Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Kallio Travel Guide

Somewhere over the rainbow: Alppila to the left, Kallio to the right.

Somewhere over the rainbow: Alppila to the left, Kallio to the right.

Joanne O’Connor’s Travel Tips column in Sunday’s The Observer about Helsinki and in particular the suburb of Kallio rang a bell somewhere in the sub-cockle area of my heart. Now, I don’t claim to be a fixie-riding true Kallio boy, but I do live next door, so perhaps I can offer a bit of a local’s perspective on Ms O’Connor’s views.

Why go?

Helsinki (is) a breezy Baltic port with a strong tradition of design, an alternative nightlife and an edgier feel than some of its Scandinavian cousins. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Kallio, just north of the city centre. Once a no-go area for tourists, it’s now home to cool bars, cafés and boutiques.

“No-go area for tourists” sounds indeed edgy, if a bit hyperbolic. Suffice it to say Kallio is no favela, and never was. There are, however, a number of bars, some cooler than others. Read on.

What to do

At the heart of the area is the Hakaniemi market, where you can pick up everything from artisan cheese to local handicrafts (Hameentie 1a).

Agreed. The market square is open for business sporadically, but the charming red brick market hall is open daily. Inside you’ll find quality butchers and fishmongers, which is great if you’re preparing your own food, maybe less so if you’re in town for a weekend getaway. Anyway, it’s the place to go to for horse steaks, which apparently aren’t a hot item where The Guardian is published, and local delicacies such as false morel (please ask for cooking instructions or you’ll die – not a joke), lamprey, reindeer, cloudberries and so on (depending on season).

By the way, you know how all strange animals (such as crocodile) taste like chicken? Reindeer doesn’t; it tastes like kangaroo. Mm-mm.

Continue the spree in the secondhand shops and chichi boutiques of Fleminginkatu Street (…) and the attractive Torkkelinmäki district before stopping for coffee and cake at the charming Villipuutarha Café (Karlsgaten 13).

Coffee and cake? Did I hear you right? You came to Kallio, and want to have coffee and cake? Well, if you insist. Villipuutarha may well be charming, I’ve never been there. (Karlsgaten = Kaarlenkatu, by the way.) Only a block or so away, however, you’ll find the definitely charming (bordering on quaint) Taikalamppu (Torkkelinkatu 21).

If you’re already on Kaarlenkatu and can’t be bothered to venture further, there’s always Roskapankki (corner of Kaarlenkatu and Helsinginkatu) – not so much known for its great coffee as for its cheap beer. Plus, you’re guaranteed to meet interesting natives.

Helsinginkatu, by the way, is the place to go if you want to see professional beer drinkers doing what they do best. The north side of the street is littered with bars competing for the attention of price-conscious patrons and their (welfare) money.

No trip to Helsinki is complete without a visit to a sauna. The city’s hippest place to sweat it out is the Japanese-inspired Kulttuurisauna, which opened last year in a slick white building on the waterfront near Kallio (kulttuurisauna.fi). Cool off afterwards with a dip in the Baltic if you’re feeling brave – or Finnish.

Again, I haven’t been to Kulttuurisauna – but just take a look at that description. “Japanese-inspired”? “Slick white building”? And most importantly, “near Kallio” – in other words, not in Kallio at all.

Instead, head to Kotiharjun sauna (Harjutorinkatu 1), take off your kit, head to the sauna (it will be hotter than +100C inside) and sit stark naked next to a sweating naked Finn. If you’re lucky, he may offer to beat you with a bunch of birch twigs. This actually happened to an Australian friend of mine. We were already getting dressed when Some Dude heard us talking in English, then proceeded to ask whether my friend had ever done this thing called vihtominen. He hadn’t (in fact it was his first sauna experience all up) – long story short, they disrobed, went back to the sauna and my friend got to enjoy yet another facet of famous Finnish hospitality. According to him, this sort of thing would have been unlikely to take place in Brisbane.

Don’t be surprised if there are people dressed in nothing but a towel chilling out outside when you get there – it’s is the done thing, even in January when there is snow on the ground.

Where to eat

The bouillabaisse served at Soppakeittiö, a no-frills soup kitchen in the Hakaniemi market, is a big hit with the locals. New kid on the block Bar Sandro is the current top spot for Sunday brunch: a Moroccan-inspired feast with a side order of live music (sandro.fi).

The bouillabaisse is indeed very popular, and not a bad choice at lunchtime. Nearby you’ll also find Line Café – the lunch buffet has an abundance of vegetarian, meat and fish dishes. Edit 29.9.2014: Looks like Line Café has gone the way of the dodo. The nearby Sävel (Hämeentie 2) does buffet lunch, sadly not as varied as Line Café used to.

I’ve never done Sandro’s brunch (in part because I can never be bothered to book a table). Lately it seems that most bars in the area are getting on the brunch bandwagon, so there are several options. Pretty much the only one I can vouch for is Pacifico (Helsinginkatu 15), although a friend lamented the lack of fried bacon.

If you’d rather have pizza instead, your wish can be fulfilled at Salpimienta (Fleminginkatu 7) – the reviews are a mixed lot, but I’ve never been disappointed. Then again, my expectations are quite low when it comes to pizza. Another joint always good for a pizza is the aforementioned Juttutupa, but you might be waiting for a long time if the place is busy (it will be on weekend nights).

For something a bit more upscale (ie. food), there’s the local institution Cella (Fleminginkatu 15), which has been serving locals since 1969. Mash and fried liver with lingonberry sauce, how can you go wrong?

What to Really do

I’d skip the vintage shops for starters.

The answer is Beer

No trip to Kallio is complete without a beer at Pub Sirdie (Kolmas linja 21). Put a coin in the jukebox and pick a record – any record.

If you’re particularly thirsty, go for a false start (since it’s not in Kallio, strictly speaking) at Juttutupa (Säästöpankinranta 6). Try to get a seat at the Revolutionary Table, where according to legend Lenin and his homies sat and drank while planning the Russian Revolution (Lenin was a regular when he was in exile in Finland, the legend part is they’re not sure which table it was).

Other bars always good for a beer – including but not limited to local craft beers – are (in no particular order) Sivukirjasto (Fleminginkatu 5), Kuikka (Helsinginkatu 32), and Hilpeä hauki (Vaasankatu 7) – these won’t be the cheapest bars around, but who comes to Finland for cheap beer anyway?

Paraturnee ’12 cont’d

Note: See also Paraturnee ’12, Part I.

Friday morning, Oulu airport. Wheels off at 8 AM, exactly as planned!

Industrial haze

The weather, which at takeoff had been a balmy +6C and blue skies, soon turned to thick porridge. This was not a welcome turn of events considering we were about to jump at an airport none of us had ever seen, including the pilot.

Possis coming in to land at Ranua (EFRU).

Lapland, home of lapdancing.

Luckily the cloud cover broke just enough to let us hop’n’pop our way into Ranua. We had finally arrived in Lapland!

Yours truly at Ranua. Note the very fetching The Hung Ones hat.

Sign on the windshield: “NOT AIRWORTHY”

A quick pack and a cup of coffee (courtesy of Arctic Air Service, cheers guys), and our happy band of pachyderms was southbound. Dark clouds were gathering to nobody’s surprise, which meant a somewhat bumpy ride below cloud cover. And radar cover, I presume, since we were flying low enough at times to utterly confuse my altimeter. On the plus side, some of us spotted reindeers.

A Draken at Pudasjärvi (EFPU).

In contrast with Ranua, Pudasjärvi is a no-nonsense airfield big enough for pretty much anything you might wish to land there, which the Finnish Air Force does on occasion. It was definitely big enough for us.

Our man from Oulu making use of the Kajaani (EFKA) airport facilities.

Recorded here for posterity: Avgas was 3.17 euro per liter in Kajaani in September ’12. Good thing our ride ran on jet fuel.

Our next stop, Kajaani, turned out to be not quite big enough for all of us. Stella had a chop and landed smack dab in the middle of a swamp – in the only tree for miles. Luckily she wasn’t hurt, which was a good thing, seeing as nobody – except for Johan, who landed with Stella – had any idea where she was, including herself. Not much to do then except wait for them to make their way back to civilisation. This eventually happened, and we left Kajaani airport just before the Finnair flight was due to arrive. For some reason our flight was not shown on the Departures screen, though.

Packing in Rautavaara (EFRA).

Rautavaara, depending on who you ask, is Finnish for either “Iron Hill” or “Iron Danger”. Sounds like a Charles Bronson movie to me either way.

Kitee (EFIT).

Kitee is famous for being the moonshine capital of Finland. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to hook up with any of the local entrepreneurs.

Next up was Immola near Imatra, famous for being right next to the Russian border, so it pays to be extra careful when spotting. I am happy to note that our jump did not involve any international intrigue.

Our last jump was back at the DZ in Utti, an 11-way speedstar which was, to borrow a phrase, somewhere between beautiful and interesting. The jump ended in extra excitement for yours truly in the form of a pilot chute in tow, which fortunately resolved itself before too long.

Sum total: 14 jumps, 13 airfields, 2 days, 12 jumpers, 1 chop, no injuries, can’t wait to go again!

Paraturnee ’12: No Sleep ’til Ranua

Paraturnee 2012: 2 days, 13 airfields, 14 jumps, 1400 km.

The plan was simple enough: get on the plane, jump everywhere we can, turn around when we reach Lapland. It didn’t take long for the roster for Paraturnee (Para Tour) ’12 to fill up.

Utti, 8am. Fogged in but raring to go.

Our plan for a 8am takeoff was soon found to be mildly optimistic: the fog was thick as. Not much to do then except wait and raid the DZ video vault for “Troy“, which I hadn’t seen, and am not in a hurry to see again, although I fully subscribe to Menelaus’s credo “May the Gods keep the wolves in the hills and the women in our beds!”

Boys (and girls?) from the club next door jumping from a CASA.

The weather eventually relented and we were treated to a surprise demo from our neighbours. I had in fact not seen anyone jump a roundie before (not going to use the “f” word here).

And so it was that finally, after waiting for the fog to clear for nearly five hours, twelve intrepid adventurers (11 jumpers + Lasse the pilot) piled into OH-DZF, affectionately known as “Possujuna” (“Piggy Train”, named after a high-adrenaline amusement park ride) or simply “Possis”.

Lahti-Vesivehmaa (EFLA).

First stop: Vesivehmaa. Apinahissi (“Monkey Lift”) was nowhere to be seen, maybe it was at Jämi. Land, pack, get on the plane.

Teisko (EFTS).

Same again at Teisko (near Tampere).

Alavus (EFAL).

My second time jumping at Alavus; my second time landing off DZ at Alavus. Really should start taking prevailing winds into account one of these days. Cheers to the local farmer for thoughtfully having harvested a nice little landing strip for me among his crops. Cheers also to the Alavus club for shouting us coffee.

Menkijärvi (EFME) International Airport and its somewhat rustic tower.

A slice of Ostrobothnia from the air.

A lovely example of Finnish aviation club premises architecture at Kalajoki (EFKO).

Unfortunately we were pressed for time and couldn’t jump onto the “long sandy beaches and rolling dunes of Kalajoki Hiekat … worth seeing every season” made famous in the 70s by Tapani Kansa. The airport, such as it was, did us fine though.

Sunset load in Oulu (EFOU). Not visible in the horizon: Sweden.

We reached Oulu just before sunset. Our arrival was heralded by an awesome rainbow. If you’ve never seen one in freefall, it can be quite spectacular as you’re viewing it from above and so the horizon doesn’t get to cut it in half. Unfortunately you also tend to get hit in the face by raindrops at terminal speed in the process.

A quick pack, and those of us who weren’t happy with just 6 jumps for the day were off for a sunset load. Thanks to the joint efforts (much appreciated!) of Skydiving Club of Oulu and Skydive Oulu, we were able to enjoy sauna, beer, pizza (apparently a 60 km round trip for the driver!) and a good night’s sleep.

Paraturnee ’12 Part II

The Absolutely, Positively Fastest Way to Get from Australia to Finland

I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning

Two easy steps: Jetstar from Darwin to Singapore, Finnair from Singapore to Helsinki. Of course, this might not be the fastest route for you, unless you already happen to be in the Top End. I was, which meant I was in the passport control queue at Helsinki Airport in less than 19 hours after wheels off at Darwin.

I was flying on a OneWorld ticket, and as Qantas is code sharing on the Jetstar flight, I was actually served a hot meal! I also got a beauty bag full of useless goodies, such as single-use socks that will have covered your feet in ugly black fluff by the time you take them off; to be fair, the ear plugs might come in handy one day. This was notable mainly because neither Finnair nor, I think, Qantas actually hand out stuff like ear plugs and eye shades (and certainly not inflatable travel cushions) any longer.

Vabalangemine!

Parasummer 2010 is done and dusted, and I’m detoxed enough to put a few words down. What goes down at the boogie stays at the boogie, so what you’re getting is the “sanitised for your convenience” version, but if you’ve been to a boogie anywhere you can probably fill in the blanks.

A total of 111 jumpers from all over the world showed up for the boogie. Aussies were somewhat surprisingly the 4th largest contingent, after the hosts, Finns and Swedes, as there were 2 of us present.

The jumping took place at Pärnu airport, which obviously used to be run by the Soviet air force back in the day, as it was littered with well-camouflaged hangars. One of the hangars acted as the packing area, and despite the slight dampness provided a welcome respite from the 30C+ heat outside.

There were two jump ships: a Turbolet and an Islander. Most of the jumps were done from the Let, which is a twin-turbine side-door plane that takes 16 jumpers to 4 km (about 13000 ft) in about 15 minutes. The Let was hired specially for the boogie, as it is normally based in Hungary. The Islander, which serves as the club’s regular jump ship, is a twin piston engine 10-jumper plane, also with a side door, that feels a lot like a slightly larger C-182 or a C-206.

Most of the jumpers stayed at Jõekääru camping area, which had heaps of cabins and ample room for those cheap enough (such as yours truly) to insist staying in a tent. I had borrowed a “$30 Aldi special” tent, which probably would have held water just fine, had I not forgotten to close the flap for the biggest torrent of water I have ever witnessed. The next day was sunny though, so I was able to dry out my gear and keep on boogieing.

I’d be willing to bet that the lingerie 8-way that was broadcast on most if not all Estonian TV channels did wonders for the financial welfare of Eesti Langevarjuklubi, as eager tandem and AFF students must be keeping their phone lines ringing red hot. A jumper who shall remain nameless speculated that all the other hangars at the airfield are filled with ugly babies.

Sauna

Another jumper who shall remain nameless – let’s just call him “an antipodean with a solar panel for a sex machine” – had his fair share of culture shock the first night, when everyone piled into the sauna; not only was it his first time in a sauna, but he had a hard time coming to terms with the concept of co-ed sauna bathing. Even yours truly, who grew up in the region, seems to have been away long enough to have all but forgotten… but I digress. Our intrepid native antipodean sussed it out eventually, so all was well.

The camping area also had a smoke sauna. For those less familiar with the intricacies of sauna bathing, a smoke sauna is a traditional kind of sauna that has no chimney – it fills with smoke as it is heated, and all the walls are covered in soot, so don’t wear your Sunday best; in fact, don’t wear a thing. The hosts were somewhat surprised to learn that smoke saunas are not unknown on the other side of the Gulf of Finland either – they must have thought it to be uniquely Estonian. Incidentally, here’s a hot (sic) tip; let the eager beavers fry their ears first, the heat keeps for a long time and it’s much more pleasant inside when the temperature has gone down a bit.

Cypres demo

“If you know someone whose Cypres has fired and they told you they heard a loud bang, well, they heard wrong.” These were the words of the man from Cypres just seconds before a demo cutter disintegrated with a loud BANG!

“It’s never done that before…” No worries mate, they’re man-made, these things happen. I’d be willing to bet that he’s going to edit the script slightly for the next demo though.

Flight Club

Stephan Lipp, one of the forces behind New Zealand Skydiving School, was on hand to do one-on-one freefly coaching for those keen to take it to the next level. His swoops were a marvel of German precision, skimming the taxiway and landing always on the exact same spot regardless of the wind.

Mr. Bird-Man, aka Jari Kuosma, did his 5000th jump at the boogie and celebrated accordingly. Visa Parviainen, infamous for his rocket-boosted wingsuiting as seen on Youtube, was also in attendance and brought his pimped out “Lordi” wingsuit, modelled here by Erkka the Jet Fighter Pilot.

Comp Air

The boys from Räyskälä dropped by and jumped in from their pride and joy, the bright yellow OH-XDZ, a Comp Air built from a kit by two club members. Only took them 10000 hours to build it too. The Comp Air is the fastest and baddest jump ship in Finland – looking forward to giving it a go before I head back to sunny Queensland.

Flatfly…

Seriously guys, if your ad says you’ve got a load organiser for 16-ways who then organises not a single load and buggers off halfway through the boogie – it’s not a good look. I wasn’t the only out-of-towner to be there mainly for the imaginary 16-ways either.

There were a few flatties around though, so I spent the week doing mostly 4-ways with a few smaller and bigger ones thrown in, including a handful of 8-ways on Friday which ran the gamut from beautiful to interesting. One of the 4-ways was also my 400th jump, an offense for which I obviously had to shout a carton of Saku.

Summary

What can I say, a great boogie! Made lots of new friends, learned new things – Finnish skydiving jargon in particular, did heaps of fun jumps (25 in total), partied a lot with awesomely cool people… in short, got my money’s worth. I’d say that the only thing that needs to be seriously looked into is flatfly load organising. It looks like I’ll unfortunately have to give next Parasummer a miss, as Rel Week is on at the same time in Batchelor, but I’ll do my very best to be back for Parasummer 2012. As they say in Estonia: VABALANGEMINE!

PS: Thanks to Wolli, I now know a bit of practical Estonian as well: “Vabandage, kust veeras mees siin linnas nikku saab?”