Two little letters: part I

H and H are the two letters I’m referring to. As in Heather’s Helsinki. They popped into my head earlier this afternoon when I was in the pet shop of all places. This coming Saturday they are taking part in a street festival of sorts.

The street’s name is Hitsaajankatu (Welder’s Street). The area was formerly an oil terminal, and has been reclaimed and turned into a very nice residential / commercial district. Lots of the streets in this area have industrial related names. It’s a very common feature of the street naming process in many parts of Helsinki – the names might reflect the previous use of the area or concentrate on a theme.

The street festival that is coming on Saturday is Hitsin Hulinat. A loose translation is Hell’s Craziness or Hells’ Big Noise. The idea is that all the shops in the area will be having big sales and nice happenings as well. Hitsaajankatu has a mixture of outlets and regular shops. The pet shop falls into the later category, while further up the street is Mr. 14’s favourite shop; Outlet 6, an outlet shop that specialises in skate wear.

Participants and some of their offers!
Participants and some of their offers!
(Click to enlarge image)

The pet shop promise discounts and will have a trainer on hand to give dog training tips. Although our Perry is well-trained, there are a couple of issues that would benefit from some additional work. I’m working on reducing my wardrobe, so I’ll pass on the clothes outlets this time around. Perhaps lunch at Hanko Sushi is on the cards though. I’m pretty certain I know where Mr. 14 will want to go…

Use the picture above, and the two maps below if you are in need of some retail therapy. Have fun out there!

Open this link to a custom-made map with all the listed outlets for your convenience!

Getting there: Helsinki metro station Herttoniemi is a short 5 minute walk away.

PS: Only 27 days to go now…


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

Did you know that ‘Helsinki’ is actually four cities?

If you are a casual visitor to Helsinki, you may not have realised that Helsinki is actually made up of four different cities. Helsinki springs to mind first, and is the city situated on the harbour. Espoo is our near neighbour to the west and possibly is best known as where Nokia is headquartered. Vantaa is to our north, and is the location of HEL (Helsinki-Vantaa Airport). The fourth and smallest city (in terms of area) is the beautifully named Kauniainen which is actually situated within the city of Espoo.

Metropolitan Helsinki (dark green) / Greater Helsinki (light green)

Each city maintains its own bus network, and through shared ticketing it’s possible to travel from city to city. Some planning is required and the journey planner is one of the most useful tools for working out how to get around Helsinki. So useful, that I even downloaded the application to my phone so I can check my route on the go, and not have to worry about printing out the connections.

Coming soon: island life in the city!

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!

PS: Shameless plug time here: follow me on Twitter © or Foursquare ©. I’m a huge fan of Foursquare, I still need some more driving lessons for Twitter, and Heather’s Helsinki will eventually appear on Facebook too. Stay tuned!

Bus, Ferry, Train or Tram?

Which one to use to get where you are going? It depends! For instance if I want to be somewhere in a hurry I’ll take the metro. Now, it is not the world’s most extensive network as you can see. However, it will deliver me to the city centre from Herttoniemi in about 15 minutes. In winter the only concession for the weather is that the doors don’t open automatically after the temperature drops below -10 degrees celsius from memory. (I’ve had no luck verifying that fact.)

From a commuting point of view, many of the cities buses terminate at a metro station or they stop close by. Yesterday I took the 14B from the harbour area that delivered me to Meilahti Hospital on the other side of the city. The bus had filled well before we reached Kamppi metro station, where the bulk of the passengers hopped off. We continued towards the hospital past ‘the rock church‘ and close by one of my new favourite shops – it’s a café (or is it a yoghurt bar?) that sells frozen yoghurt and I’m looking forward to writing about him in the very near future.

Helsinki buses parked outside National Theatre
(Image courtesy

My bus-pass tipped to the floor of the 14B and luckily I noticed before the bus had continued back towards the harbour. A fellow passenger had handed it to the driver and he returned it to me no questions asked! Bus-pass in hand I continued to Tukholmankatu (Stockholm’s street). This road is extremely busy and as a major arterial road to the western part of Helsinki. Naturally there are plenty of buses. Most head to the centre, there are a few lines that head to the east. The number 58 is an old favourite. Sometime it is quicker and easier to take the bus, especially when heading west. On of the good things about the 58 is that it stops at Pasila. Here it’s possible to catch a local, national or international train. Pasila is quite high compared to the rest of Helsinki, so here the radio and television stations are headquartered. Here too, is a rabbit warren of government and office buildings.

The 58 terminated at Itäkeskus. Metro, bus station and also the shopping centre, now officially known by its colloquial name Itis. Along with the new ‘old’ name has come a major renovation project. Shops are shutting, moving, reopening. It’s very hectic there at the moment. I should have checked before I went. The place I was planning on visiting is closed for renovation and will reopen at the of next week.

Metro train at Kulosaari metro station
(Image courtesy

Metro and a short bus trip had me home again in 20 minutes.

Yesterday’s travels didn’t involve trams or ferries. Don’t despair I will be featuring them in the near future. I read this morning that Helsinki city has new trams on order (unfortunately it appears they won’t be on the tracks until 2014) and they are on display from this weekend.

Public transport case – highly reflective
The all important card. To borrow from a certain credit card supplier ‘don’t leave home without it’

I’ll leave you with an interesting bus fact: the Helsinki bus route numbers indicate the postcode of the area the buses travel to or from!