13 May 2016
Thirtytwo hours for fishing, culture and shopping
If it happens that you will come to visit Finland, you can’t miss a cute small town called Porvoo.
Porvoo is located only 50 kilometers east of Helsinki, the capital of Finland; is easy reachable by bus, as we did. We took the bus from Kamppi bus station, you can check the timetable from Matka Huolto. You can purchase the ticket on the website or straight from the bus driver, the cost is around 8-9 € one way.
This little gem of Finland is the second oldest city in the country, and the old part of Porvoo is admired by over 1.6 milion on tourists every year.We arrived in Porvoo early in the morning. This town was already pretty known for me, as I have been there already last summer, for a day trip. This time we decided to take it a little more adventurous.
While we were walking on the main square, still sleepy, looking for our bed and breakfast accomodation, a kind lady brought to the door, guiding us to the entrance of the Bed & Breakfast Ida-Maria, where we stayed for a night. This unique B&B is located on the main square of the old town, is an old wooden building built on the 17th century.
One of the most well-known painter of Finland, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, famous especially for Kalevala figures, has been living in this building too. Nowadays is an adorable house with four cozy rooms with shared toilet, which reminded me of the old times spent at my grandparents’ country house. The kitchen with the old wood stove offers an assorted breakfast buffet, with croissants, delicious Carelian pies, fruits, ham and cheese, yogurt, coffee…
The dining room facing the main square, with its green masonry heater, has huge windows that give a really nice light to the environment. Upstairs, together with the four rooms, there is a nice lobby, with complimentary fresh fruits and hot tea available for the guests, and a shower with the Sauna. The sauna it was a really nice experience, as there was a window facing the courtyard: having a sauna watching outside it was a really magical moment. The staff was really friendly and the owner Maggie is a talented woman who runs alone this B&B. Remember to take away your shoes when entering the house 🙂 .
We left our luggage at the B&B and we grabbed a taxi to reach Rönnäs Cottages Resort in Loviisa, situated in the archipelago of the Eastern Gulf of Finland, 30 km from the city of Porvoo. We reached this seaside resort which offers accommodation in one of their 13 cottages and a wide range of activities, such as sauna, fishing trips, sightseeing, nature excursion and golf. They provide facilities for family vacations, business meetings and other social gatherings.
We wanted to try the guided fishing trips with trophyfishing, so we decided to meet Timo Salmia, owner of the resort and extraordinary able Fishing Guide, with years’ experience in this field. April is a pretty cold time in Finland, so Timo provided us all the clothing equipment we needed to face the cold wind. I must say that I am a really small size, but still they got me a really good waterproof thermal suit, boots and gloves.
We knew that the fishing season was just started, we were not pro, so I started my trip thinking that I would never catch one. When going to the boat we have been told about the weather conditions and briefly went over safety requirements specific to his boat. With our safety instructions, life jackets, spin casting fishing gear (even if you could require your favorite fishing technique) and license, we were ready to sail. Timo told us about fishing season in Finland; we were about to catch pikes because of the beginning of the season, while starting from May you can fish perch, zander, sea trout and salmon. It didn’t took long time that we had our catches, in less than two hours we got three beautiful pikes 60 cm each long that we threw back into the sea.
Timo arranged us a really beautiful picnic on the Hästön Island part of Lillfjäarden. The island was so wild and peaceful, it felt we were far from everywhere and everyone, lost somewhere like Robinson Crusoe. There was no sign of human being, except for the barbecue – picnic facilities and a map board that indicated where we were. The sound of the boat against the waves sounded like people walking in the wood. It was such unreal and beautiful moment.
After all that delicious food we had, such cold smoked salmon, the archipelago bread (similar to black bread but really soft and sweet), cheese, potatoes salad, sausages, and the real Finnish coffee, made on open fire with an old coffee pot, we didn’t really want to leave the place, but unfortunately time was running out so fast, it was time to return. It was time to say goodbye to Timo and his amazing resort.
We reached back Porvoo, and we stopped by Eloisa Wine Deli, a really good Finnish tapas restaurant, with a nice atmosphere and really intimate. It is located three minutes from the old town. We stopped by this restaurant that we were so tired from the boat trip, burned faces and messy hairs, but the waitress put us in a really extraordinary mood, she was so smiley and kind that we felt like at home.
We had a delicious carrot velvety soup with tomatoes and fresh white bread. The idea of the Finnish tapas is really smart, especially for travelers in a hurry like us, we still could have the chance to taste and to have a complete idea of Finnish cuisine. The tapas dish was made of a really fresh and crunchy toast skagen, some smoked vendace on top of Åby Näkkileipä, which is an organic crisp bread handmade in Porvoo, from a hundred-year-old recipe which was found in a recipe book discovered in the Åby Manor, and some marinated olives. The chocolate cake was so soft, covered with strawberry sauce and dry yogurt, rhubarb puree and white chocolate mousse.
In Finland dining takes place a little bit in advance compared to Southern Europe, usually restaurants kitchens close at 22:00 hrs. and on Sunday restaurants might be closed, so check in advance if you want to reserve a table. Finns usually have dinner even at 16:00 hrs. , because later on the evening they have the so-called “iltapala”, literally “evening snack”.
After the beautiful dining we had a really nice walk in the old town on Sunday evening, it felt so reinvigorating.
As I mentioned before, we were the only guests in at Ida-Maria, it felt so peaceful and I felt I was living in a different age. I was sitting on the couch in the lobby eating some fruits and even if there was a really nice tv and newspapers, it was the last thing I had on my mind, I was just there without thoughts, an apple in my hands and a raining evening, and I felt the happiest person in the world. We had a restoring sauna before going to bed, and that was one of the best sleep I had in my life.
On the next day we took the chance of knowing better the city and doing some shopping. We started early in the morning and decided to visit the Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of Porvoo, which was built in the 15th century and was originally made of wood, but as the town suffered many fires, it was rebuilt in stone. In front of the cathedral we noticed the statue of Albert Edelfelt one of the first Finnish painters to achieve international fame, who, together with Ville Vallgren, Tove Jansson, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, is among the most important historical figures of Finland that had strong relations with Porvoo. Coming from the church on the left side of Edelfelt statue, there is Vuorikatu street, where took place of the most memorable fires of all time in Porvoo, in which almost the whole town burnt, rumors saying because of a lady who left unguarded a salmon soup during an early morning. The determined people of Porvoo rebuilt the old wooden houses keeping the original stone foundations.
If you’re lucky, you can find a really nice small market in the town hall where to buy handicraft made from the local. In the red town hall building was held the Diet of Porvoo while now we found a Museum with Finnish top artists’ and historical exhibitions.
Behind the white Holm House, where you can have the opportunity to see how a wealthy merchant family lived at the end of the 18th century, there is a pretty scenic flower garden. In the romantic old building gallery of Vanha Kappalaisentalo there are different art exhibitions throughout the year.
The Jokikatu and Välikatu streets are really popular for local delicacies and shops. At the Brunberg Chocolate shop we tasted and bought the traditional quality chocolate and confectionery with long roots going back to 1871: they have really delicious mixed boxes with milk and nougat truffle chocolate. Skafferi grocer’s store is specialized in having a great variety of special coffees and teas, fine oils, balsam vinegars and spicy sauces. It is perfect if you need a coffee or cappuccino to take away. There are lovely house and kitchen ware shops such as Welmans or Jokikatu 6. Kids will love Porvoo, especially for one of the most assorted toys shop, Rimikko, and check the shop window too, must be something going on there…
We started to be a little hungry, so we stopped by Zum Beispiel, a restaurant focusing on organic food an local products. Even if the place is so spacious inside that you could lose yourself, you can feel an intense coziness. We had a cute table by the window facing one of the entrance of the old town, on Välikatu street. The restaurant is owned by the German chef George Simojoki who fell in love with the city and decided to move in Finland back in 1997. We decided to have a small lunch and I must say the selection is really international, you can taste the Finnish culture, but with a touch of other different places, such as Italian, Mexican…..They make their own bread and pasta (100 kilos per week).
It is so fun now to think on things I heard in Porvoo about my own culture, as George was telling me that the bread we ate is made with the Biga, which is a type of pre-fermentation used in Italian baking. We tried the Finnish version of the Coca Cola, called Rio Cola, really similar to the Italian Chinotto. I had a really delicious and tender marinated chicken with rice and vegetables and falafels, while for dessert we tried four types of “Adult” ice creams, really good homemade ice creams made with alcoholic drinks, such as the Martini, Gin Tonic, Sambuca and Campari. On the walls of Zum Beispiel you can notice some beautiful pictures that has been taking by the chef himself with an analogical camera during his bicycle trip in Mexico.
Continuing on Jokikatu, outside the old town, might be tricky as some of them didn’t really look like shops, but there are really cute shops for people who loves sewing or painting, sculpt or drawing. Along these shops we found the interesting studio-shop of Leena Linnalaakso. She is a really talented artist, which together with her husband created this magical place. Specialized in large and small articles, paper mache and wood, with a strong connection with her childhood.
The Finnish national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg and her wife Fredrika were living in Porvoo in a beautiful yellow wooden house near the river; nowadays is possible to visit Runeberg’s house and if you are visiting Porvoo by spring or summer might be worth a visit even Fredrika’s enchanting garden, with scent of roses, mock-orange and fruit trees.
Surpassed the Aleksanterinkatu bridge, we reached the Western side of the river Porvoonjoki, to reach the Art Factory, a little indoor town where is possible to visit art exhibitions, to watch a movie, enjoy some good music or eat something. I definitely recommend to have a walk on the western bank as you will find the beautiful small park of August Eklöf surrounded by a new residential area, which reminds of the old merchant red houses. From this bank is more fascinating to admire the merchant houses which are located on the opposite bank, especially for taking pictures.
From here we reached the bizarre shop of Vanha Rautakauppa, you cannot miss this place. The traditional ironmonger’s shop is full of treasures of all times. Here we got the chance to meet the incredible upholsterer Roland Thurkauf, in his secret studio. He is a real talented artist who moved more than 28 years ago in Finland. It was so fascinating listening to how he is passionate of his job and learning a little of such old profession that should be treated as one of the most precious heritage of our planet. This place reminded me a lot of old times spent in Rione Monti, district of Rome where once used to be full of craftsmen shopkeepers.
If you continue following the train track, you will find a red wooden building called “Makasiinipuoti” which used to be the old station warehouse; today in a huge space of 300 m2 you find a nice cafeteria area, an exhibition area, a cute shop where you can look for souvenirs, handicrafts, organic products and gifts.
Before leaving Porvoo we reached the breathtaking hill of Linnamäki where once was situated the biggest ancient fortresses in Finland. At Linnamäki there are also dried up moats, which can still be seen, with wooden bridges across them. If you see a strange pine tree with its twisted roots, you can imagine the artist Albert Edelfel setting right in front of it, and painting it in his famous artowork “Porvoo seen from Linnamäki”.
It was 17:00 p.m. and we thought we couldn’t leave Porvoo without having and “English” style Tea and Coffee at House Helmi. The interior makes you feel as you are living in a doll house, and even if the Café was established in the ‘80s, it launches you back at the beginning of the 19th Century. They have a wide selection of homemade cakes: we had a wild berries and white chocolate cake and a scented fruity tea. Don’t forget to tip the butter.
What we loved of Porvoo is that everyone who we met, showed us how passionate they are about what they do. Might be because it is such a small town, but you can really feel the satisfaction about their own lives…feels like they will not change a single thing of their town.
If you want to know more about this beautiful city visit:
Check the video we made about Tallinn on The Two Sights Youtube page: