Finnish Roadtrip: Kuopio to Salonlinna (day 5)

On our fifth day of our Finnish road trip we travelled from Kuopio to Salonlinna. We didn’t get to see much of Kuopio due to the Midsummer holiday, but we were able to visit the Puijo Tower. In Savonalinna, we made a scenic trip to a crepe house, visited the Olavinlinna Castle and had dinner on the water. So it was a pretty good day.

Kuopio

This morning we walked down to the Kuopio town centre. We were hoping that cafes and shops would be open. I really wanted to have breakfast at Trube Cafe, which is inside the Apaja Shopping Center. It has been around since 1913 and they sell baked Finnish baked goods and served their coffee in Moomin mugs. Unfortuately everything was closed, except a few food stalls. Since we didn’t have cash we decided to do breakfast elsewhere.

Before leaving we went past the Kuopio Cathedral. The building was built in 1806-15 and is a stone Neoclassical-style construction. Since there was a service I wasn’t able to take photos inside. The interior is quite plan and is mostly white walls with touches of gold Empire features.

Luckily, the Puijo Tower was open today and they have a cafe, so that was our next stop. This observation tower is located on the top of Puijo hill and is one of Finland’s oldest tourist attractions, visited by over 80,000 tourists per year. The original tower was build back in 1856, standing 16m high and was made of wood. The second tower was build in 1906, standing at 24m tall and was made of stone. The current tower was built in 1963 and is now 75m tall. It gives an unobstructive 360 degree view of Kuopio and beyond and thus is a symbol for the city of Kuopio. During the WW2 the Women’s Voluntary Defence Corps of Kuopio were able to carry out air survelliance from the Puijo tower.

On the first level you can find a tourist shop, where you can buy tickets to visit the tower. It costs about 6 euros for an adult or 4 euro for a student. You can take the lift up to the first observation platform, which is enclosed and has a cafe area. Here they sell a selection of pastarie, snacks and drinks. We got some Puolukka-vaniljapulla (lingon-berry vanilla scroll), Feta-tomaattihyrrä (tomato feta scoll) and some filtered coffees. They were not the best pastries but they weren’t too bad either.

After satisfying our hunger we walked around the observation deck. Every few metres there are photographic panels of the different viewing perspectives. These panels have markers which give context to the different locations you can see from that point of view. We were also able to go up to another viewing platform which is outside. These views were even more spectacular without the glass. However, it was pretty cold and windy so we couldn’t stay too long.

Adjacent to Puijo tower is the Hotelli Puijon Maja and a few text panels. These panels are in Finnish and English and describe different aspects of the Puijo ridge.

Now it was time to drive for us to drive to Savonalinna. This took about two hours by car, taking us from Northern Savonia into Southern Savonia. If you have more time you can make a stop to the Monastery of Valamo, which would add another hour to your trip. It is the only remaining Orthodox monastary and is believed to be about 800 years old.

Savonalinna

Savonalinna is located in southest Finland and it’s name means Castle of Savonia. That is because the Olivinalinna Castle, which was built when the city was founded in 1639. This 15th century castle is the main tourist attract for the town and the reason we had to visit. They also offer a range of summer and winter activities, local handicrafts, shopping and restaurants. So there are more then one reason to visit Savonalina.

When we arrived we first had to check into our Airbnb. This accomodation was a small summer cottage on farm land. Our hosts were a young hip Finnish couple with some beautiful dogs. They were very friendly and helpful and lived just behind the small house. As for the accomodation it wasn’t stylish as others, but it was comfortable, clean and had a lovely view of the green clearing. It gave us a taste of what it would be like staying in a typical summer house during the Midsummer holiday.

By now we were getting pretty hungry again and luckily the next stop on my itinery was open today. Lettukahvila Kalliolinna is located on Sulosarri island and they serve sweet and savoury crepes, icecream and coffee. To get there we drove as close as we could to the walking trail, which took us to a bridge that we walked over. Its not a long walk and its quite lovely and scenic.

Lettukahvila Kalliolinna is in a small summer house, which was built in 1899 for Saint Olaf`s sanatoriums guests. The menu offers crepes with a large list of sweet or savoury toppings to add. Since we were unsure what to chose we went with a few of the suggested combinations. After ordering we first sat inside admirig the artworks, but once there was a table available outside we moved. It was so pretty out there and the perfect place to relax with someone delicious.

So the crepes we ordered were the Pesto and feta cheese with artichoke, Salted peanuts with carmel sauce and whipped cream; and the Smetana (sour cream) with pickles and honey. It’s hard to chose the best because they were all pretty yummy. The two sweet tooths prefered the sweeter options, but I also love a savoury crepe.

After lunch we made our way to the Olavinlinna Castle, to do the castle tour. I will do a dedicated post for this visit, since we covered alot of ground there.

For dinner we headed to Savonlinna Market Square, where there were quite a few restaurants open and food stands. Some of the ones on my list included Restaurant Muikkuterassi, Ravintola Majakka and Kalastajan Koju.

I really had my heart set on going to Kalastajan Koju, which I read offers fresh seafood caught by the owner at an affordable price. I just had a little trouble finding it because according to Google maps it was located in the adjacent building to where I found it. The menu offered a variety of dishes with muikku fish, as well as salmon, perch, soup and sausages. Since I had eaten vendace at the night before, which is similar to muikku, I wanted to try the something different. I was yet to try Elk in Finland, so tonight was the night. I ordered the Bratwurst and Elk Sausage with Potato and Salad, as well as the Fish, chips coleslaw and remoulade annd a couple of local ciders. The food was simple, but flavoursome and delicious. The ciders were also pretty great.

The last thing we did attempt to see was the Savonlinna Cathedral. However, it was closed when we got there. With such a bright sky we forgot how late it was. This churhc was designed by A.H. Dahlstrom in 1858. It was damaged in 1940, by air raids, but has been reconstructed. It is a relatively plain church, but you can see the interior here.

Next I will take you on a tour of Olavinlinna Castle and to my last stop in Porvoo.

Finnish Roadtrip: Jyväskylä to Kuopio (day 4)

On day four of our Finnish roadtrip we began our morning Jyväskylä and make our way to Kuopio. Despite the national holiday we were able to see many beautiful parks, as well as a wonderful wildlife park. We did have a little bit of rainy weather, but overall it was quite a beautiful day to be outdoors.

Jyväskylä

This morning we walked though town to again find everything closed. I was actually planning for us to have breakfast at the vegan cafe, Beans and More, which looks amazing. Thank god the Espresso House was open. We had so far stayed clear of this generic coffee house, prefering boutique coffee shops. However, it was such a lovely site to see this hip coffee chain open for business.

The Espresso House is actually the largest coffee chain in the the Nordic coutries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. It is very similar to a Starbucks, but the coffee is much better and the food is far better quality. The fridges were stocked with fresh salads, juices, bircher museli, sandwiches, pastaries, cakes, muffins and powerballs.

For breakfast I had a oat milk coffee and O and I shared a ham and cheese croisant and a chia seed and fruit pot. The coffee was pretty good and the food was nice for a quick bite.

After breakfast we had a walk around town to make sure everything was shut. I was planning to do some shopping on Kauppakatu on the pedestrian street. If your visiting on a regular day, check out these tips on Shopping in Jyväskylä.

So after we packed our bags and we made one last stop in Jyväskylä. Puutarhurin taivas or the gardener’s sky, is a installation that overlooks the Jyväsjärvi lake. It was made by the Finnish sculpturer, Pekka Jylhä. It represents a cultivated carrot and pays homage to all Finnish home farmers, who enjoy gardening, tracking growth, harvesting and consuming their produce. The watering can represents man’s attitude for care. Adjacent to the sculture there is a text panel, which is in Finnish unfortunately. It is quite a serene, quiet place which is nice to take children and some family photos.

On our way to Kuopio we had to meet our Airbnb host at Jari-Pekka Hankasalmi. She was actually hiring our her apartment for the Midsummer holiday, while she was at a summer house with friends. This traffic station has cafe, shop and a variety of fastfood dining options. It also has tractor and grassy area for kids to play. It was actually surprising to see so many people inside considering we had hardly seen anyone this morning. While we were there we found a filer for another zoo, which we would pass by on our way to Kuopio. Luckily it was open today, so we could take out daughter for some animal fun.

Kuopion Elainpuisto Zoo

Kuopion Elainpuiston Zoo is only an hour from Jari-Pekka and another 20 minutes from the centre of Kuopio. It is one of several wildlife parks in Kuopio. These are perfect for young families and animal lover alike.

Kuopio Elainpuisto Zoo is a family friendly wildlife park, which features traditional farmhouse animals. Many of the animals live permanently in the zoo and others visit to graze during the summer season. So you will probably see different animals when you visit. So its a great place to interact with happy animals, have a picnic or a nice meal in the cafe in this beautiful natural setting. There is also a small playground and lots of grassy areas for kids to run around.

Kuopio Elainpuisto Zoo is open most of the year. The ticket price is per adult is 10 euro and 8 euro for children between 2-12 years. It has a small cafe for lunch or snacks and a store with merchandise.

The zoo has has a duck pond with quite a few geese. I was glad to see them behind an enclosures becuase they can be a little agressive. They also had an array of birds in the Bird Garden. These included Silkie chickens, Golden pheasant Guinea fowl, turkeys, peacocks, and ducks .

Probably O’s favourite enclosure was the cat house. Shes a bit of a cat lover. She also loved the bunnies too, but she couldn’t annoy them too much as they were safe in their enclosure.

There were only a couple small cows and one large highland bull. He was gorgeous and very friendly to anyone who wanted to give him some long juicy grass.

O’s second favourite animals were the ponies, who were absolutely adorable. They do bite, so we had to be carefully not to get too close to them.

The horses were definetley more gentle and just as friendly. There was even one that looked a bit like Spirit.

There was a mother and baby donkey, which were my favourite. Very friendly and also very smelly.

The very fluffy friendly pig is a Villasika eli Magalitza, which is means wooly hog. It is a Hungarian breed of domentic pig. I’m not sure what type the rest were.

The sheep and goat were fairy friendly and were smaller breeds.

Probably the most exotic farm animals were the alpaca and reindeer.

The zoo also had some old style trackers and bikes in the shed.

And lots of beautiful flowers growing in the grass and potted plans.

We had lunch at the cafe on the grounds. It offers a variety of quiches, sweet and savoury pastries, hot and cold drinks, baby food and gluten free items. They also offer other items during the year, including crepes and panini, but I am not sure how often this is. Everything is relatively cheap, costing no more then a few euros per item. You can enjoy your meal inside or on the balcony. There are also plenty of toys for little ones to play with.

For lunch we ordered ham, cheese and capscium quiches, sausage roll, filtered coffee and jam donuts. It was pretty nice for such a cheap lunch, so we can’t complain.

Kuopio

After the zoo, we drove straight to lakeland habourtown, Kuopio. It is located in the Northern region of Savonia and is the 9th most populated place in Finland. Much of its land is covered by bodies of water and lush forest and there are plenty of green spaces through out the more densly populated areas. It is a bit of a cultural hostpost and hosts many events, incldig Contempory Arts Festival, Kuopio Wine Fesival, Kuopio Dance Festival and Finland Ice Marathon.

My orinally plans for Kuopio was that we would visit the, Kuopio Market City Hall and Pikku Pietarin Market Alley, Kuopio Cathedral and Puijo Tower. We were able to see the catheral and tower the following day, but the shops and markets were all closed for the weekend. I also wanted to visit the Hanna Partanen’s bakery, which is the best place in the city for Karelian pies and Kalakukko fish pastries; as well as the first Mommin cafe, Muumi Pannari Kahvila and old Finnish caf, the Trube Cafe. However, they were all closed. We did attempt to visit this cafes the following without luck.

By this time it was late afternnoon, so we went straight to our Airbnb. This had to be one of the most stylish apartments we had stayed in during this trip. It was also incredibly warm, spacious and modern. So we were very happy here for the evening.

Since it was still early and we weren’t ready for dinner, we walked down to Pikku Kakkosenn Puisto Leikkipuisto/Brahe Park. This park has situated on the coast line of the Kuopio gulf and the Kallavesi lake, so it has a beautiful view of the water, and plenty of lush grass and gardens.

Brahe Park is the most popular city park in Kuopio. It offers plenty of things for kids to do. There is a labyrinth, playhouse, climbing frams, swings and workout equipment. There were quite a few people who were around enjoying the late afternoon sun.

For dinner we visited the classic Finnish restaurant, Muikkuravintola Sampo. I was so happy that one of that restaurants in my original itinery was open. Muikkuravintola Sampo has been around since 1931 and is one of Finland’s most renown restaruants. They specialises in vendace, which is a freshwater whitefish.

The restaurant has a interesting decor, which is quite homely and lively. The menu offer a several dishes with vendace, but also other mains meat and vegetarian mains. They all come with mash potatoes, salads and other trimmings.

For dinner I had to try their speciality, so I had the Fried Vendace à la Sampo, which came with mash pototes, tomato, cucumber, lemon and dill. Marco and Octavia aren’t as adventous. He ordered the the local Sausage from Savo with and Mash Potatoes cucumber, tomato, pickled cucumber and sour cabbage. Octavia had the kids weiner which had same sides. All the meals also came with warm oat and cranberry bread rolls with butter and also ordered we also had crepes and icecream (with kids meal) for dessert. I was quite impressed with the food. The vendace was really nicely cooked and not too oily. The mash potatato was very creamy and the sides were very fresh. The sausages were all very flavoursome and we all love those bread rolls. As for the crepes, they were pretty darn delicious as well.

After dinner we made one last stop for the evening, to Väinölänniemi. This city park is located on a cape surrounded by the Kallavesi lake. This is the 10th largest lake in Finland and is 478km squared. Väinölänniemi offers multiple views of the lake and the plenty of space to explore. On the park grounds you can also find the beach, Väinölänniemen Uimaranta, which is popular during the summer season. There is also the Väinölänniemi Stadium, which is used for atheletics.

Tomorrow we will vist the Puijo Tower and Cathedral in Kuopio before travelling to Savonalinna to see the castle of Olivinlinna. Only two more days to go.

Finnish Road trip: Turku to Tampere (day 2)

On day two of our Finnish roadtrip, we started the day in Turku and drove to Tampere. It was quite a rainy day, so we didn’t do as much walking as usually, but we do alot of eating. Some of the highlights of our day include the Turku Cathedral, Tampere Cathedral, lunch at the Tampere Food Hall, eating the best donuts in town and ending the day with a satisfying Belgium gastropub meal.

Breakfast

We woke up in the Scandic Hotel in Turku, which was actually the only hotel we stayed in during this trip. The room wasn’t very exciting, so I didn’t photograph it. It was comfortable and clean though. The only reason we didn’t book an Airbnb for this location was because they were much more expensive at the time of our visit then this hotel.

The good thing about staying in a hotel is the free buffet breakfast. I was a bit curious what kind of foods they would give us for breakfast in Finland. I wasn’t disappointed either. There was a variety of pasteries, Finnish breads, fresh fruit and vegetables, ham, cheeses, herring, oats with berries, roasted vegatables. giant baked beans, juice and coffee. This was probably my favourite breakfast buffet on this entire trip, since I wasn’t a big fan of the buffets on the ships.

Turku Cathedral

The last place we had to visit before leaving for Tampere was the Turku Cathedral/Turun tuomiokirkko. It is located off the bank of the Aura River, across from Downtown Turku. We had been nearby the night before, when we walked along the promenade of the Aura River and had dinner.

This cathedral is massive in size and is considered to be one of the most important Lutheran churches in Finland. It was previously a catholic cathedral, built in the 13th century and constructed of wood. However, it was later renovated and constructed mostly stone during the 14th and 15th cenutry. It was also badly damaged during the Great Fire of Turku in 1827. During the reformation the catherdral became Lutheran and much of its present interior was designed during the 1830s, by various renown artists and architects.

The altar was just gorgeous and awe-inspiring. The Altar piece was painted in 1836 by the Swedish artist, Fredrik Westin and depicts the Transfiguration of Jesus. The walls and roof surrounding the high altar are Romantic fresco’s, which were painted by the court painter,  Robert Wilhelm Ekman. This series depict the events from the life of Jesus, and the two key events in the history of the Finnish Church, including the baptism of the first Finnish Christians by Bishop Henry and the presentation to King Gustav Vasa by the Reformer Michael Agricola. The rerdos behind the High Altar and the pulpit were both designed by the German architect, Carl Ludvig Engel in the 1830s.

The side chapels were originally dedicated to various saints. However, most were converted to funeral vaults. Many of these graves and memorials are of notable people, including bishops, military commanders and royals. One of the most famous is Queen Karin Mansdotter, wife of King Erik XIV. Her sarcophagus is overlooked by a beautiful stainglass window, featuring the Queen and her sons. It also had a large playroom for children. This is such a great idea and something I have only come across in Sweden and Finland.