Saturday, March 31, 2012

1 € health check

Ok, this is really weird. Have you ever seen something like that? It’s called MediPark and is a machine that does a quick medical check on you. For one Euro it measures your blood pressure, body fat, weight, length and body mass index. Found it at Itis (Itäkeskus). So now it’s possible to combine a medical check with a nice shopping tour ;)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Good breakfast for a good price

Just a few weeks ago the new restaurant and bar Kiila opened right in the center close to Stockmann. To attract potential visitors they offer a pretty good deal at the moment. On working days (8:00 – 10:30) breakfast buffet is just 3,90 €. That’s quite a reasonable price for a new, stylish restaurant in the center of Helsinki. 

And not only the price but also the breakfast is really good. The buffet has porridge, muesli, jam, ham, cheese, croissants, buns, toast, eggs and fruit. So basically everything you can wish for. And amazingly also coffee and juice are included in the price. In the end you really just pay the 3,90€.

The offer and the place are highly recommendable.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What could the new Guggenheim look like?

As you might have heard the Guggenheim foundation wants to open a new museum in Helsinki. At the moment there is still a lot of discussion about the plan since the project would get quite pricy for the city of Helsinki. It might still take a while till a decision about the new museum is made.

The Arkki School of Architecture for Children and Youth didn’t want to wait that long. With their students aged 4 to 19 they started thinking about how the new museum at Helsinki’s South Harbor could look like. And the kids came up with really cool ideas. Using all kinds of different materials they proved their creativity.

The results of their work can be seen at Laituri till April 28th. The entrance is free.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

„Let’s meet under the clock“

Did you ever realize that there are always a lot of people standing at the main entrance of Stockmann? 

Well, there is a reason for that. It is Helsinki’s number one meeting point. Under the Stockmann clock on Aleksanterinkatu is where teenagers meet for their first date, friends meet before having a drink together or girlfriends meet to go shopping together. So next time you want to meet up with someone in the center and are not quite sure yet where exactly you want to go afterwards, you know where to go.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Itäkeskus becomes Itis

Did you know that Helsinki has the biggest shopping center in the Nordic countries? Itäkeskus in the eastern part of the city is not only big; it’s also the oldest shopping center in the Finnish capital. Its first part Pasaasi was built in 1984 and has been extended twice (1992, 2001) since then.

But especially since the older parts haven’t been undergoing any big renovation and the shopping center is located in one of the poorer and more problematic areas of the city, its reputation has suffered lately. To make it more attractive to visitors again a big media campaign was started this year. Along with that came also a new name. Itäkeskus is now Itis.

Coming up with the name was simple and at the same time quite clever. Itis has always been the nick name for Itäkeskus among Helsinki locals. A new name normaly also suggests a new look and a more modern appearance of the whole center. So far there is not much changed visible though. But renovations are in full process and should be finished till summer this year. 

Itis is anyway worth a visit. Apart from its shopping possibilities it also has its very own atmosphere that differs a lot from what you can find in the center. If you want to see a different Helsinki and get a glimpse of what the eastern part of the city is like you should take the Metro and spend an afternoon at there.

Monday, March 26, 2012

tropical recreation

For those who can’t wait for the summer to arrive the City Winter Garden is exactly the right thing. This botanical indoor garden is located close to the Olympic stadium and offers its visitors tropical climate and over 200 exotic plants in three different rooms.

Build in 1893 is has been a recreation place for generations. You can just walk around, enjoy the beautiful flowers, palms and cacti or watch the fountain. Or why not have a picnic here in this nice atmosphere? With tables and chairs the winter garden invites its visitors to sit down and stay a bit longer.

You get to the City Winter Garden best with tram line 8 and get out at Kaupunginpuutarha. The entrance for the garden is free.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

spring vs. winter

While people in the Southern and Central Europe are enjoying temperatures around 20 degrees here in Finland you still have to take your hat and gloves with you whenever you leave the house. And even though also here the spring slowly starts and you feel the sun getting stronger every day some days might still surprise with snow. Finns call that “taka talvi”, the last attempts of the winter to come back. With 0 to 8 degrees Helsinki is also still much colder then Stockholm which is just a few hundred kilometers further west. The reason for that is that the Gulf Stream doesn’t influence the climate in Finland as strongly as it does in Norway and Sweden.

But not just melting snow and ice show that the winter is over. Also the first blooming flowers welcome the spring to the Finnish capital.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Getting acclimated to Finland already?

Pascal, import good
Drawings by Eric Leraillez | Script by Camille Scoccini

Pascal has moved to Finland. What a challenge for a Southern European! His Finnish friend Kari, joyful chap, always makes sure Pascal understands the small details that can easily lead to big misunderstandings when one is confronted to a new culture. A mix of gentle naivity and playful outlook over the land of Santa Claus. Enjoy!

A taste of Big Apple in Helsinki

It’s weekend and you are searching for a great bar to go to? You want to have really good cocktails, a nice relaxed atmosphere and a place where you can chat with your friends?

cocktail at the american bar

A great location to go in that case is the American bar at Torni. Ranked as one of the top bars in the whole country and designed as a typical New York bar it offers a big variety of all kinds of drinks. You can choose from a big whiskey selection, have a nice wine or ask the bartender to prepare you one of their legendary cocktails. In the evening they quite often also have live piano music.

But even if the place makes you want to stay for longer you should think about keeping it one drink. Cocktails start from 12 Euros, wine and beer are also quite pricy and with whiskeys it’s even possible to pay 400 Euros for one glass. My advice: drink slowly.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The amazing Voice of Finland

Since the end of December The Voice of Finland is searching for the best singer in the country. Those who haven’t seen the show so far will say: “What? Isn’t that just another stupid casting show? Aren’t they all the same?” But The Voice of Finland is actually really something else.

Jesse Kaikuranta
I met one of the candidates, Jesse Kaikuranta, in Helsinki. He explained that the concept comes from the Netherlands and has been running successfully in several European countries already. In four teams, each tutored by a famous Finnish singer (Elastinen, Lauri Tähkä, Michael Monroe and Paula Koivuniemi), the candidates compete against each other. Still the atmosphere within the teams is good, the candidates can choose to sing what they want and what is most important, the heads of the teams are really supportive. Also within the shows the critic is always constructive – in contrast to known formats e.g. Idols or X-Factor.

There seems to be something special about the version from Finland. Jesse told me, that even the creators from the Netherlands where surprised about the high quality the singers in Finland brought to the stage. Well, Jesse himself also amazed with great performance. One of the highlights of the show so far was his duet with Juho Räisänen singing Minä ja hän. Try watching it without getting chills.

You can find more great performances on their website. Check out e.g. Saara Aalto, Mikko Herranen and all the other extraordinary singers.

The show airs every Friday at 8 p.m. on Nelonen (channel 4). Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Angry Birds in Space and at Kamppi

Today Rovio released its new game Angry Birds Space. And at Kamppi they gave people the possibility to check out the new game. 

With a huge campaign Rovio advertised the new Angry Birds and even cooperated with NASA for that. Angry Birds Space basically works the same way you are used to from Angry Birds. With a big sling you have to try to through the little birds at the evil piggies. What has changed in the new version is that the rules of gravity have changed. Now you have to take into account zero-gravity and the gravity single planets have. Therefore Rovio made it a bit easier showing the player where the bird will go in advance. That seems to make it way easier than before but believe me it’s still tricky enough. But it’s hard to just explain a game with words. That’s why you should check out the following two short videos to get a better idea of Angry Birds Space.

Angry Bird Space can now be downloaded for Android, iOS, PC and Mac. Apparently the cooperation with Nokia didn't work that well this time since there is no version for either Symbian or Windows Phone yet.

Merchandising for the new game and its new characters (the birds looks have changed and the icy bird has been added) is just available in the US so far but will come to Europe in May. One of them is a book about space that Rovio published in cooperation with NASA and National Geographics. It’s a science book about space.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Goodbye winter!

Yesterday spring officially started. And just in time for that snow and ice finally start melting. It’s beautiful sunshine most of the time.

the water from the melting snow forms small creeks

swans swimming on the open sea

the last ice fishers ...

... and the first skate boarders

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Flower Carousel

Just a few days ago this interesting new maschine was put up at Forum Shopping Center. It’s called Kukka Karuselli and it allows you to buy flowers right from the automat. The prices for the bouquets vary between 7.50 and 20 Euros. I really handy way to get to some flowers fast if you are just on your way to a friend’s birthday or forgot to buy something for your anniversary. 
But honestly it’s not really a big advantage compared to a normal flower shop. It can’t even compete with its opening times since the shopping center closes completely at the same time as the shops in it.
Anyway it’s definitely a funny idea and probably also worth trying it out once.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grocery shopping with charm

It is one of the most important sights of Helsinki and something to recommend to everyone that visits Helsinki. The Wanha Kauppahalli (old market hall) offers its visitors not only a huge variety of good and fresh food, it also has its very own and unique atmosphere. And it’s not just a place for tourists. Also the locals come here to get their groceries. Even if you don’t really need anything it is fun to just walk along the stands, look at the typical Finnish products and maybe buy a small snack. After seeing all the nice things they sell you will want to also try some of them. But it is a place in the center which means: don’t expect low prices.

You find Kauppahalli next to the market square at the end of Esplanadi next to the sea. It is also a good place for rainy days. You should take the tram 3T then and get out at Kauppatori.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

For the ones in needs

Yes, this post is about toilets (or “restrooms” to please the American readers that apparently always have a problem using the bad t-word). But let’s face it; we all need them. A friend of mine once said „You can tell if you are in a great city, if you have access to good public toilets. “ Well, Helsinki has that. In more and more places throughout the city you’ll find these green boxes. While the big bathroom on the right costs you 50 cents the smaller on the left is for free. They are clean and functional – and can be real lifesavers.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! And of course that’s the day to visit an Irish pub.
If you are searching for a nice and cozy pub to celebrate this very special Irish holyday, maybe try out O’Malley’s. Helsinki’s oldest Irish Pub put up a big program for St. Patrick’s day.

The bar opens at 2 pm. Till 4 you can get hot cider, hot chocolate and small snacks in their winter garden. Then the kitchen opens and has traditional Irish stew on offer for 12 €. The party really starts at 9 in the evening when the Irish band BREGÁIN will play traditional folk music. The whole night through Guinness will of course be on special offer.

But of course also the other Irish Pubs in Helsinki have a lot to offer. And since St. Patrick’s Day is their day you can be sure there will be something going on everywhere. So have fun everybody, happy St. Patrick’s Day and Sláinte!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dining for 10 €

Starting from today and for the next two weeks you can get selected dishes at several restaurants in Helsinki for just 10 €. It is organized by City Magazine.

Check for example the offer of Henry’s Pub. The centrally located pub next to Kamppi offers their famous hot chicken wings together with a pint of Koff beer or one of two different ciders. If you come in the evening you can enjoy good live music or stand-up comedy at the same time.

It’s a nice bar snack and something for those of you who like it spicy.

But there are also plenty of other nice offers at all together 29 locations throughout the city. From basic pub food to tasty pepper steak there is something for everyone. Find out more about SYÖ! Helsinki on their website.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Your own Angry Birds

As most of you probably know the world famous game Angry Birds comes from Finland. It is invented by the company Rovio from Espoo. Nowadays they don’t just focus on the games themselves but also sell lots of merchandising products. For that reason they opened the first official Angry Birds fan shop in Helsinki. You find it inside the big electronic store at Länsiterminaali.

Even though the design is pretty nice and they had nice ideas how to decorate e.g. with a big sling that you can sit on it is in face a pretty small shop. Furthermore you can also get most of the products at other shops throughout town. Sometimes even for lower prices.

But if you really want to have a big selection of Angry Birds products, the probably best place to get them is on their web store.

Enjoy shopping!

UPDATE: This shop has closed. Another Angry Birds Pop-Up Shop has opened at Helsinki Vantaa Airport though. It's open daily and will be there till the end of August.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Zebra anarchists

Finns are probably one of the most rule loving nations on this planet. Everything goes by the book here. It even surprises someone like me coming from Germany. Just one example are those funny numbers you have to take whenever you want to get customer service anywhere in Finland. This system is useful, no doubt. But even if there is no other customer in a radius of the next 20 kilometers I can assure you that you won’t be served before you take one of those numbers. Not to mention all the regulations when it comes to the topic alcohol. But more on that some other time.

All those rules are of course important to keep the country as organized, clean and international successful as it is. And people in Finland are glad to follow them. The really low crime rate reflects that.

But there is one thing where the Finnish rule following need stops working. And that is when it comes to zebra crossings. Finns just don’t stop if there is a pedestrian waiting to cross the street. After observing this for while I began to doubt that zebras here even have the same function as in most other countries. Maybe they meant something completely different like “try to not to loose speed when you pass by here with your car”. But I was assured that this is not the case – at least not officially. 

But I have to admit that last week when I was again waiting to pass the street finally one car stopped and gave me way. I thanked the driver with a waving gesture being happy to prove my observation about the Finnish zebra anarchists wrong. Then I realized: the car was from Estonia.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One day in Stockholm

A really nice trip at any time of the year is to go to Stockholm via ferry. There are two carriers operating between Helsinki and Stockholm: Viking Line and Silja Line. They offer more or less the same trip.
You board the ferry either at Katajanokan Terminaali or at Olympiaterminaali (both really close to Kauppatori) before the ferries both leave at around 5 pm. They drive the night through with a short stop at Mariehamn (Åland) and both arrive at around 9 in the morning at Stockholm. The really convenient thing is that you keep your cabin and can leave all your stuff there during your stay in Stockholm. So no bags to carry around and no second check-in when you come back to the ferry. The ferry leaves back to Helsinki at 4.30/5 pm. That leaves you enough time in Stockholm to get a first good glance at the city and soak in its nice Scandinavian atmosphere.

You should make your decision on which ferry company to use based on the price. The trips don’t really differ that much. At Silja Line the boat is a bit nicer which makes it the first choice of lots of people. But Viking Line is not bad either and has the advantage that the port in Stockholm is much closer to the center then the Silja port.

One important tip though: Never buy the regular price! The two companies have a pretty vivid competition and that’s why you will always find special offers.

If you are really spontaneous you should check out Silja’s recent offer for one day in Stockholm (two nights in a cabin on board) for as low as 10 €. The offer just applies for a few specific days during the next few weeks and since you always pay a whole cabin you should find three friends to join you to really get that price.
Enjoy your trip!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chapel of Silence revealed

As you all know Helsinki is this year’s World Design Capital. As part of the WDC the Parish Union of Helsinki in cooperation with the Parish Union of Vantaa and Espoo and the City of Helsinki started building the Chapel of Silence. If you passed by Annanaukio in front of Kamppi during the last months you have seen the big construction site. Now the chapel has finally been revealed. Take a look.

It is already possible get a guided tour into the chapel. When it will be officially opened to public is not clear yet. It’s supposed to be at some point in “spring 2012”.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pop-Up Café at Espan Lava

Espan Lava Pavilion on Southern Esplanadi is used as a stage for music and theater or hosts art installations during summer. The rest of the year it is normally closed. But a few days ago Café Köket opened its doors there. The pop-up café will be there till April 10th

It is a really nice and bright location. You should check it out. They have delicious cakes and a nice variety of coffee and tea. (Try the licorice tea and the sitruuna-marenkipiirakka!)
After April 10th Café Köket will move to its normal location a few meters down the street to a tent next to Kauppatori.

UPDATE: Café Köket is now back at it's ususal location on Esplanadi a few meters down from Espan Lava.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Collarbone at Semifinal

A great place in Helsinki to get to know new promising bands is Semifinal. It’s next to Kamppi shopping center and underneath Tavastia Club. If you were lucky and went there yesterday you had the chance to see Collarbone. Really cool rock music from a bunch of guys from Helsinki. You should check out their website and their next gigs. Don’t miss seeing them! Definitely worth it!

To get a first impression of Collarbone, find them on Facebook, Spotify, MySpace or Youtube.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Esplanadi in March

Yesterday in the late afternoon I took the Esplanadi picture for this month. Way less snow and way more sun.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

the Finnish calendar

Well, whoever had the possibility to take a closer look at a Finnish calendar has already figures out that Finns decided to name their months completely different from all the other countries in Europe. If you haven’t learned them at some point you’ll be lost. Their names seem quite random at the first glace. But actually they are not. This might help you:

The months       kuukauden       
kuu = moon; So it has the same origin as the English word

January:              tammikuu         
tammi = oak; Here referring to the tree trunk meaning the center or middle. It describes the January as the middle, the solid heart and center of the winter.

February:            helmikuu            
helmi = pearl; Have you seen Finland in February with all its white snow and shining ice? Then you won’t have any problems understanding the origin of this name.

March:                 maaliskuu
maa = land, soil; The snow slowly starts melting, releasing the soil that has been hidden throughout the long Finnish winter.

April:                     huhtikuu
huhti = kaski = new Field; April is described as the month when to prepare the fields.

May:                     toukokuu
touko = peltotyöt = work on the field; It’s time to do the important work on the field.

June:                    kesäkuu
 kesä = Summer; Well, that is self explaining.

July:                      heinäkuu
heinä = grass, hay; What better word would there be to describe July?

August:                               elokuu
elo = viljasato = harvest; Time to collect the fruits for the hard work in the spring.

September:       syyskuu
syys = syksy = fall/autumn; No explanation needed I guess.

October:             lokakuu
loka = kura ja lika = mud and dirt; Take out the rubber boots.

November:        marraskuu
marras = kuollut = dead; The trees have lost their leaves, the nights get longer and longer and if it’s not pitch black then the sky is gray. 

December:         joulukuu
joulu = Christmas; Sleigh bells ring and Santa Claus is coming to town.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

150 years Stockmann

I guess that everyone that ever spent some time in Helsinki, even if it might have been just one day, will know Stockmann. It is the biggest warehouse in the Nordic countries and fills up a whole block at Mannerheimintie. Meanwhile the Stockmann Group has over 700 stores in 15 countries but it all started in Helsinki. Heinrich Franz Georg Stockmann from Lübeck arrived in Finland in 1852. He worked as a manager for a shop of Nuutajärvi Glassworks. In 1862 he took control of the business. 

This year Stockmann celebrates its 150th birthday. For that reason there are lots of special events and campaigns planned for 2012. So you should keep your eyes open to announcements. 

Let’s face it: Stockmann is one of the most expensive places in Helsinki but it has a huge variety. Whatever you are searching for, you’ll find it there. And with the discounts they often have you might even get a pretty good deal.

What you need to get those discounts is a customer card. This year only they give it away for free and it is valid for 10 years. With this card you get discounts of up to 20 % on selected products. And that can really pay off.

The really cool thing is that they create your personal card right when you apply for it. They have a special machine there. So you don’t have to wait for your card to arrive via mail.

... and what about putting back those nice ladies in the lifts, just like in the old times (pictures from the 1930s)? Well, there has been some talks about that project recently - I still wonder how it would work in our modern times' rush hours and sales seasons! A good way for any employee to go insane at work in only 1 hour... But after all, at Stockmann's what the client wants, the client gets. Best customer service in Finland, undoubtedly.

Monday, March 5, 2012

WFV #3

At Kamppi I recently got to see another weird finnish vehicle. Unlike the once so far this one is for entertainemnt purposes. Take a look.

Surprisingly I didn't see him collecting any money. So he might be paid by the shopping center. Maybe you're lucky and also get to see him some day.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

weekend walk along the bay

Another really nice walk in the Helsinki area is the tour from Lauttasaari to Torpanranta. On the way you pass the islands of Kaskisaari, Lehtisaari and Kuusisaari and are always close to the water. You get to see few of the nicest neighborhoods of Helsinki. At the end of the tour (takes around 1:30h) you can reward yourself with a rest at the quite pricy but beautifully located café Torpanranta while watching the kite skiers on the gliding over the icy bay. The weather this weekend is ideal for this walk. In the sun it is even warm enough to sit outside. Here some impressions from today.

view from Lauttasaari towards Salmisaari

bridge connecting Lauttasaari and Kaskisaari

ice fishing close to the edge

snack at Café Torpanranta

preparation for kite skiing on the ice