More sightseeing, more culture, more design, more cafes and I never felt like this before. Pictures I will remember forever.

Helsinki, 13 degrees

It’s a strange sensation being on holiday after working basically nonstop for a year now. Sure I have had some small brakes like Christmas (2 days), in February one week and Easter (4 days) but otherwise I’ve always been working with max 2 days off a week. Now a complete 17 days off! And with salary for the first time in my life!!!! These days will include a one-week-trip to Crete and maybe two-three days in beautiful Lappeenranta, in East Finland.

Anyhow, it takes some time to gather my thoughts and get them off work. Like I mentioned in the last insert, the summer season has started in Helsinki, so it was quite busy at the office during the last days at work.

On the 20th of May I went on a trip to Tuusula, which is located about 30 minutes from Helsinki. The area is located next to a lake which creates a unique setting for numerous houses and villas. Some of these houses are more famous than others; one example being the home of our national composer Jean Sibelius. Others worth mentioning were Villa Kokkonen, a building designed by one of our most famous architects Alvar Aalto and Haloseniemi, the home of painter Pekka Halonen. The idea with this trip was to introduce this area to us working in the tourism field of Helsinki so that we can better promote it to visitors from all around the world.

Source: Ainola

We first stopped at Ainola, the former home of composer Jean Sibelius. One could immediately sense a specific pleasant smell when entering. The house itself was a cozy wooden one, similar to the many wooden buildings we have in Finland; therefore something maybe common for the eye of a Finn, but exotic for a foreigner. The house has been left in the original form which meant that all the items one could see in the house were of the time when Sibelius lived in the house. Ainola was located in a very verdant and leafy setting, ideal for a house of this sort. It had some nice details, like a green tiled stove. 

 Source: Ainola

Ainola also had a separate wooden sauna building next to it. Sibelius’ grave could also be found at the estate. A nice continuation to Ainola was the modern cafeteria Aulis built next to the house. There we got to taste the organic bakery goodies of the locals and listen to Sibelius ever so well-known classical music. They even had an interesting pot and sculpture exhibition at the cafeteria.

 Source: Ainola

Next stop was Ahola, former home of the writer Juhani Ahola and his artist wife. This was a nice yellow villa with tons of books, photos and paintings of the couple on display. It felt like a smaller house than the one of Sibelius but equally interesting to visit.  

 Source: Ainola

Before lunch, we had the great pleasure to visit the Lotta museum. Me being 25, I have only heard stories of Finland in wars, but never really understood the conditions our country must have been in during those years. 

The Lotta Museum really gave us a good insight in this though, as soon as we had arrived, we actually participated in a Lotta lesson, just as during the war days. It was a drama play of course, but followed through in such a professional way that it felt like we were truly back in the 40s. For those of you who don’t know what a lotta is I can tell you that the organization was founded by Lotta Svärd, and it was a Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women during the Finnish wars.

 Source: CartinaFinland

During the drama we got to attend a training course, a lecture, about how to know the difference between airplanes used in wars and how to read the weather. It was very interesting! I must say for the first time in my life, I feel I understand the war conditions of Finland a little bit better. I especially liked that we got to known the role of women in the wars. When we left, we could smell the amazing aroma of freshly baked buns. Oh how I would have wanted to stay and have one!

 Source: MTV3

Fortunately the next stop for our tour bus of a day was hotel and restaurant Krapi where we had lunch.

In the afternoon we got acquainted with Villa Kokkonen, Halosenniemi and Gustavelund. 

Halosenniemi was an amazing wooden stock house where one walked indoors with slippers. It was huge, kind of like a labyrinth! It had functioned as the studio of painter Pekka Halonen and as a home of his large family. I could so picture the children playing hide and seek in this house! The most beautiful part of the house was the living room with enormous windows looking out of the lake. 

It somehow felt evident that the daylight and the surrounding Finnish nature had worked as the inspiration to Halonen’s work.

Source: Gustavelund

Gustavelund was a place for conferences, but functioned also as a hotel, an outdoor lunch venue and as a place to rent bicycles at. 

 Source: Wikipedia

Villa Kokkonen was just like a modern Finnish home. For those of us that have modern houses that is. I have never lived in a house of our own, always in apartment buildings. But I would say for those not coming from urban surroundings, houses are quite common in Finland. Anyway, so yeah the house was filled with Alvar Aalto’s design items like vases and interior design chairs and tables. I liked it very much. This house was also located right in the middle of the green; with forest on every side of the house. The house even had a great Finnish design shop with a large selection of design items. Finnish design items are for life, they are so pretty. What is your favorite?

Source: Korsisaari

The hosts of the house were a little bit special to say it kindly. The man was loud and talkative, not typical Finnish that is. Lets just say I'll remember him forever and you get the picture. He also sang opera, not typical Finnish again. The hostess on the other hand played some piano as we listened to the host singing. I must say that even though I don’t consider myself to understand the true depths of opera kind of music, I liked when he sang “Finlandia”, composed by Sibelius who owned the first house we visited. It is such a powerful song. Try listening to it and not be touched. Impossible. To me it brings chills up my spine. It tells about thoughts, dreams and memories. Oh what a wonder of a song.  

Back in Helsinki I was happy to be back as I always am, but I think I had a lot of good memories of the day. Now I definitely know where to send visitors if they ask for countryside and pure Finnish nature as well of a sense of design and culture!

By the way, Visit Finland and my work place (!) wonderful "Visit Helsinki" made as collaboration with cruise liner Silja Line a promotional video about coming from Stockholm, Sweden to Finland by cruise. If you dare to watch the video clip, you’ll be coming over with the next cruise liner to Helsinki! The video clip is excellent! Enjoy!

What's your opinion?