In a country like Finland, where 75% of land is covered by forest, it comes as no surprise that wood has been the most important construction material over the centuries –in fact all the way until the 19th century when stone took over.
Many charming and cute wooden houses were built in Helsinki over the decades but only few still exist. Many were destroyed during various wars, but in addition the rather universal demolishing wave of the 60’s and 70’s also hit Finland, leading to destruction of entire blocks of wooden houses. The ideology behind these projects was to look into the future i.e. modernity and to be more efficient in terms of space and its utilization. Productivity became the dominant order and aesthetics lost importance. However, those interested in architecture and old wooden houses can still find wonderful pearls scattered around Helsinki. One of these areas is called Puu-Vallila (Little Vallila in Finnish), located in the northern part of the Helsinki city center (on both sides of Mäkelänkatu). Houses of Puu-Vallila were built around 1910.These houses that survived the demolition are today inhabited by proud families who often come from artistic background. The former blue-collar neighborhood has found its bohemian side.One needs about one hour to explore the neighborhood. It is very residential and there is only one bar/cafe where to stop for a drink or some snack (Pikku-Vallila, Vallilantie 19, Tel: 09-7013737).
Puu-Vallila: highly recommended for a lovely walk on Sunday or on one of the sleepless midsummer nights!
For maps and more information:
Helsinki Tourist Information (http://www.visithelsinki.fi/en)
Mon-Fri 9-18, Sat-Sun 10-16
Tel. +358 (0)9 3101 3300
Helsinki like you have never seen before.
I arrived in Finland on Friday evening. It snowed a bit (no, it does not usually snow in May!) and while the flakes were melting away the sky turned orange and dark, bluish grey. Such an impressive sunset.
On our first night in Helsinki, we were invited to eat barbeque with my brother and his girlfriend. They had made the groceries, so all we needed to do was to go outside, set the fire and start waiting for food to be ready!They started grilling sausages, chicken and tomatoes (we had prepared an olive oil, garlic and herbes de Provence dip for the tomatoes). Tomatoes turned out delicious, and so did the chicken! It was one of the best chicken I have ever eaten (the best grilled chicken in this world is served at Le Tyrolien in Algiers…).
The next set of food to be grilled included halloumi cheese and blue cheese-stuffed mushroom. My husband’s favorite. Very tasty and so easy to make. Finally, there was only a slice of salmon left. It was rather easy and fast to grill it without the usual aluminum foil. Don’t you just love the presentation of salmon on sausages…?For dessert we had grilled, sliced pineapple with cardamom-flavored whipped cream. Yummy!
PS In case you wonder where these cute, colorful plates come from, they are Finnish made and designed by Iittala (www.iittala.com). The plates come in many colors (unfortunately no longer in brown) and can be found here: https://www.iittala.com/Tableware/Plates-and-bowls/c/Plates%20and%20bowls?q=%3Aname-asc%3Atype%3APlates+and+bowls%3Aseries%3ATeema
After the summer house we spent only two full days in Helsinki. It was a brief visit, and it rained very often, so we did not get to visit as much as we had planned. But this short stay was very pleasant and I made a mental note of returning to Helsinki again this autumn (each year I say this, and then by the time the cold weather begins in Paris, we prefer to travel to warmer places. Let’s see about this autumn).
Some highlights of our Helsinki visit were (not in any particular order):
- Walking around Kauppatori (The Market Square) and Senaatintori (The Senate Square): watch the luxury cruise ships leave for Tallinn and Stockholm, admire the architecture dating back to the first part of the 19th century (the Russian rule), contemplating at the market by the sea whether to buy a reindeer skin or one kilo of strawberries!
- Visiting Artek, the world famous Finnish design and furniture shop (http://www.artek.fi/index.html). A must!
- “Grillata“: prepare and eat Finnish barbeque (which includes salmon of course). For cooking ideas, see What does Finnish barbeque look like?
- Kappeli (http://www.kappeli.fi/): this restaurant/bar/cafe opened in 1867. It is a Helsinki institution and located in a beautiful, wooden building right by the Market Square. We had just coffee.
- Putte’s Bar (http://www.puttes.fi/): I ate a very good Funghi pizza that came with chanterelle mushrooms. I loved the pizza but I have two remarks about the place: I had made a reservation and we were seated downstairs, in the darkest corner. Also the wine is super expensive (like almost everywhere in Finland).
- Liberty or Death (http://libertyordeath.fi/): we drunk cocktails with famous ice hockey players. Could it get more Finnish?
- Alppitori (http://www.ravintolatori.fi/alppila/): they have excellent hamburgers. My chicken burger came with avocados. My husband’s burger came with crispy bacon. And the best part is that they have French rosé wine for 25€ per bottle.
- Siltanen (http://www.siltanen.org/): we had drinks at this club/bar/restaurant that I like very much. It is trendy and hip, and has that industrial feeling. They have DJs and groups playing almost every night.
Time went by very fast and sooner than I realized, I was sitting in an airplane looking at those thousands of tiny islands scattered around Helsinki and its coastline.