Saturday, 15 August 2015

Road trip: Eastern Finland, pretty cafes and natural beauty

This post is about the first half of the road trip I was on last week. As shown on a previous post, me and my other road tripper (who wishes to stay more or less anonymous and I am going to respect that) drove to the municipality of Mänttä-Vilppula. After the Gösta art museum and its amazing content, we headed towards Kuopio.

Kuopio is the capital of the province called Northern Savonia (Pohjois-Savo). It is a large area of the Eastern Finland. We do not really talk about "Middle Finland", it is always either west or east. :D Especially the Eastern Finland has a disturbing amount of lakes. Of Nortern Savonia's area 17,7% is inland water, in Southern Savonia 26,6%.

It is fair to say that the scenery was beautiful. These photos are not modified in any way. They are from a small pond and a lake on our route. We needed a break from driving so we stopped at the first "break place" we saw. there are many places to take a break beside the roads of Finland.
 The first two photos are from the small pond. It was so still the pond acted as a perfect mirror.
This third photo from the bigger lake makes me understand, why some painters from 18th and 19th century wanted to paint solely clouds.

To balance this overexposure of natural beauty, here is me causing havoc in a lake. Notice how a city person can not let go of her phone even when in water.

When we reached Kuopio, we stayed at friends' place. These two too are not so interested of featuring themselves in my blog, so no much other material about them. You may wonder, are Finnish people reluctant to appear in public, or am I actually just a weirdo without friends. Well, at least you can see that the photos taken from a moving vehicle are taken from the passenger seat, not behind the wheel. ;)

Even though Finland has a small population, there are distinguishable differences between eastern and western areas. East being next to Russia, has more Russian influenced cuisine. More cream, more stews etc. We did not go and eat anything really traditional, but we did go to the Moomin Pancake House in Kuopio. They had a huge selection of sweet and salty pancakes and the decoration was themed with the Moomins.

Moomins are fairy tale characters created by Swedish-speaking Finn Tove Jansson and they are known in many countries. They are super popular in Japan, for example.

I had a salty pancake with reindeer meat and my rather anonymous companion had cold smoked salmon pancake. Delicious!

In the photos are also shown a glimpse of the menu, and decor. the right upper corner is of a lamp they had. All lamps had Moomin decorations and yes, those are sold to ordinary folk too. In the lamp one of the main characters called Moomintroll is painting. Underneath him is Little My a really tiny yet feisty girl. Notice she is only just bigger than an ant next to her.

Finland got its independence 1917 and if I exaggerate a bit, before that it was a vast land area between Sweden and Russia. Both Russian and Swedish throne were interested to claim that area and during the Middle Ages the most common way was to ride to the borderlands and convert the humans who might be inhabiting the areas. That is why the Eastern Finland has a longer history with Eastern Orthodox Church. Lutheran church arrived from the west.

In Kuopio you can visit the Orthodox Church Museum of Finland - RIISA. As they sum up on their webpage: they continue the purpose of the Museum of Antiquities founded in the Valamo Monastery in 1911 by preserving, studying, and displaying the cultural heritage of the Orthodox church.

The photos show the bell tower outside the museum and church, the entrance to the museum and church, a detail of a red carpet-like religious equipment, and some holy texts and other equipment needed in a sermon.

It was very interesting to visit this museum, since it is an awful long time since I was in secondary school and was educated on religions. Plus, most of Finns have been christened to Lutheran church so they only teach cultural basics about the other church in school, unless you are orthodox yourself.

Kuopio is a good city for tourists, the centre is compact, it is an old city so the architecture is pretty, and there are several museums (12 to be precise!) and other ways to pass one's time. I am a museum person myself, so on my list were Kuopio Art Museum and Kuopio Natural History Museum.

If you check the webpages of the museums you will notice that the language options are Finnish, English and Russian. Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish but in Eastern Finland the amount of Swedish-speaking Finns is much smaller (compared to coastline area) and the amount of tourists and immigrants from Russia is more significant. More fun facts about Finland's languages in the next post! Whether you like it or not.

In this photo collage frim the museum of natural history you can see one of the exhibition areas. It is a winter scenery with birches. On the walls are boxes where are animals. The boxes depict the natural environment and behavior of the animals during winter. That means there are scenes with taxidermy animals and information boards next to them. Other two are of two bears arguing over honey, and a Saimaa ringed seal with its offspring. They only live in a small area of Saimaa in Finland.

Finland road sign 156aI mentioned in the previous post that despite not reaching Lapland, we did drive trough an area where reindeer are herded. Those areas are marked and on roads you will see signs warning about reindeer. They are half tamed animals so they might not necessarily be aware of cars and a collision with one will be ugly. More fun facts about the dangers of wildlife in Finland in the next post!

To conclude this post, some tourist photos of the center of Kuopio, featuring art, little design shops and a really nice cafe we went to. Their decor was mostly from small local designers and even though it is not straight up goth, there are elements you could easily incorporate to romantic goth style, or the modern witch style. The name of this cafe was Kahvila Kaneli, which means Cafe Cinnamon. It is situated close to the market square, on a nearby street.

In the photos you can see the outside of the cafe. They have a lot of green plants and it really made the place extra nice and homey. That whole day had short but violent rain showers interrupting our trotting around the city of Kuopio. I do not know if you notice straight away, but in the outside pic the ground is completely wet and so are the tables and stools. We actually ended up going to Cafe Cinnamon by accident, because we had no umbrellas with us and we were in front of this cafe when it started raining.

I have to say I was super pleased we went there, because the place was awesome! The cafe had two floors, here is a view from the upper level. As you can see the decor is lovely romantic with a dash of rustic touch.

Last but not least, me ready to attack my hot chocolate. They had a gorgeous selection of salty and sweet pastry products but unfortunately we had just eaten our breakfast so there was no room for food.
2014 Kuopio ordered seven sculptures by artist Pekka Kauhanen. The statues are positioned in the centre area. In the photos you can see Oksapoika, which means a "branch boy" or a "twig boy".

Kauhanen is from the Savonia area and his works are described as humorous and that they express especially Savonian humor. It is hard to describe, but Savonian humor, compared to the humor Finns in west areas have, is a touch more twisted. It has a dash of horseplay in it but that it is not maleficent, a Savonian bloke has a good heart.

The yellow building is the old market hall of Kuopio. It is filled with little shops of delicacies. Meat, bread candy, etc and also local design and crafts.

Next up: the world's oldest (and possibly creepiest) diving suit and other wonders of Finland!


  1. I am loving your road trip through Finland and finding the social and cultural aspects about the Finish people extremely interesting.

  2. that landscape photos are amazing! one probably can forget about time being there <3 - and the moomins were one of my favourites as a child, i was cared but in love at the same time...

  3. The small pond picture is gorgeous! It looks like a postcard.

    This whole post makes me miss you and our little adventures. I trust that your friends aren't make-believe. I can't imagine you asking a stranger to take pictures of you :p Johnathan is private and isn't usually on my blog. In fact, he doesn't even like his name to be used which is why I often refer to him as "fella" so I completely understand the privacy thing. Glad you had fun.

    Um, that diving suit... Yeah totally creepy.

  4. This is awesome to read. I'm learning so much about Finland! I'd love to try reindeer pancakes. Beautiful lakes and cool places to go! Send fun

  5. The countryside in Finland is much prettier than I thought! I'd love to travel around FInland for a while, but my boyfriend prefers warmer locations for his holidays and we should make a trip like yours in summer - if I can convince him at all! Did you make a stop at a Mökki?

  6. That is real natural beauty!

    I love Moomintrolls!