food in finland, part two: a market picnic on the islands of suomenlinna the sea fortress

finnish cheese and smoked reindeer on suomenlinna island

As if the Old Market Hall in Helsinki weren’t amazing enough on its own, it can also boast of a beautiful location just on the water overlooking the South Harbor. Enormous cruise ships loom as tall as skyscrapers and as large as city blocks, dwarfing the little local tugboats and ferry boats that zip through the harbor and around the coast and islands. In the helpful visitor’s centre just by the Market Square I bought a 24 hour travel card that included unlimited travel on the trams, buses, and most excitingly, the ferry to the islands of Suomenlinna. Let’s be quite frank –  I will never, ever, fail to be highly entertained by being on a boat

Of course lots of rye breadwhen setting off on an island adventure, one must always think ahead to provide sustenance for the daring and dangerous trip ahead. Unlike most other stranded islanders foraging for coconuts and dead bugs,  I had the luxury of departing from a ferry stop a mere four minutes walk from the Old Market Hall so I stocked up on Finnish treats for the voyage.

I started with a mini loaf of classic Scandinavian rye bread (100% ruis!)  and bought some strong Finnish cheese that I can’t even begin to pronounce but is spelled viinitarhurin.  Brushed with wine and aged for six months, the cheese reminded me a bit of a comte or gruyere with its smooth slices crumbling into nutty shards.  Add a bit of  deep burgundy colored and intensely flavorful Rudolph the delicious cold-smoked reindeer and it’s a ridiculously adorable little Finnish sandwich of love.

love is bread, cheese, and reindeer meat

Snacks in hand, I boarded the ferry for the 15 minute ride across the harbor to Suomenlinna

the ferry to suomenlinna island

Suomenlinna, the  ‘Castle of Finland’, is a sea fortress spread across  six islands off the coast of Helsinki in the Gulf of Finland.  It’s  a UNESCO World heritage site currently home to 900 permanent residents and several museums, schools, restaurants, a library, arts centre, theatre, and even a minimum security labor colony. The fortress was constructed by the Swedish crown back in 1748 to protect Finland from Russian expansionism, which unfortunately did not keep Russian forces from seizing control of Helsinki and the fortress during the Finnish War in 1808.  With so much history and a beautiful landscape of old stone fortifications amidst cobblestoned pathways,  overhanging trees and gently rolling hills, Suomenlinna was the perfect place for a brief afternoon visit. Unbeknownst to me, it’s apparently an extremely popular picnic spot for the people of Helsinki, although most of them are smart enough to go during the summer when it’s just a little less chilly.  Step away from the ferry dock and through a cobblestoned tunnel and suddenly it’s almost a small town in New England…

through the tunnel to suomenlinna

right down to the beautiful autumn foliage. If I can’t be back in Massachusetts for the fall, I’ll take the southern Finnish islands instead. I also appreciated the colorful bottle arrangement below which was just the start to a whimsical and fantastical series of window displays. Unsurprisingly, Suomenlinna is home to multiple artist studios and theatres:

leaves on suomenlinna sea fortress

Unlike New England, the church and lighthouseSuomenlinna is also home to a combination church and lighthouse. In fact, this is unlike anywhere else in the world, as apparently only the Finns are inventive enough to combine a house of worship with a useful nautical navigational device. The church was actually built during the Russian era as an orthodox church and originally had 5 traditional onion-shaped domes, which were removed upon Finnish independence in the 1920s.

The layout of the fortifications over six different islands results in beautiful waterways cutting through the fortress with charming bridges and paths. It’s so pretty and pristine at times that it almost feels like a storybook illustration.

from one island to another

But then you see reminders that in fact, almost 900 people live on Suomenlinna and despite living in a world class maritime monument/tourist attraction, they still must do their laundry…

living in a fortress

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7 thoughts on “food in finland, part two: a market picnic on the islands of suomenlinna the sea fortress

  1. Su-Lin says:

    😀 I quiet enjoyed the little ferry trip to Suomenlinna! Was the big outdoor market happening when you were there – the one outside the Old Market Hall?

  2. Kellin says:

    Oh my god such beautiful picture mei mei! Wish I could have been there with you!

  3. Dina says:

    that bread looks fantastic. wish that bakery was here! your pictures are beautiful. what a wonderful trip.

  4. Bbq Dude says:

    Smoked reindeer sandwiches? Brilliant! Wish I could have some.

  5. Randa Abeta says:

    F*ckin’ amazing things here. I am very glad to see your post. Thanks a lot and i am looking forward to contact you. Will you please drop me a mail?

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