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.


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.


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


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


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

Flow Festival

Secrets of the summer cottage

Helsinki empties over June and July as Finns escape the city and head to their summer cottages. While we could rent one ourselves, we were really pleased last weekend to spend time with Finnish friends at theirs and get an inside look at this part of Finnish life.

Photo: Heikki Puomilla

Early morning at Hirvijärvi      Photo: Heikki Puomila

About an hour out of Helsinki, we joined Heikki and Anu and their young daughter on the shores of Hirvijärvi (Moose Lake). Heikki has been holidaying here since he was a child as his grandfather built a house in the same spot.


Although the house has been rebuilt and modern features such as electricity and running water added, the composting toilet is still outside. While I did scare myself with the thought of bears during a midnight visit, it was a huge relief not to have to check for large Australian spiders.

Composting loo

Composting loo

Part of the joy of the weekend was the chance to experience Finnish life outside of the city. After lunch we met with the local community committee, many of whom have been holidaying for generations around the shores of the same lake.


We were warmly greeted and joined in a game where we tossed 2 euro coins at bottles of wine, with the one landing closest being the winner. In spite of my focus and good technique, I was narrowly beaten by a 12-year old boy.


On returning to our cottage, the men and kids went fishing off the jetty, catching three small fish with bait made from flour and water.



Heikki also showed Miko how they identify local butterflies, something his family have an avid and professional interest in.


After a dinner of hamburgers grilled on the fire, we cooked pancakes down by the outside sauna.



We each had a turn at flipping the pancakes, which were delicious and served with jam.


After dinner, it was time for a huge bonfire, a tradition lit to mark the end of summer and the end of the cottage season. Heikki also let off a few fireworks he had leftover from the year before.


As the sun dropped low in the sky the most incredible full moon rose to take its place. People lit candles out on their jetties as a way to farewell summer, with a small house on an island soon surrounded by flickering lights.


After the children went to bed, Heikki, Jonathan and I hit the sauna, which is heated by a wood-burning fireplace inside.


Heikki made a couple of vihta (bunches of birch leaves) and taught us how to beat ourselves and each other with them to really get the blood flowing (we have been doing it far too softly and slowly apparently).


Each time we got too hot we headed outside to the lake, where we swam by the light of the full moon. At one point there were also huge fireworks going off overhead.


I really can’t describe just how incredible it was to be swimming at midnight in a lake lit by candles and the moon, with fireworks bursting into bloom above us. While we all know we have another long winter ahead of us, instead of being a sad occasion it was the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.

To follow: Day Two at the summer cottage, where we head onto the lake and into the forest, finding evidence of moose and something to rival Australian spiders..

People Soup

On a beautiful sunny day recently a friend and I decided to take our boys to the Olympic Swimming Stadium. Upon arrival we found our idea was not terribly unique, as the queue snaked out the door.


Once inside we had the choice of four pools – the main pool, a diving pool, a children’s pool & the wading pool.


We opted for the wading pool, which meant we could watch the boys without being in the water the whole time. There’s also a playground and a water slide, which you pay a small fee to use.


The diving pool was busy and an announcement was made over the loud speaker each time the highest platforms were opened for use.


The pools were originally built for the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to the war.The building was completed in time for Helsinki to host the 1952 Summer Olympics and the pools are now open each year from May – September.

I love the way the natural landscape has been kept, with rocks and trees providing places to lie and shelter.


During the war the pools were used to store root vegetables and herring. Here’s hoping that sunny day wasn’t a red herring as we haven’t had such a warm day since.

With up to 5000 people visiting on a good day however, it’s not food you’ll be finding but the phenomenon of a warm crowded swimming pool that I call people soup.

Helsinki Swimming Stadium  ( Uimastadion )

Come As You Are

With the sun hardly setting in Helsinki these days, we are taking every opportunity to enjoy dinner outdoors.


Our favourite places Skiffer and Cafe Birgitta only open in summer and they are now in good company with the opening of Hernesaaren Ranta.


Hernesareen Ranta (Hernesaari Beach) is located south-west of the city, in the redeveloping area of Hernesaari (Pea Island).


Bus number 14 will take you almost to the door, but as always there’s also plenty of parking for bikes.


The area is home to a range of eateries, including Piece & Love Pizza and Mexican Chalupa. There’s also a venelaituri (boat pier) for those arriving by boat.


Once ashore there’s many areas to sit and you don’t all have to order food from the same place.



Unfortunately, some food providers are still learning how to run food events efficiently. The night we visited, the Champagne Bar ran out of champagne and the sushi bar was hand-rolling sushi to order, meaning a 25-minute wait for food after a 20-minute wait to order.


Luckily there’s another bar where you can grab a drink while you wait and there’s also a dance floor for those who stay late.


These guys knew how to kill time, turning up for dinner in a boat equipped with a sauna and sofa up on top.

And we’ll be back. With the area measuring 2000m² and open all week from 10am-2am, there’s something for every man and his dog.



Hernesaaren Ranta

It’s a bit hard to find – continue west from Cafe Birgitta, past the public sauna building site until you feel sure you must be lost. Hernesaaren Ranta will appear as if a mirage in the distance, just as you are about to turn back. 




Now & Then – Töölönlahti

It’s easy to miss home at this time of year. Christmas for us signals the start of summer holidays – long hours of sunshine, songbirds, swimming and sand.

One thing about living in Finland however is the intensity of each season. It’s good for me to remember that winter here can be beautiful …. and it’s not forever.

One place this is evident is Töölönlahti – it’s a great bay to walk around and witness the incredible changes as they take place.

9th October 2014

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2 December 2014 – starting to freeze


Ducks on ice


4th January 2015 – frozen

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7th January 2015



23rd January 2015



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And something to look forward to! Same place, different day (taken 3rd August 2014)

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A Little Island Paradise – in Helsinki

Saturday morning was spent buying paint and supplies for our new apartment. With no car and a two-year-old in tow we felt we deserved a slice of pizza and a drink in the sun once our mission was complete.

photo 2

Ravintola Skiffer on Liuskaluoto

We walked down to Meripuisto which looks out onto a few small islands in the Gulf of Finland. You could almost swim across if you had to but its a busy waterway and still pretty cold. We saw loads of boats go by, including a large wooden one with a sauna and benches on the back deck to sit on while you cool down.

photo 5

We caught a small ferry across to an island where there are a few jetties, a shop for boaties and 24-hour diesel pumps. Just further along is Skiffer, an outdoor bar with a menu specialising in wood-fired pizza.

The bar and outdoor seating at Skiffer

The bar and outdoor seating at Skiffer

It felt so good to be outside, sitting in the sun and enjoying the atmosphere which was not unlike that of an Australian beer garden. The music was good, Miko played happily, it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I'm glad I spent it with you...

We stayed a few hours before catching a ferry back. They seem to run every ten minutes or so with the last one on a Saturday being at midnight.

I think this is a floating wood-fired sauna

A floating wood-fired sauna

The next day the temperatures plummeted and we bussed to Ikea in freezing rain, only to realise on arrival that it didn’t open for another hour. With temperatures lately forecast to reach a ‘high’ of 12 degrees we have learnt to savour moments like we had at Skiffer and to make the most of the nordic sun while it’s here.


Looking back to the city