Helsinki: Urban Green City (day 2)

Its day 13 on our Nordic Adventure and we are on our 2nd day in Helsinki. On this day we had enjoyed a sweet pastries by the seaside, made a few tourist stops, including the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress; caught up with some friends and strolled through the parks and ended the day with some much missed Italian food. Sounds pretty perfect doesn’t it!

Breakfast

This morning we were meant to grab some quick pastries on our way the Free Walking Tour that left from the Helsinki Cathedral. However, with a difficult toddler we reconsidered this idea and went to have a seaside breakfast at the Cafe Regatta. This cafe was on my to-do list for the night before but we were too exhausted to walk there.

Cafe Regatta is country style cafe located on the water in the city park, Sibeliuksen Puisto (Sibelius Park), in Töölö . It is open from 8 am until 9pm, so if your visited the Sibelius monument, this is the perfect place to stop in for some warm cinnamon buns or grill a sausages by the fire. This adorable cafe is set in a 115 year-old red cottage, which has an eclectic vintage interior. It is just so delightful and homely and is the perfect place to enjoy some hot coffee and homemade pastries. To drink they serve filtered coffee, tea, hot chocolate and hot juice (not sure what that is). To eat they have a section of cakes and pastries and savoury goods, including cinnamon buns, blueberry pie, croissants, broccoli pastry, Carelian pastry, quiche, salmon on bread. They also offer some vegan, gluten free and raw food options.

For breakfast we shared the blueberry pie, broccoli pastry and cinnamon bun, with a side of coffee and tea. Everything was as delicious as it looks and very fresh. I can’t decide what I liked the most out of all these things. So I recommend trying as much as you can, since the prices are pretty reasonable.

Tourist stops

After breakfast we didn’t have to walk very far to see our first tourist attraction. The Sibelius Monument is located with the Sibeliuksen Puisto. I wish we had visited the night before because its a very popular tourist stop. The monument is called Passio Musicae and was made in 1967 by female Finnish artist, Eila Hiltunen. It was dedicated to the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius and was created for a competition organised by the Sibelius Society. It consists of over 600 hollowed out steel pipes, which were welded together to appear like a cluster of organ pipes. The piece on the side was also made by the artist and features Sibelius’s face.

Next we caught a tram to the Senate Square to see the Helsinki Cathedral (Hesingin Tuomiokirkko). This gorgeous Evangelical Lutheran cathedral is one of the most iconic sites in Helsinki. It was built between 1830-1852 as a tribute to the Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Just like nearly every other cathedral I tried to see on this trip, this one was also closed. I have no idea why since it was a Monday morning. At least the outside was a gorgeous site to see. You can see some of the interior pictures here.

Just around the corner from the cathedral is one of the most famous markets in Finland, Market Square. This open-air market has been a trading site for hundreds of years. Today you can buy traditional souvenirs, coffee, fresh and cooked foods. If you are wanted to visit the Suomenlina Sea Fortress you can buy your tickets here, as it leaves from this port. It only costs 5 euro for a return adult ticket and last for 12 hours. It only takes about 15-20min to get across to the island, so you can make a spontaneous trip if need be.


Adjacent to the Market Square is the Old Market Hall. This the oldest market hall in Finland and was built 1888-1889. Prior to this, groceries were sold outside. However, with the new awareness of food hygiene and a need for organisation, market halls began to be built. Originally this hall had 120 stalls and 6 shops in the central gallery, which sold meat, eggs, butter, cheese and garden produce. However after WWI, Finland suffered four decades of scarcity, famine and rationing. Although this ended in post-war Finland, the market halls didn’t get a revitalised until Finland joined the EU in 1995. This meant that the forbid products, like unpasteurised cheese from France and cold cuts from Italy and Spain, could now be sold. Today, this Market Hall sells a variety of imported products, as well as many Finnish delicacies. As I was walking through I was blown away by all that delicious salmon and the variety of reindeer specialities. I had originally planned to have lunch here since its very inexpensive.

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

Suomenlinna is an mid-18th century sea fortress, built on a cluster of islands, just off the coast of Helesinki. It was built when Finland was under Swedish rule, to project the again a Russian explansion. In 1991 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site and is an iconic tourist attraction . Today, it has several musuems, restaurants, cafes and over 800 residents. It is free to wander the grounds if you want to learn a bit of Finnish history or have a picnic on the beach. There is a small fee catch the ferry or water bus, visit musuems or take a guided walking tour. We didn’t visit any musuems or do a tour today, as we only had a couple of hours. We did have the tourist map, which does point out all the important sites, which have some text panels for historical context. Also check out out the children’s map, which gives more information the cafes and restaurants, playgrond etc. You can also see a Virtual 360 map of the island which gives more information on its history.

Suomenlina consists of six islands, however only a few of them are available to visit all year around. The entry port is on the largest island of Iso Mustasaari, which is where we started our visit. If your hungry when you arrive I recommend Viaporin Deli & Cafe, which we visited at the end our visit (see below). You can find it here at the entry.

When you enter the main route into Iso Mustasaari you will first come across some old ornamented wooden houses. This is the Russian trading block, which was owned by the Russian garrison traders. They sold goods and services for the miliary and civilian residents and also held food incase of a siege. These houses were privately owned and built during the first stage of construction, in the late 18th century. They were originally located near the church, but had to be demolished or moved. These houses are special because they are unlike the other homes in the fortress or in Finland. They feature four-column verandas, high entrance steps, stone base and ornamental eaves and window frames. They are reminiscent of Russian folk architechture. This block consisted of shops, storerooms, a bakery, an inn, and a liquor store. The owners and their families resided in the yard outhouses and the attics. Today only six building survive and they are occupied by cafes, a shop, a photographer’s studio, a kindergarten and a cobber’s workshop.

Nearby is the Suomenlinna Church, built in 1852. It was originally a Russian Orthodox garrison church, but it was converted to a Lutheran church in the 1920s and the stylistic Byzantine-Russian features were removed. It also contains a lighthouse in its tower, which has been adding air and sea travel since te 1920s. It is also popular site for church weddings. The Church Park was designed in the 1850s and has been extended over the years to a more open Baroque style garden.

From there we passed through the Cromwell, playground, Manège of the Miltary Museum and large Suomenlinna Centre/museum, which had some nice snacks.

To get to the island of Susisaari, we needed to cross the Susisaaren Silta bridge (1982). We then made our way to the Great Courtyard. It was originaly built in 1750s, and is the middle of three courtyards inside the ring of bastions on this island. We first came apon the Bastion Höpken, which is the oldest part of the fortress. It was built in 1750 and is connected to the Commendant’s house. This house originally had 16 apartments. You can freely walk though this stone structure, but there wasn’t much information about it. Just outside in the middle of the Great Courtyard is the tomb of the Swedish military office, Augustin Ehrensvärd, who designed the fortress. Although he passed in 1783, the tomb wasn’t completed until 1807, which was 6 months before it was surrended by the Russians. hence the neo-classical style of the tomb.

Just nearby is the Dry Dock, which was built in 1747 by the Swedish for their Finnish squadron. The ships were built and stored in this dock. Under the Russian rule these dock fell into disrepair and was further damaged like most of the fortress in the Crimean war. However, in the 1920s and 1930s the Finnish forces built aircraft and stored submarines in the dockyard. Today you can view the Dry Docks from the observation deck, however there are plans to renovated it and add a new restaurant and a museum.

As we continued south down the island of Susisaari we came across Piper Park. This is the most important park on Suomenlinna. It was constructed under Commandant Petter Bernhard Piper under the Swedish rule. It was to have trimmed hedges, fruit trees, flowers, a summer-house and a pond. In the early 19th century there were also vegetable gardens. However, since the 1840s the whole area became a public park.

Lastly we visited the island of Kustaanmiekk, which is the most southern part of Suomenlinna. It’s name means ‘Gustav’s Sword’, after the Swedish Crown Price. It was the first part to be fortifed in 1748, but the earthworks and guns were added under the Russian rule. For me this was the most scenic part of Suomenlinna and if wasn’t so windy and cold would of been a great place for a swim and a picnic. There was a nice pizza restaurant, Pizzeria Nikolai, which was open, when we visited. But we decided to save ourselves for a cafe at the entry docks, so back we walked…

By the time we got to Viaporin Deli & Cafe, I was starving. It is located at the entry dock on
Iso Mustasaari, This casual little eatery has lunch specials and quite a few other options, including salad bar, pizza, sandwiches , wraps and hot beverages. Marco had a slice of pizza with chicken, carmelised onions and cherry tomatoes. Octavia and I shared this delicious Salmon and Leek Fetticini (lactose free!), with pickled red onion and shaved parmesan. I was pretty impressed with this pasta, it was really well made and so delicious. I assume the creamy sauce was made with oatmilk, but it was hard to tell.

Afternoon Stroll

After our visit to Suomenlinna, we made our way back into Helsinki to meet up with some friends. On our way we passed through the beautiful Esplanade Park. It is lined perfectly manicured hedges and green grass and has a few of beautiful fountains and statues. It a popular place for people to pass time and see popular community events. From there we made our way to Stockman shopping centre and I explored the amazing Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (bookstore), while we waited.

After we found our friends they took us for a walk in one of their favourite parks, Kaivopuisto. This is one of the oldest and most popular parks in Helsinki. Its quite expansive and very scenic. There are so many ducks that were interesting to watch and fun for O to chase. The only thing we found was that they poop all over the grass, so you may want to clean your shoes if you get too close. There are so beautiful views of the coast line and the nearby islands between Helsinki and Suomenlinna.

Dinner

After we parted ways we were eager to get something to eat before going back to the apartment. There wasn’t alot open on a Monday night and it was already getting pretty late. We found the Italian restaurant Italo in Forum shopping mall. The resturant had beautiful decor, a kids play area and a pretty impressive adult and kids menu that was reasonabily priced.

Marco and I ordered the Risotti Allo Stracotto di Maile (grilled pork cheeks, beef broth and pesto) and Pizza Sette (king prawn tailes, garlic, chili, bacon, red onion and rocket). For Octavia, the server recommend the kids pizza with the toppings of bolognese sauce and cheese. Everything tasted fantasic and was an rivalled some of my best memories of Italian food. The pizza was nice and thin, but not soggly with great fresh ingredients. The risotto was also cooked perfect and the pork cheeks were exactly what we hoped for. I don’t know about Octavia’s pizza because she gobbled that all down and didn’t want to share.

Well thats it for our last day in Helsinki. Tomorrow we catch the boat from Helsinki to Tallin, Estonia. This was one of my favourite stops, so I can’t wait to share it with you!

Helsinki: Museum of Finland (part 2, day 1)

After visting the Barbie: The Icon exhibition we made our way through the following permanent exhibitions. Each exhibition is a chrologically history of Finland, which starts from its early prehistoric beginnings, through the Middle Ages and until its modern modern national story. Although you don’t have to see each exhibited in this order, I found doing it this way really gave us a great overview and appreciation of Finnish history. Probably the heaviest content and largest exhibition the Realm, which took us through the Middle Ages to pre-industrial Finland. But the last exhibit of Finland’s more modern history was fun and interactive. They do have audio guides and all the text panels translated in Finish, Swedish and English. If I had more time I would have loved to do a guided tour and of course see everything else we missed. If you want to know more visit my previous post on the National Museum of Finland.

Prehistory

The first exhibition we visted was the Prehistory of Finland. We entered the exhibition there were a couple of text panels, which gave us an good indication to what we were about to see. They stated “Finland was under kilometres of ice. 18,000 years ago it began to melt. The first people arrived to the present area of the Nordic countries after the ice retreated 10,000 years ago“. Then we arrived into a stark white room, which looked like an underground cathedral. This exhibition wasn’t very big, but it did give a good overview of how people lived and what evidence remains from the Stone Age through to the Iron Age. It wasn’t the best exhibition for a child that couldn’t read, but there were a couple of interative features.

This neck ring is the gold torc from Nousiainen, which was found in Nousianinen, south-West Filand in 1770. It is one of the finest Late Roman Iron Age artifacts discovered in Finland. It was made by a early Scandinavian goldsmith in the 3rd century CE. Its is decorated with the head of a snake or dragon. It was probably buried as an offering.

This woman of Eura was buried in Luistari and in one of the largest burial places in Finland. The burial site was discovered in 1969 and she was originaly buried in the 11th century Viking Age. She would have been about 45 years old and was betweeen 165-170cm tall. She was the mostly richly buried woman in the burial site. Her dress was adorned with round buckled knobs on the shoulders, a cloak booch, bronze chains. She also wore a decorated bronze=plated knife sheath at her waist, broad spiral bracelets, four rings and a necklace made of glass beads, 12 silver coins and 2 silver pendants. Bronze was believed to protect the bearer and promote fertility for woman.

Below are some of the finds from the Susiluola Cave in Ostobothnia, West Finland. This cave was excavated in the 1990s and if the discovereries coul dbe proven to be made by humans, it would radically change Finland prehistory. The finds from this cave may prove that Neanderthal dwelling there more than 100,000 years ago. Although some archaelogiset believe they were cauced by natural processes. The bones and metal artefacts below were found in a waterlogged cemetary in Levänluht, Southern Ostrobothia. It is unknown why they were buried in water.

The Realm

Next we visited The Realm exhibition, which is exhibits Finnish history under the church rule, Swedish secular rule and the annexiation by the Russian Empire. This covers the 13th to 19th century, so it is quite a large exhibition, which is covered over a series for spaces.

The first room we entered was the Lutheran Church Room. This space depicts many of the religious artwork were created as a result of the integration of the adminsitration and development of church and parish activities in Finland and Sweden, during the during the 17th century. During this period the ranks of clergymen grew and their levels of education rose. Under the rule of Bishop Johannes Gezelius the Elder in Turku during the late 17th cenutry, regulations on the care of the interior of churches as established. They were to be clean and contain objects that fit the dignity of the divine service. This required old wall paintings, which often insited superisistions to be to be painted over. Benches and galleries were also introduced, as well as alter rails with kneeling benches, coats of arms (artistocratic burial) votive tablets, tablets and organs. Reredos were also replaced by framed altarpieces.

This was probably my favourite space as I am quite a fan of religious artwork. These pieces were quite different to what I have previous seen in western European museums and it is also quite wondefully creepy. There were quite a few depictions of Saint George with the dragon, which I hadn’t seen before.

One of the stand out pieces was the Altarpiece from Kalanti Church. It was made by ‘Meister Francke‘ of the Dominican borthers in Hamburg Germany in the 1420s. It is told that it was found floating in the sea by the inhabitance of Kalanti in west Finland and it may have previously belonged to the Turku Cathedral.

The central sculpture tells the story of the life of the Virgin Mary. From the birth of Jesus, to Circumcision of the child Jesus in the temple, Coronation of the Virgin Mary on ther death bed, her funeral procession and the Virgin freeing Knight Theophilus from his pact with the devil. The side panels depict the legend of Saint Barbara.

The next couple of spaces depict Finish history under Swedish rule. It is believed that the Swedes carried through First Crusade into Finland at the begining of the Middle Age period in 1150s. Finland then became a permanent part of Western Europe and the emerging Swedish empire. The Catholic Church and Western Europe influenced and introduced literacy culture, churches, castles and towns. Six towns were founded, including the most important Turku (which we visited next).

The Vasa family ruled in both Sweden and Finland during the Middle Ages. In 1523 Gustavus Eriksson became King of Sweden. The male lined ended in ended in 1672 with Johan Casimir, King of Poland. The female line ended in 1689 with Queen Christina of Sweden.

There is hardly any medieval furniture that still exists from the Middle Ages. Finnish people lived in chimneyless wooden cabins, sparsely furnished, with wooden tables and fixed benches along the walls. Chests, boxes and wall cupboards were used for storage. For dining, most vessels were made of wood and people ate with their fingers or with their own spoon.

Sweden was the leading European power during the reign of Gustavus II Adolphus to the death of Charles XII, which is also known as the era of Baroque and supremacy of nobility. Joint guilds of carpenters, painters and glaziers were founded in Turku in 1633. Baroque furniture in Finland was influenced by French tastes which was filtered through Stockholm or more modest styles of the English and Dutch. Finish cabinet makers made chairs and tables in English-Dutch style; wardorobes and chests were more North-German and Dutch style. French Baroque style was more utilised for inlay and fixed upholstery. The East-India trade also brought custom rattan or wickerwork chairs and backrests. However, the most extravagent furniture was imported from Sweden.

The following space depicts the furnishings of the burgher class or bourgeoisle, who rose during the Middle Ages from the craftsmen and artistans. In 1634 the Estate of burghers was giving an offical stuatus. By the 18th century this class had gained greater economical and political power then the noble class. The wealthiest of this class were the seafarers and owners of ironworks and manufactories, and tar merchants from the north. During the 18th century the owners of ironworks built their own fashionable mansions and villages were built around their factories. Shipowners were also very affluent and had residents in town as well as manisions in the countryside.

The following spaces depict the Drawing Room of Jakkarila Manor, the Enlightenment and the Romanticism and the Home. By the late 18th century, the line between noblity, affluent burghers and clergymen began to blur. Many built manor homes in French Rococo classicism and were largely influenced by the designs in a book published by Carl Wijnblad in 1755-56. In the early 1760s, Anders Henrik Ramsay, the Governor of Savo and Kymenkartano, built a mansion on the estate of Jakkarila (Jakari) in accordance to Wijnblad’s book. During the Rococo period, there spaces were divided between private and representational. Thus, more attention was given to the interior for representative rooms, ei the gentlemen’s room or the drawing rooms. The walls and ceilings had painted wallpaper and there were also carved panels along the walls, doors, window frames. Through the Enlightenment and Romanticism period the interior styles evolved to also represent a womans hand in design.

Before coming to the last section of this exhibition, there was an installation of a old Chimneyless cabin from the village of Pajasyrjä in Jaakklima.This is a typical dwelling that Finn’s used since the early Middle Ages, but many continued to live in them until the early 19th century.

The last space represents the Russian Order, when many Finn’s served the Imperial Russian Army. Many Finn’s rose to positions of general or admiral and as a result strengthened the Russian Emperors trust with neighbouring Finland. In 1863 Emperor Alexander II visited Helsinki and its people looked forward to its visit. The had remained an autonomous duchy, unlike other parts of the Russian Empire. The Emperor did authorise a number of reforms on his empire, which were carried out in Finland by Finnish Estates. This meant that Finland became a separate state connect to Russia and thus idea of the Finnish nation was born. This was high point in Finish history, due to infrastructure of railways and muncipalities, parishes and schools were established and Finnish language was improved. However, soon after a famine would widen the gap between the rich and poor.

Story of Finland

The last exhibition we saw was the Story of Finland. This was probably my least favourite exhibit, probably because I was quite burned. The content wasn’t as interesting for me as I lacked the nostaglic memories of Finland. However, it was more interactive, which meant it was alot more fun for my kid. Probably my favourite part of this exhibition was the Sauna room, which showed an old video of Finns sauna culture and the space with the widescreen which showed photos of Finns over the past 100 years.

This exhibition set the scen of the years of unrest, whichi proceeded the golden age of Finland’s national culture from the end of the 19th century. The Finnish language enjoyed equal status with Swedish and artists, composers and painters and athletes contribute a strong international image of Finland. However, this was followed by oppression under the Governor-General Bobrikov, who saw progress and opitism as a poltical threat. Many rights and privilages that Finns had previously enjoyed were revoked and civil disobedience proved insufficent. Eugen Schauman murders Bobrikov, the Emperor losses the Russo-Japanese war and activists in Finland start importing weapons from abroad. From here the exhibition examines Finlands struggle for independence and some of the national iconic pecularities, such as the love as sauna, Moomin and heated overalls.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! We have one more day in Helesinki and then we take boat to Estonia and a roadtrip through Finland.

Helsinki: Museum of Finland (part 1, day 1)

On our first day in Helsinki we wanted to get a little introduction to Finnish history, so we spent most of the day at the National Museum of Finland. Since I took so many photos I will dedicate my next couple of posts to this museum. These exhibitions I will take you through today, were mine and Octavia’s favorites. They were the temporary exhibition, Barbie: the icon and Workshop Vintti.

The National Museum of Finland (Kansallismuseo) is located a short distance (walking) north of Helsinki city center. It is housed in an large castle-like building, which is very Finnish in its architectural design. It was designed by architects Herman GeselliusArmas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen and built in 1905-10. The exterior is National Romanticism and the interior is Art Nouveau. Some of the exterior features that we saw as entering the museum was a statue of Finland’s national animal, the brown bear; and a bullet hole left in the glass door from the civil war of 1918. Upon entering the museum we saw the beautiful ceiling frescoe, depicting that national epic Kalevala. It was painted by Akseli Gallén-Kallela in 1928 and are based on the frescoes painted by Gallén-Kallela in the Finnish Pavilion of the Paris World Fair in 1900. Another beautiful feature was the stain glass windows in the main staircase.

The museum is opened Tuesday to Sunday (or daily in the summer months), from 11am to 6pm/8pm (on Wednesday). The ticket price on our visit was 12 Euro for an adults, 9 euro for concession and free for people under 18. We did pay a little extra on our visit to see the temporary Barbie exhibition. The museum also offers guided tours, workshops, children’s birthday tours for additional fees. There are also free audio guides available for some exhibitions. If you get hungry you can visit the cafeteria inside or go across the road to Café Huvila like we did.

The museum presents Finland’s history, chronologically from the Stone age (1700s), up until today. It is split into six sections, which include Treasure Troves, Prehistory of Finland, The Realm, The Land and its People, Exhibition on 20th Century, and Suomi Finland 1900. We weren’t able to see all of the exhibitions, but we did get around to see
Finish Prehistory, The Realm, Story of Finland, as well as the kid’s Workshop Vintti and the temporary exhibition, Barbie: The Icon.


Barbie: The Icon


The first exhibition we saw visited was Barbie: the Icon, since it was located on the first floor, across from the foyer. I didn’t plan on seeing this exhibition, but I also had to see it. When I was a growing up, Barbie was my favourite toy. I will never forget my 10th birthday when I got the Barbie Fold n’ Fun house, the convertible and a extra Barbie cloths. I haven’t encouraged Barbie for Octavia at all and she prefers to play with animal toys. But I could see she was just as mesmerized by all those beautiful dolls in this exhibition as I was.

This travelling exhibition was curated by professor Massimiliano Capella and produced by 24 ORE Cultura and Mattel. It was exhibited in many European cities, including Milan, Rome, Bologna and Madrid. This exhibition tells the story of Barbara Millicent Roberts aka Barbie. It features 450 original Barbie Dolls, which were from private collectors and Mattel. The exhibition is split into eight theme, which define the life of Barbie over the past six decades. There is no denying Barbie is symbolic figure, who is constantly evolved to represent the modern woman.


BARBIE EVOLUTION

This first display shows the evolution of Barbie from from 1959 until 2016. She began as a teenage fashion modern and has transformed over time to what we see today. Over time different moulds were used for Barbies head and body. This displays shows fifteen dolls most important changes that have taken place over the past few decades.