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Fast Food Finnish-style

Hessburger in Savonlinna

Hessburger in Savonlinna

In my previous post I mentioned that I ended up having to pick fast food during my trip to Finland when I got back to the hotel after my concerts. Of course, I took a few snapshots to share here – even though it’s hardly fine dining and isn’t sushi at all, I still thought that some of Happy Sushi Belly’s readers might find some of the differences fun to read.

Hessburger

Finland’s national fast-food hamburger chain is Hessburger, which kind of reminded me of a non-chain place that used to be open near where I live. We visited Hessburger on our first night in Savonlinna, mostly because it was easily seen from a distance, and since it was pretty late, we didn’t want to wander too much to try to find another place that was open.

I think we should have at least looked for a pub or something because I wasn’t too keen on what we ordered. We each had a cheeseburger, fries and a drink, and while the fries were fine and the drink was normal, we didn’t really like the cheeseburger at all. If we knew a bit more Finnish it might have been easier to pick out something more interesting, but being tired… we just weren’t in the mood for big surprises…

McDonalds

McDonalds in Finland is a bit different too – first off they have doughnuts on the menu! No, I didn’t try one, but I did try their coffee drink, which I thought would be a coffee-flavoured milkshake, but instead it was hot coffee with lots of milk, served 3/4 full in a milkshake kind of glass. The picture in the Turku venue made it look like it was coffee and chocolate, and the other flavours appeared to be pear and chocolate, strawberry and chocolate, and vanilla and chocolate – but who knows! (We thought it was ok, but not worth a repeat…)

Chips

Along with excellent Finnish candy, we also tried a few different flavours of old familiar things – like ‘Paprika’ (bell pepper) flavoured Lays potato chips – interesting, but again, not deserving of a repeat snack (unlike some of the candy we tried!). We tried these while sitting on a bench along the Aura River in Turku.

Restaurant boats on the Aura River

Restaurant boats on the Aura River

If you’d like to see some of my previous posts about my trip to Finland, please click the Finland Tag to see them all pulled together for you. If you’re interested in more sights from Savonlinna, I also have a Savonlinna Tag  and a Turku Tag for you to follow! Consider clicking the “Follow” button to the right to subscribe via email, or follow Happy Sushi Belly on Twitter. You can also follow us on Facebook, where you can join other foodies, or just follow along as posts are automatically sent to Facebook as well. Thanks WordPress!

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Turku buffet dinner

I mentioned in my earlier post about spending Midsummer in Finland, and the challenges that posed to finding a bite to eat – when most of the city seemed to be empty! On Midsummer day, we decided (after spending some time along the river and walking to and from Turku Castle) to enjoy the hotel’s buffet for dinner.

As I mentioned before, the buffet breakfast was pretty extensive at the Centro hotel in Turku, with lots of selection in a wide range of areas including cereals, breads, meats, fruits, vegetables and food that I wouldn’t consider typical breakfast foods. We weren’t sure what to expect for dinner, but anticipated a similar selection.

We started off with a drink from the small menu.  The hotel front desk doubled as a bar, and they also had a few snacks offered there too.

liquor menu

liquor menu

While my companion stuck with a familiar Heineken, I figured I’d try something different and chose between Karhu III and Lapin Kulta III, both Finnish Lagers.  Karhu translates to “Bear” and Lapin Kulta translates to “Gold of Lapland, and the bartender/desk clerk recommended the pale lager Karhu III, which I enjoyed. I am not much of a beer drinker, but after the warm day in the sunshine, it was great!

Buffet dinner selection

My companion’s dinner selection

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Posted by on August 27, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Visiting the market square

Turku's Market Square

Turku’s Market Square

In Calgary, we don’t really have a “market square” – but I noticed in the Finnish cities I visited that these central meeting places are pretty common. Smaller central areas have one, while in Helsinki I passed a few. These open spaces are multi-purpose… meeting places, activity places, space for weekend and summertime markets, places to grab a bite to eat on the way home…

In Calgary we certainly have open spaces in the central core – there’s Shaw Millennium Park, a skateboard park maintained by the city, Olympic Plaza where there are regular concerts and cultural events, and Prince’s Island Park where large events like Canada Day and Shakespeare in the Park are held.  There is Eau Claire Market close to the island, which started as an indoor marketplace with the promise of a Calgary-version of Vancouver’s Granville Island, but has evolved into a poorly filled shopping mall with only one very tiny grocery-style store. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Midsummer in Finland

Wayfinding signs in Naantali

Wayfinding signs in Naantali

Before my June 2013 vacation to Finland, I did a bit of research, and knew that midsummer and midsummer’s eve was a pretty big deal. Kind of like Christmas, but with a lot less snow, and fewer hand-knit kitty sweaters from well-meaning aunts.

I had read that during midsummer, most people leave the cities in favour of the beautiful and abundant out-of-doors. Midsummer is a time for summer cabins, lakeside retreats, seaside cottages, sailboats, island homes, and escapes nestled deep within the abundant birch and pine forests.

I had read that people escape the city… But I didn’t really know what that meant….

On Thursday before the holiday, the streets were bustling. Cars drove by, people rode past on bikes, children rode by on scooters and lots of people walked around. On Friday, the situation was drastically different as people had the day (or half-day in some cases) off work and started to leave the city. On Saturday, the once busy streets were empty, the street-crossing horns echoed through intersections, and birds outnumbered people on the riverside pathway. The bustling city had become a ghost town.

Now, for locals, this sudden desertion would be no big deal. You would either get your groceries in advance, or head out to one of the (very) few places you knew was open. For tourists on the other hand (with no mini-fridge or even a kettle in the room) this emptiness posed a different challenge. Not just “what to do?” (since all of the museums, galleries, and shops were closed) but also “where to eat?”.

Flag-rising in Naantali

Flag-rising in Naantali

Our hotel front desk had a short list of options, but we picked some of our own solutions ….

1) buffet breakfasts at the hotel
2) spending the day in the seaside tourist town of Nantali (where it seemed everyone in the region without a summer cabin also headed)
3) eating dinner at the hotel buffet
4) taking a long walk down the riverside, and getting photos from outside the castle (since our inside-the-castle visit was cut short due to time a few days earlier)
5) eating dinner at one of the few places open in the market square area (the Kebab place I mentioned earlier).

Selecting hotels with a buffet breakfast was a great idea. We had a few choices in Turku, but the Centro offered the central location we were looking for along with free wifi (although it was slow) and an included breakfast buffet. The breakfast buffet had a wide selection, and although the dinner buffet was much smaller, this was a good option when we came back from our day trip utterly exhausted.

For Midsummer Eve we visited Naantali, and I’ll share a little bit of this charming city with you today.

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Posted by on August 23, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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I have a new favourite flavour

Adorable logo

Adorable logo

I love ice cream. I think that it is probably my favourite dessert. ( Although ask me about that again when I have an amazing slice of cheesecake…). While on my trip to Finland I think that I discovered my new favourite flavour of ice cream… Salmiakki!

Salmiakki (or salmiak, or salmiac liquorice) is salty licorice popular in the Nordic countries, Netherlands, Baltic States and Northern Germany. It gets it’s distinctive salty, astringent, ‘tongue-numbing’ flavour through the use of ammonium chloride. Carbon black is used as a food colouring in the black candies, but they can also come in white and grey. The taste can be overwhelming and almost stinging, and the flavour is found not just in hard and soft candies, but also in alcoholic beverages, chocolate, meat, cola drinks, and yes… ice cream!

One of the many ice  cream kiosks

One of the many ice cream kiosks

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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Out of town - Europe, Treats

 

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Midsummer eve kabob

Midsummer is a huge holiday in Finland, as I found out when I was there this past June. (I can’t believe it’s already been so long, and at the same time, I miss it so much!) Midsummer eve is a holiday when a lot of things are closed, as people leave the cities to head out to lakeside cabins. Even the day before Midsummer eve, a lot of places closed early, and on Midsummer day, busy Turku changed into a near ghost town! Needless to say, for tourists without friends or family in Turku, this made a few things challenging – not least of all getting a bite to eat!

After a day in Naantali (Don’t worry, I’ll share that with you too!) we were looking for a place to eat – but so many places in Turku were closed! As we got off the bus we walked past a Kebab place near the market square, and thought that we were too tired to wander and have to come back anyways, so let’s give it a try!

Kebab place in Turku

Kebab place exterior. I think the steak place was upstairs or next door – it certainly wasn’t where we went!

When I think kebab, I think of shishkabab – meat and vegies on a stick. Unfortunately, the entire menu was in Finnish, and it was hard to tell what anything might have been. The clerk was helpful and said that he could translate anything we wanted for us, so I pointed at a picture, and ordered away! My companion, either being equally as brave, or perhaps even less interested in trying to figure out what might be good to eat ordered the same.

Kebab place in Turku

Kebab place in Turku and the Finnish-only menu

The result was an enormous wrap filled with meat and vegetables.  It was delicious, but dripped with sauce, and was far too much for one person to eat each – if we had known, we would have split it easily!

Kebab

Kebab

If you’re visiting Finland during Midsummer, take the challenge we faced into account – either plan to visit a tourist-centric town outside of the city, or make arrangements for things to do and places to eat that will be open despite the broad closures.  It was fascinating, but it did mean that there were two days we couldn’t visit museums, shop, or do other things.  Of course, that just means I have a few more things on my ‘wish list’ to try next time I visit Turku!

Want more?

Want to see more of my recent trip to Turku? Follow the Turku Tag for all the posts so far! (There might even be a few more to come!) If you’re coming to Happy Sushi Belly long after I’ve published these posts, you will also be able to see all of my posts about Finland by following the Finland Tag (though right now when I publish this, it’s going to be all about Turku for the most part!)

Don’t forget, Happy Sushi Belly is also on Facebook! If you “Like” us on Facebook and add us to your interest list, our posts will show up to share the tasty treats we’ve experienced with you, right on your home feed! If you’d rather keep your belly happy with 140 characters or less, we’re also on Twitter!

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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A Finnish breakfast

In my last post, I showed you some of the things I had for breakfast at the Centro hotel in Turku.  I thought I’d share with you the huge variety that they had to offer, just so you can see what breakfast might look like there.

A wide selection in the hotel's buffet breakfast lounge

A wide selection in the hotel’s buffet breakfast lounge

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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Turku Centro hotel buffet

Back when I went to Hawaii and stayed at the gorgeous Hilton hotel, I found that a substantial breakfast while travelling really saved money and helped fuel my day (full of walking, hiking, swimming, and all of the other activities I had planned. Even shopping!). When looking for hotels for my Finland trip, I was keen to pick a hotel that offered a buffet breakfast over those that didn’t.  Every time, I was really happy that I had made that choice.

Not only does a good breakfast help prepare me for the day, but it also helps me wake up! (Or maybe it’s just that morning cup of tea..) It’s great to be able to get dressed, go downstairs for breakfast, and then head back to the hotel room to finish getting ready or make the firm plans on how to spend the day. Usually otherwise I try to grab some groceries (which wouldn’t work great, since none of our hotels in Finland had mini-fridges) or am stuck getting breakfast late, once out and about for the day.

The buffet breakfast at the Centro hotel in Turku was also really generous, with loads of choice for cold foods (and a few hot foods too).

Buffet Breakfast

Yoghurt with tasty toppings

Just a note – these photos are from SEVERAL different breakfasts at the Centro hotel in Turku – we were there for a week, and so I had lots of opportunities to take photos of what we were eating each day.

Above, yoghurt with sunflower seeds, granola with dried apple, and sour berries.

Buffet Breakfast

Tea & pastry – Buffet Breakfast

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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Treats: Sour Berry Cheesecake

In my previous post I mentioned that after visiting Turku Castle and then going on a city tour, my companion and I headed to another Turku museum to take advantage of the admission pre-paid with our Turku card. (A tourist card which offers discounts and free admission, available from the Turku Tourist information office.)

The museum we visited was the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova – a two-for-the-price-of-one museum that houses both historical ruins and contemporary art.

The excavated buildings are visible from the cafe.

The excavated buildings are visible from the cafe.

Aboa Vetus is an unearthed display of ruins – the genuine construction on the site they were originally built before being abandoned and covered over. The ruins tell the history of settlements in Turku.  After wandering through the ruins, and reading the stories the museum has to tell, you can also visit the exhibition halls of Ars Nova, housed in the Rettig Palace which was completed in 1928.  Ars Nova features contemporary art including paintings, photographs, and when we were there, many multi-media art pieces.

Of course.. Happy Sushi Belly isn’t all about my Finnish trip – so here’s the happy belly connection – in the central area between the two old-and-new areas of Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova is a small café: the Aula Cafe – where we tried some absolutely delicious sour-berry cheesecake!  (They also offer a buffet lunch, but we were a bit too late after our bus tour.)

Sour Berry Cheesecake

Sour Berry Cheesecake

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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Out of town - Europe, Treats

 

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French treats in a Finnish city

I mentioned the lovely French bakery I stopped at while in Turku, Finland in a previous post. I wanted to share some quick photos with you of the treats I enjoyed, but also share with you some of the sights of Turku.

Tasty baked goods

Tasty baked goods

Along with the fruits and nuts that we picked up (and that delicious nougat), we also picked up to little pasteries at the French Bakery (finally, a place where our Canadian French came in handy!)

Tasty baked goods

Tasty baked goods

The first treat is just a simple apple strudel, but slightly less flaky than the German ones I’m used to back home.  Still delicious (and sticky!) though! Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2013 in Out of town - Europe, Treats

 

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