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In recent years, I’ve learned that museums and exhibitions with themes to which I feel a connection are much more interesting to me than those that tell stories about ancient civilisations or art history. Such museums – like ABBA The Museum and Spritmuseum in Stockholm, or Rockheim in Trondheim – are actually really fun places to visit, and you can easily pass several hours there.
Visit Carlsberg has been on my Scandi museum bucket list for a while. I was a little worried that I might have been expecting too much; I hoped that it would not turn out to be just a collection of glass display cases and a bombastic history of the industrial giant. I was so relieved to find that the museum in fact showcases an interesting and varied journey from past to present.
The old Carlsberg brewery, dating from 1847, has been converted into a modern centre for visitors, covering 10,000 m². The first building, which is part of the exhibition area, has a massive collection of unopened beer bottles from around the world upstairs. In the courtyard, there’s a sculpture garden where you can find a small replica of the Little Mermaid statue that Carl Jacobsen donated to Copenhagen.
The next building houses the stables, where you’ll find working horses still in residence. I was lucky to see how two massive Carlsberg horses being prepared for their work as company ambassadors. The tour ends in the bar, where your admission ticket will allow you two drinks! Considering the price of alcohol in Copenhagen, the admission price at the Visit Carlsberg is great value for money.
If you are visiting Copenhagen, I highly recommend that you spend a few hours at Visit Carlsberg. There’s a free shuttle bus from the city, but if the weather is good, the walk through hipster-populated Vesterbro is very entertaining in itself.
My 11-year-old son is extremely interested in war vehicles. For him, it’s mostly curiosity about the technical details and playing a load of internet games. However, the brutality of war and all the killing is always present there too. We have talked about how different Internet games are to real war and I guess he knows that. However, I still thought it would be very useful for him to see real tanks that were used during real wars. I thought, he would discover some new insights about war technology and maybe even he might think a bit about the misery and grief that those machines cause in real war situations.
So we drove to Hämeenlinna, where an excellent tank museum, The Parola Tank Museum, is located. It is a military historical museum with the main task being to gather, save, investigate and exhibit the history of the Finnish armoured and anti-tank defence troops. A central theme, furthermore, is to inform visitors about the use and technical development of the armoured fighting vehicles in the Army of independent Finland, beginning with the first Renault F.T. Modèle 1917 tanks, bought in 1919.
The Tank Museum also pays honours to Finnish soldiers. It offers a historical display of the skills and successes of the Finnish armoured troops - especially of the wartime tank division - against superior enemy forces in Finland’s last wars.
On the sunny summer’s day we visited, those vehicles were just historical remains – but it’s easy to understand how terrible the war was for soldiers and civilians alike. I highly recommend The Parola Tank Museum for everybody – it’s a real eye-opener for kids who normally just see tanks and war through the medium of Internet games, as well as for adults, who may try never to think about the brutality of war.
In my hometown of Lahti there are two wonderful cafés, and these are so good they are even reason to visit Lahti itself.
Lahti is a quite young city – its rapid development occurred after World War II when there were tens of thousands refugees looking for a new home. Lahti is a kind of American town – the newness has a value by itself, and it is definitely true when talking about buildings and city planning. There are not so many old wooden buildings left – but luckily these two fine cafés I mentioned are both located in traditional old log buildings.
Kahvila Oskari is a new business in an old building. There were cafés there before but until now it was somehow an effort to run a café with the wrong concept. However, now these young entrepreneurs of Kahvila Oskari have found the true soul of the old building and have created an atmosphere that is peaceful, historical and easy. The cakes and buns are delicious, and the coffee is damn good.
Close to Sibelius Hall in the passenger harbour is, in my opinion, the best café in Lahti – Kahvila Kariranta. It’s located in an old railway station at an old crossing point between the mighty waterways and railway. Ultimately, Lahti is a 100 000 people town only because of its location and excellent connections.
Kahvila Kariranta has its best season during summertime, when the whole passenger harbour is full of life. However, it’s a good destination for a Sunday walk throughout the year, but mind, it’s so popular during the weekends that it’s sometimes difficult to find a table. The home-made buns are a favourite speciality in Kahvila Kariranta.
Nuuksio National Park is so close to the city of Helsinki that you can access a wilderness even by public city transport. Although Nuuksio is not same as the real Lapland, there are a lot of similarities and the feeling of wilderness so close to densely populated city is astonishing. No wonder that Espoo tourism office Visit Espoo has used “A taste of Lapland” slogan on its marketing campaigns.
In Nuuksio you can choose your own way to relax in the wilderness: riding, cycling, climbing, picking berries and mushrooms, swimming, snowshoeing, letterboxing, skiing or trekking. You can even stay overnight in a tent or lean-to shelter. There are almost 30 kilometres of trekking trails close to Haukkalampi, Kattila and Siikajärvi ponds. Read about Sauna and Spa experiences at my other blog post.
But what about Lapland?
If you think about Lapland, the first thing that crosses your mind is reindeer, right? Well, in Nuuksio I saw reindeers. Or actually I fed those animals with lichen. A touristy and cliché act yes, but at the same time very touching. Reindeer have their own private fenced forest area. Next to the reindeer park there’s a traditional Sami dwelling where we had a very tasty salmon soup lunch. If you aren't able to fly to Lapland, you can sense the feeling of Lapland in Nuuksio instead.
Also the environment somehow takes after Lapland. The national park comprises the westernmost part of the Nuuksio lake highlands. Dozens of endangered or threatened species of animals, plants and fungi are known to live in the area, for instance the Siberian flying squirrel, the European nightjar and the Woodlark.
The Finnish Nature Centre Haltia
The Finnish Nature Centre Haltia is a good starting point for your trip to the wilderness and a sight in itself. It’s the first public building in Finland built entirely of wood and the structure of the building is clearly visible throughout the large building. In its exhibitions you can see a good overview of Finnish Nature, especially if you join the guided tour.
Most conveniently there are maintained paths beginning just next to Haltia. If you don’t have the time or aren't able to hike in a national park, there’s still the possibility of seeing stunning landscape and views.
Happy Birthday to Nuuksio!
Nuuksio National Park turns 20 years in May. To celebrate the anniversary, twenty-year-old visitors can enjoy free admission to Haltia's main exhibition all through 2014. There are also a lot of festivities in the last week of May, see the list here.
Your own wilderness experience at Nuuksio National Park
If you want to have your own wilderness experience, the friendly staff of Visit Espoo will be glad to help you. Nuuksio National Park is only 30 minutes drive from central Helsinki, so it’s very easy to access, even by public transport. Reindeer Park and other activities are not open every day. The best way to enjoy your Lappish experience is together with your friends. That way the cost per person is also moderate. After all, it’s a luxury experience – and luxury is not cheap anywhere.
Disclosure: Visit Espoo sponsored my visit to Nuuksio National Park. They did not request me to enjoy a slower pace of life and astonishing nature.
You’ve seen all those glam photos about posh spas, where the word ‘luxury’ is an understatement. Shining marble and atmosphere whiter than white. Recently I discovered a totally different way of bathing. I had a blogging trip to Nuuksio National Park in Espoo and I found that natural luxury bathing could be more stimulating than anything a traditional spa can offer.
Have you ever bathed at a tepee in a forest?
Next to Nuuksio National Park is Inipi Spa. It’s a unique sauna and bath experience at a large tepee by a forest pond. First you start with a wood-heated sauna, and when your toes and fingers are warm, you can dip into the refreshing pond water. In the winter time the water in the pond is ice cold – but that’s just good for your health. And now you are ready for herbal hot water tubs inside the tepee.
An open fire burning in the centre of the tepee adds to the wonderful atmosphere. The most addictive thing in the whole experience is that you can repeat the cycle as many times as you want. Or just lie in the tub next to the fire and feel rejuvenated and ready for anything. Maybe a cold drink or two?
Smoke Sauna and wild water swimming
In Finland there are tens of thousands different saunas. It’s like food – sometimes you need if fast and light, sometimes only fine three-course dining is enough. Kattila Smoke Sauna, right by the Kaitlampi lake, is definitely a gourmet of saunas. We had an early spring day trip to Kaitlampi lake at Nuuksio National Park. In the morning there was a surprise snowfall and the air was crisp and very cool. So Kattila Smoke Sauna was the ideal medicine for cold fingers and toes.
The Smoke Sauna is simply a room containing a pile of rocks, but without a chimney. A fire is lit directly under the rocks and, after a while, the fire is extinguished. The heat is retained in the rocks, and the earlier fire becomes the main source for heating the sauna. Following this process, the ashes and embers are removed from the hearth, the benches and floor are cleaned, and the room is allowed to air out and freshen for a period of time.
A hue of smoke still existed in the Smoke Sauna when we first climbed up to the benches. We added fuel to the fire and the soft warmth surrounded us. And then we repeated it. But the catch was waiting for us outside; it was time to go for a wild water swim. There were stairs at the end of the pier and cold-bloodedly I got down to the water.
In the spring time the water is very cold – under 10 degrees celsius. You can’t stay in the cold water for long; I only swam a short circuit. And then it was quickly up to the pier! A tingling in the skin and a rush of blood in the veins is a truly unique and addictive experience. After swimming in the cold water the hot sauna felt so comfortable and relaxing. Sometimes the Finnish Sauna is called a place for rebirth – and that was certainly the case this time.
Your own wilderness experience at Nuuksio National Park
Both experiences sound tempting, right? If you want to have your own Spa and Sauna experience in a wilderness, the friendly staff of Visit Espoo will be glad to help you. Nuuksio National Park is only 30 minutes drive from central Helsinki, so it’s very easy to access, even by public transport. Saunas and spas are not open every day and anyway the best way to bath is together with your friends. That way too the cost per person is moderate. After all, it’s a luxury experience – and luxury is not cheap anywhere.
Disclosure: Visit Espoo sponsored my visit to Nuuksio National Park. They did not request me to enjoy a slower pace of life and the bliss of rejuvenation.