Summer Daze

I interviewed a photographer earlier this year who said he enjoys the shorter days of winter as it gives him time to go over all the work he did in summer.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

While it’s not that dark yet, I do enjoy going over the pictures I took when we were too busy to stop and look.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

Such as these photos from Flow Festival, which we attended in August and I included as one of my 101 reasons to visit Helsinki.

Held over three days this music and arts festival was established in 2004. As well as big acts it showcases bands you may not have come across but are bound to hear more of over the next 12 months.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

Held in the former industrial area of Suvilahti, the easiest way to arrive is by bicycle and there are also free buses from Central Station.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

The site was once home to a power plant and the organisers make great use of the space.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

On Sunday there’s also family-friendly time, with activities set up for children.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

The food is great, with some of Helsink’s top restaurants represented, each offering a vegetarian option.

Entree from Farang

Seafood entree from Farang

Drinks are not cheap but there are recycling stations around giving one euro back for every can returned, meaning the festival grounds are nearly spotless.

Can return station

Can return station

In some ways it feels like a ‘grown up’ festival with bars serving specialty beers or selling only gin-based cocktails.

Gin and lime

Gin and lime

There were loads of different seating areas…

Marimekko corner

Marimekko corner

…with lots of different seats….

Birch seats

Birch seats

….and bands performing indoors and out.

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I’m always struck by how well-behaved people are at events in Finland, as while there is loads of alcohol consumed the feeling is generally aggression free.

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As the sun went down we watched Beck and Florence and the Machine before it was time to get me home.

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I had enjoyed too many cocktails and as I unlocked my bike nearly started a domino effect involving 2000 bicycles before Jonathan intervened.

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Something else to reflect upon perhaps over the coming dark winter months….

Flow Festival

A Weekend of Festivals in Helsinki

With spring finally making itself felt around the city, Helsinki’s festival season now kicks off. There is so much on tomorrow, the hardest thing will be knowing what to do first.

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Ravintolapäivä (Restaurant Day) – the city becomes a food festival as anyone can open a cafe or restaurant for the day. Download the app to plan your route or just head somewhere like Ruttopuisto (Vanha kirkkopuisto) for a great selection of food.

Cafe Tivoli

Cafe Tivoli

Cat Video Cafe – and if it rains you can always duck indoors and watch funny videos of cats while you eat cupcakes.

Photo credit: Helsinki Think Company

Photo credit: Helsinki Think Company

Teurastamo (The Abbatoir) – this redeveloped area comes alive in the warmer months and tomorrow marks the opening of the summer season. There will be music, seedlings for your garden, events for cyclists and of course, lots of food.

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Arabian Street Festival – in Helsinki you can catch a tram to such exotic places as Arabia without leaving the country. Home to artists and other creative people, the Arabia Street Festival will also host 17,000 visitors according to its Facebook page.

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Photo credit: arabiahelsinki.fi

Puu-Vallilan Yard Sale – the suburb of Puu-Vallila is unique in Helsinki as it is full of wooden houses. (Puu means tree or wood in Finnish). Wander around the markets and enjoy the neighbourhood, only a short ride from the city centre.

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Photo credit: osuma.fi

Whatever you do this weekend, try not to eat too much before you leave home and take some cash with you. Seems it will be a weekend of food, fun and hopefully more sunshine. Hyvää Viikonloppua!

Trash and treasure in Helsinki’s parks

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I used to love Cleaning Day at work in Sydney. I remember singing ‘I’m having the time of my life‘ from Dirty Dancing as I hurled old paper files behind me, ready for the shredder. We were like a big messy family in that office and we’d fill a skip outside with rubbish that people would sift through on their way past. One year I saw a man take home a big double wardrobe we were giving away, balanced carefully on his ten-speed bicycle. Another time a well-meaning client brought us in a gaudy statue of a dolphin sitting on a log that he had just found and would look great in the office! I thanked him and then put it back in the skip where he had got it from.

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So there’s something so exciting about seeing the people of Helsinki being encouraged to clean out their homes and then hold outdoor sales around the city. Siivouspäivä, or Cleaning Day, is held twice a year with the event being held for the fifth time just last Saturday 24th May.

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People can set up to sell their unneeded belongings anywhere around the city. I saw stalls outside apartments, on street corners, in parks and on pavements. There were loads of clothes and kids toys for sale as well as homewares and books.

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People were out enjoying the sunshine, perusing the stalls and having picnics. Stallholders were drinking wine in the sun or eating with family and friends. There was a lovely festive feeling as the city’s belongings were moved from one home to another.

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At the end of the day community development agencies UFF and Fida arrive in certain spots to take away any unsold goods to sell in their charity stores. Bins and recycling areas are also advertised on the Siivouspäivä website to avoid junk being left behind. As the website says, its ‘the neatest festival of the year.’

http://siivouspaiva.com/en_EN/

Hyvää Vappua!

The only May Day I’m familiar with is the distress call made by captains of marine vessels as they face disaster at sea. And by ‘familiar with‘ I mean I’ve watched them on TV from the comfort of my couch. So it was with pleasure that I experienced my first May Day and it wasn’t a disaster at all!  

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A sea of white caps converges on Esplanadi for the capping of Havis Amanda

Vapuu is a variation of the name ‘Walpurgis Night’ (Walpurgisnacht), a feast observed in Germany for Saint Walpurga since the 8th century. The celebrations being on 30 April and carry on into the 1 May which is a public holiday in Finland and signifies the start of Spring. It is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar, up there in significance with Christmas, New Years and Midsummer.

Students start celebrating from the week before and their area of study is identified by the colour of their overalls

Students start celebrating the week before and their area of study is identified by the colour of their overalls

On the 30th April, crowds converge on Market Square in white caps, identifying them as university preparation school alumni. The festivities really kick off at 6pm when a white cap is placed on the head of the statue of Havis Amanda by a group of students raised high in a cherry-picker. As her new ‘crown’ was placed on her head this year a large cheer went up from the crowd, a huge glitter bomb went off and the sound of many bottles of sparkling wine opening could be heard all around.

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Other statues don’t have to feel they’ve missed out on a cap either

As well as sparkling wine, people drink sima, an alcoholic drink similar to mead, although the honey used in production is now comonly replaced by sugar. The alcohol content is generally so low it is considered okay for children to drink and is usually accompanied by munkki (doughnuts) or  tippaleipä (funnel cake).

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Sima and tippaleipä

Helium balloons are common accessories and sellers can be seen on nearly every street corner from the morning of the 30th April. There doesn’t seem to be a particular theme; we saw champagne bottles, life-size superheroes and of course the ever-present Angry Birds characters.

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The next day it is customary to have a picnic in the park and we were lucky enough to watch the crowds in Kaivopuisto from the warmth of Ravintola Kaivohuone (Kaivohuone Restaurant) as the temperature dropped down into the low single-digits. We heard there was a sauna set up in the park but the rain drove us back from exploring further. After the company brunch we caught the tram back to our apartment with some friends who helped us drink sima, sparkling wine and eat doughnuts in true Finnish style into the early evening.