Sinikka's snippets

Finland and travelling, a woman's life, cultures, languages, photography plus family recipes


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Countryside charm

I’m originally a country girl, and living in Finland, it’s hardly possible to be a totally urban creature. Especially in summer, cottage life attracts most Finns at some point. We don’t have a cottage of our own but have had the great privilege and pleasure to be invited to celebrate Midsummer at our dear friends’ cottage for ten years already. In the last few years, part of our 3-day celebration has been to visit a quirky café/shop in a small nearby village.

Vähikkälän suvipuoti, Vähikkäläntie 721, JANAKKALA

We usually drive there on Midsummer Day, just to see what’s going on, and how many people are there. Regular village folk usually come on foot or by bike but also random drivers-by stop to check what’s going on. In addition, quite a few summer cottage residents from the surrounding area are keen to have a break in their cottage routines, just like us. It’s a refreshingly eclectic mix, with the odd village fool who has perhaps had a few Midsummer drinks too many. People of all ages, from babies to grannies and granddads, which is otherwise too rare in modern Finland. The atmosphere reminds me of my childhood family gatherings at my grandparents’ place, convivial and relaxed. It’s as though everybody knows each other, and even strangers talk to each other, which we reserved Finns rarely do.

The owner of the place, Ms Sanna Juupaluoma, I’ve heard, is a school teacher, who, like me, has the long summer holiday to invest in this wonderful summertime endeavour. It is a family business with her siblings, and was started after Ms Juupaluoma returned to her home village after years abroad and was sad to see the village shop closed and deserted. The siblings bought the place, and a summer kiosk was set in it. This was 13 summers ago. Since then the business has become more and more popular, and these days it is not only a thriving café but also a shop selling local farm produce (potatoes, vegetables, bread, even meat) and other basic groceries plus a village information office displaying brochures and leaflets for visitors, for example.

Ms Juupaluoma is almost always there in person, serving customers in a happy and friendly manner, always chatty. This picture is from 2015.

The good-humoured banter between the owners and customers, and also among customers is a trademark. If you sit there for a while, you can hear the latest local gossip and news, spiced with plenty of humour and laughter. While being thus entertained, you can enjoy a large variety of home-baked pastries, both savoury and sweet, ice-cream and sweets, tea and coffee, of course, soft drinks and also bottled beers, and as it’s summer and you’re in Finland, lots of ice-cream is on offer, too, naturally.

Enter through the lace-curtained front door, and it really feels like a 1960s village store.

An eternal kid at heart, I always go for a scoop of ice-cream.

The decor of the place is very bohemian, with all sorts of second-hand furniture, and it seems constantly accumulating knick-knacks in every corner. Very attractive in its quirkiness, (possibly too messy for some!). A storeroom in the yard has been converted into an open ” living room”, with a collection of odd, old chairs and sofas. The arrangement of the furniture changes from year to year. There is even a bookshelf, with the books actually meant to be read. You can even borrow them as from a library! What especially pleases my eye, are the colourful, traditional summer flowers in pots all over the place.

Hubby enjoying his beer in the “living room”

The first time we visited in 2o13, we were curious about the British double-decker bus and red telephone box there. We learned that the owner had acquired them as she was keen on British culture, after spending years abroad.

They have since disappeared, and been replaced by annually changing ethnic food providers in the yard. One year there was a Thai kitchen, this year a mobile pizza hut. The pizzas were a real success as we had never seen such a crowd there on Midsummer Day. But unfortunately for us, we came just a little too late to taste the freshly baked pizzas – all sold out.

If you are ever driving anywhere near this place in summer, it’s well worth making a detour for a quick visit.

Here are your coordinates

It is open every day from 10-18, during the three summer months. They also have their own Facebook page, for information on special events. I’ve also read that it is a geo-cache site, and popular with Finnish motorcyclist as a welcome alternative to petrol station chain restaurants. Not only is this place one-of-a-kind curiosity to see, but also the whole village is postcard pretty, and full of old Finnish romantic countryside feel!


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Trendy breakfast in London

During my April visit in London, I decided to skip the traditional fry-up breakfast included in my hotel deal, and head for a different experience instead on a Sunday morning. For a small-town girl from Finland, who knows more of less every café, eatery and restaurant in her hometown, the endless choice in London is quite overwhelming. That’s why I’d done my homework online before leaving, and found just the place for me. For a long time, I’d wanted to try an acai bowl for breakfast. Acai, you know, the hailed “super berry” from Brazil, which surprisingly grows in palm trees and not in bushes or on the ground as other berries. The Huffington Post even called these bowls “The World’s Best Healthy Breakfast” a couple of years back. As these berries are not easily available in Finland, I decided London would introduce me to this wonder food.

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THE GOOD LIFE EATERY, 59 Sloane Ave, London SW3 3DH

I chose this café for the location – I love the area around Sloane Square! – and for the good online reviews, but, most of all, for having acai bowls on their breakfast menu. On a sunny Sunday morning, I took the tube from Pimlico to Sloane Square, and then walked leisurely along the very quiet streets, admiring the blooming spring trees along the way.

A rare sight for us Finns - gorgeous magnolia trees!

A rare sight for us Finns – gorgeous magnolia trees!

In a side street from the Kings Road, I found The Good Life Eatery, small and cosy, with a welcoming smell of freshly baked scones and rolls wafting to the pavement through the open door. Mmmm, spelt croissants! I knew I’d chosen the right place.

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Inside, the café was furnished in the typical, rather minimalist, modern style. The brick walls, old-looking wooden tables, lines of hanging metal light fitments and colourful, patinated metal stools pleased my eye. Service was efficient and very friendly and all in all, I can warmly recommend this eatery to anyone who is after a slightly different breakfast experience. The clientele seemed to be mainly young women in their 20s-30s, having breakfast in twosomes. Most of them seemed to go for bread topped with lots of pureed avocado and either salmon or a poached egg. Interestingly for a Finn, the bread seemed to be dark rye, just like at home! Even though all this looked really tempting and delicious, I had made up my mind, and ordered a cappuccino with an acai bowl, as planned.

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Being an English teacher, I can’t help eavesdropping on people’s conversations whenever in an English-speaking environment, to pick up all the latest catch phrases and popular sayings. Sipping my coffee, waiting for my breakfast, I quickly noticed that the male waiters’ favourite seemed to be ‘cool’, which can apparently apply to anything positive, and also mean the same as ‘OK’. The young ladies, on the other hand, gossiping about their Saturday night events, kept repeating “… and then he was like…”, “… and then I was like…”(I gather meaning ‘he said’/’then I said’), with a fashionable, Ozzie-like upwards tilt in their accent. Aren’t languages just so intriguing!

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And then my long-awaited treat arrived. A big bowl full of cold, velvety, thick smoothie-like, purple acai puree, decorated with strawberries, chopped banana, whole acai berries and some bee pollen. It was heavenly, and definitely lived up to my expectations! The taste reminded me of a mix of blueberries and maybe blackcurrants (mind you, I think the colour affected my tastebuds a little bit, too) but I didn’t get the hint of dark chocolate often associated with these berries. After slowly savouring every last bit, I felt well nourished, energised and ready for a day of London sight-seeing. I probably looked a bit younger, too, as, apart from many other health benefits, acai berries are also claimed to have an anti-aging effect. I wish I could find frozen acai in Finland to prepare this at home!

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The Swedes just do it better

Summer holiday is a good time to check out all the new (and old favourite) cafés in town. Lunch restaurant Hus Lindman has opened a café on the other side of the street.

FIKA café (Piispankatu 14) www.fika.fi (website still under construction!)

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‘Fika’ is a very important concept in Sweden. You can’t even translate the word into other languages. It means having convivial quality time with others over a cup of coffee and some delicious sweet cakes or buns, or possibly sandwiches. For Swedes ‘fika’ is an essential part of socialising and enjoying the good things in life together, and I guess it’s the same for Finland’s Swedish-speaking population.

The new FIKA café is an excellent place to get acquainted with this Swedish tradition. The cute little yellow house in the historical “Bishop’s street” right behind the Cathedral serves excellent coffee and tea with a wide variety of goods, all baked and prepared on the premises. A lot of attention is paid to quality and taste, and there is always something new and tempting on offer. In June you could get a refreshing cold summer drink mixed with home-made rhubarb juice and Rooibos tea. It was heavenly! And if you felt adventurous, you could even have some vodka in it.

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What I especially appreciate is having old traditional Finnish recipes on offer, such as the simple and delicious Brita summer cake I devoured there today. Any type of special coffees are served but I usually go for the very good value presso coffee and cake offer. You get 2 definitely fresh cups of coffee out of the small glass presso pot.

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It is quite a luxury to get proper brewed tea instead of the eternal tea bags here in Finland. I just love Fika’s little tea pots. Another recommendation – the warm hummus open sandwiches are to die for! I am still to try their soup and salad lunches one day.

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The café is sparsely furnished, and coloured in calm and muted tones in typical Scandinavian style, all crisp and clean. The outside tables are popular on nice days. What is it that makes coffee and tea taste even better outdoors? You are always welcomed with a smile, and service is excellent and super friendly. Without a doubt Fika is my number one café this summer. Definitely worth a visit!

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Coffee by the sea

Anyone visiting Turku, the old capital of Finland, in summer should spend some time on Ruissalo island, our recreational hiking, swimming, nature admiring oasis. Whether by bus (line 8 from the market square in the centre of town), car, cycling or walking, it’s always a delight but especially so on warm, sunny summer days.

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Quite a few cafés can be found in various locations, and the latest addition this summer is:

Villa Kuuva (Kuuvantie 198, Turku, Finland)

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Ruissalo island is famous for its wooden “lace villas”, so-called for their special latticed balconies and windows. These villas were built in the 19th century to serve as summer houses for wealthy merchant families. Most of them have changed owners many times, and in recent years, some have been converted into B&B’s or cafés.

Villa Kuuva is wonderfully located right by the sea, with a luscious garden all around it. I can imagine it being lovely any time of the year. There are apple trees, which must be gorgeous in spring, while lots of summer flowers bring colour and an enticing scent in July. Come autumn, and I’m sure the various deciduous trees will bring a different, vibrant colouring. What a place for all the seasons!

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And indeed, I read that the owners are planning to have seasonal events around the year, including live fires and Christmas trees for the end of the year festivities.  At the moment, the café is open during the summer season, later on in the year possibly only at weekends. But it is also available for private functions any time.

You should definitely go and experience the unique ambience of this bright yellow villa. Sitting inside is quite intimate, as if you were a guest in a friend’s house. The decor and all the little knick-knacks make it homely and cosy. A lot of the things are sea-related as you would expect in an island summer house.

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Not to mention the views! Take in the intensely green summer scenery through the veranda windows, or go and have your coffee outside and breathe the fresh sea air, while different motor vessels and sailing boats glide past on the glittering waves of the Baltic Sea. Archipelago summer couldn’t feel much better!

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Where Villa Kuuva comes short, in my opinion, is the rather unadventurous menu. The salads, quiches and wraps are very ordinary – something I would easily prepare at home. Not even any of the cakes or cookies stood out, unfortunately. Mind you, it’s early days, and I’m hoping they will come up with new, unusual ideas in the kitchen! For the time being, though, I’m happy to pay the 2€ for a cup of coffee just for the privilege of being a guest in this lovely place.

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Want some cake in Turku, Finland?

Gaggui (Humalistonkatu 15, www.gaggui.com)

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Many of my female friends had been praising this new café for some time but it was reading the story behind it that finally got me to give it a try. Two identical twins, one a biologist, the other one an artist, joined forces to create this café, and change their careers at the same time. A brave move but apparently successful! It all started as one of the sisters wanted to create the perfect cake for her wedding. After lots of experiments, she had accumulated an interesting collection of different recipes, which the two of them then sold on one of the so-called “Restaurant days”. The cakes of these two sisters turned out to be so popular that they then ventured into business together.

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What I really like about this small café is that it’s really a local Turku place through and through. Their coffee is rosted locally, and a small tea shop up the road provides their teas. What’s more, they use our local dialect in all their signs. Even the name of the place “Gaggui” is a Turku variation of ‘kakkuja’ (‘cakes’). And cakes are definitely the speciality here, one more decadent than the other! Needless to say, all the cakes are their own original recipes and creations. How does “heaven on örth” (‘heaven on earth’ written in Finnish phonetics) sound to you? I can assure you, the cake really lives up to its name!

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This café is small and intimate, basically just one room. The decor is quirky, with nice little touches of originality, even in the restroom. If you visit around midday on a weekday, the place tends to be full of groups of mothers with their kids, and even dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for inclusion, and everybody’s right to go out to socialise. But if you are not accustomed to the Scandinavian lifestyle of public breastfeeding, and toddlers running around screaming, maybe you’d want to choose a time later in the afternoon or early evening to enjoy your coffee and cakes.

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Best coffee in Turku, Finland

Finns are among the  biggest coffee-drinkers in the world. So if you ever come here, I bet you won’t be able to avoid the traditional ‘kahvi ja pulla’ (‘coffee and bun’) break during your stay. And if you happen to visit my hometown, the historical old capital city of Turku, on the south-western coast, by the Baltic Sea, here is my, totally personal, recommendation of where to go for the best cup of joe.

CaféArt (Läntinen Rantakatu 5, www.cafeart.fi)
Coffee3My all-time favourite, not least for the picturesque milieu of wooden houses by the river Aura, not far from the Cathedral or the market square. In the summertime the café extends to the pavement and side of the pedestrian street, offering a wonderful view of the riverside, and great opportunities for people watching, let alone the fact that coffee always tastes even better in the fresh air.
Coffee1Coffee2Apart from the location, my main reason for preferring this café over all the others in town, is the tasty and always reliable coffees, prepared with care of locally roasted beans by award-winning baristas. Tea-lovers can also a good selection of leaf teas. CaféArt may not be at its best in the eats department but different sandwiches and quiches, buns and cakes are always on offer. In the typical Finnish custom, no table service but ordering and paying at the counter, even if you are sitting outdoors.

Inside, there is plenty of space, and nice separate “nooks and crannies” to cater for groups of different sizes. The decor is quaint but quite ordinary. Yet, as the name of the place suggests, the changing art pieces, exhibited on the walls, add interest. If you are on your own, sitting by the riverside window is ideal for daydreaming – weather permitting, of course. Free wi-fi is also available. Personally, I really enjoy the nice, bubbly atmosphere of people, working, having informal meetings, chatting and talking. This place is not often empty or quiet! And more plus: unlike many cafés in our town (beats me why!), CaféArt is also open on Sundays between 11am-5pm. Warmly recommend!

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My favourite combo: cappuccino and a cinnamon bun

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