruunua, my "Rikkaat Ritarit" 
(slightly toasted "pulla" (bun) with whipped cream 
and strawberry jam (YUM!) for afters, my mango 
sorbet at Mexican Restaurant Santa Fe in 
Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki.

My friend Pirjo's massive mud cake at Santa Fe. My favourite
camp fire combination: Kabanossi sausage and
Long Drink. Tero's starter: snails (yuk!)

A few other bits:

The funniest thing I saw for sale: Finnish air!
I'm not kidding, for a fiver you can get 

yourself a tuna tin of....air.

Available at Anne's Shop opposite the 

Temppeliaukion Kirkko, Fredrikinkatu 68.
Below "The Sukat" by S. Sivonen. Showings at
the Porvoonkatu Gallery by appointment only.

Things I bought for myself: Taika (Magic)
mug (below) from famous Finnish
design house Iittala.

A Moomin keyring and two mobile phone decorations
(below) which I in fact attached to my bag (as
I already have two different ones
hanging from my phone!)

My top Helsinki tips: if you want to buy any Aarikka products head 
out to the Itäkeskus shopping centre (metro Itäkeskus)and 
visit the Stockmann department store "Home and gifts"section. 
The "flagship" Aarikka shop on Pohjoisesplanadi is crap!

The main Stockmann store in central Helsinki on 

Mannerheimintie doesn't stock any Aarikka, 
nor does the other huge department store 
Sokos also on Mannerheimintie.

If you want to buy any Moomin mugs or other dinnerware 

and Iittala it's worth waiting till you get to the Helsinki 
airport. I noticed the prices across the board were 
about 3-4 Euro cheaper there. For instance the Taika 
mug I bought in town was 16, at the airport 13. 

Same with Finnish Fazer chocolates (which are 
worth buying if you love chocs!), I paid 2.75 for 
my favourite in a normal supermarket and 
it was 1.95 at the airport!

For the best "korvapuusti", a local bun made with

 cinnamon, head to the cafe in the basement of the 
National Museum. They open at 11 am (except 
Mondays when the whole Museum is closed), 
you can go to the cafe without paying the entrance 
fee to the Museum. It's worth popping in for that 
mid-morning caffeine fix as the buns 
are fresh from the oven.

PS: Special thanks JULIA, MUM, HELENA,
SANNA, TONI, SATU for being my friends and
confidants and putting up with me!
I had a really great time!

Also thank for Vesa, Tero & Riitta and Pirjo for taking the
time out to come and meet me! Thanks to Juha for trying -
we'll meet one day! Take care of that toe now! Hi to Sanna and
Ulla, it was really nice to meet you - same again next year!