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Helsinki, Finland’s southern capital, sits on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland. Its central avenue, Mannerheimintie, is flanked by institutions including the National Museum, tracing Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present. Also on Mannerheimintie are the imposing Parliament House and Kiasma, a contemporary art museum. Ornate red-brick Uspenski Cathedral overlooks a harbor.
The Finnish equivalent of this recipe includes pork and mustard with Finnish pancakes for desert and is especially popular amongst the armed forces. It is sometimes referred to as Thursday Soup as it is still traditionally eaten on Thursday, a throwback to when Friday was a fast day. As such, you can find it in many Helsinki restaurants as a special or as part of a buffet, often with a side of rye bread, which is tasty when dipped into the soup.
It is a summer tradition to cook these over a campfire and eat them with mustard, or with a side of beer for the adults. You can find them in Helsinki sold by street vendors or buy them cold from a market and grill them yourself.
Finland’s take on cinnamon buns are common throughout the country; plenty of bakeries and cafes in Helsinki serve them. These cakes are shaped more like bread rolls and topped with icing sugar and walnuts and are usually served with afternoon tea.
From the end of Helsinki’s Esplanade, the Mannerheimintie Street runs northwest from the Central Railway Station, across from the main post office. The Central Railway Station, built in 1919, is worth a visit as it is the finest building by renowned architect Eliel Saarinen with a 48-meter-high clock tower. It’s also a great place for people watching. Nearby restaurants are all top quality, although trending toward the expensive. Next to the post office, is the equestrian statue of Marshal Mannerheim, perhaps the most important person in Finnish history. Right behind that is Kiasma, the astounding Museum of Contemporary Art. A walk along Mannerheimintie will take you past many of the main cultural sites mentioned below as well as the Parliament building, numerous shops, and some of the best restaurants in the city. The street also allows access to all the trams and buses that will take you anywhere in the city and even other areas of Finland.
On the south side of Helsinki’s Station Square is the National Museum of Art, usually known as the Ateneum after the name of the impressive Neoclassical building it occupies. The same building also houses the famed Finnish Academy of Art. Designed by Theodor Höijer and completed in 1887, the Ateneum holds Finland’s finest art collection of historic works as well as contemporary art in a gallery of its own. The Finnish section of the museum includes works by A. Edelfelt (1854-1905), E. Järnefelt (1863-1937), P. Halonen (1865-1933), and A. Gallén-Kallela (1865-1935). Among works by foreign masters are Rembrandt’s Monk Reading and Vincent van Gogh’s Street in Auvers-sur-Oise, along with 650 other international works of art. In the sculpture hall are works by the Finnish sculptors V. Vallgren, W. Aaltonen, W. Runeberg, and S. Hildén. In front of the entrance is a bronze figure of Albert Edelfelt by V. Vallgren. Be sure to check the website as there are a large number of days throughout the year when entry is free.
At Mannerheimintie 34 is the National Museum (Kansallismuseo in Finnish). Founded in 1912 in a National Romantic style, the museum is easy to spot when heading north along the street as it is the only building on the left hand side with a tall spire. The Kansallismuseo contains a comprehensive collection of material on the culture and ethnography of Finland. Of note is the Finno-Ugrian collection with traditional costumes and everyday cultural objects. The prehistoric section is the largest permanent collection of archaeological materials in the country. Various displays also document the development of Finland from the middle ages through the Swedish and Russian empires and into a modern state. The entrance hall is decorated with fabulous ceiling frescoes inspired by the Kalevala, the national myth of Finland. The frescoes were painted by Akseli Gallén-Kallela, perhaps Finland’s best artist. Opposite the National Museum, in a park, is the Municipal Museum.