All good things come to an end, which was also the fate of my Finnish holiday. Luckily, I was able to bid farewell to my native country with style.
My journeying around Finland (literally, around) and the aim to show-off Finland’s best foodie and coffee stuff to my husband – who is, unfortunately, from the land of good food and coffee, Brazil – had backfired a touch, as our pit-stops proved to be a failure after another. Seriously, one coffee shop seemed like a murder room with a TV in the corner explaining the various methods of execution, and there was a sudden, Apocalypse-like hale storm when we stepped on Finland’s most famous beach, the Kalajoen hiekkasärkkä (yeah, I know, don’t even try). All this did impress my Rio born companion, but in a wrong way.
So somewhere along the way, in between the murder room and the 8€ rye bread with frozen prawn on top, I decided to give up, and do what we Finns seem to do the best: stay quiet and see what happens.
And after that things took a turn for better. Our penultimate day in Finland ended up with a big bang in Restaurant Juuri, of which I’ve already raved about, and our very last day started with subtle sunshine, so we had the chance to set out to explore Helsinki on foot.
I know Helsinki a little bit, as I used to study there, and to me it is always a joy to walk around the city. Helsinki has a pleasant colour palette varying from yellow and light blue to red brick and dirty white and gray, and things are relatively close to each other. There are old-fashioned markets and market halls, harbours for leisure, commerce and tourism. You can find fashionable shopping districts as well as corky design shops, and a lot of fairy-tale look-alike old book shops. Every once in a while, the trams rattle by, and the seagulls screech circling the sea-salted sky. On a sunny day, Helsinki must be one of Europe’s most attractive cities, and I was happy to be showing off again.
We walked past my old university area in the city centre, and then past the Helsinki Cathedral, which is one of the most popular sights of the city, towards Katajanokka’s little harbour area and then to Ullanlinna, which is a famous district for its Jugend, or art nouveau, style.
It was a perfect day with blue skies and sunshine, and the quiet wide streets made a positive impact on my hard-to-impress-spouse. There’s nothing better than stroll the streets of a city on a beautiful day when everyone else is still fast asleep: you don’t only get to photograph in peace but also get the satisfactory sense that in some level, at this one particular point of time, you are more active than most of your fellow citizens.
Smugness is a traveller’s best companion, indeed.
As we were strolling along, an urgent need for the second cup of the day started to manifest itself. After so many undrinkable petrol station day-old concoctions optimistically sold as coffee (Finnish has a few words for coffee, and for this particular kind I would go with ‘sumppi’), I had to be extra cautious where to take my picky bean-lover of a husband not to ruin the positive impact of Helsinki. Katajanokka was not on my home ground as I used to live in Töölö, another nice and village-like district in Helsinki, so my anxiety levels were a bit elevated. Ah, even with all that University education, did I ever learn the value of research? Apparently not.
But the gods of Finnish coffee consumption were on my side, and so was Johan & Nyström.
I left my private coffee inspector to enjoy the view outside while I did the ordering. I had never had coffee here before, but later on learned that Johan & Nyström is somewhat an institution in the Scandinavian coffee scene: originating from Stockholm, they have now two stores in Finland, the other one being opened at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport recently. The Swedish store has got awards from both the Swedish White Guide (best Swedish coffee shop) and the European Allegra Award (Europe’s second best coffee shop), and is also s very conscientious, Direct Trade, coffee roaster.
It was a perfect cup to sit by the poshest harbour in Helsinki and enjoy a flavoursome cup of coffee (here, in Finnish I’d use an uplifting diminutive ‘kahvikupponen’ for coffee cup to indicate the whole situation’s perfectness and cosiness).
The décor at Johan & Nyström was stylish in the not too slick way, with red brick walls, comfy looking seating areas (where by now a little group was having an early meeting), and a mish-mash collection of lamps hanging from the ceiling. We sat outside taking in the last views of Finland for now: just behind our backs, towards the sea, the art nouveau houses were holding the front, and a little bit towards the city centre, the President would be starting his day with a cup of coffee.