Day 11, Helsinki / Vantaa, January 20th 2012

Tea 11: Green Tea with Lemon, somewhere in the Baltic Sea, near Helsinki.

SNOW!  Proper Snow!  Helsinki is like I had sort of imagined it would be, but even more snowy, especially after the lack of snow in Copenhagen and Stockholm.  Apparently yesterday they had 20cm, and today they must of had the same again.  There is loads!!!  I’ve not seen so much since I was a kid skiing.

I woke up in my cabin at around 8am local time, 7am head time and 6am UK time.  I was lucky in that the cabin I had booked was a shared one, and so I could of had to share with other people, but the ship was quiet and I had the whole thing to myself!  Brilliant!  So after a fairly decent nights sleep I headed downstairs to the Promenade deck in search of tea.  I didn’t get my hopes up and was therefore not too disappointed when I was limited to a small Twinings selection.  How they manage to fit so many tannins into their tea I do not know, I’m starting to think when they say ‘Green Tea’ they just mean they picked the ones out of the black tea batch that stand out a little…. It did the job though and by the time I had drunk that and eaten the extremely dry and chewy cinnamon bun thing (trust me, a camel would have struggled), it was almost time to disembark.  I headed to the top deck and out into the cold air, where I was greeted by lots of lovely, snow-covered islands, even the back of the ship had a little covering.  Helsinki soon loomed up on me and it was time to get off.

I took the tram from the Olympia ferry terminal to the central station and met my friend Eeero, who is kindly hosting me for the next 10 days, outside of the station, after me having seen him, but not him me, outside of the Sokos hotel / department store and me chasing him around for a while.  We went and got my travelcard sorted and headed to his house in Vantaa, a little way north of Helsinki.  After dumping my stuff, meeting his wife and their new baby I headed out into the snow, really really thick snow, and back into the city centre where I filled myself up at a disgustingly satisfying Chinese Buffet and wandered around the city a little to get my bearings a little.  The river running through Helsinki is completely frozen over and a weird murky brown colour, which means I will not be testing my theory that you could easily walk across it, but nonetheless I’m pretty sure that water isn’t moving for a while.  I treated myself to a bar of soap and a wee in a department store and headed back to Eeero’s place.

Day 8, Stockholm, January 17th 2012

Tea 8: Korean Seju OP, from Himalaya tea and coffee house, Hötorgshallen, Stockholm.

Today was my first proper day in Stockholm, I awoke to a misty, heavy sky threatening snow. However this didn’t happen and I successfully managed to wander to the Metro station without slipping on the ice or getting lost.  Although I did almost walk straight past the entrance to the Metro.  I took the train into Stockholm Central and entered the city from there.  I wandered fairly aimlessly for most of the day, starting off, accidently, towards Gamla Stan (Old Town). The streets were cobbled, the buildings various shades of yellow and orange, I felt that if the weather were warm and sunny it could easily be mistaken for some mediterranean town. I looked into the windows of a number of tempting chocolate shops and came up with a plan of attack for tomorrow and continued my wandering.  My plan for the day had been to visit Hötorgshallen, the old food market, but had managed to turn in the wrong direction after leaving the station, so I headed back Northwards after making it out the other side of Gamla Stan and walking along the edge of the water, past Stockholm palace and through the shopping district.

 I eventually made it to the Hötorgshallen and wandered around inside.  It reminded me strongly of a Singaporean Hawker Centre mixed with open fresh food market.  In the basement tucked on a corner was Himalaya, a promising looking tea house / emporium, with a friendly and smiling assistant.  I spoke to her about the wall of teas and eventually we picked out Korena Seju OP.  This is by far the most perfectly served tea I have had on my trip, she advised me to leave the tea-bag in for just 1 and a half minutes and once it was brewed and I took my first tentative sip I instantly knew she had made it perfect.  The water temperature was spot on, the leaves had not been burned and neither had my tongue!  The tea was delicate and smooth, ever so slightly creamy and very moreish, I drunk it down much too quickly, but it was simply perfect.

After some more meandering through the market and in the shopping district I continued north at ended up at the Observatory Museum (Observatoriemuseet), I wandered up the icey slope and took in good views of the city, it seems much larger than Copenhagen and definitely different in many ways.  After a rest I decided to give in to the hunger pangs in my stomach and grabbed a small snack before heading for Hermans.  This is a vegetarian all-you-can eat buffet and had been recommended by a number of friends and tourist guides.  One problem was it was all the way back past Gamla Stan and next to two of the major ferry/cruise ports.  But i was determined.

After making it back past Gamla Stan with a short comfort break that cost me the princely sum of 10Krone, something I very much resented! I climbed the long staircase up to Renstiemas gata, where I was greeted with a fabulous view of the city that blew the view from the observatory hill out of the water (image below).  I walked past the little boutique shops and cafes and got lost again, but eventually found my way to Hermans, yes, I had to double back on myself, but I made it with 15minutes to spare on their lunchtime deal.  I ate veggie chili with salad and beetroot and excellent fresh bread and followed it up with a Pesto Lasagne,  more salad and a helping of a great marinated Pak Choi.  I spent the time eating and daydreaming and watching the sky gently turn from light to dark and the twinkling lights of the city slowly begin to glimmer.

Day 7, Denmark & Sweden, January 16th 2012

Tea 7: Earl Grey, Tom’s Apartment.

Today I left for Stockholm on the train. Packed up and now on the second leg of my travels.  Was sad to say good bye to everyone who had given me such a lovely week in Copenhagen, and such a gentle introduction into my travels.  My train left at 1137 from Kobenhaven H (Copenhagen Central station) and arrived in Stockholm Central at 1650.  The journey was comfortable and quiet, I even managed to get a little sleep.  The train service was much better than our UK equivalent.  The carriage was clean, comfortable and despite being near to the toilet you actually couldn’t smell it!  The journey was pleasant, very flat and easy going, the view was good, but nothing of huge note apart from one small town, I think called Nässjö which was beautifully picturesque. Set on a currently frozen lake with traditional Scandinavian buildings coloured yellow, but totally dominated by the 324m television mast that pokes up from the top of a hill behind the town.

I arrived in Stockholm and was greeted by Jessica, my host for the next few days, in the main hall of the train station.  We headed down onto the T-Bana and got on the metro train to her home in Skärholmen, to the west of the city.  At her home I was introduced to her flatmate and friend Tiffany.  A warm cup of black tea was made for me and a wonderful dinner of Tortellini pasta and sauce.  I’ve just met the Budgies, Conan and Candyfloss and am looking forward to a good nights sleep in a real proper bed!!!

Tea this morning was an ‘A.C. Perch’s The-Salon’ Earl Grey, fragrant and deep and enough caffeine to get me up and ready to face the fully laden rucksack!

Day 6, Denmark, January 15th 2012

Tea 6: Chai Tea, Props cafe, Blågårds Plads.

Sorry for the terrible photograph of the tea, it looked much better on the camera screen for some reason.  Anyway, I guess a wee bit of last night before we go into today’s activities…

The Cuckoo’s Nest Cabaret at Byens Lys, Christiania.  What an amazing night!  We arrived a little late and missed a couple of acts, and just about managed to get in as the venue had been closed because it was so full, but gladly Inga’s skills got us in the door.  The pictures are from my phone so aren’t great but the first shows the MC at work, like a russian burlesque circus master she was brilliantly funny and an excellent performer, introducing all the acts perfectly.  There was everything from a fantastic brother and sister couple doing impossible things 15ft above the ground with only a pole for support to a fantastically risqué burlesque striptease and the amazing fire hooping tricks (second picture).  It was a brilliant night and really felt like I had seen something and been in something properly ‘Christianian’ and it was great to meet some of Inga’s friends who were all warm and friendly and seemed like great people.  As well as that I managed to meet ‘The Creature’, a performing arts piece that Inga has had past involvement in, its writhing and pulsing, screeching and moaning was mesmerizing and the experience was something I didn’t expect but very much enjoyed.  The event was held in Christiania’s Byens Lys, an old cinema venue with sand all over the floor and smoke in the air.  A brilliant space with a great atmosphere, after a short dance we headed home at around 2a.m. in the cold night air.

Today I headed to the Carlsberg Elephant Gate (Elefantporten), the main gate that sort of leads to the factory, though it seems to just split it in two really.  The Elephants stand as supports for an old building overpass.  They are basically life size and very impressive.  After managing to find my way there, almost got lost once but figured it out in the end, I headed into Søndermarken, a park with lots of trees and an art gallery, the gallery is closed in January, but it was nice to have a wander through the park.  I then desperately needed some food and to empty my bladder so I headed back into the city centre and grabbed a bite to eat, and after spending some time chilling out and warming myself back up I met up with an old friend from Glasgow, Ane, who took me for a short walk then for tea in a little cafe called Props, in the Nørrebro district of the city.  I had a chai tea and she had a coffee, after a little bit of surprising misunderstanding when two Danes attempted to speak Danish to one another, then resorted back to English!!!  The tea was warm and spicy, served in a glass and perfect for thawing my frozen fingers.

On the way home I stopped off for some Falafel in a pitta bread from Beyti, a good quality Kebab house just on Nørrebrogade.

Tomorrow I head for Stockholm!

A link to some really great photos from the Cabaret, not taken by me….

Day 5, Denmark, January 14th 2012

Tea 5: Sencha Currant, Laura’s Bakery, Torvehallerne KBH.

Today started fairly late, it is a Saturday after all. I headed for the ‘The Lakes‘, three, shallow man-made lakes to the West / North West of the City Centre. The sun was shining and the sky was clear, but probably the coldest day so far, should have put the old Long-Johns on, but carried on nevertheless. I wandered along the western edge of the two northernmost ‘lakes’, amongst joggers and dog walkers, sat on a bench for a while and made a few notes, watched Helicopters hovering in the sky whilst swans cruised along the waters of the man-made ‘Peblinge Sø’ and thought about the strange irony that represented.  I carried on sauntering up the lakes and then back around and down past the Botanic gardens, on the quest back to find the promising looking glass encased food market I had passed on my way to the lakes.  Inside I found myself reheated, and my eyes filled with wondrous treats, cakes, fresh fish, teas, chocolates.  The smells and sights set my stomach rumbling in an instant.  I wandered through one glass building and then the next and ‘selected’, I use this word loosely as the money in my pocket did most of the deciding for me, Laura’s bakery, the breads and cakes gleaming from behind their glass case.  Of course I had to free one, and a tea, obviously.

The tea was warm, slightly fruity and reviving. Sencha Currant, delicate and golden (though my fault for leaving the tea bag in a little too long), with just enough fruity sweetness.  The chocolate croissant was, probably the best croissant I’ve eaten, possibly ever, definitely for a long long long time went down much faster than it should have, but it was just perfect, in the cold air, the sun shining down, wonderful.

Tonight I plan to visit Christiania again, Inga has invited me to see some Cabaret type performances in an old cinema there, so hopefully that will work out and be good.

Day 3, Denmark, 12th January 2012

Tea 3: Green Darjeeling, Cafe in Christiania.

Today, the first rainy morning, my first stop was in Christiania, Denmark‘s infamous ‘free town’ within Copenhagen’s city limits.  It has caused a lot of controversy and debate during it’s history. The land it sits on, as well as most of its buildings acted as an army barracks until that was closed and Christiania as it is today ‘opened’ in 1971 when residents and hippies of the surrounding area, Christianshavn, began to take over the buildings. Famed for the hippy lifestyle it aimed to develop, the cannabis it sells openly on Pusherstreet, and the various riots, political issues and suchlike during its history the area now seems to be a curious mix of families trying to bring up their families in a supportive, open and friendly communal environment and the seedier side of the cannabis stalls and the gangs that now seem to be running that side of life in Christiania.

The rain had disappeared by the end of my cup of tea and visit to Christiania, but had been replaced by bitingly cold winds.  I walked back through the town, taking in a few sights through my cold streaming eyes and ended up back at Tom’s pub, The Olde English.  Played a good session of darts and came out on top.  He is now on a night out for a friends leaving do, I will try to join up later if I figure out whether I can afford it.

Tea in Christiania was a Green Darjeeling variety, nice and refreshing and warmed the hands whilst sitting in the cafe surrounded by veg, salad and falafel.  Slightly heavy on the tannins by the end of the cup.

Day 2, Denmark, 11th January 2012

Tea 2: Green & White Tea with Mint, Tom’s Apartment.

Today was a big day of walking, tried to visit Den Hirschsprungske Samling, as it was advertised as being free on a Wednesday, however it wasn’t due to a ‘special exhibition’ being held, so instead I had a nice walk through the grounds of the Statens Museum for Kunst, and wandered to The Little Mermaid.  The famous sculpture is a massive draw for tourists, but luckily, due to it being winter it was nice and quiet, despite the beautiful weather.  After that I walked along the riverside, past the star shaped Kastellet (fortress / army barracks), taking in views of a battle ship, submarine and the amazing opera house.

Wandered through the streets and the Amalienborg Palaces, it still doesn’t feel as though I have really left the UK.  Soldiers wearing bearskin hats, McDonalds, Rolex, Burberry, the Olde English Pub (Tom’s place of work, a nice, extremely English joint, and he seems to work with some good guys who are all good fun, they certainly have welcomed me warmly).

After a late lunch I visited the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, which featured a show by Simon Starling who is currently living in Copenhagen. Managed to stumble into a talk with the artist and a guy who he has collaborated with from the Copenhagen Marionet Teatret for one piece.  Got a bit stuck in the whole anxiety of wanting to leave but feeling rude.  Overcame that eventually though.  There is also a show on by Danish artist Nina Beier, who works in Berlin, her first scandinavian show.

Tea this evening is a Green and White Tea mix, with Spearmint and Peppermint, in a bag.  The mint is delicate and comes in as more of an aroma and aftertaste.  The Green and White combination is pleasant but not particularly noticeable.  Induction hob totally figured out.