Hats By Katrinka

Kate Brown Pernia is a Milliner on sabbatical in Switzerland. She has been designing hats and teaching millinery under her Katrinka label since the 1980s. Kate is also the founder of Houston Hat Net. View Katrinka hats and hat patterns at www.hatsbykatrinka.com.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Trip to Helsinki

This past week Sherman had a little business to do in Finland so we flew to Helsinki for a few days to explore. On arrival, I was surprised to find that the weather was warmer than here in St. Gallen (due, I suppose, to the lower altitude). Much of this country is still wild and the population is only about 5 million total (less than NYC!). They have a well developed high tech industry here and we were told it is the most productive of European countries. Education and medical care are completely paid for with high taxes and they have no poverty. We found it clean and friendly and everyone we encountered in Helsinki spoke English. Most also speak Finnish and Swedish.

The architecture was not so old or interesting as in Switzerland tho’ they do have some wonderful churches including a Russian Orthodox cathedral that I hope to explore next time. We did get into this church which is one of the tourist highlights of the city.

Our host Kostas made sure we tasted both traditional and modern Finnish foods and I must say that we ate well. We began with a selection of pastries at the popular Café Strindberg. Sherman and I were sipping our coffee while our host selected pastries inside and we spotted a tall pretty girl walking about the Esplanade searching for someone (we thought). Suddenly she spotted us and pirouetted into a spontaneous little dance. She finished as quickly as she began, bowed gracefully saying, ‘Just for you!’ in English. Then she disappeared around the corner. No solicitation for money and too quick for me to even grab my camera! Just serendipity. I guess we really look like American tourists!

After a little strolling and sightseeing we dined at Lapin Kulta, a traditional restaurant in the style of a Laplander hut. Sherman ordered Char, a delicious kind of salmon which arrived on a bed of barley. I ate reindeer steak with liggonberries, pickled onions and potatoes. Very tasty! We were staying at a very nice Holiday Inn near the train station which also had a fabulous breakfast buffet including fruit and berries, pickled herring (yum!) and a rich mildly smoked salmon. Did I say we ate well?

Our second day Sherman had a meeting so I shopped in Stockmann’s, a very large and tempting department store owned by an old Swedish family in Finland. I had a hard time making choices as they had so many beautiful things at reasonable prices. The textiles were particularly tempting and I bought both a scarf and a handwoven shawl. The hosiery department displayed a mind boggling selection of socks, tights and leggings in various sizes, differing also in how tightly they hug the leg, not to mention the colors, argyles, prints etc. I stocked up. The millinery department was also fun to explore with various sizes (no one-size-fits-all here) and prices ranging from fleece lined military style cotton caps to knitted hoods rimmed with fox fur and lots of creative and fun felt hats. I SO wanted to take some photos but have learned that stores generally don’t appreciate that. I did get a picture of this booth down by the harbor later that day where we shopped for souvenirs and ate more salmon at a fast food stand for lunch.

We both decided that our trip was too short and we’d like to go again. They have a glass museum to explore, I want to search out more of the lovely textiles and I understand the overnight cruise to Stockholm from the harbor is a reasonable luxury in the summer months. The harbor is frozen in winter and one can walk across to one of the hundreds of small islands. With my hats, my new sock collection and my L. L. Bean down coat I’d even brave the winter weather (they get only 4 hours of daylight mid-winter). But they also have tango dancing under the midnight sun in July!
K Q:-)


At 3:35 PM, Blogger LadyJillanna said...

Ohhhh WOW. You are having the bestest of times. I'm sold, let's go dance the tango! I hope you are putting on some blubber for winter with all that fine food. You do such a great job of describing I feel like I have noshed right along with you, lingonberrys and onions, yum!
I now have to post using my mirror site log in, as blogger beta doesn't support posting either. Whine and jeeze anyone?

At 7:38 PM, Blogger Ladygrande said...

That tango dancing under the midnight sun describes you two well.....



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