Uisge is back!

Our favorite whiskey event, Uisge, is coming again next February.

IMG_8969.jpgIn case you’re out and about in Helsinki around mid-February (9-10 to be exact), tickets are on pre-sale at seamchip.fi/uisge.

You won’t regret paying the event a visit. The way we see it, this would also make fine Xmas present for a whiskey-loving loved one. Stay tuned, we’ll post more when we learn more. In the meantime, why not check out what we wrote on our previous visits.

Make sure to check out fellow our whiskey lover’s blog on the subject as well: Viskisieppo

Crayfishing

Crawfish, crayfish, crawdad, Astacus Astacus — whatever you call it, rapu is a true Northern delicacy. Crayfish and crayfishing are steeped in tradition — while fishing, while cooking, and most definitely, while eating.

Crayfishing… wait, what?

We’ll get to the fishing bit later, but let’s talk about the feast itself. Typically, at least six crayfish per person starts the evening, followed by e.g. steaks, salmon or something more traditional, like Jansson’s Temptation. If you’ve got more than 10 crayfish per person to go around, they become the main course.

IMG_5759.JPGCrayfish are consumed slowly, and always in company. The cooked crayfish are allowed to cool in their broth for a few hours or more, and are served cold. We usually use only salt, a bit of sugar, and dill to season the broth (but you can also add porter in the mix.) This way, the delicate taste is preserved.

Each crayfish is like a miniature lobster, and is treated with respect. First the savoury broth is sucked out of the shell, the tail and claws are opened with special crayfish knives to get to the tasty meat, which typically is piled on buttered toaster bread,  sprinkled with freshly cut dill — and savoured.

The first tail is toasted with Vodka, or Aquavit (or whatever rocks your boat) and traditional songs are sung to further the merry proceedings. After the first tail, just keep on opening, sucking out the broth, assembling more claws & tails on your toaster bread…. and enjoying the company, the songs, and of course the booze, beer & wine.

 

Crayfishing 

The season starts yearly at noon on 21 July, and crayfishing is subject to licensing. Crayfish used to have a minimum length requirement of 10 cm (4 in) nose-to-tail, but not anymore. However, anything below 8 cm (3.5 in) should really just be released back immediately. With luck, you’ll meet them a few years later.

To catch crayfish, most use passive traps, although some prefer active crayfishing. As for the traps, there are quite a few models, but the two seen here are the most popular models.

As bait, most use either fish from the same lake or river or slices of beef or pork.An insider tip is to use bratwurst or frankfurters (like we do). A split crayfish will work extremely well, but it’s about as expensive as it gets. In the olden days, apparently village cats started to disappear towards the end of July…

IMG_2607The traps are set at a depth of around 2-3 meters and left overnight.

The next day, traps are checked, small crayfish are immediately released back, the bait is replaced and the traps are again lowered to the bottom of your lake, the riverbed or the seaside.

That’s about all you need. If and when you find a good spot, just put the traps back for the next night in the exact same location. Crayfish are competitive, so if you had the luck of setting your trap near a crayfish’s hiding place, and got a good catch, a new crayfish will take over that spot almost immediately. Crayfish favor a rocky bottom with plenty of places to hide in.

 

Sidenote: Finland and crayfish — success to bust to minor success
IMG_2602-EFFECTS
100 years ago Finland was Europe’s biggest exporter of crayfish, with a yearly catch over 10 times that of today. Finnish crayfish was widely recognized as a true treat. That, of course, was before the crayfish plague wiped out most of the crustacean population. And the introduction of the nearly as delicious American Signal Crayfish didn’t help either (as they carried the disease, quite possibly being the original vector). Stern measures have been taken to limit the spread of the disease, and the native crayfish population has been rising slowly the last decades. The best way to stop the spread is to never move your traps from one body of water to another. And if you absolutely must do it, you need to kill the plague spores — which happens by keeping the traps for 12 hours in a fully heated sauna (or by letting winter take care of business).

Once a Year – Trip to Tallinn

When I started to plan writing about my weekend trip to Tallinn I remember right away that Marjo has written about Tallinn as well. Of course I checked Marjo’s writing – it was written about a year ago. That is actually a good timespan – I would recommend yearly trip to Tallinn for every Helsinkian.  You see, Tallinn is a charming little town which is not far away and it is very reachable (2-3 hours by ferry) – so a perfect place to spend mini-holiday.

This time I was traveling with my family. We took ferry Friday afternoon and stayed two nights in Airbnb-flat in Tallinn old town next to old stone wall. There was a window in the roof of the apartment (we had top floor) with a church tower view. Very lovely! First evening we wondered around narrow streets of Tallinn old town and had a dinner in lovely Italian La Bottega. I recommend that place very much – customers were both locals and tourists and food was high quality and delicious. This place is also perfect for “more demanding” taste.

Saturday we wondered around Kalamaja district. This “hipster” area is very close to old town (less than 2 kilometers walk) but it has very different feeling – in Kalamaha you find old industrial buildings, lovely wooden houses (some a bit run down), great little shops as well as wonderful murals.

We had lunch in F-Hoone (situated in Kalamaja district) which is great place when you are not in hurry and don’t want white tablecloth. Food is tasty and fun and the whole place is very cool and relaxed. You should make a table reservation even for lunch to ensure you have a table – place is very popular among locals. I would guess the building is old factory – brick building has high ceilings and big lovely windows.

After Kalamaja and F-Hoone we headed to Tallinn Maritime Museum. Strong recommendation for that – you can visit old submarine and many other things. Unfortunately for some reason(???) I didn’t take any pictures there. Sorry for that. In the evening we had dinner in Vegan Restoran V. Even we are not vegans, we loved the place (net page doesn’t look promising but place is great!) . It is tiny restaurant in old town and offers many delicious options for dinner. Place has “Old town feeling and candels”. It is also very cheap.

Once again we had a great time in Tallinn – I believe that everyone deserves mini holiday now and then. For Helsinkians Tallinn is easy place to visit and you can find always new places to see. Or just enjoy great food and beautiful buildings. If you are tourist and in Helsinki for more than 3 days, you should consider spending one day in Tallinn. It works very well for day trips as well as for overnight. Just google best ferry times for you.

Anna

ps. On Sunday we had breakfast in MaiasMokk – recommend to visit there as well!

 

Night of the Arts 2017 / Taiteiden Yö 2017 in Helsinki

Just a quick note reminding about Taiteiden Yö (Night of the Arts) that’s celebrated today allover Helsinki. It’s an annual art festival as a part of Helsinki Festival, a series of different kinds of events during August.

This year I haven’t had the time to actually plan on what to do and where to go but I was planning on seeing at least these ones:

  1. The Secret Garden on Senate Square

Last year this garden was almost next door from my home and the atmosphere was very cosy and nice. They had workshops for kids, couple of bands and artists playing on the garden and some snacks available. This year the Secret Garden will be built to Senate Square so hopefully they will manage to make it as magical as last year.

secret_garden

The Secret Garden in Helsinki in 2016

2. One Pint Pub: Bellydance, Blues and Jazz

Not really interested in bellydance but this is our local with an amazing selection of craft beers all over the world. Support your local!

4. Mattolaituri night of arts

If the weather is good (as it should be), I think I’ll take my city bike (the yellow Alepa-bikes I wrote about in May) and make a short tour around the city. One of the pit stops will most likely be Mattolaituri in Kaivopuisto park to listen to some DJ’s and see their light installations. I can imagine it to be pretty cool in a dark August night.

-Marjo

 

 

Islands on Helsinki archipelago: Isosaari

Suomenlinna Fortress must be one of the most well known islands on Helsinki archipelago. However, during the past couple of years some of the islands that used to belong to Finnish Army have been opened to the public. Anna wrote about Lonna last year and this summer we got yet another interesting island to visit when Isosaari island was opened.

Isosaari island situated about 4 kilometers from Helsinki center and it takes about 30-40 minutes to get there on a boat. The boat costs 15 € and it leaves from Helsinki Market Square (or Kauppatori) next to Suomenlinna fortress ferries. During the summer (until 14 August) you can get there from Tuesday to Sunday and until 3 September during the weekend on Saturdays and Sundays. Mondays are reserved for golfers so if you are into the game I recommend trying out the peculiar 9 hole golf course that’s built on Isosaari.

Like I mentioned, Isosaari (or Mjölö in Swedish) used to be a military island and some of my friends have actually served their military service (or at least some part of it) on the island. There are still marks of that era such as an old shooting range and barracks. The old Officer’s Club has been re-opened serving light snacks, hamburgers, fish soup and beverages for visitors.

isosaari_restaurant

On a warm day you can also bring your own picnic basket or spend the day on the beach swimming. or even spend the night in your own tent on the camping area. There’s also a couple of saunas you can rent out for a larger group or just enjoy the public sauna that’s warm from 10 AM to 6 PM every day (during summer season). Just be prepared that it’s a public sauna for both men and women.

However, my favorite thing about this island is the beautiful nature and tranquility on the island. Even though it’s situated quite close to Helsinki mainland, the island is very quiet and peaceful. I think Isosaari is worth the day-trip: a bit of nature during the day and then heading back to the center for a nice glass of wine at Kauppatori at Allas Sea Pool for example.

-Marjo

Picking wild berries and mushrooms around Helsinki area

One of my favourite things in August is probably harvest season. Lots of fresh veggies in stores, local fruits (mostly apples) and of course wild berries and mushrooms. My parents just got back from Lapland and brought back a buckets and buckets full of cloudberries (called hilla or lakka in Finnish) which they had picked from swamp – and I absolutely love them!

Since we have this cool thing called everyman’s rights in Finland,  you’ve got the right to enjoy outdoor pursuits regardless of who owns or occupies an area anywhere in Finland. This means that you are allowed to gather wild berries and mushrooms from the forest free of charge and you do not need the landowner’s permission for it. However, there are still rules that apply so I’d recommend reading them before going to the forest for the first time. For example Environment.fi has them written down quite simply on their website.

Cloudberries are mostly found from Lapland (even though I have heard someone found them from Southern Finland, too), but blueberries grow everywhere in Finland and you can also find wild raspberries and sea buckthorns around Helsinki area. A bit later in the autumn (around September) you can pick lingonberries as well.

Berries are quite easy to recognize but with mushrooms I’d be more careful and only gather the ones you know for sure. I usually stick with chanterelles, funnel chanterelles, ceps and different sorts of boletes. Best way to get to know them is to go to the forest with someone who already knows how to recognize them.

Usually the season starts already in July when blueberries are ripe. However, this year has been a bit exceptional since the summer has been somewhat cold. Most of my friends usually go picking berries and mushrooms to their summer house but one option is to take the bus to Nuuksio national park (Eero wrote about camping in Nuuksio two summers ago, too). It will take a bit of time to get there on public transfer but it’s still doable. I would also recommend trying out Porkkalanniemi in Kirkkonummi to which I would recommend renting a car) or even taking a walk to Helsinki central park.

 

Day trip from Helsinki to Porvoo – strong recommendation

Strong recommendation for day trip from Helsinki to Porvoo, a second oldest city in Finland. Porvoo has beautiful old town with narrow streets and picturesque wooden houses. Just perfect place to stroll around and enjoy feeling of old times. Many small shops around offering handicrafts, antiquities, cloths and toys. Also many pretty and tasty coffees shops, restaurants and bars. There is also a church to visit – old cathedral build in 15th century. Town is so lovely, I got marred there years ago and  I always have this really special feeling when visiting!

A week ago I once again visited this lovely town. This time we had lunch in Fryysarinranta – lovely restaurant by the river. We enjoyed fresh summer buffet with different kind of fish and salads. I strongly recommend to taste their fish soup. In Fryysarinranta you can sit on a terrace by the river or inside in old wooden house (middle picture above from there). I also visited Cafe Paahtimo – I had glass of wine in their lovely terrace by the river.

I also recommend you to try Restaurant Meat District – newish restaurant in old lovely building in center of old town. There are many lovely places around and easily found when walking around old town.

 

How to get to Porvoo? Well, Porvoo is situated 50 kilometers from Helsinki and it is easily reachable by car, bus or even bike or boat. Buses to Porvoo leave in Helsinki from Kamppi terminal and it takes around one hour. Check bus schedule here. If you want to bike, it is good to know that there is biking path for most of the way. However, maybe 15-20 kilometers there is no special biking path but that part is easy and safe to bike as well. Finest way to travel is to take boat Runeberg. Boat takes 3.5 hours and you can enjoy Finnish archipelago while traveling. Finest day you’ll have if you take boat in the morning, then stay in Porvoo as long as you please and in the evening take bus back to Helsinki. Porvoo is a small town so no need to stay over for longer time – day is enough.

Anna

ps. There is maybe cutest toy store ever in Porvoo. It is called Riimikko (sign in below picture). Very strong recommendation! You can find Muumi postcards there as well as shown picture below.

Best Music Festival in Helsinki: Flow

Flow 2016

Flow is definitely coming – less than a month and the best music festival of Finland (even Nordics?) is here! Flow is music festival here in Helsinki and it is ALWAYS a weekend when we’ll send our kids to their grandparents and spend our weekend listening music and enjoying great Flow-feeling with our dear friends at festival. Since we are living in downtown Helsinki we’ll invite friends over for whole weekend to sleep, enjoy breakfast and preparty listening best artists from flow-app before entering to festival.

Flow is in Suvilahti, Helsinki. Place is easier to understand when I tell it is in Kallio-area near to metro station Sörnäinen. Kallio is 2-3 kilometers from Stockmann/Railway station so really in downtown. Easiest way to get there is to bike (there is a “bike lot” in front of festival with thousands of bikes, love it!) but if you don’t have one just walk or take metro or tram 7A/7B/6 (step out from tram also in Sörnäinen).

Festival area itself is a pearl – location is just great and old pretty buildings and gas holder creates a “post industrial feeling” which ensures atmosphere is just perfect. Festival is pretty trendy place – you can see beautiful people wearing interesting cloths (no heels however since best to walk around with flats) and you can taste different delicious foods. There is always also art, this year video installationsOf course the main point is music – there are several stages with different artists all the time. This year I am waiting most for Lana Del Rey, London Grammar and always so great Alma (a Finn you should listen a bit right away if you don’t know her!).  Age limit to festival is 18, I would say most people are 30-45 years.

Days for festival this year are 11-13.8.2017. If you plan to enjoy the festival, I suggest you buy your tickets now since normally at least some days are sold out well in advance (however not yet when I am writing this). More information of festival you find here. There are lots of information also in English. Also I guess – since me and my friends Anne and Marjo love Flow festival so much, we’ll write more about this before the festival.

Pictures here are from last year.

Anna

Best park for picnic in Helsinki, part I

My favorite park for picnic in Helsinki is Park Sinebrychoff (also known as Park Koff, in Finnish Koffin puisto). Maybe it is my favorite since I live near by – however for sure it is very popular park for picnic or just sitting and enjoying summer among locals. Location is great, near to see in the end of Bulevardi, so easy to walk there but also tram 6 passes by. Also city bike station is very close by. Exact address for park is Sinebrychoffinkatu. Park is quite big so you can always find a spot for you and your picnic blanket. Need something to bite? Then head for big grocery store S-Market near by (I wrote about this grocery store before). You can also find restaurant South Park in the park if you aren’t up for picnic and want to have a proper table instead.

For art lovers I recommend Sinebrychoff Art Museum which is in the park (the address is Bulevardi 40) and seen above picture (yellowish old building).

There is great playground for kids nearby – just walk the hill up and continue maybe 300 meters and you see the playground (ask somebody if you don’t find it).

And then – sometimes it starts to rain just when you are enjoying your day at park. That happened me last Thursday. When I realized rain is definitely coming I collected all my stuff and run to Hietalahti Markethall (Hietalahden halli). There is this great historical feeling of markethalls – you can feel there have been selling and buying for many, many years before you have been born. You can buy lunch, best milkshakes in town as well as meet, vegetables and souvenirs. Markethall is not open in the evenings (except Saturday and Sunday, opening hours below) – it is more place for lunch and ice-cream. So great place I recommend you to pay a visit there even not raining! In front of Hietalahti Markethall there is great flea market to wonder around – recommend that as well!

Anna

opening hours Hietalahden Halli aukioloajat

Midsummer in Helsinki – what to do?

Today 23.6.2017 we have midsummer celebration here in Finland. This midsummer celebration is called Juhannus in Finnish. It will last all weekend and target is to enjoy summer and sun shining through the night. Since I am supposed to tell you what locals do during Juhannus I do it right in the beginning: almost all locals (I would say more than 70 % of Helsinkians but this is just wild guess) will travel out of Helsinki. We Finns believe right place to celebrate Juhannus is in summer cottage. Helsinki will be very empty and very different from normal during this weekend. So, this time I will tell you what tourists can do during Juhannus if in Helsinki. These things are of course also things what those few Helsinkians might do if in Helsinki during Juhannus weekend. And then – I am also traveling outside Helsinki this afternoon but I did some running first in the morning. There in Kauppatori (the big market square just opposite the President Castle) I saw former Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen. So after all, some very essential Helsinkians are spending their Juhannus here!

Right picture above you see something very essential of Juhannus – kokko in Finnish, bonfire in English. It is burned in the Friday evening. This kokko I took picture is situated next to Cafe Ursula. The address is Ehrenströmintie 3, that is by the see in Southern Helsinki, maybe 2 kilometers south from Railways station. Very nice walk from downtown – many parks. Kokko will be burned 9.30 pm and Cafe Ursula will be open during Juhannus weekend – so it is a great place to find some Juhannus feeling! Another great place to sense traditional Juhannus feeling is Seurasaari. There will be bonfire and old Finnish celebration traditions today from 4 pm until late night. Tickets there are 23 euros (kids under 12 years are free). Seurasaari doesn’t really have an address since it is small island. Google so you’ll see where it is. It is like 5 kilometers from downtown Helsinki. You can take bus number 24 to travel there.

Probably most “Helsinkian” thing to do in Helsinki today and tomorrow is to go to this dancing event – Juhannustanssit in Finnish. It is not disco dancing but more like fox, twist, Finnish disco and some new Finnish hits as well. My guess is (never been but sounds fun!) that there are lots of 25-50 years old downtown people who go there every year. This happening is organized by We love Helsinki -collective and it is situated in Kallio district at Kuudes linja and Kaiku (address Kaikukatu 4). Juhannustanssit is happening both Friday and Saturday from 9 pm until 4 am. Even you absolutely can’t dance I still recommend it!

And what about Saturday and Sunday? Most shops will be closed and town continues to be very empty. My recommendation is to visit Allas Sea Pool (picture below but very bad quality – in reality it looks a lot better!) which is combined restaurant and outside pool. You find there also saunas and it will be open during Juhannus. Great views of Helsinki when swimming in (warm) pool – I highly recommend that!

Anna