Day 13, Helsinki / Vantaa / Seurasaari, January 22nd 2012Posted: January 22, 2012
Tea 13: Vihreä Tee (Green Tea) with Goji, Tyrni (Buckthorn) and Karpalo (Cranberry), Caffi, Helsinki.
First things first, last night. My first experience of a proper Finnish Sauna! In fact my first experience of a sauna of any kind! There is one in the house I am staying in and it is apparently tradition that a sauna is had every Saturday. And blimey, it was an experience. Eeero apparently has saunas HOT, I was warned of this before, but having never had one at all I had basically no inkling of what that really meant. But what it did mean was 90’C! Initially I didn’t really know what to think of it, I couldn’t really understand the whole thing, but I think I do now. After the first bout of heat I went out an took a cool shower then went back in, this time I still didn’t quite get it. I got out again and this time let myself cool down properly with a cool shower and a sit down to catch my breath again. Then, once I’d psyched myself up again I went back in. This time and then the next was when I realised that the sensation is actually quite enjoyable, I think probably as your body starts to defend itself and you get a bit euphoric, I even had a strange shiver at some point that felt pretty good. That and a couple of beers followed by a nice helping of Eeero’s homemade liquorice vodka and the night was a good one, full of chatter and laughs, think I got to bed at about 2a.m.
Today I headed, once again, into Helsinki and from there took a tram north-west to Meilahdentie, I got off the tram and made my way through a little patch of snow smothered park land to Meilahti, one of the bases for the Helsinki art museum, Helsingin taidemuseo. They are currently showing a collection of new work acquisitions. For the past 6 years or so the Museum has been buying contemporary works from young Finnish artists and this was a mere 50 or so of the 400 they have so far acquired. There was some interesting stuff; a reasonably immersive set of three videos by the artist Jani Ruscica, as well as some interesting and amusing photographic pieces by Antti Keitila.
After my visit I headed onto the island of Seurasaari, this tiny island is best know for being an open air museum of buildings and structures, reminiscent of the Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm. The building have all been brought to the densely wooded island from elsewhere in Finland and they act as representation of the older, simpler days of life in Finland. The oldest building, the Karuna Church, dates back to 1686! The island was quiet and peaceful and very beautiful, with views out across the water back towards the city centre and another island, Vattuniemi. Red berries and green pine needles stood out against the perfect white sheets of snow that cover the ground whilst birds chitter away in the trees, feeding from bird feeders dotted throughout the island. I also encountered the islands tallest Spruce, at a whopping 30metres!
After that long, lovely walk in the fresh crisp cold air I headed back to the tram stop, luckily managed to jump straight onto a tram and back into the city centre. I was now on the hunt for tea. After two failed attempts, one being shut, the other where I almost got my nose taken off by the woman slamming the door in my face (it would seem I had inadvertently interrupted some sort of tea event, and despite my apologies she didn’t seem best pleased, ‘No, no, no’ were the only words uttered), I thought I had failed in my mission for the day so I went and got something to eat, a satisfying Thai dish of rice noodles, coconut and red thai paste with tofu and shrimp. I then headed back towards the station but my attention was quickly drawn to the chinese new year event being held behind the Lasipalatsi (glass palace) shopping / restaurant arcade. I had a meander amongst the stalls on the hopes of finding tea, there was some but alas over-priced and uninspired options. I then noticed a little cafe in the Lasipalatsi complex that looked promising. They had a fairly large wall of teas. I asked the waitress what she would recommend and after a disappointing few sniffs of some overly flavoured and floral mixes I settled on the Green Tea with Goji berries, Cranberries and Buckthorn. The tea was a little disappointing. The water was too hot and this had burned the tea immediately, making it bitter and heavy. And I felt that the taste had been compromised in some way, it may have been the combination of flavours, but I think it may have been flavoured rather than mixed, there were definitely Goji berries in it, but as for the others I’m not so sure, there was just a distinct flavouring taste in there that reminded me of the weird fake ‘fruit tea’ you can buy. But anyway, it was ok, but I won’t rush back for more, and next time I’ll pick a tea that can hack boiling water. They seemed to have a large Rooibos selection….
Tonight Finland gets a new President!