Monday, September 9, 2013

Finnish Summer Markets

After another very long night because of the jet lag, we decided to hit the town.  Since I've only seen Helsinki covered in snow, it was about time that I would get to experience it from a totally different perspective.
There are people everywhere!  The parks are covered with picnic blankets and people just laying down with a glass of wine and a good book enjoying the great weather that would only last a few more weeks.  Musicians in every corner, sharing their passion and feeling through music.  Cafe's empty in the inside but packed in their outside areas of people feeling at ease with the warmth of summer. 
Since last summer I've been fascinated with the summer markets in Finland.  I've heard that Finland has the most amazing berries and most of all the most amazing strawberries, which I'm crazy for.  So, we decided it was time to visit one of these local markets.  "Wow!"  This was the only word that would come out of my mouth over and over again while going through this market.  Fresh and local products that tasted so rich. None of these flavors would even come close to what I've tasted before.  No chemicals, no preservatives, all natural.  It was awesome!!!  Every single taste exceeded my expectations, every single bite was a feeling of amazement.

Last year when my boyfriend came back from his usual summer trip to Finland he would not stop talking about these amazing products.  And for me, being a very visual person, it was difficult to comprehend what he was talking about.  He would try to describe me those berries that are not found in the states such as the Bilberries and the Lingonberries but I could not seem to comprehend what he was trying to describe.  He brought with him some samples of these completely natural berries and all I was able say is omg!  Every single one was better that the last and at that moment it occurred to me that it would be a great idea if he could import those kind of products that are consider Superfoods in the states.  He found a way through his company Nordik Imports.  This way everybody would be able indulge the natural tastes of Finland.

Needless to say once surrounded by these delicious berries at the market, we ended up buying not a bag, but a box full of strawberries. Our fingers, mouths and cheeks were completely red but at least I got to satisfy my craving for Finnish Strawberries!!!


Friday, September 6, 2013

The Re-Encounter


My experience in this hotel was very different compared to my first visit to Finland.  When we came to Finland during the holidays we stayed at the Glo Art Hotel in Helsinki.  This hotel is amazing, the rooms are small but there is elegance everywhere.  This time I stayed at the Sokos Hotel Pasila which is somewhat more to what I'm more use to in hotel service and accommodation, nice and practical.  The rooms were very small, it just has what is necessary for one person... a twin bed, a desk as long as the width of the room, a TV and a small bathroom, which doesn't have that much space to walk around.  You go in the bathroom and in front of you is the shower, you turn to the left and there is the toilet, you turn to the right and there is the sink and behind you is the door.  That is it!  

Following a very long night because of the jet lag of more than 7 hours, I decided to head to the restaurant since the stay included breakfast.  A whole new experience... some of the things were familiar, such as the scrambled eggs and bacon that you find in any bed and breakfast in the states.  But everything else was the "Finnish way".  Plain yogurt with all kind of granolas, fruits to mix with it, several kinds of rye bread surrounded by salad, cold cuts  and of course, how to forget the porridge!  But the most interesting thing of all was that other than the scrambled eggs and bacon, everything served in the buffet were local products.  The variety was impressive, I had to try most of it and the taste was amazing, but at the end I had to have my portion of scrambled eggs and bacon. 

I returned to my room satisfied with my big breakfast and since I didn't sleep much during the night and check out was at 12pm, I decided to take a nap until 11am which would give me enough time to check out from the room.  The next few hours were the longest ones, knowing the fact that I just didn't even know where I was and how to get anywhere I had to sit and wait in the hotel lobby until my boyfriend arrived to pick me up.  During this time I had the opportunity of looking and study the people that come and go at that hotel.  Let me tell you that the Finnish tourists are not far different from the American tourist.  Even the clothing is very similar which I found a little bit funny.  Coming from Puerto Rico and knowing how a "gringo" or American tourist usually dresses when they go on vacation, it was very interesting seeing these similarities in Finnish tourists.

Finally the time came when my boyfriend and I saw each other after so many months.  I was a little nervous and excited at the same time.  It was the first time he would actually see my baby belly...  The re-encounter was as I imagined, an eternal hug filled with kisses and loving words... but most important seeing his embracing our baby belly brought tears to my eyes. I know this may sound corny for some of you but once in a while you just have to be! 

At last we were together!  Soon after we got in the car and started this crazy new adventure that I like to call FINLAND!!! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ready or not I have ARRIVED!!!

After picking up my bags I went to the Starbucks at Helsinki airport where I was going to meet my other half for the first time in almost 5 months.  I arrived a few hours before his flight, so I decided to get a latte which would be my last Starbucks latte since this is the ONLY Starbucks in Finland.  Weird?  I don't think so!  There are so many amazing coffee shops all over the place that this American coffee shop doesn't have anything special to offer to the Finnish community.  After a few hours went by I decided to go on Facebook and let everybody know that I made it safe and sound to my destination.  To my surprise I find a message from my boyfriend letting me know that he missed his flight and wouldn't be arriving to Finland till the next day.  At that moment "Freaking Out" feeling came back.

Came back? YES! 

Arriving in Finland for the second time brought a mix of feelings. Excitement, because I was going to see Finland from a completely different perspective, a new adventure experiencing the unknown.  Worry, because I don't know the language and the culture is still somewhat foreign to me.  But the first and most overwhelming feeling was FREAKED OUT.  Yes me, who kept it calm through out the packing and moving process, who stayed positive at all times... well, that is till I landed in Finland and it was time to get out of the plane.  Then it hit me, God only knows when is the next time I'll see my friends, my family, the next time that I'll see and do so many things that were included in my comfort zone for so many years.  But that only lasted a moment, I braised myself, got up and left the plane. 

While trying to have my latte in a calm, discrete way so nobody would notice, I kept on repeating to myself the same question.  What in the world am I suppose to do in a place that I don't know much about, don't know the language, don't know many people.  Thank God my boyfriend put me in contact with some good friends and they were able to find me lodging in a hotel close by till the next day. 

Then... a sign of relief, at least I was going to have a place to spend the night!