As promised, here are a few photos from our (short) trip to Finland. I must have been enjoying myself a lot because I honestly didn't get THAT many pictures. I'm starting to feel more and more like picture taking gets in the way of the experience and Finland was definitely an experience.
The first thing of note was the water. There're so many islands. This was taken from a bridge to an island that we walked to from our hotel. I know it's just water and lots of people see this type of view every day, but for me, a prairie girl, this was really enjoyable.
This is kind of an odd picture, but the amount of pedestrians and bicyclists was pretty astonishing. I think I saw more of both just in the cab ride from the airport to our hotel on the first day we arrived than I've seen in all my six years of living in Edmonton. This part (the clearly marked pedestrian and bicycle lanes) was my favourite. As a bicycler in Edmonton, one of my pet peeves is that people don't follow the rules of the road when they're walking. So you're constantly weaving back and forth trying to avoid pedestrians (and don't even get me started if you encounter two groups going separate ways). It seemed to us that a large portion of Helsinki was really bicycle accessible and the few people we met didn't even own a car, they just biked everywhere. Roads didn't have a bicycle lane, either, they had a smaller side street (so to say) separate again from car traffic. Much much safer than some of the lanes here. Our hotel also offered bikes for guests to borrow which is something I've never seen in any other hotel.
This was outside a pretty big shopping centre and another example of the number of people using bikes as a primary source of transit. At the time, we thought that some of the bikes weren't even locked up, but I guess they have this little lock device that attaches to the back wheel, so you don't have to look for a pole or a rack to latch up to. I feel like if this lock were available here, thieves would just pick up your bike and carry it away (or throw it in their truck), but it seemed to be working out pretty well for people in Helsinki. There's also a lot of public transit like the little tram you can see in the background plus buses and a subway system.
The overall city feeling is completely different from Athens (since that's the only other European city I can compare to). There are a lot of buildings and apartments and offices, but for some reason, it didn't feel as overwhelming and smothering as it does in Athens. It felt a lot less congested and (dare I say) prettier. There're parks almost on every street and trees almost everywhere. We also loved that historical buildings were nestled in with modern architecture (as seen here in these two examples).
If the parks weren't enough, there was always some sculpture or statue around to look at (this is just one of a few -- probably the most interesting).
We have to talk Angry Birds for a moment. It's their home country so you're definitely going to find an overwhelming amount of Angry Birds stuff. Here's some Angry Birds pop, but you could also find cakes, ice cream, lotion, cups, rugs, juice, even coffee! There's even an Angry Birds amusement park somewhere, but we didn't have time to visit (and I don't think we would have anyway since I'm probably the only one in the world who's not a fan of the game).
Speaking of food, I really wanted to try local cuisine, but it was insanely easy to find hamburgers and Italian restaurants versus the reindeer and mushrooms I'd read about before we went. We did have the amazing opportunity to visit Luomo which describes itself as a restaurant that specializes in "innovative and modern cuisine with a foundation on classic gastronomy." It's pretty fair to say that I've never in my life eaten at a fancier restaurant or had better food. If anyone knows of a similar restaurant in Edmonton, please let me know! After that meal, we kinda felt like if you're going out to a restaurant, you should go somewhere amazing that specializes in things you'd never cook or replicate at home. It should be an experience instead of just a place to stuff your face. If such a restaurant existed here, we'd definitely save up the whole year just to enjoy their menu on our anniversary or other special occasion.
So I have to share the pictures, they're a little hard to see because it was getting all moody in there in the evening. We went all out with the seven course meal since we didn't really know what anything was. Unfortunately, we failed to take pictures of the amuse bouche and the few palate cleansers that were offered in between these dishes so really, the seven course meal was actually eleven. Each dish was cleared and a new dish presented and explained once everyone at the table was ready. It was a four hour meal, understandably.
From left to right, top to bottom: fried fish with a pistachio soup (or cream); beets in various forms with goats milk (the gelatinous goats milk was the one thing I absolutely did not like. It was like not-quite-cooked egg white. I couldn't get around the texture); lobster and dill with horseradish ice cream (I believe); foie gras with honey and other assorted elements I can't remember (and even at the time, we were all like, what did she say this was?! It's delicious!); fish and scallop soup; wild boar with apple along with an apple and vegetable soup with a thyme foam; mushroom ice cream with chocolate fudge (this was THE best. Who knew mushroom went so well with chocolate?! And yes the ice cream REALLY tasted like mushroom). Also enjoyed, but not pictured, were a raspberry and blueberry napoleon, mushroom toasts, a little jar of panna cotta (I loved the presentation of this so I'm super bummed we forgot to take a picture), and a sorbet (of which neither of us can remember the exact flavour. Something tangy and refreshing. I just remember the feeling it invoked). This is the menu we were presented with, so you can see why we just went with everything instead of trying to figure stuff out on our own.
I did some shopping, too. I didn't get much since we packed extremely light. It was fun to see Marimekko patterns in grocery stores for a really good price (I picked up some cute napkins). I also found a store that was equivalent to our Home Depot and all of the fixtures and wallpapers and such were so much more modern than here. Let's put it this way, there was not a single antiqued or brassed item to be found. There was also another store that was sort of styled after IKEA with a lot of neat modern fixtures, furniture, and housewares. And one of my favourite stores was Tiger which was kind of an everything store. It had super cute stationery, gifts, bath stuff, food items, and more. I'd probably be in that store at least once a month if we had something similar here.
And that was Finland for us. I really wish we had had more time. I feel like there was so much more to see and do, and I definitely would have liked to sit on the docks with an ice cream and lazily stare at the sea for a whole day.