Bear stew for dinner tonight, cooked very slowly said the menu. With horseradish and logenberry sauce.
Tastes like stew, the sauce and the things that the meat was marinated in.
The bears come from Russia, so infinite supply.
My colleagues had moose sausages and reindeer steaks, more reasuring.
In the harbor, the yachts look like fromula 1 cars, a rendering of an arrow, shaped like things that go fast in the night. Hundreds of them. A few sail boats, one, two, three masts.
And the catamarans that connect to Tallin, probably in less than one hour, on the other side of the Finland straights. Some probably also go to Saint Petersburgh and the larger boats to Sweden. The big ones are casinos and floating bars, where the non-drinking Swedes get on and get drunk. Night or day trip.
Alcohol is not a taboo here, like in Sweden . No nonsense like 3 classes of beer, depending on their alcohol content. Just plain Pils. And wine, from everywhere. We had wine from Georgia in a Russian restaurant.
Along the coast, stately homes or art nouveau buildings are lined up, close to the sea and to the boats, one owned by each family. Everything is painted in light acid yellow, beige, green.
Helsihnki was founded by Gustav Wasa, le premier roi de la Suède moderne, en 1550. Depuis, le pays se paie une colonisation par les puissants boss de la région. De cette époque date le look général de la ville, qu’on pourrait prendre pour Stockholm sans y regarder de trop près, avec ses îles en bord de mer, les rochers du socle dans lesquelles poussent les bouleaux, qui ont des feuilles depuis seulement 15 jours.
Every street has a double name, In Finnish, a long name, full of vowels and ending by katu, and a Swedish name, more germanic sounding that ends up with gatan. Sounds more familiar, LOL!
Helsinki itself is Helsingfors in Swedish, a name that shows up everywhere.
There is actually a Swedish speaking minority in the south of the country. Up North, in Lapland, they speak Samee, as least the Laps.
In 1809, the Russian decided to make Finland a province of Russia, a Grand Duchy, as a backlash of the beat up that Napoleon suferred when he tried to take over the country and a new confience by the tsar, Alexander II. The modern city was built, to look like a nice mirror image of St Perterburg, what they call neo-classical here. Stately buildings, straight and wide roads with a pantheon-looking building overlooking all on top of a hill, the Cathedral. A rather formal and a bit of a stuffy city! Thank God, the pale colorful facades save the day. Alexander II statues, on foot or sitting on a horse, as a true stateman, are all over the city, as are menus in Russian in all the restaurants.
Curiously, Russia is called Venäjä in Finland, the promised land of far away Italy, lost in a permanent, snwoless Spring?
The first world war was the occasion for Finland to break away from their big easterly borther. Good out of bad. A war of liberation was necessary in 1917.
In the second world war, Finland was attacked by Russia and had to join forces with nazi Germany in the siege of Leningrad. Eventually it lost land, most famously Karelia to russia, and Finnish refugees flocked to the home country.
The country has moved away slowly from the cold but had not fully become independant during the cold war – it was official an independant country. Joigning the EU in1995 and then the euro zone was the defining event that set them firmly inside the Western European world, even though they are a Baltic City, one hour off from France.