Red, White and Blue – Viking Line

The dark blue waters of the Baltic are brightened up by the red and white of Viking Line’s many crossings to Tallinn and Stockholm this summer. To liven up their regular timetable, they’ve gone as far as renting a catamaran which will be in operation until the end of October 2017. Besides FSTR or ‘Faster’, the aptly named aforementioned vessel, two of their other cruisers viz. the Mariella and Gabriella will also be called on to ply the heavy traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn together with their regular ship XPRS.

While there’s plenty of competition out there, Viking Line has always tried to stay ahead of the game with their friendly service, good food and cheap prices. The FSTR catamaran gets you from Helsinki to Tallinn in an hour and 45 minutes and is big enough to carry 835 passengers and 120 cars making it operational in all kinds of weather. The focus is on seating with airline-type loungers for everyone. The bar and cafeteria on board make sure that no one goes hungry or thirsty and for an extra fee, a hot breakfast or supper with beer and wine are available in the Club Lounge where the standard of service and products are of exceptional quality.

Viking XPRS is a little bigger with a 2500 passenger capacity taking a little longer. The two and a half hours on board can be spent singing karaoke, dancing to a live band, dining in one of the many restaurants, shopping at reduced prices or watching your kids play in the designated area. The Bistro Buffet is the most popular choice since the selection is vast and even pernickety eaters can find something they like here. Beer and wine are on tap. But for something a little more upmarket, Wine & Dine has white linen on the tables and service with lots of smiles is effortless. A 3-course meal sets you back around €38. Get into celebratory mood with a glass of Charles Heidsieck champagne at €8, a steal anywhere on the planet.

Kumu Art Museum in Kadriorg Park, Tallinn

Some hours in Tallinn can be combined with the Viking Line ticket and there are all kinds of options for all ages to keep the group happy. The Old Town always presents a photo opportunity with its architecture and colourful buildings. The Seaplane Harbour is a mecca for anyone interested in boats and sea craft, a real hands-on place where the most reluctant of museum-goer will dive into the activities. The Tele Tower is a futuristic experience with a 3-D movie to start your journey before your snappy elevator ride to the top floor where the view literally takes your breath away looking out over the city and down through the ‘hole’ in the floor. Kumu Art Museum is housed in a spectacular modern building with art treasures covering the period from the beginning of the 18thC until the end of World War II. Temporary exhibitions showcase Estonian and international artists and the performance schedule is choc-a-bloc. Besides, the walk through the immaculate Kadriorg Park to get there is a treat all on its own and there are many other museums to visit on the way.

Dinner aboard Viking Line’s XPRS at the Wine and Dine Restaurant

If time is not at a premium, staying overnight in Tallinn is reasonably priced especially when you book it with your Viking Line crossing. Budget to luxury are all within a price range that won’t bring tears to your eyes.

Here are the links to Viking Line’s timetables and ways you can spend your day in Tallinn:

https://www.sales.vikingline.com/

https://www.visittallinn.ee/eng

Me, Me, Me

As modest as the Finns may be, selfies have caught on here too, dating all the way back to the 19th Century. The exhibition Me: Self-Portraits Through Time is a collection of 160 works by 102 artists from Finland ranging through the Finnish Golden Age to noteworthy contemporary ones.

In the early days they were called self-portraits and perhaps the focus was slightly different from today’s aren’t-I-stunning approach. ‘The eyes are the window of the soul’ is an expression we’re all familiar with, but what if you’re too shy or simply don’t want to reveal it to the onlooker, but you still want to be immortalised? Is it about immortality or just vanity?

Otto Mäkelä: Self-portrait (1929)
Alexandra Frosterus-Såltin: In the Studio (1858)

Thank God for Justus von Liebig who invented the mirror in 1835. Without it, some of these would never have existed and while they all used it, only a few admit to the fact and show it in their pieces. But even mirrors can be too self-revealing and hence reflections come into distorted focus in the metal of blenders as in Pauliina Turakka Purhonen’s Oaig, referring to the only visible letters on the cardboard Laphroaig box in which she keeps her paintbrushes. Or could it be a groan, an utterance of loathing? Or the sculpture in wood of 84 year-old Radoslaw Gryta strangely staring out at you from the backdrop of honeycombs.

Pauliina Turakka Purhonen’s Oaig (2010)

As a foreigner, I find the Finnish style rather intriguing. Seeing the exhibition as a whole, shows that most of these are realistic in the way they bare themselves to the general public. Some are perhaps flattering, some are distinctly distorted, others horrifying and abstruse. While you wonder about the character in the painting or photo or sculpture, it also brings you to a point of self-searching and your own reaction to it. The creator must have had this in mind and while they couldn’t predict the response, they could control it to an extent. This is where emotion comes into play. Seeing the irony and humour in Sampsa Sarparanta’s The White Man’s Burden, the Heidi man-girl ridiculously laughing back at you, the grotesque Last Man Standing evoking fear, the sadness, the playfulness, the sorrow – it all draws you into their world and their feelings at the time of execution. Finally, you walk out with a bag of mixed emotions to sort through and the memory of faces you never knew but will never forget.

Sampsa Sarparanta’s The White Man’s Burden (2015)
Last Man Standing – Stiina Saaristo (2007-2008)

Me: Self-Portraits Through Time is on show at Kunsthalle Helsinki from 27 May until 6 August 2017.

Kunsthalle Helsinki

Nervanderinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki

Tickets +358 40 450 7211

Tue, Thu, Fri 11–18

Wed 11–20

Sat-Sun 11–17

Mon closed

€12 / €8

Under 18s – no charge

Line Up at The Roster – a modern eatery run by a hip crowd

With a view of some of Helsinki’s stunning period architecture, The Roster stands out as a trendy place to have your lunch, drink a cocktail or indulge in their version of a Sunday roast. Brainchild of Kari Aihinen, executive chef of the exclusive Savoy Restaurant, this one’s not a ‘baby Savoy’. His love of ice hockey speaks for itself in the name and he runs this kitchen as well as the more upmarket one, like he would a hockey team. The right hand knows what the left is doing and the result is a winner.

Trout, spinach purée and lobster sauce

My trout on a spinach purée with lobster sauce melts in the mouth with umami, freshness and creaminess all intermingled. The salad that comes as a side looks dull since it’s just a bunch of leaves but my oh my, that truffle dressing is enough to stop you in your tracks. I feel like a red wine with all of this and the recommendation of a Pinot Meunier from the house of Friedrich Becker from the Pfalz region in Germany, is earthy, with hints of truffle and terroir that just brings this whole meal together.

All of this doesn’t come cheap but you wouldn’t expect it to. You get the feeling that every ingredient is hand-picked and that the food is prepared with the utmost care. Service is friendly, funny and full of personality. I think they like working here and if they don’t, they’re damn good actors. Go for the slapshot, fork out €40 and knock yourself out with a great plate of nosh.

Links:

The Roster Helsinki

Let’s Play at The Yard Concept Hostel, Helsinki

You couldn’t get more downtown than this brand new hostel opening its doors at Kalevankatu 3A in Helsinki. You can literally pick up a stone and throw it through a window at Stockmann Department Store or at the plethora of bars and restaurants downstairs.

You couldn't get any closer to shopping and night life than this spot.
You couldn’t get any closer to shopping and night life than this spot.

Besides its 10/10 location, a big shout out to Matilda Sankamo, the young owner, who has done a splendid job of turning this space into a tasteful playground of colour and comfort both in the living room and the dorms. The wooden framed beds, specially designed, are cosy with huge lockers underneath. Choose from a six-sleeper to a two-sleeper or a private family room for four with its own balcony toward the bustling street below. Strangely enough, the place is quiet thanks to the heavy glazing of windows required by law in Finland.

dsc05444There’s no sauna, but why would you need one if there’s a nude-only swimming hall with oodles of character a hop and a skip away at Yrjönkatu around the corner? Don’t worry, designated times for men and women set your mind at ease for the more bashful among us.

Simple but nice finishing touches
Simple but nice finishing touches

Cooking is not an option but the use of the microwave, kettle and utensils are available for free use. You’ll be happy to know that breakfast, however, is included in the price of €40/bed. It also doesn’t have a liquor licence, a big plus in fact since it enables you to bring your own. According to liquor laws in this country, both options are not allowed. Besides, it’ll cost you a lot less.

dsc05445Gone are the days of hostels with dodgy beds and strange characters skulking about. This one’s stunning and stylish and best of all, it comes with a big, friendly smile.

The dorms have huge lockers for all your stuff
The dorms have huge lockers for all your stuff

Links:

The Yard Concept Hostel

The Yard on Bookings.com

Yrjönkatu Swimming Pool

 

Cosily Comfy – Fabian Hotel, Helsinki

It’s found its place in the corner of downtown Helsinki, close to everything but just a step away from any noise that might disturb your beauty sleep. Hotel Fabian is small, tiny in fact by hotel standards, but its heart is big and it enfolds you with warmth and comfort from the time you step through the main entrance.

The bar area at Fabian Hotel
The bar area at Fabian Hotel

Let’s begin with the staff. If it weren’t for them, this gem would not hold its value. It would just become another impersonal encounter. The manager has a broad smile and welcoming manner and runs a tight, professional ship, the hallmark of her staff being friendly and accommodating. Sure, you’ve heard this before but it’s that extra little bit of information or help that just puts the people that work here ahead of their game transforming your stay from ordinary to extraordinary.

Generous smiles from the manager at Fabian Hotel
Generous smiles from the manager at Fabian Hotel

The hotel doesn’t have a bar so to speak, it doesn’t have a restaurant but it does have a living room with soft, enveloping sofas where you can sip a drink. This flows into the little dining room where the included breakfast is served. If you choose to eat in for other meals, an option is a Lux room with a kitchenette and table. Standard rooms are plush with modern features like metal bedside lamps on wooden stairs setting a playful tone to the surrounding elegance.

Plush rooms with modern details
Plush rooms with modern details

It’s rare to find a commercial home-away-from-home where you feel so at ease, where your eyes are soothed by the gentle browns and whites and where everything just falls into place, like it should do.

A cosy living room in stead of a cold lobby
A cosy living room in stead of a cold lobby

 

Modern touches with a traditional feel
Modern touches with a traditional feel

Passion, Play and a Girl with a Gun

Niki De Saint Phalle – Kunsthalle, Helsinki 20 August – 20 November 2016.

It’s impossible to tell what your child is going to grow up to be. The process of bodily creation is over and the newborn is set free in a world largely made up of their parents’ circumstances. When Niki de Saint Phalle was born in 1930, the world didn’t know what had hit it. She was going to make a splash and a big one at that.

 

Les Trois Graces - fat, flourishing and flaunting the rules!
Les Trois Graces – fat, flourishing and flaunting the rules!

Art became her therapy, creativity, her life force. As she put it, “If I didn’t have art, I would have to be pregnant all the time because I can’t live without creating something.” At a time when the bourgeois female was expected to be, putting it crudely, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, she was out there sculpting voluptuous females, both black and white, in colourful bathing costumes, dancing away to their hearts’ content. She called them ‘nanas’, a derogatory word corresponding to ‘broad’, or in Émile Zola’s eponymous novel, ‘whore’. Her rebellion against the slim female figure, a throw back to her time when she herself was working as a fashion model, was blatant. At a time when Black was hardly beautiful, she was not ashamed to colour her figures dark or couple them with white men as in her Le Palais. And then the guns and the shooting. Not the archetypal feminine activity one would associate with the women of the day, she excelled at it and became the first performance artist, shooting her works to bits with precision and planning and skill, allowing the paint to explode at exactly the point where she wanted it to happen. The process was as much art as the finished work.

 

Piercing deep into the heart of tradition and the status quo.
Piercing deep into the heart of tradition and the status quo.
Le Palais, the utopian dream as expressed by Niki De Saint Phalle
Le Palais, the utopian dream as expressed by Niki De Saint Phalle

In other words, don’t be fooled by the vibrant colours, the naivety and playfulness you encounter when looking at her pieces. She is dead serious about joie de vivre and wants everyone, including children, to exclaim with delight when they see her sculptures or explore her Tarot Garden in Tuscany. Her message is clear, art for all and all for art.

Diana's Dream - a gun, a swastika and monsters emanate from the woman on her back.
Diana’s Dream – a gun, a swastika and monsters emanate from the woman on her back.
Sex symbol of the 60's, the pain that is Marilyn.
Sex symbol of the 60’s, the pain that is Marilyn.

Work h-UMA-nely

Gone is the rut called ‘work’, the slog and drudgery called ‘labour’. UMA puts a whole new slant of style on this mundane time guzzler.

UMA is on the 3rd floor of the Academic Bookstore (Photo: Technopolis Internal Image Bank)
UMA is on the 3rd floor of the Academic Bookstore (Photo: Technopolis)

Appropriately located on the 3rd floor of the Alvar Aalto designed Academic Bookstore, slap bang in downtown Helsinki, there’s a wide gallery that wraps around an atrium. Tuck yourself into a high, wing-backed chair, plug in your laptop and off you go. UMA makes it as simple as that. The space couldn’t make it easier for visiting business people to drop in for an hour, a day or longer to get their phone calls made from the private booths, or arrange a meeting with a potential customer in a state-of-the-art room or just catch up on their emails in these luxurious premises. Freelancers that need to get away from home to get their writing done, can heave a sigh of relief. These surroundings are accessible for whomever and from wherever you are.

A workplace with style (Photo: Technopolis Internal Image Bank)
A workplace with style (Photo: Technopolis)

UMA offers you a choice of membership. With Access you can slide into any open workstation. With Focus you and your 2 work mates can book a place in advance as long as you come separately. Private gives you privacy i.e. a workroom of your very own for a total of 20 hours per month. And for those casual visitors mentioned above, as little as €20 per day will get you prepared for clinching that deal. All prices exclude VAT of 24%.

Kick back with a coffee (Photo: Technopolis Internal Image Bank)
Kick back with a coffee (Photo: Technopolis)

To kick off your day and keep you going, there’s a great cup of free java from Nespresso that comes in all popular shapes and sizes. When the day is long and your back is breaking, the small gym could be your lifesaver.

This place is all about people and giving them the opportunity to be the best that they can be which can only really be achieved if they’re feeling comfortable and have all the technology they need to make it happen. It’s work and it’s simply wonderful.

For more info:

Technopolis.fi/UMA

uma@technopolis.fi

+358 46 712 0000

Good Taste in Helsinki

Stunning, stylish and suave is this event that happens every June in Helsinki, come rain or shine. But with white marquees on green lawns right in the heart of the city at Citizens’ Square, there’s no holding back on the superlative food and drinks Taste of Helsinki has to offer.

Let’s start with champagne. The house champagne this year is André Clouet Brut Grand Réserve from Bouzy where Pinot Noir is the grape of choice and this one sings through with strong notes of red fruit, beautifully balanced with enough spark to carry it through to the final finish. And that’s just one champagne. There’ll be a bevy of great wines to go with whatever pleases your palate and the beer tent with its micro and big brewery craft numbers, will keep you happy if wine’s not your thing.

Restaurants have been carefully chosen to represent previous years stalwarts as well as newbies on the block like Grön, for instance. It’s a fab newish place that’s doing some exciting stuff with greens as its eponymous name suggests including foraged gems found by the chef himself. From further afield in Tampere comes Hella & Huone, ‘stove and room’ to be exact with cold-smoked Jerusalem artichoke served with spicy Lapland beef and a dash of herbs.

Hella & Huone's innovative platter
Hella & Huone’s innovative platter

Bistro o Mat is a husband and wife team that are passionate about their place in Kirkkonummi. Their pike burgers are a winning combination of homemade, of course!, brioche bun with the best flavoured fat fish cake of delectable fish, shimmied up by mayo and herbs. Other chefs that’ll be busy slaving away on these days of glorious food will be from Ask, Kolmonen, Muru, Pastor, Sinne and Toca. For the first time, the culinary genius so prevalent in Estonia will be represented by Restaurant Ö.

Bistro o Mat's pike burger
Bistro o Mat’s pike burger

To keep the punters lingering longer, the jazz music of We Jazz Collective and DJs will keep you swinging until late. The Aperol Bar and Coffee Lab driven by Johan & Nyström are pleasant distractors in between all the munching and sipping that will take place at Taste of Helsinki, the place to be between 16 and 19 June 2016.

Toca getting ready for the rush of dessert lovers
Toca getting ready for the rush of dessert lovers

Here’s where to book: http://www.tasteofhelsinki.fi/en/#page-11.