Finnish Roadtrip: Savonlinna to Porvoo (day 6-7)

This is the end of my Finnish Roadtrip and Nordic Adventure. Since this only covers and a half days I combined it all into this last post. One this day we departed from Savolinna, made a stop in Lappeenranta and arrived in Porvoo. We only stayed on night in Porvoo before making our way back to Helsinki for our flight. I am so happy we made this last stop, because I really loved exploring Old Porvoo.

Savonlinna

We woke up to a beautiful site out of the window of our summerhouse cottage. It was so nice to feel like we were walking up in the middle of nowwhere. It was so quiet and serene, but we need to get up and going to start our last day.

We arrived inn Savonlinna’s town centre for an early morning breakfast. Today was Monday, so we expected that today everything would be open, meaning an end to our Midsummer nightmare. I would have loved to spend time walking along this main shopping drag and also visiting Linnankatu to see the arts and handicrafts. However, we were up quite early and nothing was opening for another hour. So we had to decided if we waited or kept going to our next stop Porvoo.

We didn’t see a lot open for breakfast, but we did spot Herkku Pekka. This bakery offered a range of sweet and savoury pastaries, quiches, sandwiches and cakes. All of which looked delightful for three hungry people. I had the Salmon, Egg annd Salad Crossiant and Perunapiirakka. Marco just had a Crossiant and a coffee and O had a sweet Finnish pastry for the very last time. All the pastaries were freshly made and delicious.

So we decided to keep driving to Porvoo, which was going to take about just under four hours. This was the longest stretch of this Finnish roadtrip so far, so we were eager to get it over and done with.

Lappeenranta

On our way we stopped for morning tea in Lappeenranta. This town is about about two hours from Savonlinna. If only we had more time we could of visited its multiple attractions, but time was off the essence. We only stopped at the bakery, Kesämäen Leipomo Oy, which is somewhat of a workers stop. I read that they had a speciality, Liha-Piirakka, which is a savoury donut filled with meat and rice. Marco was more interested in trying the Hevosenkenkä maidoton (milkless horseshoe pastry) and Viinermukki laktoositon (lactose free apple donut). I don’t know if we ordered wrong or we were expecting too much but the were ok. We may have been happy with some jam danishes. However, on the bright side, most of this stuff was either vegan or lactose free.

Porvoo

Porvoo is the second-oldest town in Finland and was the perfect end to our Finnish roadtrip. This historical trading town was established back in 1380. The Porvoo Old Town is paved with cobblestone, lined with with colourful wooden houses and the waterway features Red shore warehouses, which once held exotic delicacies from distant lands. If you like to wander through bohemian and antiques stores and sample sweet delicies then this is the place for you.

One of the must visit stops is Brunberg’s Chocolate Factory, which has been in operation since 1871. . Here you can sample and buy a variety of different chocolate and confectionary, which I promise you as very high quality. Once we tried a few chocolates we couldn’t leave without purchasing some to bring back home.

A short walk north from the centre of the Old Town is the Porvoo Cathedral. It was originally built in the 13th century and was made of wood. However it was later expanded and rebuilt after numerous fires in the 15th century. It is quite pretty inside and retains medieval feel.

Nearby the Cathedral we came across the Iso Linnamäki Castle Hill. It is free to visit this park, but you do have to use your imagination. It was once the site of an old medieval castle, which overlooks the city of Porvoo. The first wooden castle would have been built here in the late 1200s by the Swedes. It was modernised at the end of the 1300s to include moats and a wooden bailiffs castle, which was built under Germ administration. It was later demolished and abandoned in 1400 by the Scandivians, to destroy any reminents of the German period. It wasn’t until the Great Northern War of 1700-1721 that Russians occupied the Finland and took this hill as a gunpost. Much of what had been preserved was later destroyed by local inhabitance, who illegally took gravel from the hill . Today Castle Hill is a serene, quiet space that has lovely views of the Porvoo. Albert Edelfelt used the view for his famous landscape in 1892, which looks verily similar today. You can even see the Red shore Warehouses, which are one of the most photographed buildings in Porvoo. We weren’t able to get close to them, but I did take a picture as we were driving past later.

Before leaving the centre of Porvoo, we had a later lunch at Hanna and Maria. This little Finnish restaurant is in the centre of the old town and has been arounnd for 30 years. It was named after the daughters of the merchant Oskar Simolin, who resided in Porvoo in the 19th century. It is only open during the day from about 8am until 4-5 (depending on the time of year), 7 days a week. They offers a variety of homely Finnish dishes, prepared with mostly local ingredients and the prices are quite reasonable. They have an variety of steaks and schnitzel, reindeer and liver, served with mash potato and salads. They also have a variety of cakes and sweet treats. Octavia and I shared the Sauteed reindeer/Renskav with lingonberry jam, mash potatoes, salad and bread. Marco had a Wienerschnitzel/Vienna Steak, with mash potatoes and salad. The dishes tasted as good as any homemade dish you would loved to be invited over for and the salads were very fresh.

Our last stop before going back to our apartment was Porvoo Art Factory/Taidetehdas Konstfabriken. Here you can find a few stores, including H&M, a cinema and a gallery. In regards to shopping there is really not much here. Since I arrived quite late I am not sure I was mean to be walking the halls of the gallery, since there was no one around. I only saw a little bit, but I think they were probably setting up for a new exhibition. I’d probably skip this unless your coming for a big show.

Our last accomodation on this trip was at this beautiful Airbnb, located in the suburbs not far from the centre. It had a glorious garden in the backyard and was beautifully decorated inside as well. One of the nicest features was the large bathroom and sauna. It was the perfect place to relax and stay in.

While we were enjoying our accomodation we did get a little bit peckish again, so we ordered some takeaway from Thai Street Food Porvoo. They offer a small, seasonal menu of Thai favourites and they are pretty popular rated place. The dishes we ordered Phad Thai and Stir fried chicken with cashews and noodles. They were both generous portions, tasted spot on and served with a fresh little salad.

The next morning before leaving Porvoo we made one last stop to a bakery Marco had already scoped out the day before. Tuorila’s Home Bakery is a Finnish artisan bakery thats been around for 25 years. They offer quite a variety of fresh breads, sweet and savoury pastaries. The prices were extremely reasonable for some of the best delicious pastaries we had found in Finland so far. We ordered a sweet donut, blueberry danish, and savoury LihaPiirakka (meat and rice filled). I can’t recommend this bakery enough if your in town.

The drive back to Helsinki from Porvoo only took about 30-40 minutes. Since we had a couple of hours before we had to be at the airport to go back home we stopped at Kauppakeskus Jumbo (shopping centre). This is only a 7 minute drive from the airport, so its perfect if you need to waste 1-3 hours. Upstairs we found a nice little coffee shop, called Coffee House, which had decent coffees and a variety of lunch and snack items. As for shopping, you can find all the big brands as well as smaller boutiques.

We that is the end of both my Finnish roadtrip and Nordic Adventure. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I did reminising about our trip. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a comment.

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 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.

Tampere

Driving to Tampere took about two hours. We were anxious to get there so we didn’t make any stops along the way. I am not sure that there are any notable ones to make anyway. We first settled into our Airbnb. We were hosted by a lovely elderly couple, who provided us with a cosy, modern apartment. It was located in the Amuri district, a short walk from the Särkänniemi amusement park.

So Tampere is not a place I knew about before we were planning this road trip. So I will tell you what we learned. It’s one of the most populated inland city of all the Nordic countries and it is located in Pirkanmaa, southern Finland. It is known as the ‘Manchester of Finland’, because it was formerly industrial history. It is surrounded by over 2000 lakes and ponds, which make up 24% of its land surface. It is full of parks and green areas and also has popular amusement park, Särkänniemi and a host of other attractions.

Alexander Cathedral

On our way into the Tampere city centre we first stopped at the Alexander Cathedral/ Aleksanterin kirkko. It is surrounded by a large green park, Pyynik Church Park. Previously this park was the old cemetery of Tampere, but ceased to be used for this purpose after a new cemetary for the city was built in 1880s. However, during the Civil War in 1918, the land was used as a mass grave. It has a beautiful little fountain which is overlooked by the stunning architecture of the church.

Alexander Church was constructed by Theodor Deckin in 1880-81 and is known as one of the most beautiful examples of Neo-Gothic style. It was named after the Czar Alexander II for his 25 anniversary of his coronation.

Tampere Food Market

By now we were pretty hungry so we headed to the Tampere Market Hall/Tampereen Kauppahalli. It has been operating in a gorgeous art nouveau building since 1901 and has become the largest indoor market amongst the Nordic countries. It is bustling with over 40 vendors, sellingn fresh fish, meat, cheese, pastries, local foods. It has a host of cafes and restaurants and is open Monday- Friday 8am-6pm and Saturday 8am-4pm. This is the perfect place if you after a quick lunch or Finnish snack.