Written by albionvicar on 07 Jan, 2008
Its 06.00am on the Sunday before Christmas and the Easyjet queue is heading back out towards the door of the terminal, for me the good news is I am not on Easyjet, the bad news is that this means climbing over the Easyjet passengers as…Read More
Its 06.00am on the Sunday before Christmas and the Easyjet queue is heading back out towards the door of the terminal, for me the good news is I am not on Easyjet, the bad news is that this means climbing over the Easyjet passengers as not one of them will make enough space for passengers of any other airline to get through. Luton Airport needs some redesign here.Meanwhile I am heading to Lapland, Enontekio (Pronounce: Eon Tok Yo!) to be precise, courtesy of Canterbury Travel on a day trip to Lapland for the Santa Spectacular daytrip.I took a night last night at the Hilton Express, a short five minute walk away, having stopped in St Albans on route for a pint or two, arriving just in time to miss the restaurant, a problem helpfully resolved by front desk who provided a take away menu. Thus I watched Match of the Day in my room with a take away curry and a bottle of Becks. No problem here.Despite the embarrassment of being the only solo traveller on the flight, it was fun, and I soon got into the spirit of things. The three hour flight was punctuated by a good cooked breakfast, and a film (suitably The Polar Express.) On arrival we were escorted to a changing area and provided with suitable clothing for the -9C climate, an over suit, boots, balaclava, hat. It was all there.We were then taken half way to the town of Hetta by bus, and onwards by skidoo and sleigh to a local hotel, where a full buffet lunch was served throughout the day. (Average, but the vegetarian soups were filling and good.) A list of activities was provided and then I was on my own to explore.Activities included a Horse Sleigh Ride, Reindeer Rides, Husky Rides, Kick Sledging, an Ice Castle to explore, and for the adults Snowmobiles on the lake. Being a non driver I was surprised I was allowed to use them, but the guide explained, Right hand go, Left hand stop, Red Button engine. She then thumped the Crash Helmet onto my head with one distinct slap, and pointed me to my machine. It was really a motor bike on ice, and I loved it, totally exhilarating.With a couple of hours left in the Village I was taken aside by an Elf, (Yes Really) and explained in no uncertain terms Santa was waiting for me, and I was going whether I liked it or not. (Surreal: A menacing elf!!). It was the best bit of the day, another skidoo ride into the wilderness for 5 minutes and then left in the middle of nowhere beside a fire pit and another couple of elves. I was slowly losing contact with reality.Eventually I met the man himself, and we had a long chat about climate change, and its effects on the local area. We are 20 degrees warmer than usual, and the last snow was 10 days ago. It is the warmest winter since 72, but this makes his job easier as the kids struggle with the climate at -30, even fully protected in their suits, and usually arrive in some distress. I have to say Santa had a suspiciously English accent.Finally Souvenir time. What could be better than a full sized Reindeer pelt? A bargain at 60 Euros, a perfect Christmas present. Thus after around four and a half hours in the village it was time to head back to the airport. I was met there but one of the directors of Canterbury Travel, a charming man with a long following white beard, and allowed onto the plane early to meet and chat with some of the crew. Clearly one of the advantages of possession of a dead Reindeer, and managed to lock it away before the kids got onboard.Another three hour flight back into Luton, (Film:Elf, running on a theme here!) A comfortable flight with a Belgian crew on a Thomas Cook A320. Fair legroom. The only complaint I heard all day was lack of Veggie food on the flight.We missed the Northern Lights due to cloud cover, which was a shame, but otherwise a truly lovely day, which will stay in the memory for Christmases to come. Ros and I will be looking to do a four day adventure safari in the future.A night back at Luton and straight back to the office for my final shift before Christmas, with Rudolf still in tow. (John whats in the bag? Rudolf? Oh my God!!!!!!!!)Close
Written by Red Mezz on 30 Oct, 2007
My summer in the lake riddled lands of Sweden, Finland and nearby Eastern Europe brought me through five different cities each of which left an inordinately distinct and lasting impression. I've spent enough time in the countries of Europe to know well to expect such…Read More
My summer in the lake riddled lands of Sweden, Finland and nearby Eastern Europe brought me through five different cities each of which left an inordinately distinct and lasting impression. I've spent enough time in the countries of Europe to know well to expect such differences country to country, but was almost taken aback and the vastly differing nature of the three Finish cities that I visited. In everything from look to vibe of the places, each was extremely distinct, and had something different to offer. I did not spend enough time in the port city of Turku on the south west coast of Finland to form a serious and lasting impression of the place. I am sure - as is usually the case with all cities - that beneath its somewhat hard and dark exterior lay all sorts of hidden adventures and things to do. If rooting out such adventures is something you enjoy - then Turku might be just the place for you. As for me, it was my first stop in the country of Finland - and left me suddenly feeling that - even being still in Europe - I was a long way from Edinburgh. We took a day long cruise on the Viking Line out of Stockholm to arrive in Turku - leaving behind a golden, gleaming city with a very lively and European feel to land in what first struck me as seeming very Russian. It is totally possible that the cold and dreary summer day we arrived on had more effect on this city than it should have - but for the briefest of moments I felt as if I was in a very foreign place. We walked with our bags through a town made of concrete, virtually with out pedestrians towards the bus which would take us north to Tampere. For the first cold and quiet 10 minutes I wanted nothing more than to get out of this city and on to what I had been told was beautiful countryside and nice towns. We were exhausted after being up all night with the Swedish sun not quite setting through our window and then a long day aboard a ship filled with drinking Swedes and wanted nothing more than a hot meal and to set our bags down. The bus would not be along for a couple of hours, and so in this strange place we looked for a bit of repose. And that was when we found the unlikely and wonderful spot that turned my opinion of the appearance of Turku. A little Irish bar/restaurant sat at a cross roads - looking a little out of place but very welcoming. Inside it was warm and very friendly. (I think it was called The Shamrock.) The waitresses spoke good English and the menu was not only good, but authentic. We each had a pot of Irish stew and listened to local Fin's try to sing Irish folk music live. A really nice farewell. Close
Written by Red Mezz on 22 Oct, 2007
Though our summer trip through Scandinavia pit stopped through a lot of cities from Stockholm to Tallinn - our main stay was in the smallish city of Tampere in Finland. Though considered one of the biggest and most culturally important cities in Finland and even…Read More
Though our summer trip through Scandinavia pit stopped through a lot of cities from Stockholm to Tallinn - our main stay was in the smallish city of Tampere in Finland. Though considered one of the biggest and most culturally important cities in Finland and even surrounding Scandinavia (after Helsinki, of course) Tampere felt extremely small, pleasant, and relaxing to me - and was the perfect place to use as a hub to visiting other parts of Finland and Estonia. A beautiful little city - with lots of great architecture and some wonderful shopping districts, it's very easy to spend several days just wandering the streets and getting a feel for life in Finland. You are more likely to stumble across people who speak a bit of English in the city than you are in the smaller towns surrounding it - but as with everything in Finland it's good to keep your fraise book handy. Especially when food shopping - had we not had a local friend there to help us, we would certainly come home with a lot of strange food! All this, though makes for great travel stories - and I highly recommend you try some local 'makara' (sausage) while you are there. The summers in Finland can be surprisingly warm, though unfortunately we seemed to have chosen the one summer every 6 or 7 years that is a constant downpour. Still - when the sun did poke out and we were free to wander pleasantly down the back streets and parks of Tampere, it was beautiful weather, and we spent a large amount of time taking photos of local monuments and statues (of which there are many) and enjoying ice cream bought from a local vendor. Tampere is well known for its cultural life and many art and film festivals. Through out the spring and summer the city is often visited by both film and music festivals (check out the cities website for specific festival dates.) The location of Tampere is also very good for the traveller - as it is in the southern part of Finland only about an hour north of Turku (a large port for those arriving by boat from other countries) or about two hours north of Helsinki. I highly recommend the bus system in Finland if you need to travel around. The road systems are very good, and very straightforward if you choose to drive (much more like American roads than other European countries I've been to.) but the buses are very efficient and comfortable - if a bit more pricey than you find in other countries. Be sure to bring your student card if you are a student. There are many large discounts available for those who are still studying. Big enough to have plenty of food, nightlife, culture, and shopping - and still small enough to feel pleasant and inviting - Tampere is a pleasure to visit, and a great place to stop in on your way through Finland.Close
Written by Red Mezz on 23 May, 2007
Of the many outdoor pursuits that Finland is so well suited to in the summer time, few can be as relaxing and rewarding as fishing its many pristine lakes and rivers. The pastime of fishing in Finland is one that has great historical tradition with…Read More
Of the many outdoor pursuits that Finland is so well suited to in the summer time, few can be as relaxing and rewarding as fishing its many pristine lakes and rivers. The pastime of fishing in Finland is one that has great historical tradition with the locals and, in general, there is a very gentlemanly approach to the understood laws of sportsmanship in this pursuit. There are no shortages of places to fish in this country filled with lakes and ponds and rivers of all kinds, and there are many benefits to fishing the area while in your visit. As with all sporting in a new country, do check websites or local outdoor suppliers for the most recent regulations and requirements to fish legally. But such things have been fairly straightforward and, once sorted, open up an entire new realm of experience for any journey to Finland. In my time in the central countryside, we did our fishing at a friend's cabin outside of Juva. We were lucky enough to be staying at a cabin whose owner owned the adjoining lake, and lent us the appropriate gear (and coincidentally was also the local sheriff, so all regulations were easily accessible to us.) If you are not quite so fortunate during your time in Finland, I can lay out a few of the basics. One of the best things about fishing here is that, like Scotland, Finland has an 'everyman's rights' view about the great outdoors. This may be a difficult concept for American's to grasp (I still sometimes feel uncertain hiking across a strange farmer's land) but it is extremely useful in this case. It means that there is no law regarding trespassing. As long as you stay out of the direct vicinity of people's houses or farms, you are pretty free to roam the surrounding areas and fish and even camp wherever you choose. I would certainly recommend learning a bit of Finnish if you take this route, just in case you want to exchange pleasantries with the locals you may meet. It does mean, that fishing the spot you find most appealing is usually not a problem. However, it must be noted that there is no 'free' fishing in Finland often a certain strictness in these regulations.. You must obtain a fishing card. Ask at the local tackle shop or fishery where you intend to fish for the best place to obtain one. In general the prices are reasonable in the region of €15 for a year, though you should double-check this rate. You may also need a local permit which is dependent on the type of fishing you will be doing, as well as the area in which you intend to fish. (Lake, river, etc.) Once you have sorted out all the details, relax and enjoy the beauty of Finnish fishing. Close
Written by SilentOnlooker on 07 Jul, 2006
June is a great time to visit Helsinki. When the sky is brilliantly clear and the weather is nice, Helsinki makes a stunning backdrop for the Scandinavian lifestyle. Though you can walk most of Helsinki, you might be better off taking one of the trams…Read More
June is a great time to visit Helsinki. When the sky is brilliantly clear and the weather is nice, Helsinki makes a stunning backdrop for the Scandinavian lifestyle. Though you can walk most of Helsinki, you might be better off taking one of the trams here and there and only walking to sites that are close together.
We visited the Helsinki tourist site beforehand and requested a tourist package—turns out this was a great idea as we were able to plan where we’d visit before the trip and save precious time while we were there.
Not a planner? That’s fine too, but here is a short list of some of the site you just can’t miss:Uspensky Catheral at Katajanokka—Beautiful architecture!Senate Square and Cathedral—Probably Helsinki’s most popular and recognizable attraction. It is more stunning in person than in any picture.Temppeliaukio Church—Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be required to pronounce it as it’s commonly called the Church in the Rock. The walls are the earth natural bedrock and the copper dome ceiling makes for some of the best acoustics I’ve ever heard. From the altar, I could hear other visitors whispering at the back of the church!Annie Souvenir Shop—I’m not a big souvenir shopper, but there is something in there that you simply cannot resist; it’s the department store of souvenirs. Just check it out (it is right outside the Temppeliaukio Church)!Sibelius Park and Monument—We had to step back as a German tour buses pulled up and emptied at Sibelius Park – its’ that popular. The abstract monument honors Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and looks like suspended organ pipes—the Finns definitely have a little edge to them! Go Finland!A Stroll through the Design District—Want to see Finnish design first hand? Take a stroll through the design district and experience Scandinavian sophistication for yourself.Market Square—Feel the pulse of Helsinki in its colorful Market Square. Sample reindeer meat (no, it’s not from Rudolph) and fresh fruit. Though the official languages here are Finnish and Swedish, English is so commonly spoken that you’ll feel right at home.
Written by marif on 20 Dec, 2004
Shopping in Helsinki is like nowhere else. The items for sale inside the city's covered market halls are unique as are the artistic or traditional handicrafts which you can buy from design houses in Unionkatu, Aleksanterinkatu and Pohjoisesplanadi.
The first shopping spot that catches your…Read More
Shopping in Helsinki is like nowhere else. The items for sale inside the city's covered market halls are unique as are the artistic or traditional handicrafts which you can buy from design houses in Unionkatu, Aleksanterinkatu and Pohjoisesplanadi.
The first shopping spot that catches your eyes on approaching Helsinki's busy south harbour is the Kauppatori, an open market square where locals look for a choice of fresh fish, organically grown vegetables, oven-fresh bread and top quality handicrafts. In summer, this daily market becomes one colourful venue of stalls covered with bright orange parasols. Walk amidst the crowds of buyers and discover for yourself the wide range of items offered for sale. In particular, don't fail inspecting the section dedicated to Finnish handicrafts. Expect to find an abundance of handmade articles in wood that are ideal to take back home as souvenirs.
From the Kauppatori, walk south for 100 metres along the pier in the direction of the Makasiini ferry terminal to reach the Kauppahalli or covered market hall. With a better display and a wider range of foodstuffs, the Kauppahalli is a top place for traditional specialties and Finnish delicacies. Seafood is abundant and various; you can buy it fresh or already cooked, smoked or fried, battered or marinated. Do not be put off if this is your first time in such an unusual food market. Everything is top quality, clean and tasty. Try marinated brown trout or fried whitefish. Those more adventurous should look for stuffed salmon steak, a unique Finnish delicacy with a peculiar taste.
For more foodstuffs, head to the Hakaniemi market hall north of the railway station or the open market next to it. More fresh fish and similar Finnish delicacies are displayed both in the open market and in the stalls on the ground floor of the market hall but the quality may not be as good as in the Kauppahalli. On the first floor however, the shops which deal in ceramics, textiles, handicrafts and souvenirs are much better, although the prices are far cheaper than those you have to pay if you buy from shops along Pohjoisesplanadi or Etelaesplanadi.
If you're a collector of anything, the Hietalahti daily flea market is the place to go for making interesting finds and good bargains. From Mannerheimintie, walk southwest along Lonnrotinkatu for about 500 metres until you reach the Hietalahti market on Hietalahdenkatu. Stamps, coins, badges, army memorabilia, wooden souvenirs and leather handicrafts are all found here. You may even come across a genuine Russian icon for which of course you have to pay dearly.
Besides markets, there are many shopping centres and department stores scattered around town. The world-renowned Stockman at Aleksanterinkatu 52 is the most versatile and perhaps the most exclusive department store in the Nordic countries. The Kiseleff Bazaar, a charming shopping gallery on Senate square at Aleksanterinkatu 28 is a treasure trove of gifts, Finnish handicrafts, toys by Fanny and Alexander, hand printed textiles, silk scarves, knitwear, Christmas decorations, jewellery of unique Finnish design and collectors' items. It is really worth a visit even if you don't intend to buy. The elegant shopping arcade Kamp Galleria at Aleksanterinkatu 42 or Pohjoisesplanadi 33 takes first prize for designer fashion and gift articles. Marimekko which has one outlet inside Kamp Galleria and others along Pohjoisesplanadi and Etelaesplanadi is the best known Finnish brand name for fabrics and gifts while Aarikka at Pohjoisesplanadi 27 is the top place for wooden and silver jewelry and unique wooden gifts of great artistic value. For unusual items of purely Finnish origin and design, visit the Kankurin Tupa at Pohjoisesplanadi 35, a unique shopping outlet which deals in traditional 'puukko' knives and handmade clothing. For artistic 'rya' rugs either of contemporary or traditional design to hang on the wall of your sitting room, go to Ryijypalvelu at Kasarmikatu 34A.
In Helsinki, shopping is made easier if you visit factory outlets which often double as exhibition centres and shops. Aarikka's factory shop where wooden gifts are manufactured and sold is located at Nokiantie 2 while Hackman Arabia factory shop at Hameentie 135 is the best place to see design products in china and glass in their final manufacturing stages. If you are ready to pay top prices for genuine antiques, visit the couple of excellent antiques shops along Mariankatu or the cluster of shops along Annankatu, Uudenmaankatu and Fredrikinkatu.
Enjoy shopping in Helsinki!
Written by Danner on 21 Jan, 2002
The Finnish capital on the banks of Suomenlahti, Finnish bay. The centre of Finnish everything. It reminds me of Sheffield because it's about the same size and has trams, Sheffield is the only other place I've seen trams,as well as the rundown factories and piles…Read More
The Finnish capital on the banks of Suomenlahti, Finnish bay. The centre of Finnish everything. It reminds me of Sheffield because it's about the same size and has trams, Sheffield is the only other place I've seen trams,as well as the rundown factories and piles of snow. Helsinki has alot of Russian leftovers as the Tsars used it has their Scandinavian capital when they threw out the Swedish in 1809. It was strange for me to see a statue of Alexander the Second, The Liberator, having studied him in A-Level European History, I was overwhelmed and in awe.
The city itself is quite commercial and looks 'modern', and lifeless, it has a sense of not really knowing who it is or where it came from. One of the centrepieces is the Senate Square, with the imposing Lutheran church, gold glittering in the sunshine and the steps leading up to it, it is vast and spacious, a definite must see. Heading off towards the harbour you can either walk down a boring street or take the more interesting museum street, historical artefacts in the street and along the pavement. I saw inside a Russian Orthodox church which I found to be a complete hpocrisy. The gold interior illustrating the wealth gathered from their congregation and distributed not to the poor and needy but rather to itself to enhance itself.
Heading back towards the central station, slightly reminiscent of Grand Central, carrying on past it on the way to the bus station or rather bus park, you come across Lazi-Plazi a centre spot of technology and to the right of it is the modern art museum, Kiasma. I wandered around the reception area and viewed some of the samples of art, and it seemed very progressive. Past Kiasma and the statue of General Mannerheim, there is a big block of concrete which is the home of the Finnish parliament. Carrying on along here is The Finlandia Cocnert Hall and, eventually, the Olympic Stadium and Arena. The people of Helsinki are appear to be very proud of hosting the Olympics because there are monuments and reminders all around the area. To me, Helsinki is a hybrid of cultural cities, some places look like San Francisco, some parts London, some parts Sheffield, some parts Amsterdam and has the overall atmosphere of a minature New York.
Written by dangaroo on 13 Jan, 2009
I ended up in Kokkola on a spring evening, during a hitchhiking trip from Vilnius, Lithuania to Nordkapp, Norway and back. Heading out of Helsinki on a crisp morning, my only plan was to head north.. when someone offered to take me to Kokkola, I…Read More
I ended up in Kokkola on a spring evening, during a hitchhiking trip from Vilnius, Lithuania to Nordkapp, Norway and back. Heading out of Helsinki on a crisp morning, my only plan was to head north.. when someone offered to take me to Kokkola, I looked at them blankly as I'd never heard of the place.Kokkola, as I was about to find out is the capital city of the Central Ostrobothnia region, about 600km northwest of Helsinki on the coast opposite Sweden. Kokkola known as Karleby in Swedish is bi-lingual and has more than 20% of Swedish speakers. The road there from Helsinki, is a never ending straight line with rows of trees on either side, there is little possibility to see the scenery behind the trees and this makes the journey surprisingly tedious actually. In fact the driver himself told me, he normally flew from Helsinki (his workplace) to Kokkola (his hometown) because without company, it was difficult for him to stay awake on the journey!Kokkola is easily reachable by train from Helsinki or Rovaniemi. There are regular flights to other Finnish cities throughout the day but to be honest Kokkola wasn't all I had hoped it to be, it was fairly dull and fairly dead. Whenever I tell a Finn, that I've been there - they look at me in the same blank way as I had told the driver. That could just be my poor Finnish accent causing that reaction though!Kokkola was formed as a port for tar in the 1600's when Finland was part of Sweden by King Gustav II Adolf, due to the prolific tar industry, Kokkola quickly established itself as the wealthiest town in the whole of Finland at the time. Only in 1933 did Finnish become the main language of the town, before then Swedish was always used by the majority.Britain / Kokkola antics----------------------------In 1854, the Skirmish of Halkakori took place there. What was the Skirmish of Halkakori, I hear you thinking! It was infact an attack on Kokkola by the British Marines who at the time were taking part in the Crimean War and hoped to ransack the town. Locals armed with hunting rifles and most probably bottles of vodka, soon got rid of them though, killed 9 and in the process a gunboat became the proud possesion of the Finns. This remains in the Museum in Kokkola's English park, much to the dislike of the UK who have regularly requested the boat be returned.The Finns aren't having any of it though and after 400 years, I think it's unlikely it'll be returned!Today, Kokkola is quite an industrial city, I saw quite a few factories and it added to one of the reasons why it's not really necessary to go there!My advice: Go to the Aaland Islands, Turku or even the Eastern lakes before considering visiting Kokkola. Close
Written by chewie on 09 Apr, 2001
If you're in Saariselka and you want to see a true craftsman at work, visit Lintu-Antti, otherwise known as the Bird Man. He has been professionally carving intricate bird ornaments from wood for the past 12 years and studied the craft for 30 years…Read More
If you're in Saariselka and you want to see a true craftsman at work, visit Lintu-Antti, otherwise known as the Bird Man. He has been professionally carving intricate bird ornaments from wood for the past 12 years and studied the craft for 30 years to perfect his trade. With his Kuukkelilampi restaurant as the backdrop for his work, he serves up savory grilled fish and crepes for his customers and gives them bird carving demonstrations while they eat.
When you walk into the circular-shaped wooden restaurant, you immediately notice the the product of his work: hundreds of beautiful birds hanging from the ceiling, wooden logs used as tables and chairs, the smell of wood on an open fire (which functions as a kind of barbecue pit for the restaurant), and the curls of wood scattered on the floor.
The grilled whitefish and mushroom dill salad were served to us on parchment paper with carved wooden spoons. I thought this was very environment-friendly. The fish was so tasty. Perhaps it was the fact that the fish was grilled right before our eyes. For dessert, we were served coffee and crepes sprinkled with sugar. Again, simple, yet delicious.
As we ate, Lintu-Antii began carving his bird, explaining each step as he went along. From a medium-sized piece of wood, the bird form quickly began to take shape. In a matter of minutes, the wood was transformed and he was carving out the fragile wings. Close
Written by chewie on 08 Apr, 2001
Have you ever felt like sleeping in a room made out of snow? For the more daring, you can stay inside the snow hotels located on the Hotel Kakslauttanen complex. These hotels are basically rooms made entirely of snow and ice. Everything…Read More
Have you ever felt like sleeping in a room made out of snow? For the more daring, you can stay inside the snow hotels located on the Hotel Kakslauttanen complex. These hotels are basically rooms made entirely of snow and ice. Everything from the beds to the tables are made of ice. Don't worry, reindeer skins are laid down onto the ice bed block to keep you warm, and each person is given a heavy-duty sleeping bag that cinches up, exposing only your face. There's even a honeymoon suite for those who want to spend their wedding night cozying up to each other in the cold. To go along with the honeymoon theme, the suite has romantic cupid and angel carvings on the ice walls.
For those just interested in spending an evening under the stars and being surrounded by nature minus ice cold temperatures, there's the option of staying in the glass igloos. These glass structures are completely transparent and built in the shape of an igloo (an idea dreamt up by owner Jussi Eiramo). The best part is, you can sleep comfortably with an incredible sky view, while the temperature is kept toasty inside. There's even a private bathroom in each igloo. The zebra skin patterned bed covers are a very hip added touch. Remember to turn the lights off before you change into your pj's. There are no curtains in this glass igloo, so you can even see your neighbors. Close