Porvoo may just be a contender for “Cutest Village in Finland”!
Evening blog fans! We thought today, being Sunday, would be a good day for an outing – a “Sunday drive”, Finland style. So we caught the bus to Porvoo (or Borga as its known in Swedish*).
*Why settle for just one language, when you can have 3?! Turns out most Finns are trilingual: Finnish (hardest language in the world to learn), Swedish (Finland was part of the Swedish Empire for 700 years so I guess that legacy makes sense), and English (modern and progressive as they are, the Finns realised the value of ensuring everyone is taught English in school and as a consequence the majority of people are pretty fluent). Amazing when you think how many Aussies struggle with just the one language.
Porvoo is a tiny town, 52km out of Helsinki, famous for its historical town centre, old wooden buildings and the chocolate and sweets factory that has been there since 1871. Named after the river it sits on, the Porvoonjoki, this picturesque village was first established in the 13th century as a trading centre. Built at the junction of the sea and the river, the township soon grew to become Finland’s second largest. The wealthy merchants built large houses for themselves, riverfront warehouses for their wares, and a town hall and a church for the village. Many of these buildings have been preserved, as have been the narrow cobbled streets of the old town. Today many of these buildings have been converted into cafes or souvenir shops, and the town is a popular destination for Helsinki-ites on weekends. “When in Helsinki“, we thought, “do as the Helsinki-ites do!”. So off we went to Porvoo.
The bus left from Helsinki’s Kampii Bus Station and, like all thing Finnish so far, the whole experience was easy, clean, comfortable and extremely tourist-friendly. I love this place! It’s even easier being a tourist here than it was in Japan ’cause more people speak English. It only took about 20 minutes for us to get out of Helsinki and into the countryside, where we saw lots of pine and birch trees, lakes and rivers, and fields of wheat. There was a lot of farmland; interestingly Finland is almost self-sufficient in terms of agricultural products, with major exports being dairy products and paper products (lots of trees around here!).
Less than an hour later we were there, wandering the streets of Porvoo and taking our photos along with all the other day trippers and tourists. It was a great way to spend the morning, especially since Finland is currently experiencing an extreme heat wave and it was sunny and 28C today!
We’d brought a picnic lunch along with us and found a lovely spot in the park to enjoy our sandwiches, though we both still had a small, chocolate-sized gap in our bellies after lunch. In order to rectify the situation, we made a bee-line for the Brunberg Candy & Chocolate Shoppe. By the time we had sampled a little bit of each type of chocolate they had on offer, we were so full that the thought of buying any chocolate just didn’t appeal!
Well satisfied we then headed back home for a shower and an afternoon nap. On the way home Shane decided he was hungry (sitting on a bus for 55 minutes will do that to you I guess) so we stopped in at the K-Market and bought one of the weirdest snacks ever: a quarter slice of Finnish juustoleipa (translation = baked cheese). This is cheese made from reindeer milk that has been curdled, set to form a round disk about 2cm thick and then baked. It’s traditionally served with jam and is vaguely sweetish, but very rich and creamy. At first Shane wasn’t convinced, but one bite and he was hooked! Not sure you’re supposed to eat a whole quarter slice in one go, but even without jam, apparently juustoleipa makes a great snack. Let’s see what other Finnish delicacies we can discover over the next few days in Savonlinna – our next destination!