cartermark's blog

Bob and the Land of the Pepetual Sun : Part 1

posted by cartermark, Jan 17, 2008 2:10 PM — 3 comments

Bob and the Land of the Perpetual Sun
Part 1
6th June, 23:15, A Helsinki rooftop terrace bar, an exotic Russian cocktail and the sun teetering just on the horizon-almost setting but just can’t quite make it. We were witnessing one of the most spectacular phenomena in the northern hemisphere, an epic battle between the sunset and the horizon. This awe inspiring sight of almost 24 hour sunshine a day is truly a sight to behold.

One of my first thoughts was how the early discoverers would have felt when they first landed on the Scandinavian shores and realised that the sun didn’t set. With superstition and religion being a part of their way of life I am pretty sure one of their first reactions would have been of pure horror. “The night has been killed! The night has been killed!”

The odd sacrifice of a three legged mountain goat or two would have been done and the occasional throwing of a person off the fjords would have been offered to some sort of ancient god I’m sure. Now imagine what would have happened when winter hit and the sun didn’t rise for months on end, I dear not think.

Sitting there on the rooftop watching this marvel was truly a moment that I would never forget. Or so I thought because next the 5 days I would find out an awful lot about the Finnish culture whether I wanted to or not. I can truly say that the Finnish people are among some of the friendliest; welcoming and cultured people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

I arrived in Helsinki for the first day of a spectacular holiday to Finland complements of The Mighty Fine Company. The first thing I noticed was how clean the streets were. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a revelation but you will be hard done by if found chewing gun on the floor or a cigarette butt. I was so impressed with the cleanliness that I even thought about taking my shoes off when entering the main street.
I am not much of an architectural whiz kid but you could see the Russian and Swedish influence in the styles of the buildings. The churches were particularly impressive as they competed to dominate the skyline and reach for the heavens in an attempt to get closer to god.
The harbour was only 2 minutes away from my hotel so I decided to take a stroll to soak in a bit of history. As harbours go I would not say it was not particularly impressive but the history behind it is a mighty fine story on its own. Battles were won and lost many times in this harbour but that’s another story altogether.

While I was at the harbour having a nice little walk about, I passed an elegant little fish and sea-food restaurant on the west side called Havis. Now I am not the greatest fish lover but I do like the odd battered cod from time to time. As I was seated at a table I realised I was way out of my league and attempting to order one portion of fish and chips plus a pint of Stella would have got me strung and quartered before I could have said Gefilte fish. The waiter handed me a menu and as I perused the list of unfamiliar items like Cured salmon with dill and caper mayonnaise and Pan fried lavaret with potato fondant and cep sauce I decided to take a risk and ask the waiter if they did a steak, ok now I know what your already thinking, “you moron, you have already said it’s a sea food restaurant” but I had to try.

To my astonishment he simply looked at me and said “yes sir, I can speak to the chef. How would you like your steak done?” Now I lived in South Africa for a good part of my upbringing, I love steak; I mean I really love steak! Some of you will think its sacrilege to have a steak well done or even medium to well done, in fact I have a friend who simply tells the waiter to just take the horns off, wipe its arse and put it on a plate. Ok now that’s too rare for me, I like it cooked, just take the blood out and leave it with a slight pinkish colour, I like a bit of juice to flow out the steak but I do not like my steak to fight back. The waiter calmly said “very well sir”

The steak arrived a few minutes later dressed with some quaint little potatoes, I am pretty sure we call them scarlet potatoes, not chips or boiled spuds. A few fancy vegetables and a basket of warm bread, being an uncouth northern lad from Lancashire I like me spuds. I must admit there was a bit apprehension about the amount of fluffiness and design of the food around the plate, the steak was a decent size and not some cutlet on display with a mini carrot and tomato to tart it up

I sliced the fillet, took a bite and found myself in beef heaven. It was without a doubt the best steak I have ever had the pleasure of eating. There I was sitting in a sea food restaurant in Helsinki eating the best steak in the world and it wasn’t even their speciality; this was just one fine example of the Finnish culture and their eagerness to please.

After my gourmet delight I decided to take the longer route back to the hotel for a bit of some sight seeing. I was meeting the rest of the crew later that evening at the bar in the hotel for a few cold ones before the next day’s activities. It just so happened that the King of Sweden and the president of Finland were in town so there a smorgasbord of activities happening all around the town. A local artist had placed some figures in the park along the walk way and at eleven o’clock at night with the sun still hanging in the sky; it was a most impressive display. There were still plenty of people sitting in the park as though it was lunch time, reading their books and having a snack. It was a most bizarre yet exciting experience.

Heading back to the hotel would bring an end to my day so I tried to take my time and soak up the atmosphere in the park, it was so relaxing that you could have quite easily lose track of time because the evening sun lasted so long. Glancing down at my watch I hesitantly turned the corner to head back to the hotel but I knew that I had a few more exciting days ahead of me on this holiday to Finland as I was heading further north tomorrow into the Lakelands other wise know as the land of a thousand lakes.

End of Part 1

Comments | RSS

1. posted by SCapture, Jan 17, 2008 2:50 PM

Sounds like a nice holiday. I especially like how you expressed the battle between the sun and the horizon. Excellent dof on the fountain photo!

2. posted by cartermark, Jan 17, 2008 4:09 PM

Thanks for your comments. Ill be putting up part 2 soon.
I really like your photos too, You have a good eye

3. posted by shar, Jan 18, 2008 8:53 AM

Great travel diary and great pics to remind you of sights and experiences. Much better way of sharing with friends than subjecting them to a million pictures, most of which you sometimes forget where and what of. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to the next installment.

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