Kalle Freese’s spirit animal

We used to love having brunch at Freese cafe – home to some of Helsinki’s best coffee, made by Finnish Barista Champion, Kalle Freese.

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Freese cafe – December 2014

Kalle first fell in love with coffee while living in New Zealand and sadly for us, his cafe closed a while ago due to his other commitments – but we found his legacy last weekend when we visited summer cafe Kahvila Siili.

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Siili means hedgehog in Finnish and the cafe is found in the lovely suburb of Puu-Käpylä, just 20 mins from central Helsinki.

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Puu means wood or wooden and the area is unique for its colourful houses, which were built in the 1920s.

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Red ochre features heavily in the local scheme as it does in many traditional Finnish neighbourhoods.

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We even saw a cat on a lead, not an unusual sight in Helsinki, enjoying the sun outside.

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It was a lovely walk that was made even better once we arrived at our destination.

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The brunch menu, we found, was the same as Kalle Freese’s – delicious crunchy granola with creamy yoghurt, served with seasonal fruit, fresh apple juice and your choice of tea or coffee.

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It also includes tasty avocado on toast and an egg, cooked to 63 degrees celsius and served with thinly sliced fennel.

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There’s also a great selection of freshly baked treats for those looking to have dessert.

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And to top it all off on our way home we came across the cafe’s very own namesake! Not Freese but siili! – a gorgeous neighbourhood hedgehog.

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Kahvila Siili – open only in summer

Puu-Käpylä

 

The Exhibitionists – What we saw in Fiskars

We balanced out all the eating and drinking we did in Fiskars Village by going to see some art (because art – (eating + drinking) = balance). Science.

First we visited ONOMA, the cooperative of artisans, designers and artists in Fiskars.  All members live or work in the village and the co-op organises exhibitions as well as running a store.

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The buildings in Fiskars are so grand and old, they really provide a wonderful backdrop for all that’s on display.

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In this case it was locally-produced homewares, jewellery, glassware and furniture.

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They also had answers to problems you didn’t know you had – like how to store your eggs in a fittingly stylish manner.

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There’s a cafe connected to the store and rooms out the back where you can sit and read.

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Next up, we visited We Love Wood(s)!, ONOMA’s summer exhibition at the Copper Smithy.

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Here, master woodcrafters such as cabinet makers and carpenters, teamed up with designers to create beautiful and practical objects for everyday use.

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Bowls by Matti Söderkultalahti

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Storage dishes by Susan Elo & Rudi Merz 

Some used traditional word-working methods, while others used modern technology such as laser cutting.

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Bench by Antrei Hartikainen & Sakari Hartikainen

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Omkring (space divider) by Mia Cullin & Petri Koivusipilä

We moved through to an adjoining warehouse, where there were larger pieces and an installation consisting of a circle of speakers, each broadcasting a different forest sound.

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Boat of pine, oak and tar by Jussi Nordberg

The next morning we rose early & explored the area around The Granary.

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We then went inside to visit their exhibition, Minun Kalevalani (My Kalevala).

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The Kalevala is Finland’s national epic, based on oral folklore and mythology. It is considered one of the nation’s most significant literature works and is said to have played an important part in the development of the Finnish national identity.

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In this show, 28 craftsmen from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia used iron to present different parts or interpretations of the stories.

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We had a lovely time in Fiskars and strongly recommend a visit next time you are in Finland.

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I particularly liked these guys, who managed to combine all the elements of the shows (wood + art + Kalevala + iron), putting us back in credit, just in time for lunch.

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Fiskars Village

Upcoming event: Fire and Light  24.10.- 21.11.15

ONOMA

Kalevala 

Special thanks to Kaisa at Fiskars Info who provided tips on where to visit and liaised with the galleries, who gave us free entry to the exhibitions.

A new island home

Not content to be winter’s plainer cousin, autumn was showing her beauty in Helsinki today with blue skies and earthy colours.

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We enjoyed her show on the island of Seurasaari.  Connected to the mainland by a footbridge, this open-air museum is home to buildings from around Finland from across the ages.

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We’ve been at Christmas and at Midsummer but hadn’t yet visited at this time of year.

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Even though most the buildings are now closed for winter it is still worth a visit for a walk and a picnic and the trails are popular with joggers.

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We enjoyed walking around and choosing which house we would live in (as long as it has good insulation).

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Despite having been before, we found new things to enjoy, including signs of Finnish ingenuity from time gone by.

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Autumn was all around us and as always, nature was left untamed and free to grow.

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We were soon joined by the island’s residents, who I assume are starting to squirrel away stores for the Nordic winter.

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Autumn showed us that she is no shrinking violet – and her display will only get stronger between now and November.

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And we finally found the house we might like to live in – or at least have as our summer home.

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Latvian Loma (holiday)

Latvia’s capital Riga was founded in 1201 and sits about 360km south of Helsinki (the same distance as Auckland to Ohakune in New Zealand). The flight takes just under an hour, making it a perfect destination for a short Easter break.

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As we headed out on Good Friday, I was looking forward to seeing the Old Town and the examples of Art Nouveau architecture, which are considered to be some of the best in the world.

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It is estimated that around 40 per cent of Riga’s central buildings are in the Art Nouveau style, with many examples evident along Alberta Iela.

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The street is also home to the Art Nouveau museum and a store selling beautiful Art Nouveau jewellery, lamps and art.

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I have a soft spot for Latvia because two of my close friends in Australia have family from there. I would be lying however if I said the legacy of its occupation is not still visible in the city. To me it was apparent as soon as we left the airport.

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Latvia was occupied by both the Soviets and Nazi Germany, before gaining back its independence in 1991.

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There are a lot of parks in the city, which we walked through on our way to the Old Town.

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I think they will become quite beautiful in summer, once all the trees are full once more of green foliage and the birds have returned from their southern migration.

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We had such a great holiday – most countries outside of Finland are so much cheaper by comparison and with Latvia’s reputation as a spa destination we treated ourselves to massages and a nice hotel.

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There were lots of locals around, including lots of women in maybe their sixties or seventies, many of them dressed alike. There is also a really good hipster scene, which I say with no judgement because where there’s hipsters – there’s good coffee!

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I’m going to write more about all the yummy food we ate and the great markets we visited but for now, it’s time for lunch.

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Distracted by Design

Like many people, I hadn’t stepped inside a library for years until I had a child. We don’t Wriggle & Rhyme no more but my love affair with libraries has, ironically, been rekindled.

Photo credit: Petteri Kantokari

Photo credit: Petteri Kantokari

Of the five Helsinki libraries I’ve been to, Rikhardinkatu is my favourite. Opened in 1882 it was gifted to the city by Anniskeluyhtiöa company licensed to serve alcohol.

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Designed by architect Carl Theodor Höijer, it was the first building in the Nordic countries to be built as a library. It is spread over four floors and has lots of great different places to sit and read.

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I popped in early yesterday to do some printing and had a great time taking photos before the library filled with different discussion groups and people making use of the study areas.

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There’s a big room full of children’s books in different languages and the top floor is home to the library’s British collection.

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Although quite large, the smaller spaces on each floor create a cosy feeling and there’s one to suit every mood.

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The library is also unique in that it has a large collection of art work, built up over 20 years, from which you can borrow.

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As I walked out of the library I had a smile on my face thinking of all the lovely design features and how someone takes good care of all the plants. I got about three blocks before I realised I had left 17 pages of paper sitting on the library printer.

Rikhardinkatu Library

Art Collection for Borrowing

An amazing discovery in the Finnish forest

I went on an island adventure the other day. Well, I walked to Lauttasaari, an island about 3km from the city centre and connected by a wide bridge.  The sea looked amazing as I crossed over, the mild temperatures evident in the partially frozen water.

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Home to just over 20,000 residents and the Finnish Sauna Society, Lauttasaari is about 4km square in size. I walked around one side and back along the coast relishing the rarely shining sun.

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And then the most amazing thing happened. I came across a village of mini houses, set amongst the trees.

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I was stunned. Painted in different colours these tiny houses were set evenly apart and looked well-loved but as though all the residents had simply up and left.

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I marvelled at how tiny they were, just a minute’s walk from the beach and it was surprising to see that some even had chimneys!

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They are of course kesämökit (summer cottages), a huge part of Finnish life. Helsinki city empties over summer as nearly every Finnish family heads to theirs. Even with the long winters, on average Finns use their summer cottages 80 days of the year. 

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It’s amazing to see photos of the same cottages in summer here – the difference in the landscape is incredible and you’ll even see this cottage with the same dress hanging in the window.

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Apparently in the 1920s, the City of Helsinki offered poorer residents tents so they could experience summer vacations. Soon people began to ask to be allowed to build something sturdier and in 1946 an architect created a single design for the cottages, which were allowed to be 12 square metres in size. The residents own the cottage, there is no electricity, water is only turned on in summer and there are shared outdoor toilets (Source: Green Hearts).

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We’ve yet to experience a holiday in a kesämökki and I can’t wait to see inside – although these tiny cottages are not typical of most summer cottages in Finland. But I’ll be sure to visit again in summer when the leaves and grass have grown back and they are once again full of life.

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City Cottage – Inside a modern-day example of one of these summer cottages

Little House on the Baltic – the story of the owners

The Essentials of Cottage Life – Visit Finland

A Visit to Alvar’s House

IMG_3392Alvar Aalto is one of Finland’s best known designers and architects. Born in 1898, his works include buildings, furniture, glassware and lamps from a career that spanned decades until his death in 1976.

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Alvar once said, “It is easier to build a grand opera or a city center than to build a personal house,” and you can visit his house in Munkkiniemi, 4km north-west of Helsinki city centre.

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With his wife Aino, Alvar acquired the land and built the house in 1936. It was designed and used as a home and studio. The day we arrived to visit there was already a small group gathered on the footpath and taking photos of the garden.

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Inside, Alvar’s work desk is still laid out as though he might arrive at any moment to start drawing up plans under the large windows that take maximum advantage of the natural light.

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Alvar and Aino were involved in every part of the creation of their home – they designed not only the house but the furniture and fixtures that went inside. Aina also designed fabrics, some of which feature in the house and can still be bought.

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Touring the house is fascinating as you realise that between them they designed the sofas, the lamps, the tables, the chairs, the glassware….even the bathroom basins! Alvar and Aino’s two children grew up in the house and their bedrooms are preserved as closely as possible to how they would have appeared during their childhoods.

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The house has a lovely warm, calm feeling and features Japanese sliding doors and wall coverings. Aino passed away in 1949 and Alvar was remarried three years later to architect Elsa Mäkiniemi. She lived in the house until she died in 1994.

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The house was later purchased by the Alvar Aalto Society and they now keep it as a museum with a small shop.

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Guided tours are given of the house and unless you are in a big group you can just turn up at the allocated times on the website. As with most things in Finland, opening hours are adjusted during the winter months so check before you come.

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The garden was just beautiful when we visited, the house draped in curtains of red and gold leaves. I saw pictures of the house in winter and the warm space that Alvar and Aino created looks absolutely beautiful covered in snow.

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The great thing about their work is that the house will appeal to lovers of architecture, furniture, and interior design alike. If you’re not already a fan I would suggest you might just find something you like when you visit Aalto House.

Alvar Aalto Museum