Hmmm cake. This time on the longest post in the world about a citybreak, I’ve rambled a little about the sweet stuff on offer and the Finnish love of Sauna.
Known as ‘Fika’ in Sweden and probably called something specific in Finland, coffee and afternoon cake go together like fish and chips or cheese and crackers. Sweet buns are found everywhere, usually laced with the devil cinnamon or only mildly better cardamom. Finland does however do a decent spread of heavenly doughnuts which I partook in on several occasions. This led to a series of photographs I refer to as ‘Doughnuts with a Sea View’. I think the name probably needs work but I’m willing to carry on my research and photography to get it just right. The left photo was a caramel affair that came from the food hall at Stockmann department store, Finland’s major chain with a massive central Helsinki store and food hall to rival Selfridges.
The second doughnut pictured was from Cafe Ursula on the southern coast of the main city peninsula, a short tram ride and walk through a lovely park to the seafront. ‘Cafe’ is probably an understatement for the spot as whilst I only had a doughnut and coffee, this very popular joint has a full restaurant, is open all day and is fully licensed. I could have easily spent a whole evening sitting and overlooking the sea.
I’ve realised on review that this section is quite short. I seemed to eat a lot of doughnut but in hindsight I didn’t do much sweet feasting. I dd however do a lot of liquorice dodging. They like salted liquorice in Finland. Bleugh!
Saunas are huge in Finland. HUGE. There are 3 million saunas and 5 million residents. Sauna is in fact a finnish word (pronounced sow-nah). They are single sex and a naked activity. Finns don’t really like small talk or bodily contact (I think this is why I love them so much – from a distance and without telling them that of course!) but its perfectly acceptable to chat to a stranger in a sauna completely stark naked and a lot of business is conducted in them too. Most apartment blocks and homes have there own but there are still a few public saunas scattered around – check the opening times carefully tho – they are strictly single sex so may be closed to you on certain days.
I’m not really ok with this. I like to be clothed. Especially when carrying on a conversation. Luckily there is a new ‘design’ sauna which opened this year that not only mixes the sexes but bathing suits are mandatory. Whilst more expensive than the public saunas and with poor reviews for the service in the massive restaurant, going to the last evening session on a Monday evening was a massive win. It was chilly and rainy outside and very empty. Brilliant! There are two saunas to choose from (three if you count the private hire sauna), a large outdoor terrace, cold showers and an indoor seating area with log fire. I preferred the smoke sauna to the electric and both were exceedingly dark and quite treacherous in the fading light and with their unlit wooden stairs but I’d go back nevertheless.
The best thing is that Löyly is right on the Baltic sea and the traditional thing to do is to come out of the sauna, head straight down the stairs and jump in. I was nervous but I did it! And is was…well….Baltic! So cold! But an amazing feeling after being so hot. I did it a few more times, the jump in went better the second and third time as it turns out its not all that deep and I hit my foot on the rocky bottom the first time – ouch!
Another new sauna option was on the brink of opening while I was there – Allas Sea Pool is right on the side of the main harbour and looks like it will be super busy and popular. The other current options include the first fast food sauna at Burger King or a sauna on Helsinki’s smaller version of the London Eye…Sky Sauna. You really can’t make this stuff up!
Coming up next time…..Helsinki Markets, Getting Around, Where to Stay and How to Get There