A BEEHIVE WITH HISTORY
Every time we visit a city, we always like to go to a place where we can enjoy a good panoramic view, which is not always easy.
When you arrive in Helsinki, you will find that it is a very flat city. The hills where the white Hel-sinki Cathedral and the orthodox Uspenski Cathedral are located are quite low.
The best panoramic views are from the terrace of the Torni hotel in Helsinki in the modern com-mercial area, where the big Kampi Kampen shopping centre is, next to the large Kampi square.
And as its name suggests, Torni means “tower”.
On its top floor there is a bar with a glazed upper terrace, from where you have undoubtedly the best vision of Helsinki.
The Torni Hotel is a building built in 1931, and at the time it was the tallest hotel in Finland, with its 70-metre-high tower.
Its construction was a controversy, because the Finns, who don´t like to live in beehives, had found it difficult to grant a license for its construction.
This hotel has been present at many moments in history. Even during the World War II, was taken over by foreign correspondents and spies, using it as an observation and warning post for air raids by the female paramilitary organisation Lotta Svärd.
Later, the strict Allied Control Commission (200 Soviets and 15 British) stayed here until the end of 1947.
Nowadays it belongs to the Soko hotel chain.
When you enter you have to follow the signs with the name Ateljee Bar and you will find a terrace divided into two areas, both with tables and very small.
The terrace is fully glazed, which is an indication of how cold it must be most of the year.
Once you sit at one of the tables, you have a splendid panoramic view of the Finnish capital, and will realise that it is surrounded by forests and sea all around.
The Torni Hotel´s Ateljee Bar is open from 14 h until 1 h.
Address: Torni Hotel, Yrjönkatu 26.
Undoubtedly the most typical and best place for a snack in Helsinki is the old covered market on the south quay, Vanha Kauppahalli or old market hall, as it was the old meeting place for all the merchants, including the fishermen, and the place where you could find out about the latest news.
It is one of the places to taste the Finnish gastronomy...it has been here since 1889 and we can find all variety of products: fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables...Open from Monday to Friday from 8 h to 18 h and on Saturdays from 8 h to 16 h.
So, you can´t miss it, also because the architecture of the red brick gabled building is truly impres-sive.
Since the Finns are passionate about their food, they are very loyal to all their culinary roots.
And although you can buy anything you want in Finland, doing it the way the locals do it in the market itself will be especial.
There are markets all over the city, but the old indoor market is overflowing with seasonal produce and local specialities.
There is a special favourite article for each time of the year, but there is something they like to enjoy all year round: karjalanpirakka, whose translation would be "Karelian pie", because they are actually cakes from the region of Karelia, to the south and near the Russian border, because formerly this territory, which today is part of Russia, belonged to Finland.
It is a traditional pie, a kind of rye flour pastry, usually filled with boiled rice or potato and carrot and covered with butter and hard-boiled egg.
They are small, fit in the palm of your hand, and so delicious that they can be eaten as a daily break-fast, or as an appetizer at any wedding banquet.
It is perfect to take away as a snack, as it lasts for several days without spoiling.
Are you leaving the city without trying it?
KUKSA, the mug for a lifetime
We know that the Finns are true nature lovers. From a very young age they are taught at school to love the forest, and to take long walks on the trails of this sparsely populated country.
And if there is one thing they all have in their backpacks when they go hiking, that is a kuksa.
A kuksa is a cup carved from birch wood with a small piece of reindeer antler tied to the handle, to be used as a knife or spoon, depending on the circumstances.
If you need to carve something, there´s the knife, or if you simply need to stir the coffee, tea or soup in your cup, there´s the spoon, even for solids.
It is actually originally from Sami town in the north of the country, but has spread not only to the rest of Finland, but also to Sweden and even Russia.
The original ones are shape in the birch knot, and of course are the most expensive, but as birch knots are not so abundant, some cheaper ones are made carved in the birch branch itself without the knot, or even with other woods, even pine wood, which makes them much cheaper.
Their size is usually about 11 centimetres in diameter, not counting the handle, which is also sculpt in wood. As they are large, are usually attached with a harness to the outside of the backpack.
They can hold about 20cl, which is just the right amount of hot coffee or soup to cope with the cold Finnish winter.
The advantage of not being made of metal is that wood retains the temperature better, the heat of the liquid does not burn your hands when you hold it and its weight is much less than any other material, even lighter than aluminium itself.
And how do you wash them?
Only with water, because soap is harmful to the wood. Immediately after use, you should try to dry them, so that the wood does not get soaked in the liquid.
When you buy a new mug, they are often boiled in salt water, so that the fibres of the wood absorb the salt, and they do not crack with use.
A mug lasts a lifetime and will always accompany you on your trips to the forest.
Will you take one with you?
THE WHITE CATHEDRAL
And what is the most photographed monument in Helsinki?
We are going to take the photo there, therefore we should head to the Senate Square where Hel-sinki´s Cathedral or White Cathedral, as it is commonly known, is located.
It is the most photographed building in the city, and this is because its beauty and location make it a real jewel.
The square, the cathedral and the surrounding buildings were designed by Carl Ludvig Engel. The design was based on St. Isaac´s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, at the time when Finland was Russian territory.
At first it was called St. Nicholas Church, in honour of the Russian Tsar, but when Finland gained independence, the name was changed and it is now a Lutheran cathedral.
When Engel laid out it, there were no stairs in the original plans, but he finally agreed to build them although he claimed that the stairs took away the neoclassical character of the original model from the senate square.
Its 5 green domes stand out against the immaculate white of the façade.
It is situated on a hill which is linked to the square by a series of stairs, giving the impression of being at the top of a theatre.
The 12 apostles adorning the bell tower or even the bell towers on either side of the cathedral in separate buildings are striking.
The crypt can be visited, as it is now an exhibition hall and a cafeteria.
The interior, like all Lutheran churches, is austere, and of course white, matching the exterior.
So, you can´t leave Helsinki without taking the mythical picture on the stairs with the cathedral in the background and spend some time sitting on them watching life goes by or just the city´s inhabit-ants.
Also, if there happens to be any kind of celebration in the city, it will take place here.
Address: Unioninkatu 29
AS SIMPLE AS SAYING TEMPPELIAUKIONKIRKKO
And as the title itself indicates, it is nothing more than that, a church excavated in rock, which is the translation, in case you don´t understand the easy Finnish.
It was opened to the public in 1969 and designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen.
When the tender for the construction of the church was launched, many projects did not convince the committee or the competition was put on hold due to the beginning of the Cold War.
When Timó and Tuomo´s project was submitted, it was revolutionary, as the aim was to conserve the rock face of the area and adapt the building to the rock.
There was a lot of criticism against this project, because even when the church was being built, many people wanted a classical design, the same style of the traditional cathedrals.
When you stand in front of the church, nothing will be too conspicuous, in line with the Finnish character, very austere and simple.
There are no big towers, no spires, no spectacular façade, just a small dome covered with rocks and a small façade with stones that welcome you.
The dome from the outside looks more like a UFO, with its hemispherical shape and green colour.
The interior is also austere, like all Lutheran churches, giving a sense of security and peace. The rock we see is the original one, untreated, untouched, simply integrated into the surroundings, unworked, unhewn.
This was not in the original project, but finally it was an idea of a composer, in order to get a better acoustics.
There is usually relaxing music and even concerts on many occasions, because it has a spectacular acoustics.
The light comes from an upper dome, which is practically invisible from the outside and gives the interior a dim light of tranquillity.
The dome is composed of 2 parts, one part formed by large stones carved as a crossbeam, like piano keys, separated from each other, letting the light pass between them, and the second part is formed by a large copper wire that surrounds the entire circumference.
In conclusion, an original place that you can´t miss!
What are you waiting for to light your candle?
Address: Lutherinkatu 3.
Bathing in a frozen lake is a common wintertime custom in Finland, and you´ve probably also heard that the Finns are very fond of saunas.
These two activities are often combined, because after a good sauna, there is nothing better than a nice bath in the icy water of the Baltic Sea.
In fact, many Finnish saunas are located near a lake or the sea, so that you can easily bridge the distance and take a refreshing bath afterwards.
Saunas are one of the icons of the country, so much so that Finland is one of the most depopulated countries in Europe, with only 5 million Finns and more than 3 million saunas!
There are many more saunas than cars!
For the Finns, the sauna is not only a place to meet with family and friends, but also a place of re-flection, silence and peace, a necessary moment to be with oneself at least twice a week.
In Helsinki it is easy to enjoy a wonderful sauna as there are public ones all over the city (every building has its own).
Swimming costumes are compulsory in public saunas, but not in private, for obvious reasons. So, get your swimming costume and enjoy a semi Finnish sauna.
In some of them you even have the possibility to take a bath in the Baltic when you leave the sauna, and they provide you with birch bunches, to breath quietly.
The price for a couple of hours is between 15 and 20 euros.
Löyly is the Finnish word used to call the steam that comes out when you pour water on the hot stones of the sauna. However, this term is also used to refer to that moment of sauna, to that feeling that you experience, not only physical, but also spiritual.
Dare to live it!!!
SIBELIUS, THE GREAT COMPOSER OF THE FINNISH ANTHEM
It is totally impossible to talk about Finland without mentioning Sibelius, the great composer of the Finnish national anthem, as well as many other controversial works of vital importance in the world of music.
The best way to get close to Sibelius is going to his park, the Sibelius Park, located very close to the city centre, and where the main work is dedicated to him.
It is a large construction of more than 600 hollow steel tubes welded together to form a kind of shape that imitates a sea wave. The artist´s intention was to capture the essence of Sibelius´ music. The monument weighs 24 tonnes and measures 8.5 × 10.5 × 6.5 metres.
It was a very controversial work at first, as it gives the impression of being an organ, but in reality Sibelius never composed music for organ, but the artist had in his head the idea that the steel pipes symbolised the forest where he usually walked through in his childhood with his violin and playing to nature.
He is the national artist par excellence, and even played an important role in Finland´s independ-ence, so much so that one of his compositions has become the national anthem.
Sibelius even has a cigar brand in Finland named after him, because his life has always been closely linked to alcohol and tobacco. It is said that alcohol took away his stage fright during his violin concerts, or even made up for the early demise of his father in his youth.
What is true, however, is that he is always depicted with his cigar in hand, both in photos and in portraits of the time.
Enjoy this beautiful park on the shores of the Baltic Sea!!
Address: Sibeliuksen puisto, Mechelininkatu.
ITS TRANSLATION IS JUST CASTLE
Places where you can stroll and discover the natural beauty are everywhere in Finland.
This time we are going to propose a walk around an island, the Suomelinna fortress, which is locat-ed in front of Helsinki, and it is easily reachable by boat, as you can get there in 20 minutes by ferry, or by city bus from Kaupatori or market square.
And it is nothing more than an old fortress, but as the name says, Suomenlinna means castle in Finnish.
It was built on six islands by the Kingdom of Sweden to prevent the maritime advance of the Rus-sian Empire. But it was taken over by the Russians for more than 100 years and passed into Finnish hands.
Today it is a World Heritage Site, and is a place of recreation and leisure for many inhabitants of Helsinki.
When you disembark on the island you will see a series of signposted routes. We suggest you take the blue one, which will take you to all the points of interest.
The route is no more than 1.5km, but if you want to extend it, simply leave the main path and ex-plore the island on your own.
And what will we find on our walk?
The church of Suomenlinna, which serves as a maritime and even aerial lighthouse, was once an orthodox church but is now Lutheran.
We will also find several museums, the toy museum, the museum of the island´s history, the military museum, the customs museum and a small submarine, which is accessible from the inside.
We change islands crossing a series of tunnels of the old fortresses and we arrive to an area which is the most popular among the Finns, because it is where the family have picnic, spend the day, or bathe. Here are old defensive lines with star-shaped walls, old Russian cannons.
Would you like to visit these islands?
This time the break will be very special, because we will connect to ourselves and in silence.
Don´t you believe it? Or do you think thi is not possible?
The inhabitants of Helsinki, and all those who visit the city, have the opportunity to take a break, and lock themselves in their own silence, isolating from the hectic outside world in the very centre of the city.
In 2012, a wooden chapel with a very modern oval shape was inaugurated.
At first glance, it seems that there is no entrance, no access from nowhere, but in reality, the entry is through a small door on the side of the chapel.
This cube of undefined shape has been called the chapel of silence.
The interior is totally minimalist, which is precisely why is so fascinating.
High walls that seem to have no end, and light that enters through lamps in the upper part of the room, hidden in the wood.
Its only decoration are 2 rows of 5 benches, which do not fit more than 4 people.
It is not dedicated to any religion, but is simply a secular space, where everyone is welcome to re-flect, to pray, to rest, to think, to read, to whatever one wants, there is only one requirement: SI-LENCE.
Also, if you need to let off steam, there are several social workers who are there to listen, they simply listen to you, they don´t give their opinion or draw conclusions, they just listen.
And why don´t we take a break from our trip and stop and reflect in these surroundings?
There is no excuse not to go there, it is close to the metro and train station, in the heart of the city.
Don´t miss it and relax!!!!
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