Post # 99 Travels Abroad #4 Helsinki, Finland

March 6, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 99 Travels Abroad #4 Helsinki, Finland

One of my favorite places to travel is Europe.  To my mind, the European people have a lifestyle that fits my sentiments more closely than anywhere else.  They care about history; they care about quality of life; they care about food.  Just north of Europe, in Scandinavia they  care about those things, as well, but in a different manner.  I as in Helsinki Finland several times and each time was a different experience due to the various times of year I was there.

The food in Helsinki was amazing.  Helsinki is a port town and fish of various kinds is a staple.  It comes in all varieties and methods of preparation.  Some of the best fish I’ve ever had was in Helsinki.  The Finns, however, have raised drinking to an art form.

Winters in Finland tend to be long and gray.  The buildings reflect this.  The architecture and scale are very ornate.  Color is very bland.  When the cold sets in and the days get shorter, everything gets a little dreary.  Then the snow falls and everything brightens up.  During the cold and gray times, it seems like the national pastime is drinking.  I’m not sure if it’s indicative of all of Scandinavia, but Finland purely likes to drink.

In preparation for my first trip, I was reading a guidebook, trying to figure out what there was to see and do in the city.  The book warned that when you were in a bar, you had to maintain a discreet silence.  When tourists make the mistake of talking too loudly or to frequently, a local will turn to them and ask “Are you hear to drink or to chat?”  Drinking is done in bars; chatting is done in cafes or restaurants.

The food in the restaurants is as bright and pleasant as the days can be gray and chilly.  The first time I sat down to lunch in a restaurant with the group I was working with, I ordered a piece of grilled salmon on a salad.  I got this huge plate filled with salad greens, fried cheese, and seasoned grilled salmon.  The cheese was fried haloumi, the salmon seasoned with salt and lemon, and was the freshest piece of fish I’d ever tasted.  It practically melted in my mouth and the flavor was out of this world.  I’ve heard people say before and since that the fresher the fish is when cooked, the better it will tasted.  Even after all these years, I still remember the flavor and tenderness of that salmon.

I also got my first taste of Nepalese cooking in Helsinki.  I got some rice and lentils, and a chicken dish that was so spicy, I was sweating for an hour after finishing it.

There was one place called the Wharf Market reasonably enough since it was located on one of the wharves.  It was on the way to work so we stopped by every day on the way home to pick up something to eat.  It was long and narrow and warm.  We entered one end and walked several blocks inside.  It was like walking through a toy store at Christmas.  The crowd moved from one end to the other perusing the displays.  Every fresh fish and vegetable available was out.  In some areas, they were cooked; in others, they were smoked.  The aromas were almost overwhelming, and made my mouth water.  I wanted to buy some of everything.  I usually got a fish sandwich and chips.  However, a few times I was able to get either a smoked sausage, or grilled beef strips on a stick.  I have no idea what spices they used on them, but they were delicious beyond imagining.  When I had the beef on a stick, I seldom made it back to the hotel before it was gone.

Oddly enough, one of the best fast food places in the area was the Pizza Hut!  It was the same menu, but the ingredients were local and that made all the difference.  Good stuff!

The first time I went to Helsinki it was November.  I was meeting two coworkers and we were going to be there for about a week and a half as we completed a site survey in prep for an upcoming installation.  I was also studying the new applications and the whole installation process.  I was preparing for another trip as well.  So it was understandable that as I packed for the short days-long (rather than weeks-long) trip that my mind was in other places.  I arrived in Helsinki in mid-November with no coat.  I had several sweaters, and a couple of blazers, but no coat.  In Helsinki.  In November.

I reasoned that with the undershirt, shirt, tie, sweater, blazer, scarf, and gloves I would be warm enough.  I lasted about two days and bought a good thick coat made locally.  I kept that coat for years before giving it away to someone who lived in Pennsylvania.  It kept me warm through many harsh winters.

Hope you enjoyed this.  Holler is you have any questions or comments!

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