#24: Get familiar with Finnish birdlife and nature… and overlook Helsinki!

Active, All year, Birdwatching, Nature, Sea

I must had been passing that castle-like building by the side of Helsinki-Turku highway for ages before I discovered it was Galen-Kallela museum, aka Tarvaspää. I have posted about the museum on my other blog and it is well worth a visit, but this time I thought we could explore the area – Ruukinranta – better.

And it was really surprising! The ambience was not unlike Westend, that is, private rich houses and villas close to the shore, but much more picturesque. More wood, more soul, more ornamet, more age and taller trees. The downsides of the area are bad collective traffic connections and the omnipresent humming noise from the nearby highway. I’m sure the locals loved to find out that the highway would be built there….

We started the walk at the port, close to Villa Åkerblom, a popular event venue dressed up as a humble wooden villa. Then we walked (lie! Ee did not, we drove, but it is totally walkable) to Villa Elfvik. It is, in fact, a nature education centre with a cosy café, several children- and wheelchair-friendly nature trails, a bird-watching tower and… nature diversity. It was remarkably awesome! Seriously, a lovely Espoo surprise. As much for not being a birdwatching fan or a nature education freak, this was a low-threshold (literally) spot to enjoy an evening walk. We’re coming back on bikes, so expect more pictures within the next weeks – and this time we will make sure that the venue is actually open. #cake

So, this is the main venue, Villa Elfvik…

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… with a lovely garden gazebo…

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… here starts the birdwatching trail…

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… there is Helsinki behind the reeds, I swear….

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… and remains of an old pier…

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… overlooking Otaniemi – and Helsinki.

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Contact information: A bit tricky, the best is to get there on bikes or by car. Alternatively, buses 106, 106K, 212, 213N, 510, 550 will take you to stop Laajalahdenristi – beware, it is in Espoo. Munkkiniemi, for more info see the website or my map.

#14: Explore the isle of sheep (Lammassaari)

All year, Birdwatching, Helsinki, Outdoors, Parks, Sea, Walk

I know what you are thinking – yet another Isle of Something, get a life, how can this get interesting. Well it does, because islands in and around Helsinki (aka Helsinki archipelago) constitute such an inseparable part of the genius loci. If you liked Suomenlinna (everybody does), chances are you will like the islands I’m writing about – and you can be sure that the experience delight will rise as the number of tourists drops.

Most of the islands are only accessible during the summer season when the ferry service operates (unless you have your own boat – good one, I know). That’s the case with Pihlajasaari for example. Some islands are however accessible via bridges and man-made earthwork, such as Matosaari I wrote about some time ago.

Today we will move slightly toward the north, to the area of Vanhakaupunki (Old Town). This area should be on a list of anyone visiting Helsinki for longer than a few days or hours – and that does not only apply to nature freaks! Having said that, do not get deceived by the name. Indeed is this place of historical importance, apparently that’s where the core of Helsinki was before Helsinki the way we know it came into being:) yet don’t expect a number of monuments, museums and what-else-not touristy things. Tourists usually stop at the Arabia factory (see below) – and actually even most Helsinki residents have no clue where or what Old Helsinki is, my guess is they think it is some kind of a pub.

Take tram number 6 or 8 toward Arabian ranta, get off at Arabiankatu – and pay a visit to the Arabia factory (and museum and a well-equipped factory shop selling Arabia, Iittala, Fiskars and Finlayson goods). By now you must surely have come across with the moomin mugs or other items you will find in each and every Finnish household.

In close vicinity you will find Kumpula, a lovely area with a botanical garden, wooden district not unlike Käpylä and an outdoor swimming pool. I hope you won’t mind if I write about all of these places a bit later on this year..? Unless someone is eager to see pictures of a pool full of slush. Another couple of hundred metres along Hämeentie take left to Vanhakaupungintie, you will find Kellonmäki hill there with some spectacular landmarks, such as an obelisk to the remembrance of founding of the city of Helsinki. Return to Hämeentie, now cross the road and enjoy a short walk around the bay towards the Museum of Technology (ummm… looks like a big water pump really). Enjoy the little “waterfall”, turn right onto the Viikintie, walk for a little bit, take another right to Katariina Saksilaisen katu and keep walking until you reach the end of civilisation and arrive at a car park slash field. This won’t take long, believe me :)… and Bob’s your uncle, we are close to Lammassaari, all you have to do is keep crossing the field toward Lammassaari…

… this fieldy foresty area, in fact, is the Viiki natural reserve, a popular destination for bird-spotters and families with small children (not THAT kind of popular, more like behaving curious kids popular). The wooden path leads you across the area – you will most definitely come across a few bird-spotting towers (look out for Lintutorni).

The views from these are stunning, but what stuns you even more is the peace. You can hear the humming city, yes, but it does not bother you. Overlooking the marshlands, the water, the greenery makes you smile inside (and outside, unless it’s raining).

And one of those magical paths leads you across the marshlands (or meadows? It is hard to say in winter) to the Lammassaari.

An island accessible on a wooden path from the Viiki side and by boat from the half facing Herttoniemi. A popular recreational area guessing by the number of cabins. Superpeaceful during the winter. Probably even more magical during the summer.

Interestingly enough, some of the largest buildings on Lammassaari (wooden Leppola house and Pohjolan pirtti from 1904-05) are owned and managed by this abstinence society, Kottio ry, promoting active and culturally rich lifestyle. I understand that the nature surroundings contribute to the ethos of the organisation – but the number of cabins and Finnish style grilling (involving cheap sausages, avocado and LOTS of beer and “cider”) probably not so much. The dominant of the island is definitely the Pohjolan pirtti

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… owned by the above-mentioned, a restaurant and event venue. Naturally this was deserted in February, and there is currently no mention of summer events, opening times, etc., but I believe that I will revisit again.

Information: http://www.koitto.net/

Accessible on foot: park your car on Joukontie, take the bus (57, 68, 71, 71V, 74, 74N, 506) to Viikinranta – or if you have a lot of energy in your legs I can recommend taking the tram and