I recently returned home from spending two and a half weeks in Helsinki, Finland. I brought my Polaroid camera with me and snapped a few photos throughout my stay. I love the unexpected quality of the photos and the moody colours they captured.
The most important reason for my trip to these European countries was to visit Helsinki. I was there to get a sense of the city because it is where Eero is from and of course to meet his family who live there. Helsinki is a beautiful city and often reminded me of Halifax, Nova Scotia at times. Like Halifax, Helsinki's harbour played an important part in shaping the city and still has a major role today. It did take a while getting used to the quiet streets compared to the busy rush of London. Plus, we were there during the summer solstice and the extremely long days were a new and strange experience for me. We spent many days in Helsinki, in between our trips to Stockholm and Estonia.
When I sat down to put this post together I quickly realized I didn't have many photos of Helsinki itself. I spent my time soaking in the colours of the city and more time eating cake, though I'm definitely not complaining about either! For me, it's often hard to find something sweet to enjoy with a cup of tea when I have to worry about eating gluten-free. However, Roasberg, a cafe in Helsinki, had an amazing choice of gluten-free and vegan cakes. So naturally I had to visit a few times and sample their selection! The taste experiences in Helsinki were all special and incredibly delicious.
Another one of my favourite experiences from my trip to Finland would be visiting 'kesämökki' which translates into 'summer cottage'. Many people vacate the city during the summer to enjoy the serenity of the calm lakes and vast forests in Finland making it an essential part of the Finnish lifestyle. This summer cottage was situated outside the city, after a four hour drive we arrvied near the Russian border. I felt incredibly lucky to have been invited to such a special and peaceful place. Here we took advantage of the forest trails and I was introduced to my first Finnish sauna experience.
During my days in Helsinki I didn't spend much time in yarn shops at all, I swear! I was pretty pleased with my purchases from Makeri 14 in Stockholm and the craft shops in Estonia. However, during our last bus ride into the city centre for our final lunch before flying back to London, something caught my attention as we drove by. It must have been the bright skeins of Hedgehog Fibres in the window. I think any knitter would be able to spot them miles away. We got off at the stop just past the shop when I turned to Eero and said, "Ummm, I think we just drove by a yarn shop. Do we have time? Do you mind?". We didn't have much time to spare but I'm very glad he indulged me in this last request in Helsinki. I stepped into Snurre, an inviting and colourful yarn shop. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to spend but I'm so glad to have made the quick visit. Perhaps I'll be able to return soon!
I managed to find room in my already overstuffed suitcase for three skeins of Tuku Wool. Tuku is 100% Finnish wool. The owner of the shop told me that Finnish yarn is hard to come by since it's a country not known for their fibre production. Tuku Wool is grown, milled and dyed in Finland. I settled on the natural cream. Often with souvenir yarn I have no idea what it will later be but I thought it would be lovely to get back into natural dyes. Hopefully when I can find the time, these skeins will have some colour added to them!
For the past two weeks I have been traveling around Finland and a few of its neighbouring countries. I had the chance to visit my boyfriend in his home town of Helsinki to see where he grew up and to meet his family. I had not explored much of Europe since moving to the UK two years ago. Now that my visa is nearly up, I feel pleased with myself for finally getting out of London for more than just a weekend to experience a few unexpected places. Plus, having a local tour guide always helps! This trip was a very much needed vacation after what feels like two non stop years in London. However, I rarely turn my brain off from working, so I was able to take in these fantastic sights, hoping to refuel my inspiration for new projects in the near future.
I flew into Helsinki where I spent most of my two weeks. On my first full day, we took the ferry from the city's Market Square to visit Suomenlinna, a historic sea fortress located in the harbour, just a few minutes from the city centre. The moody weather complimented the old and overgrown landscape of these islands.
Construction for Suomenlinna started in 1748 when the country was under Swedish rule and was originally known as Sveaborg. The military base stretches across six closely situated islands and was to protect the country against the growing Russian naval power in the Baltic Sea.
In 1808, the fortress had to surrender to the Russia, where it remained a Russian naval base for the next 110 years. Eventually when Finland became independent in 1917, the fortress was returned to the country and renamed Suomenlinna, which means Castle of Finland. In 1991, UNESCO added Suomenlinna as World Heritage Site because of it's "unique monument to military architecture" and long history of importance since it served as defence to three different powers, Swedish, Russian and Finnish.
Today, Suomenlinna is home to nearly 900 residents who live there all year round. Many of the old garrison building have been converted into residential homes and properties. There's a number of cafe, restaurants, museums and galleries spread throughout the islands.
There were many textures and colours that I loved about this place. The first few photos of the overgrown military bunkers next to the sea reminded me very much of home and of the bases along the Nova Scotian coast. As we wondered through the town these colours of faded reds and pinks on many of the buildings caught my eye too. It was a perfect first day in Helsinki. I was able to learn a little about the city's past and begin to soak up some of these inspirational colours and views.