Our weekend in Helsinki was an eating one. Whether we were hungry or not, eating was the primary activity of our 30-some hour visit – and it was wonderful.
We visited some of the city’s main attractions, of course: the Lutheran Cathedral overlooking Senate Square, the Uspenski Cathedral, the newly renovated Saluhallen (open food market). We even took a ride on the Sky Wheel, which rose 40 meters above the harbor with views stretching far into the winter greyness. But all of these activities were killing time before our next meal.
Finns traditionally eat a delicious pastry called karjalanpiirakka for breakfast. It’s made up of a thin rye crust with a thick rice porridge inside. Sometimes a mixture of hard-boiled eggs and butter is spread on top. I was skeptical of this seemingly random creation at first, but it took only one bite for me to change my mind. You must try it the next time you’re in Finland – they’re amazing.
For lunch, we found a charming, cozy cafe – Armas Kitchen & Bar – in the basement of a mall on one of the main shopping avenues, and enjoyed their pulled pork and smoked salmon kebabs made from local, organic ingredients, with some very sour beer brewed in France (note to self: drink French champagne, not beer).
And our last meal in Helsinki was at the renowned Sea Horse restaurant, where we indulged in traditional Finnish cuisine – cabbage rolls, meatballs, schnitzel – at a table alongside one of Finland’s most famous soap opera actresses. The most unusual dish on their menu was the Iced cranberries with caramel hot sauce dessert, which we ordered – and made sure to scoop up every last drop from the pitcher of caramel that came with it.
Then it was time to get back on our ferry, Viking Lines’ Mariella, for the 18-hour journey across the icy Baltic Sea and back to Stockholm. The Mariella was fully equipped with saunas and jacuzzis galore, an all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet, duty free shopping, and a spacious dance floor in the “Fun Club.” What more could we ask for? Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the dance floor – but we did get on stage for a round of karaoke. Let’s just say our audience was not overly encouraging.
Helsinki is a beautiful city, even beneath grey skies, and we loved seeing it with our local guides Maija and Tommy. Thank you guys for a wonderful weekend – we’ll be back!