Back in November, we decided to take advantage of being in closer proximity to Finland and traveled to Turku to visit some family friends and to Helsinki because we were flying in and out of HEL international airport there.
A little background quickly…when I was in junior high, our friend Hannu came and lived with our family and spent time with my dad and others learning about the American grocery industry, as that is what his family’s business is, too. That said, we are so grateful for the 30+ year friendship between our families that has brought about many wonderful memories and experiences!
In Turku, we were wined and dined and got the royal treatment, including personal shuttle service to and from Turku/Helsinki (despite our offers to take a train. 🙂 )! It was a whirlwind visit, so, unfortunately, we didn’t get any blogs posted about it. As a result, we’re doing a bit of a flashback to share our Finland adventures. 🙂
We landed at the Helsinki airport and were met by the smiling, friendly faces of Hannu’s sons Eemilie and Oskari (and we met Oskari’s girlfriend, Nea). Eemilie drove 2 hours from Turku to Helsinki to pick us up at the airport and drive us to Turku!! He even provided snacks, which included Hannu’s favorite. It’s called Salmiakkinen and tastes like a salty black licorice! L LOVED it!
Here are G and L with their welcome bags (and ours) from Hannu. What a lovely surprise!! So, so nice!!
We got situated and then met Hannu and Eemelie downstairs at the restaurant for a late dinner, including dessert, of course! After getting set for bed, Leo wondered if something might be wrong as he was almost bent in half! It seems that when the fold-out bed was set up, part of it didn’t get latched all the way. As a result, it had started to fold up on him! 🙂
Good morning, Turku! This was the view from our hotel room. It overlooked the Aura River and in the distance was an old windmill (the Samppalinna Windmill). And SNOW!!
The hotel served a delicious buffet breakfast every morning with all sorts of standard breakfast food and traditional Finnish items, too, (smoked salmon, cold salad items, pickled vegetables, Finnish pancakes). Grace especially LOVED it! The woman who got our beverages enjoyed the fact that Grace enjoyed it so much. 🙂 (The little yellow drink is a sea-buckthorn berry smoothie! One single berry contains 15 times more vitamin C than an orange!)
Hannu picked us up at the hotel to bring us on a tour of his K-Citymarket store. It is beautiful! It’s much bigger than I’d imagined and has housewares, clothing, etc., too. We met Hannu’s brother and got behind the scenes tours of their state-of-the-art recycling and security systems!
Below: In-store Thai deli counter and the American products section!
Below: The imported beers section! Coincidentally, I took the picture of the Belhaven featured below because of the St. Andrew’s golfing picture (for my Dad). BUT, while we were in Fort Augustus, we enjoyed Belhaven Black a few times, which was GREAT! I had forgotten about this picture (and certainly didn’t remember the brand), so when I went to post it here, I thought it quite funny that out of all the beers in the aisle, I’d taken one of a Belhaven, which at the time didn’t mean anything to me. 🙂
Below: Yummy ice cream samples to taste and delicious bakery to see!
After the store, we headed to the Kaupahalli – market hall (opened in 1896), which was a wonderful old building with wide variety of fresh produce, fishmongers, butchers, bakeries, and local specialties as well as cafes and bars. While some of the cafes had their own tables, there’s also a nice sitting area in the middle. We stopped for a quick drink (beer for Hannu and Mike, coffee for Jody, Jaffa orange pop for the kids).
Below: Outside the market hall. Delicious looking pink frosted pastries were everywhere! Old sign illustrating things prohibited in the hall. A cafe designed to look like a train car. (These 4 pictures are all from Google images.)
Below: Kippis! (Cheers!)
After the market hall, we walked along the Aura River to the beautiful Turku Cathedral – the Mother Church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. It was originally built in the late 13th century, but after being damaged badly by fire in 1827, it was rebuilt with an impressive tower spire more than 100 meters high. There was a display for kids outlining and describing the Reformation, where G and L dressed up as Mikael Agricola, (who brought the Protestant faith to Finland). Yes, we had to look him up. 🙂 As we left, G and L enjoyed sliding down the snow-packed steps!
We made a quick stop at the Aboa Vetus Ars Nova museum. It’s the museum of history and contemporary art housed in the Rettig Palace. The museum of contemporary art, Ars Nova, is on the two lower floors of the palace, and the museum of archaeological history, Aboa Vetus, is below the garden, where the ruins and displays tell the history of the oldest city in Finland. We all enjoyed it a lot and wished we had a little more time to spend in it.
(Flash photography wasn’t allowed, and we were so busy trying to take in everything that we didn’t take any pictures of the museum! The following 4 pictures are from Google images.:))
We headed from the museum across the river to an Italian restaurant called Sergio’s for a late but delicious and leisurely lunch. While we sat there visiting, the kids learned to count to 5 in Finnish! 🙂
That evening, Hannu took us to a TPS hockey game. TPS [need info, Mike] What a fun evening! Courtesy of a friend of Hannu, we sat in a suite and enjoyed lots of tasty snacks and drinks, including Long Drink – a gin and grapefruit drink. Hannu outfitted us all in TPS gear — hats for the kids and scarves for Mike and me! 🙂 Nea, Eemeilie, and Oskari explained to the kids that the words printed on the scarves mean “Honey for You and Honey for Me” and that’s what the crowd sings when they score, so everytime they scored, we joined in on the song!
Between the 2nd and 3rd periods, we met Saku Koivu, who stopped by the suite to say hi! What a nice guy!
We had a great time at the game and TPS won in a shutout against Oulun Kärpät from Oulu!
Sunday was “Fathersday” in Finland. We dressed in our warmest gear as we headed to Hannu’s boat for a ride. As there was some ice on the water, we took his other boat, made out of aluminum, which looked like corrugated steel. It had a nice heater in it, so we stayed toasty warm as we motored across the Baltic Sea chopping through ice as we went! So cool!! We had a great tour, including a stop at the marina, where we saw how the boats are loaded like puzzle pieces (Mike said it was like Tetris) into the garages and had a look in the sauna and then enjoyed delicious Finnish sausage cooked on the fire and served with tasty coleslaw from K-Citymarket and good Finnish beer for us and Jaffa (orange pop) for the kids. 🙂
Fathersday dinner was at Hannu’s place with everyone. Before eating, G and L took a quick sauna…I mean posed for a picture in the sauna. 🙂 Hannu, Eemelie, Oskari, Nea, and Anna (Hannu’s daughter) prepared a fabulous dinner!
Out last morning in Turku was filled with sunshine and blue skies! L has one more go down the stairs of the Cathedral, and then we headed for the train.
While waiting for the train, I snapped Finnish instructions for making paper Christmas trees that the kids and I were able to figure out while we were in Wendover. (See previous post/pictures.) From the train we saw piles and piles of logs and lots of scenery reminiscent of northern Minnesota.
Kittos (thank you) to Hannu, Eemilie, Oskari, Nea, and Anna for an unforgettable visit to Turku!