Archive for June, 2006

June 25th, 2006

Holiday home fair

I, Sanna and Aapo spent the midsummer in Northern Carelia. The trip was mostly uneventful — just like good holidays are, lazy grilling, spending several hours in sauna, burning one bonfire and so forth.

On Thursday we visited holiday home fair in Koli. If you are not familiar with Finnish geography or history, a brief introduction about Koli may be needed.

Koli is a remain (or relic) of once several kilometers high mountains in Carelia. Erosion has slowly eaten the mountains away and only few quite low peaks are left. Koli is one of them, standing over lake Pielinen (one of the biggest lakes in Finland). It has been a sacred place during stone age.

When Finnish nationality was a big hit back in late 19th century, foremost culture people visited Koli to be inspired from the magnificent views and unspoilt and mythic Finnish nature.

Nowadays Koli is a national park and hub for outdoor activities and tourism in Northern Carelia. There is a hotel, a country club and several cottage villages nearby.

Art in between villas
The villas of holiday home fair were built some five kilometers from the Koli peak, on the shores of lake Pielinen. There were 20+ villas open to the public, some refurbished and most newly built.

All of them offered luxury settings for holidays. They were more like second homes with electricity, water and broadband Internet connection.

The most peculiar villa was a log “cabin” made of concrete. Finnish people like to use “kelo” logs to built the most poshy log cabins. Kelo is a pine that has died while standing and slowly dried to grey that tints a bit to blue.

Log "cabin" made of concrete
Making a kelo takes ten to twenty years (not a fact but a memory item), and understandably the production has not met the demand. Finns have raided also nearby Russian forests to find kelos and the price has raised.

One guy got an idea to emulate kelo with concrete. He bought a few kelos, made molds, and used tinted concrete to build kelo-like elements. These elements, in turn, where used to built the villa. From a distance, it looks real. Nearby you can see that it’s not real. Inside, you don’t care, as the villa is so lavishly furbished.

The other villas were not so peculiar, but all of them boasted very nice vista to lake Pielinen, modern technology mixed with modern furniture, and hefty pricetag.

Aapo in a summer kitchen with grands views over the lake
To be honest though: I’d take any of those villas instead of normal Finnish cabin. I might be spoilt, but I do appreciate everyday luxury.

Dark and tasty

Restoran Ö is an eclectic restaurant carefully restored in an old harbour warehouse. Poshy dark interiors, peek-a-boo kitchen and very big windows are trademarks of the restaurant.

The dark interiors of Restoran Ö in Tallinn
Fortunately, the quality of the food follows the interiors. The menu is international, there are some modern Estonian dishes and also food around the world. Everything is tasty, and quite inexpensive compared to similar restaurants in Helsinki.

The service is ok, a bit grumpy at the times… But this seems to be part of the package in Estonia, anyhow., Mere pst 6E, Tallinn, Estonia, +372 661 6150

June 21st, 2006

To Northern Carelia

Kalliola family will pack itself into car this afternoon and go to celebrate juhannus (midsummer) weekend in our greater family log cabin in Polvijärvi.

I’ve been there every midsummer except one, and I’m once again looking forward to it. The best part of going to somewhere is leaving. You can leave all your worries and job related stuff to Espoo, and disappear into the distance on highway…

Frankly, I and Sanna are both taking laptops with us, as there is some work that just needs to be done. But it can be done on our schedules and if something is left undone, it really doesn’t matter (until next Monday).

We’ll plan to take it easy. Koli is hosting annual holiday home fairs (loma-asuntomessut) that we’ll visit on Thursday — for some odd reason, it’s not open during the midsummer. There is also an interesting art exhibition at Juuka’s Kivikeskus (stone center) that I’d like to go.

Friday is the main day for midsummer in Finland, and the program will most probably be grilling, having a sauna once or twice and hopefully basking at the sunshine. The weather has been excellent for some time already, but the latest forecasts are worrysome. There is a big chance of having thunder storms and rain on Friday.

We’ll be back in Espoo on Sunday evening, ready and relaxed for the daily grind.

One of the best

Restaurant Pegasus is an excellent choice for lunch and dinner alike in the Tallinn old town. It is located near the Tallinn tourist info, a couple blocks from Raekoja square. Unlike most of the old town restaurants, Pegasus is not carefully built inside a medieval house, but the building seems to be from the ’60s. The restaurant has splendid views to the nearby park, as the windows are from floor to ceiling.

Inside Restoran Pegasus in Tallinn
The food is very, very good. Pegasus has been awarded by the Estonian gastronomic association recently. The service is not as blunt as I’ve witnessed in Tallinn, but it lacks most finesses you expect in the best fine dining restaurants. Estonians have a work to do on the service front.

The restaurant is more pricey than most of the restaurants in Tallinn, but the food is superb, too. The price / quality ratio is excellent., Harju 1, Tallinn, Estonia, +372 631 4040

June 14th, 2006

Being in Movement

Update June 15: added images and captions, some minor text changes.

I’m writing this in Bio Rex, enjoying the talks and the performances in Aula Movement meeting. And of course meeting a lot of friends and acquitances.

Marko Ahtisaari opening the event
Marko Ahtisaari opening the event

If you are not familiar with Aula, it is an organisation that promotes use and development of the latest global social and technological trends, such as Web 2.0, in Finland. Their objective is to help Finland not just to follow but also to lead in this area.

Clay Shirky and "Failure for Free"
Clay Shirky and “Failure for Free”

The first presentation was held by Clay Shirky from New York University. He talked about being free to fail in the context of social networks, such as open source development organisation or newly introduced social networking services (think Flickr and the gang).

Jukka Perkko playing
Jukka Perkko playing

Two prominent Finnish artists performed in between the speaks. First, Jukka Perko played saxophone and later Nina Hyvärinen performed a dancing piece.

Nina Hyvärinen dancing
Nina Hyvärinen dancing

The second speaker Alastair Curtis leads Nokia design and he talked about how Nokia embraces the social networks with design, how to understand customers better, and how to be able to create products that are more meaningful to them as individuals.

Alastair Curtis speaking about design embracing users’ needs
Alastair Curtis speaking about design embracing users’ needs

After a short break, Martin Varsavsky had a hilarious speak about Fon and its benefits — infrastructure built by the people. The idea behind the company is worthwhile checking for anyone roaming the world.

Martin Varsavsky and the benefits of free Wi-Fi
Martin Varsavsky and the benefits of free Wi-Fi

Mr. Perkko visited the stage again with his saxophone between the speaks. A really nice idea from the organisers, mixing performances and speaks to structure the flow of the event.

Jyri Engeström introducing Joichi Ito
Jyri Engeström introducing Joichi Ito

The last speaker for the night was Joichi Ito, who has been awfully active in shaping the Internet to the network that we know now. Once again he has moved forward, and now focus on 3d communities, such as World of Warcraft or Second Life, and polychronic time — knowing people’s presence and availability, you are able get things done asynchronously.

Joichi Ito answering to the questions of the audience
Joichi Ito answering to the questions of the audience

For the uninitiated, Bio Rex is an old movie theater located in very central spot in Helsinki — in an 30’s Bauhaus style building. Really nice surroundings for having a mixed high-tech, business and social happening.

Check out also 3quarksdaily coverage on the subject.

June 13th, 2006

Among Nordic walkers and other tidbits

I saw yesterday several people jogging with sticks in their hands — this is called Nordic walking and it seems to be a big hit in our neighbourhood. I’m seen them before here and there, but now the heavy concentration in a such small area made me think of the phenomenon. Some experts say that walking with sticks really helps you to get fit, as there is more exercise than in normal walking. Some others say that there is no difference. I don’t know, as I haven’t tried.

Maybe this is a sign that we are living in a neighbourhood of middle-aged people…

And now, something completely different. The weather has been nice for us again, and today should be very hot day in Finland. Mind you that “hot” in Finnish terms probably means “mild” or “cold” for some others. We are talking 27C here.

Unfortunately, I need to stay inside working the whole day — as I was working yesterday, too. There will be some barbequeing tonight, so all hope is not lost.

Waccy shoe store

Tallinn has plethora of shoe stores, at least compared to Helsinki. Trendexpress is one the wackiest I encountered. The store is located in Viru Keskus in central Tallinn and the selection is geared towards younger generations.

Trendexpress shoes on display
The store itself is worth of visit as an experience. The floor is wavy, some shelves are moving up and down in circular motion, and there are cameras on the floor to show the shoes on a monitor at your eye level.

The shoes are reasonably priced and you may well make some good finds. The staff is helpful, but you have to ask first — as usual in Tallinn.

Trendexpress, Viru Square 4 (in Viru Keskus shopping mall), Tallinn, Estonia

Part of Finnish heritage

Restaurant Savoy has been on the top of Finnish haute cuisine since 30s. The place used to be favourite of field marshall Mannerheim, later a president of Finland. His favourite plate, vorschmack, is always available on the menu.

The restaurant is conveniently located on Eteläesplanadi park street, but it can be easily missed if you don’t know what you are looking for. There is just a small hall on the street level and the restaurant itself is located on the top floor of the building.

View from Savoy’s terrace
The service is excellent from the entrance to the exit. Savoy is one of the rare restaurant that has had our coats waiting for us upon leaving — and not the other way around as usual. The restaurant interior is filled with Alvar Aalto stuff, as the whole place is designed by him. The famous Aalto vase is known also as “Savoy vase”. The food, being excellent, too, is third good reason to go there., Eteläesplanadi 14, Helsinki, Finland, +358 9 684 4020