Sometimes the best parts about traveling in a completely foreign land are the unexpected friendships that you make. Corey and I arrived in Finland without knowing a soul, and after one week in Helsinki, came away with a handful of lovely Finns whom we can now call friends. On our third night in Helsinki, we were invited by the vibrant Kristiina Drews, a friend of a friend, to a public Finnish sauna, followed by a typical post-sauna dinner with her vivacious, energetic and very tall sons, and her amazing sculptor husband, Antero Toikka.
The sauna house along the Vantaa river outside of Helsinki was built in a small village in Northern Finland and was brought to Helsinki in the 1950s. The sauna, which allocates separate times for men and women to use every evening, seats about 30 people when it’s filled to the brim. Corey and I were shocked at the amount of energy created by the constant inpour and outpour of women (leaving the sauna to jump in the river) and by the sheer heat of that room! No pictures were taken during the amazing sauna event, but this unique experience is something everyone should try for himself or herself, at least once, if not at any opportunity!
After sauna came “sauna sausage,” a dinner of sausage, potatoes, rye bread, halumi cheese, wine, vodka, accordion, guitar, and a lot of singing, and much more laughter. And after sauna sausage came cardamom coffee, which isexactly what it sounds like; filter coffee with freshly ground cardamom – Kristiina’s preferred way to drink her coffee. DELICIOUS. Why haven’t we thought of mixing these two amazing flavors together before? Genius! This night could not have been more perfect.
The next evening we were again invited for an intimate dinner at home, only this time, it was an outdoor barbeque and the family wasn’t related by blood but buy a common love of specialty coffee. Kalle, the Finnish correspondent and blogger for the Nordic Coffee Culture Blog was head chef and host, crafting some of the tastiest hamburgers we’ve had on this side of the Atlantic. We were joined by Milla from Johan and Nystrom, Niki from Kaffa, and Lauri from Good Life Coffee. The weather was perfect, the food superb, and the company sublime.
Thank you to all of our new friends from Helsinki: The Toikka’s: Kristiina, Antero, Mikko, Kalle (& co.), Lauri, and our favorite Finnish baristas: Milla, Kalle, Nikki, Lauri, and to the friendly folks we met at various markets throughout Helsinki: Jukka, and Line. And thank you Finland, for giving us such a surprising and colorful experience!