Saturday, March 31, 2012


It's dark. It's a bit sweet. It's malt porridge baked in the oven. It's eatable. It's called mämmi.

Mämmi is one of the traditional Easter desserts. You're supposed to eat it with cream and sugar. Or if you want to take a modern approach, try mämmi with vanilla sauce or ice cream. Mämmi yummy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Virvon varvon!

If you want to go for Palm Sunday tour yourself, you need to dress like a witch, decorate some willow branches and learn the poem:

Virvon, varvon
tuoreeks, terveeks
tulevaks vuodeks.
Vitsa sulle,
palkka mulle.

The poem is a bit old-fashioned Finnish, so it's hard to translate it, but this will do:

I'm whipping and spanking
for the fresh and healthy
upcoming year.
I'll give you the whip
and you'll pay me.

Hmmm... the English version sounds much nastier than the Finnish version.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chocolate eggs

Next Sunday when your door bell rings, there might be small witches behind the door. They'll have decorated willow branches with them. They'll present you a poem, they'll give you the branch and you're supposed to give them something in return - candy or a chocolate egg. That's how it goes on Palmusunnuntai, the Sunday before the Easter.

So fill your stock and be prepared for the witches!

Monday, March 26, 2012


Rahka, quark is sourish dairy product that seems to be common in the Northern and Eastern Europe, at least in the Nordic countries, Germany and and former Soviet countries. Rahka is different to cottage cheese. You can use rahka in baking or as it is for the desserts. The easiest way to prepare rahka is simply to mix it with whipped cream, berries and sugar.

For preparing a big bowl of rahka you need

4 small jars of rahka (200 g each)
2 dl of cream, whipped
700 g berries, defrosted
sugar to taste

Mix. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Summer shoe time

Last night we switched the clocks into summer time, or daylight saving time. I don't get the idea of daylight saving time. What do you need to save it for? There are no pockets in the shrouds, in the very end of the day you can't take your savings with you anyway.

For me the summer time begins when I can start wearing sneakers again after the long winter. And that holy day was last Friday. Obviously my shoe watch is a bit ahead of the normal time, but quite accurate still. I also have a milestone for the end of the summer time: summer time ends when I have to give up and pack my flip flops into a storage box. Usually that's October.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ice hockey for beginners

It's the play-off season in the Finnish ice hockey league. I have no understanding or passion towards ice hockey, but this is what I've learnt: just pick a favorite team and stand by the team in good times and in bad - that's the best way to mingle and bond with the sports people of Finland. But please be warned, ice hockey may just be the topic that reveals the full scale of feelings within always-so-calm-and-neutral Finns. The feelings can be anything between joy and rage. For example, to my experience people get very happy, they even start to laugh, whenever I'm praising SaiPa as the best team in the league.

I hope the list below helps you to get familiar with who's who in the Finnish ice hockey league. And once you're familiar with the teams, you're ready for full scale hockey debate.

  • HIFK - The traditional team of Helsinki. People who have lived in Helsinki for generations are fans of HIFK. They have the image of pure, genuine, uncorrupted, rough and no-bullshitting team who raises their own juniors to stars.
  • Jokerit - The new, go-getter team of Helsinki. HIFK fans think that the name Jokerit originates from joke. Money talks, so they purchase their players from other teams.
  • Espoo Blues - A team name without a history. Some say it reflects Espoo as a city without a history. I preferred the old name of the team: Kiekko-Espoo, Puck-Espoo.
  • SaiPa - One of the wonders of the East, Lappeenranta. The best team in the league, as long as you don't get stuck with the details, such as the games they've won, or the goals they've scored or kept.
  • KalPa - The best team in the league, even when counting the goals and points. My symphaties are on Kalpa's side, after all, they are a small town team from Kuopio.
  • Tappara and Ilves - The two Tampere teams which you can't differentiate from each other. If you're poetic, you can always start a conversation with "kannatetaan Tapparaa ja syödään mustaa makkaraa" - let's stand for Tappara and try some black sausage.
  • Kärpät - A skillful team from Oulu. The fans are pure hooligans.

To be honest, the only form of ice hockey I really enjoy is the hockey league salmiakki candies. But if I'm in a position to choose whichever one of the orange candies, I naturally try to pick one with SaiPa logo.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

DIY Angry Birds

Angry Birds Space was launched today. As a tribute to the great Finnish game innovation, meet the Angry Birds DIY edition:

Big fitness ball is perfect for the project. It's already March, so new year's sports resolutions have been expired, and there must be some excess sports equipment lying around under the bed (because that's where you're supposed to store all the excess sports equipment, at least according to TV shop). Draw staring eyes and bird's nose on the ball. You can use spray paint or permanent marker, but tape will do as well if you're looking for a temporary game. That's your bird shot.

Then you need to nominate the pig. You need transparent tape to make the lucky one's nose to look like pig's nose. And once you're done with the tape, all you need is to pitch the bird and try to hit the pig. At least my 3-year-old nephew was crazy about the game.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Road trip to Karelia

About a year ago I did a road trip back to my roots, to Karelia, to the places that used to be part of Finland but got under the Soviet reign after WW2.

We crossed the border at Imatra / Enso, stopped by at Kirvu (my family from dad's side is from Kirvu) drove by Lake Ladoga, stopped for the night at Sortavala, then went to see Kollaa, one of the most intense fighting fronts of the war between Finland and Russia. Eventually we got back to our side of the border at Värtsilä.

It was amazing to see how the time had almost stopped there. Most of the houses had not been touched since the Finns were evacuated in the mid-1940's.

I don't know if it was the weather, but it was somehow misty, nostalgic and a bit spooky there. For example the forests in the old Karelia were really wild and wanton. In Finland the forests are clean and like economic pine fields.

Yes, the nature was wild indeed. A lamb joined us when we were having picnic in Kirvu.

Roads and other infrastructure were really bad from time to time.

Quite many churches were demolished on the soviet times.

But the pearls of the soviet architecture were still standing tall.

This was the garrison where my grandpa from mom's side was called right before the war begun.

And the same building from the inside. Houston, we have a moisture problem.

Trenches and dugouts at Kollaa where my grandpa was fighting in 1941 - 1944. There were pieces of metal everywhere - you only needed to kick the ground a bit and you could hit your shoe into a boot of a Russian soldier.

Our hotel in Sortavala. Not exactly five star residence, but it wasn't that bad from the inside.

You could spot this particular shade of blue everywhere: in railings, window frames, doors, benches, cars, bus stops... Didn't feel like leaning on the railing though.

Why did I want to post these pics? Well, I wanted to show that even though some (usually older) people see Karelia as the golden dreamland which they want back and where they want to return to - the current state of affairs is far from romantic. We were actually quite lucky. On the other hand, I also wanted to show that there are exotic resorts right next to you. You don't need to search for adventures too far.

Monday, March 19, 2012


One of the best summer drinks in the world is Long drink, Lonkero, a bitter sweet combination of gin and grapefruit lemonade. It wipes away the thirst and doesn't make you feel as much of a balloon as beer does.

Lonkero was invented for Helsinki Olympic games in 1952. You can get the real Lonkero (made from  gin and grapefruit lemonade) from Alko - the version sold in the grocery stores is a cheap copy made thorough fermentation, and it doesn't taste as good as the real thing.

Is it still too cold for a Lonkero at balcony?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's not a hobby if you post it on Facebook


Cross-country skiing is something that every Finn can do. And based on Facebook, quite many even like it. Skiing is good sports, it exercises all the muscles in your body - especially the face muscles, as you can't avoid grimaces while climbing up the hills.

Like all the sports, skiing is a matter of equipment. You need to choose your skis according the skiing style and your weight. Do not try to lie round down your weight, you'll be busted and end up having bad skis. The skis must be treated with special wax depending on the weather. The fastening mechanism of the skiing shoes must match with the mechanism on the skis - and naturally the mechanisms are not standardized. The poles need to be tall enough to reach your shoulder. You clothes shouldn't be too heavy, prefer layers instead of thickness. And as a final hint, take a handkerchief with you, your nose will run anyway.

Then where can you ski? Well, basically anywhere where there's snow, but ready made tracks will help a lot. If the tracks are forming some kind of a loop or circle, you usually need to ski the loop counterclockwise. And FYI for the people of Great Britain, we follow the right side traffic on skiing tracks. If there are hills on the way, you can be pretty sure that after a downhill there will be a curve. This is something that is very difficult to understand, even for a Finn: why do all the curves have to locate at the bottom of a hill? Your skis will carry straight on while the track is turning. Sure you can lift your feet and try to correct the direction, but how the hell you're suppose to hit on the track when you set down your foot in full speed? That's why many of us end up on butt in the curves.

off the tracks we go
Off the track on the butt

Skiing (and picking mushrooms) is obviously something you have to post on Facebook. It didn't happen unless you post it on Facebook. But watch out, the closer to midlife you'll get, the more likely you're going to get addicted to skiing. Something that starts as an innocent attempt to live down your childhood skiing traumas may actually turn into hobby. Depending on the definition of hobby, of course. But one thing is for sure: if you are urged to update your Facebook status with your skiing experience, then it's not a hobby - yet.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Let there be luck


Midsummer night is full of magic and love. Well, at least the midnight sun seems to make people wild - and that's why many of us have birthday around March - April.

Finnish birthday traditions are pretty similar to any other western culture: cards, presents, cake, blowing the candles, singing Finnish version of Happy Birthday Song... It's actually quite surprising that the popular Swedish Birthday Song hasn't been translated to Finnish, and hence it's not so popular in Finland (or at least I'm not aware of it). Well, my favorite birthday song is anyway coming from the other neighbor, Russia: Crocodile Gena's Birthday Song, and the excellent Finnish version of the song.

The impact of Anglo-Saxon culture is clearly present on the birthday wishes. Still in the 80's people were using more of the traditional Finnish birthday wish onneksi olkoon - let there be luck. Nowadays people are often taking the direct translation from English: hyvää syntymäpäivää - Happy Birthday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sports in the sofa

Finns are good at watching sports. Occasionally we even manage to succeed in practicing some sports, such as ice hockey, skiing, ski jumping, snow boarding, swimming, shooting and all kinds of noisy motor sports. In sports the sweetest thing for us is to beat the Swedes, no matter which sports we're talking. The latest sweet victory was of course the world championship in ice hockey last year, when we beat Sweden 6-1. And in general, watching ice hockey is probably the most popular sofa sports among the Finns.

Football is not that popular in Finland. For us football means the real football, not the American football. Nonetheless, we suck at it. But what else can you expect, as the poor players have to wear long johns under their team shorts for half of the season. However, we are much better in various football spin-offs, such as deep snow soccer and swamp soccer.

Throughout the years our drivers have been rather successful in motor sports: formula 1, rally, trial, and whatever 2- or 4-wheeled competitions, you name it. We've always had more or less contradictory relationship to our drivers - we respect them but at the same time we pity them a bit. Maybe it's because many of them have quite personal style of speaking. Or maybe it's because they have to cope with huge salary and low taxation (since most of them are citizens of Monaco). But anyway, Marcus Grönholm is the best of them all.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blogging my way through the winter

Nut Island's Peace has now been up and running for 3 months. It has been fun, I had almost forgotten how much I used to enjoy writing back in high school. Writing in English is of course a bit challenging, and I often feel like a verbal handicap - but that's the way it goes, imperfection hurts.

When I started the blog, one of my goals was to write about Finland in a different way than tourist guides do - to focus more on the everyday life and ordinary phenomena. I think all of the topics have somehow managed to touch Finland or life in Finland. Another goal was to prove the True Finns wrong: I've wanted to give an example that most Finns don't see things as the True Finns do. And ta-daa, the support for the True Finns has been dropping. Although my blog can't probably take all the credits for that.

It's been relatively easy to come up with topics, and my colleagues and friends have been suggesting great topic ideas; thanks guys. What I've been most surprised about is the frequency of the updates. On the other hand, maybe this has been my way of surviving the dark, cold and snowy winter. I'm pretty sure that along the spring the pace won't remain the same as it has been during the first three months. However, there are still plenty of good topics that I haven't had time to write about: summer cabins, Angry birds, different colors of milk, lactose intolerance, recipes for many Finnish dishes, to mention few.

So the story continues!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Seen one, seen 'em all


Nurmijärvi is typical small town in Finland. It's told to be good place to live and to raise your kids. Whenever a town is described as "good place to live", it practically means that properties are cheaper than in Helsinki region and all the services are so spread around that you need to have at least two cars per household. "Good place to raise your kids" again translates to lack of vicious teenager temptations: no movie theaters, no discos, no ice hockey teams, no garage bands or any other hobbies what so ever, except maybe a sports field and scouts group. Due to the lack of activities, youngsters focus on pimping their motor bikes and cars, and enjoying the ride surrounded by the smell of Wunder-baums.

These small towns usually have one highlight story to boast about, something they think makes the town really famous and interesting. Nurmijärvi presents itself as the home town of Aleksis Kivi. Well, that's nice. Then what? The problem is that being a home town of somebody is not very interesting as such. Rajamäki, one of the three centers of Nurmijärvi at least tries: There's an alcohol and vinegar factory in Rajamäki. During the second world war Finnish army fought against the Russian tanks by using Molotov cocktails. These DIY weapons were made into liquor bottles which stated "Rajamäki" on the cap. After a while the Russians started bombing Rajamäki assuming that there's an advanced and strategic weapon factory. But the liquor factory survived and it's still up and running.

Now you know all you need to know about Nurmijärvi, and many other small towns. These towns are probably good places to live, but for a visitor they don't offer much. When you've seen one, you've seen all of them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Watch out and up

Some time ago a friend of mine was admiring the "romantic icicles of St. Petersburg". She was wondering and obviously disappointed by the fact that we don't have as massive icicles in Finland.

Forgive me for being a boring engineer, but there's nothing romantic in icicles, especially if it falls down and penetrates your skull. Secondly, environmentally conscious person (like this particular friend of mine) should not fantasize about icicles, since icicles are a sign of energy leaks in the building: heat is leaking through the structures due to bad insulation, and the snow on the roof is melting. Once the melted water reaches the cold edge of the eaves, it refreezes and grows into an icicle.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shocked by the sun

Last week I heard that Finns are still quite tightly coupled to nature. We can make the difference between bird species by the sound, we can forecast the weather by the smell of the wind, and we can tell the time by the shades of sun light. Sounds romantic, but there are downsides too: such as massive head ache in March that lasts about a week - that's my baggage. The ache starts on the first really bright day of the spring, when the intense sun light reflects from the white snow. That overly intense sunny day of 2012 was yesterday and the same game continued today. If the old pattern applies, the pain starts to relief around Thursday. I don't know if it's because it simply takes 5 days to get used to the sun, or because the cleanest snow is melting away and the dirt from the deeper layers eventually cuts off the intensity of the reflection.

And this is the cruelest part: I wouldn't want to complain after half a year of darkness. But on the other hand, what else can you expect but a shock after half a year of darkness? I'm so sympathizing you, Edward Cullen.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Maiden of Finland

Geographically Finland reminds a bit of a woman. If you look at the map of Finland it reminds of a lady: you can see the head, arm, waist and dress. Maybe because of the shape of the country, "Maiden of Finland" has become the personification of Finland - a bit like Uncle Sam is the personification of United States.

Graphically Maiden of Finland has turned into young blond woman wearing Finnish folk costume. She has been popping up everywhere: in art, comedy, even on the label of oatmeal (image above). Couple of weeks ago the embassy of Finland in Tokyo announced an illustration contest about "updating Maiden of Finland". The result: 35 adorable manga figures!

I'm amazed by the outcome of the contest. Why? Because the illustrations are so cheerful! That kind of a playful approach didn't even come into my mind. If you'd give the very same updating task to a Finnish artist, the end result would be either a melancholic adaptation or a clear statement. Joyful adaptation is just not part of our "artistic database". I'm refreshed in a positive way.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Turkey on the plate

The country, not the bird. If you like Turkish food, you must visit restaurant Kilim.

Kilim has recently moved from Tapiolantie to Mäntyviita, right next to Kino Tapiola. The rich starter buffet is Kilim's speciality: hummus, couscous, stuffed grape leaf rolls, olives, all kinds of salads, mushrooms, marinated beans, and what not. The main course is also available in the buffet: kebab with rice, potato and bread cubes, moussaka, and the soup of the day. The service may be ignorant or even rude, but the food is simply delicious.