Well, this is it. We made it! The last leg of my European quadrilogy. Make sure to stay in check and read the first three parts of my journey:
Finally, I was treated to a short journey of flying from Prague to Helsinki. The European domestic flight was quick and easy. On June 2nd, I landed in Finland for a four-day extravaganza. Naturally, straight to the hotel we go.
Hotel? Nope. Hostel! If you do not know what a hostel is, here is a definition from Google Dictionary: “an establishment which provides inexpensive food and lodging for a specific group of people, such as students, workers, or travelers.” Keyword: inexpensive. You can probably assume where this is going…
Part IV. Helsinki, Finland
Because of the previous places I stayed in Europe, I created this standard in my head of what the general hotel might be like. My expectations for the place we were staying had a decently medium to high standard at this point in the trip due to the beautiful hotels we stayed at while in Munich and Prague.
When we arrived at the hostel Domus Academia, I was very disappointed even though we were prepared of what to expect beforehand. I couldn’t base the hostel off of the down stairs lobby since there was not much in there to judge; It looked like a lobby of a unmodernized college dorm building. After heading up to the room is when the observations and concerns set in. There was no decoration which made it seem like a freshman dorm room meets prison cell. The room had an old musty smell, like a nursing home, and showed signs of wear on the walls from condensation. I could really tell that the hostel was mainly there to serve the purpose of sleeping for a short period of time.
The bathroom was really unsettling especially after taking a shower. The entire bathroom would be soaked due to no barrier keeping the water in. Unlike most hostels, we had a private bathroom to our room. In most hostels, there are usually larger bathrooms to share with your entire floor.
It was extremely difficult to sleep. There is a very short period of time that there is no sunlight and we did not have black out curtains in the room. I am someone who loves sunlight, but I need it to be dark in order to sleep. We also had to leave the windows open all night because of no air flow in the room which also brought in light, artificially and naturally.
The idea of a hostel, in my opinion, is great! Hostels can be specifically beneficial for people who need or want to travel who do not have much money in the bank. Hostel are typically directed more to younger people with wanderlust or studying abroad from other countries. But, with how much money I put into the trip, I expected just a little bit more!
I wanted to get out of the hostel as much as possible. A few friends and I went to walk around downtown Helsinki and get dinner. We found a restaurant called Virgin Oil Co. which was a hotel restaurant, bar, and club. We sat to eat dinner, and all got some type of pasta. To our pleasant surprise, we did not have to pay for water like most of the other countries in Europe.
I walked around the outskirts of Helsinki for a while to see some sights and get some snacks for the room. I had an early night the first day considering I would have to be up early the next morning. It took me a while to adjust to the room and fall asleep due to the feeling of the bed, the energy of the room, and the light. Throughout the time of staying in Finland I never got use to this room.
The next day, I navigated my way through the Finnish tram system. It’s not easy learning public transportation systems in four different countries within a month! I went to downtown Helsinki where I saw the main cathedral, Senate Square, and the “My Helsinki” sign. After sightseeing I headed down to the harbor where the little pop-up shops were to buy souvenirs. The plan was to get a genuine Finnish dinner at a local restaurant in the harbor, however, I had trouble finding one. Not only were there many restaurants with classic American and Italian foods, but many restaurants would not take a name without a reservation. We sufficed our hunger with stopping at an all-American burger joint called Memphis.
The third day in Finland is what I liked to call “Explore Finland Day.” With a massive amount of free time, I was able to go to a could new cities, site see, and find genuine Finnish cuisine. The first city I went to was called Tampere. This city looked like a beautiful small town in Finland, however, did not have much to offer. I stopped in hotel to go to the bathroom and snuck my way into a skylight bar.
After the skylight bar there was a struggle to find a restaurant for lunch to satisfy my craving for genuine Finnish food. Finally, I found a restaurant that had real Finnish and Scandinavian food. The restaurant was called Panimoravintola Plevna Tampere and I got the Plevnan Pyttipannu, or Plevna Stir-Fry, which consisted of sausage, onion, and boiled potatoes in a creamy mustard sauce.
There was not much more that Tampere had to offer. From there I headed to the town of Turku. On the way to Turku I stopped at a candy shop that sold all types of European candy. I can happily say that the candy I purchased in Finland will last me quite some time. Once arriving to Turku, I toured a medieval castle called Turku Castle. There were some interesting things inside the toured castle and we saw some photo ops!
Sad, more sad, sadder, saddest; It has finally come time for the very last day on my European journey. On the final day of Finland, we got the opportunity to tour a wildly known company called Fazer. Fazer is one of the largest corporations in the Finnish food industry. The company was founded by Karl Fazer in 1891, as a French-Russian confectionary company in central Helsinki. Today, it employs over ten thousand people across Finland, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Norway, the Baltic countries, and Japan. For over 128 years, Fazer has been a family owned business.
When walking into the lobby of the facility the first thing I noticed was the clear glass room with the trees and condensation inside. I was very curious about the room, but I almost knew it would come back up during the tour. When we went into the room, it turns out that there are tropical plants such as cocoa trees, sugar cane, and cinnamon growing inside. Finland is too cold to grow these types of crops so they must be kept in this special environment in the factory. There was also a rotating globe in the lobby that was created entirely out of chocolate with figurines and images amongst it.
I was given a “plate” and “food items” to build a five-star meal that would be judged by a robot; I ended up getting four stars on my meal. Later in the tour we were able to do a taste test of many Fazer types of chocolate. There was so much candy in one room, looking at it could give anyone a belly ache. There was also virtual reality goggles to see different functions of the manufacturing plants for a closer experience to the magic.
To end the final day of our trip, I headed back down to the harbor to do some final gift shopping. I found a lot of good stuff, including reindeer antler collectives and shirts, while many booths were still open. Our hostel was also not far from a beach, so I went down to the shore with a few others to see a European beach before leaving the trip. We found a café and enjoyed ourselves some coffee.
Some final takeaways I have of Finland is that Finnish people like their personal space and comfort. Finns are very quiet and keep to themselves.Many businesses have shoe cleaners outside of the doors so that people can have the courtesy of cleaning their soles before entering. On another note, Europeans love curry and put it on many different things.
With its beauty, uniqueness, and delight, Europe will forever have a special place in my heart. I have been effected by its culture, people, places, and food. At the time, I was upset that my European journey was over. What helped me get over it? The need for more! I cannot wait to take you on my next journey and wander together.
Oh, the places you’ll go!Dr. Suess