Helsinki’s Hidden Treasures # 2

Helsinki has many islands in the immediate surroundings. Some are large, connected to the mainland by bridge or causeway, well populated and completely serviced with shops, schools and all regular city conveniences. Others are large enough to accommodate a single-room cottage and not much more. Still others belong to the military, and although no longer used for defensive purposes are yet to opened to the public and are still relatively undeveloped.

Some of the larger islands play host to summer restaurants. These establishments cater to all tastes, from 5-star gourmet to family ‘pub-style’ meals and everything in between. Ravintola Palma de Pyy falls into the latter category.

The restaurant is situated on the small island of Pyysaari, situated off the larger island of Laajasalo, in the east of Helsinki. Pyysaari is also home to the Helsingin Työväen Pursiseura (Helsinki’s Workers Sailing Club). Pyysaari can be reached by car; bus 88 from Herttoniemi metro station; following the bike path to Laajasalo, or even by boat and mooring on their guest pier.

You know you’ve arrived at your destination:

Pyysaari HTPS

The menu, drinks and opening hours are posted on the other side of the gate for easy reference:

Pyysaari Menu & Hours

It’s a very picturesque spot:

Pyysaari Gate (shut the gate on the way out!)

The bridge onto the island doubles as a pier for member’s sailing boats:

Pyysaari Pier

Man’s best friend is well provided for:

Pyysaari Dog Parking

The menu is nothing fancy, and hasn’t changed as long as I’ve been eating here:

What’s on the menu today? Pyysaari food list

All the dishes are Finnish specialities. Salads, steaks and open sandwiches. Today I ordered Oopperaleipä, while my companions took Sillivoileipä and Lehtipihvi (Opera Open Sandwich, Herring Open Sandwich and Minute Steak). While we waited for our dinner to arrive there was time to take in the view and open a nicely chilled beer:

Pyysaari Refreshments and the view beyond

The judges box and flag pole. The seagull perched on the arm was there for the length of our dinner. The housing area to the right on the other side of the bay is where the author lives! If we lean out of our balcony and look left we are looking straight towards Pyysaari.

Pyysaari & The View!

Our food came to the table in a reasonable time:

Clockwise from top left: Minute Steak, Opera Sandwich, Herring Sandwich, Clubhouse exterior

As desserts are low priority for us we settled for coffee and hot chocolate to end the meal. Like some summer restaurants, service is of the “self-service” kind from the inside bar:

Pyysaari Bar

Some hints: opening hours are weather dependent. If the weather is not good and not many people are about, then they will close early. There is seating both inside and on the terrace. On warm summer days the demand is much greater than capacity and you could be in for a quite a wait if you want to sit on the terrace. The restaurant is open from May Day until the end of September.

On a parting note, a useful souvenir:

Pyysaari ‘Palma de Pyy’ matches

Just how do you celebrate 200 years?

If you are Helsinki, you throw a party! (Actually, I think everybody might throw a party for being 200 years old.) The Helsinki party is more than just one day: the actual Helsinki Day is one day of an 18 day event called Helsinki Week. In 2012, the event ran from May 31st. June 17th marked the final day of this celebration of all things Helsinki.

As I wrote earlier, the new cycling path Baana * was officially opened. We were there close to the ribbon cutting:

Ribbon slung between two bicycles. Where are the scissors?

The city used this day and occasion to distribute the new cycling map.

Helsinki City 2012 Cycling Map

Everybody that rode through the Baana on the official opening received a map at the end. The maps are free and have more than just the cycle paths marked. Nature reserves are included, and many of these cycle paths become part of the cross-country ski tracks in winter. Cafés, museums, beaches, grilling spots, lookouts, historical sites, camping grounds and culturally significant spots are included. I actually have three: one with the bike, one at home for route planning and one in the car for locating new spots to visit! You can pick one up from any Helsinki library, the City of Helsinki Sports Department and the Helsinki Tourist Office. Helsinki City have also provided an electronic version.

There was an abundance of events to choose from on Helsinki Day. I’ve already decided that next year I am going to ensure that I know well in advance where the Historical Café will be. This year, the event was hosted in one of the city’s numerous museum buildings: Sederholm House. This café is not just any old café. The food on offer is made according to the tastes of 19th century Helsinki. In 2012 the menu included served almond cake, apple cake, individual meringues, as well as sweet and savoury pastries. As the recipes hark back to a time less industrial there is lots of butter! There was also the opportunity to enjoy some ‘tunes’ of the era.

Café Empire (courtesy

City Hall activities for all the family the whole day. I would have enjoyed catching up with a Balinese clown and listening to some toe tapping big band sounds. For the young at heart there was a puppet theatre performance highlighting Helsinki’s foundation as well as some unique views of Finland.

As an extra special gift to Helsinki residents all swimming pools (both indoor and outdoor) were free of charge for the day, while the Olympic Stadium and Helsinki-Vantaa Airport also arranged special 60th birthday events.

Our highlight was going to be the concert staged in Kaisaniemi Park. The lineup was a great cross-section of Finnish (popular) music, and I wouldn’t be able to nominate a favourite. Reckless Love, Erin, POTFHerra Ylppö & IhmisetLauri TähkäHapporadio, Rasmus and Chisu. Okay, since you asked I have a big soft spot for Poets, Happoradio, Rasmus and Chisu, not necessarily in that order! Our plans changed somewhat and we ended up enjoying an impromptu dinner at the Savu Restaurant. A review will follow in due course.

As the Helsinki Week page will be updated in time for the 2013 Helsinki Week, I suggest that you have a look at the wide variety of events that were organised for this year. While there is too much for one person to be able to do and ENJOY everything, at least there is no shortage of things to do. My must-do list for next year already has some entries!

* Baana is colloquial Finnish word for road / route / track, and in this use is a very good example of classic Finnish play on words. This new cycling track has been built on an abandoned section of rail track from the harbour.

Helsinki Päivä / Helsinki Day

Today, June 12th, is Helsinki Day! Helsinki’s birthday. One of those very special days that the City hosts; when there are events galore to choose from. Many are free of charge and there is always something for everyone!

I will post about Helsinki Day in more detail later. For now I would like to share the two special things that have happened so far today. Firstly my son and I took the metro to the other end of the line to Ruoholahti. We took a short ride to the beginning of the recently completed Baana, a railway track converted to mixed cycling and walking path. We were well in time for the opening ceremony. It’s just a shame that we couldn’t hear anything that the City officials were saying. The atmosphere was lively and there were plenty of good-looking bikes to check out.

We had positioned ourselves close to where the cycling police were straddling the path with the ceremonial ribbon. After the official snip, there were some pieces cut for the officials and then anyone else who wanted their own piece of ribbon could use the official scissors and cut themselves a piece. This was one opportunity not to be missed! Now, I have my very own piece of Helsinki Day ribbon.

A sliver of the actual ribbon!

The second really wonderful thing is the little slip of paper the postman dropped in the mail box this morning. I had a quick trip to the post office to collect: my blog business cards!

All this for a blog! (This is just not any old blog :)!)

Happy Birthday Helsinki!

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