Reindeer in Helsinki: where to see them?

Those who travel to Lapland have it easy: they are everywhere, but to see reindeer in Helsinki you have to know where to look. And that’s what today’s post is about.

Reindeer in Helsinki
Feeding a reindeer. Source (CC: by-sa)

Reindeer and Finland

The reindeer is the animal of Finland. The Finns even have that unique sign that warns you on the roads that you are entering an area with a high density of reindeer.

The Finnish word for reindeer is “Poro” (pronounced “porro“).

Finnish road sign
Pay attention: “porros” in this area. Source (CC: by-sa)

These animals have a special role in the culture of the Sami, the last indigenous people of Europe who live in the northern part of the Nordic and Scandinavian countries, including Finland. They take advantage of all parts of the reindeer.

And their meat, of course, is a delicacy. I liked it a lot (and Gordon Ramsay too) and I encourage you to try it if you’re on a trip in Finland.

Reindeer in Helsinki: where to see them

Do you remember the photo above, where the reindeer area was marked on the map of Finland? Exactly: reindeer don’t live that far south.

But nevertheless there are two places in the capital of Finland where you can see these animals. Let’s check them out.

Majestic antlers. Source (CC: by)

1.- The Helsinki Zoo – Korkeasaari

The Helsinki zoo sits on its own island in the city.

To get there you have to take a boat from the market square – Kauppatori – which is a nice ride with fantastic views of the capital from the sea. The destination of the boat, when you are looking for it at the port, is Korkeasaari, the name of the island and the zoo.

You can also take the number 16 bus that leaves from the train station. Once there, paying the entrance fee of 14 euros per adult or 8 per child, you can see reindeer as well as other animals. This is their website, if you want to learn more.

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This is my reindeer sleigh.

2.- Nuuksio National Park

This is the place to see reindeer in Helsinki in a big way.

Nuuksio Nature Park is just outside Helsinki. And it’s Finland’s southernmost national park. In it there is a reindeer park, where you can visit, touch and feed the reindeer.

Petting a reindeer in Helsinki
Reindeer herding in Helsinki. Or next to Helsinki. Source (CC: by-sa)

The entrance fee is 25 euros per adult and 10 euros per child, which includes enough lichen to feed the reindeers, a coffee (or other drink) and a bun by an open fire. And, during Christmas there is also glögi, the traditional Christmas spice wine.

There is also a cafeteria in the reindeer park where you can have a drink – including delicacies such as Lapp cheese, salmon or wild game meat – at a restaurant in a tapee (a traditional Lappish tent) called “White Reindeer”.

Feeding lichen to reindeer. Source (CC: by-sa)

How to get to Nuuksio National Park? You might wonder if you want to go see reindeer in Helsinki. The address: Nuuksiontie 83 in Espoo. It’s 30 minutes by car from the center and 1 hour by public transport. You will need a ticket from the ABC area of Helsinki to get there. These are the transports you have to take.

  1. Train from Helsinki to Espoo with U, L and E trains from Helsinki Station to Espoo (8 stops and about 25 minutes)
  2. Take bus 245 from Espoo to Nuuksio. The bus is next to the station.
  3. Get off the bus in Punjonsuo. (after 27 stops or about 25 minutes)
  4. Walk a little and past the zebra crossing, to the right. The sign says Karhunpesä and you see a sign with Reindeer

If you want to visit their website to take a look first, this is it.

Which of these two options do you prefer? Have you ever seen – or eaten – a reindeer?

Metal music soothes anger and depression

I read it in one of the Instagram stories (by the way, these are the best Instagram profiles in Finland) by the Finnish-Dutch psychologist Bjarne Timonen (this is his instagram, if you want to follow him too). According to a study, it’s true that Finland’s favourite music, Heavy Metal, helps with anger and depression.

Finland and the Mind

Finland has been ranked again #1 in the happiness study. And here’s a list of 10 things that make a Finn happy.

But is everything perfect? Of course not. Long winters tend to make people melancholic and perhaps hit the bottle a tad too much. Nowhere it is perfect.

Finns in their day to day life. Source.

With an extreme climate like Finland’s, and endless winters of darkness and cold (as well as low population density in many parts of the country), it is normal for many people to experience and tend to negative emotions, such as depression and anger.

But it seems that Finns have unknowingly found a natural way to cope with it: heavy metal music.

Finland and Heavy Metal

Knowing the aforementioned fact we understand better why there are more Metal bands per capita in Finland than in any other country. Or why in the University of Helsinki there is a postgraduate course of Heavy Metal. Or why there is a priest who gives his masses with Metal music (of course that helps to keep people engaged).

Metal concert
A Metal band playing in Helsinki. Source (CC: by)

Does metal music help with anger and depression?

Yes. Or at least that’s what transpires from the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study. Here you can read it in full.

Heavy Metal and associated genres (Death-, Black-, Folk-Metal, or Metalcore), are associated by the tabloids – and even serious means – of provoking aggression or criminal behavior.

But is this true?A group of Australian researchers conducted a study where subjects were made angry and then asked to listen to their favorite (extreme) music or – for the control group – to remain silent. Emotions were then measured both objectively (e.g. by counting beats per minute) and subjectively (interviews and questionnaires).

The results? Extreme music not only does not cause anger, but helps the listeners to process their negative emotions and calm down. It also seems to stimulate feelings of activity and inspiration. The authors concluded that extreme music does not cause anger but rather helps well-disposed listeners to process their negative emotions and calm down. It furthermore seems to stimulate feelings of activity and inspiration.

Fronteers in Human Neuroscience

It seems that the Finns – well, and the musician Justin Currie when he said at his concert at the Triple Door in Seattle that “the further north you go, the more they like rock” – found a natural way to combat the effect of the environment on their psyche. And they turn the problem into a virtue.

What do you think of Finnish Metal? What effect does Metal music have on your life?

Children eat for free in Helsinki in the summer

Helsinki. Summer. The playgrounds are overflowing with children and around noon someone starts serving free food to them. Every day. Fiction? No, Finland.

Kids in a Helsinki park
A park in Helsinki. Source (CC: by)

The children eat for free in Helsinki during the summer

Every child under 16 years old can eat for free in the capital of Finland at any of the more than 50 designated points – parks – throughout the city. Most of them open every day during the months of June and July. And we say every child: it doesn’t matter if they have more or less resources. It’s like the Finnish baby box: it’s for everyone.

Food is served to the little ones during the weekdays. There is no need to register to attend, and the only thing the little ones need to enjoy this service is to bring their own utensils: bowls or soup plates, spoons and forks.

The menus are designed by the city authorities. Specifically by the Education division of the city council.

playground in Helsinki
Plenty of kids. Source (CC: by-sa)

What kind of food do they serve?

For example, the very Finnish rice porridge, various kinds of creamy vegetables, and several other Finnish classics, such as pea soup, sausage soup (some say that sausage is Finland’s national vegetable, and we don’t contradict that) and many kinds of fish soup. Also Italian-style stew or Archipelago Soup made with rainbow trout . If we talk about desserts, the traditional rhubarb pie was served last year during Helsinki Day.

If you want to take a look at last year’s menu (in Finnish), here is the link. On this website there is a link to the daily menus and the allergens contained in the meals so parents know exactly what their child would eat.

kid with Tupper
Bring your own Tupper. Source (CC: by-sa)

The history of free food service for children

This 2020 marks the 88th anniversary of this measure. According to the website of the City of Helsinki (FIN), this service began in 1942 during the Second World War. At that time many of the inhabitants of the Finnish capital were suffering from food shortages. Therefore, a solution was found that was mainly focused on the smallest ones: they would be guaranteed at least one meal every day.

Today the service has evolved, as people clearly do not have food problems. The service is now more focused on nutritional and social reasons, like making summer days easier for families.

And there is another reason: normally children have one free meal a day at school but not during the summer holidays. Thus, the municipality helps while the parents still have to go to work.

Swings in a kids park
Playground for kids. Source (CC: by-sa)

Only in Helsinki?

And it seems Helsinki isn’t the only city who does it. Vantaa tried this concept last year as well, and it seems they’re repeating it this year again Last year they made a video about the experience that is very illustrative for this post. YLE’s article on this subject is also good.

And you, what do you think of this almost hundred year old Finnish initiative? Would you go or would you like to see it implemented in your city?

Takatalvi – when the winter is back during Finland’s spring

Where I am from we have an idiom. I’ll write it in Spanish: “hasta el cuarenta de Mayo no te quites el sayo“, which translates to “until the 40th of May, don’t take the coat off”. Yes, May doesn’t have 40 days, but if you say “June 9th” it doesn’t rhyme. Anyways, in Finland – with the same spirit – they have the Takatalvi: the winter weather and temperatures that come back during the spring time.

This year, concretely, it is warmer than usual, as it is happening all around the world. Be sure, nonetheless, that there is a Takatalvi waiting for you in Finland, when the temperatures will drop again and might be more snow coming. Always happens.

It’s back.

Takatalvi: the winter that comes back

Of course, is not winter per se that comes back, but the low temperatures and the snow that are the landmarks of the Finnish winter, due to the climate in the country.

Something Takatalvi, but inverted, happens as well, and is called in Finnish “intiaanikesä” – Indian summer of North America would be the translation. These are the few days in autumn when the temperatures rise above average and it is warm and sunny… before the real cold autumn comes.

Takatalvi is that moment when you feel that the spring is already here, and that the temperatures ks finally above 0 degrees Celsius in a constant manner (although less than 10, of course: we are talking about Finland in Spring)… but then suddenly it starts snowing.

Finnish temperatures
Average temperatures in different places of Finland.

In Finnish languagetaka-” is a prefix that means “rear, back or posterior” and “talvi” means “winter”. The word definitely makes sense.

When does Takatalvi happen?

The Indian summer doesn’t have a fixed date, nor does the Takatalvi in Finland. It could happen in any moment of the spring, when winter already seemed to be over.

Takatalvi: snow over fruit.
There were some fruits on these branches… then Takatalvi hits.

Usually, on the years where the winter lasts longer this phenomena comes quite late. The Takatalvi, usually, comes in April but in even stranger years it can snow up to May. In Joensuu I remember such thing happening in May.

And these are the characteristics of this special meteorological phenomena. If you are planning a trip to Finland or you are in the country right now and the temperatures seem benign… remember not to put away the winter clothes just yet.

Does this phenomena only happen in Finland?

No, it is also common in other countries of the Northern Hemisphere. In USA they call it Blackberry winter , as it happens at the same time blackberries grow.

Have you experienced a Takatalvi in Finland? What’s the weirdest date you’ve seen snow falling from the sky?

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