The Linnanmäki amusement park in Helsinki

Some people ask us via Facebook: What to do in Helsinki? Finland’s capital is not only the main entrance point to the country, it is its biggest city too and therefore worth a visit. If you’re going to Helsinki and like to have fun – which I assume you do – read on: we’ll talk about Helsinki’s amusement park: Linnanmäki.

El Parque de atracciones de Helsinki
Down in the Linnanmäki theme park. Source (CC: by).

Linnanmäki’s attractions and opening times

This year’s new season has already begun at Linnanmäki (official page), as they open up in April each year. They close their doors again at the end of October – check the opening times here.

The Linnanmäki amusement park of Helsinki states that it has more attractions than any other park in the the Nordic (and Scandinavian) countries. If you want to check out what you would like to ride, this is the page to do so: probably you’ll find some equivalent of your favorite rides if you are a theme park aficionado.

Of course, the park is also apt for families, in case you visit Helsinki with the ones closest to you.

Linannmäki: a theme park in Helsinki
You’ve got a ticket to ride. Source (CC: by-sa)

The prices of Helsinki’s amusement park and directions how to get there

The entrance to this amusement park is already something amusing: it is free! You can go inside the park and take a walk for no cost, and you can also have fun watching the faces of the people currenty on the rides.

You will have to take out your wallet to ride an attraction though. Each separate ride costs approximately 8€ and the price for a full day of rides is 37€. You can also combine the day ticket with a SEA LIFE ticket and both will cost you 45€. These are, at least, the prices that they show on the English version of the website. The Finnish version has a myriad of ticket options (see them here, if you speak Finnish), like a special ticket for the last 3 opening hours or another day ticket for the next day for just 8€ more. Ask at the entrance of the Linannmäki for explanations in English if needed.

A good tip: Check out the Panorama sightseeing tower and experience Helsinki from 53 meters above the ground. This, alone, is worth visiting Linnanmäki: You get to see Finland’s capital scenery from the high ground… and is also free of charge.

The park at night
The park at night. Although if you visit it during the White Nights time you will see little darkness. Source (CC: by-sa)

The park’s address is the following: Tivolikuja 1, 3km from Helsinki’s centre. There are several options how to get there with public transport – check all the options here.

Linnanmäki also has some restaurants and live events. During recent years they were especially promoting some of their restaurants, where cooks who had 4 Michelin stars altogether were working at.

Have you already visited the amusement park of Linnanmäki? What’s your favorite attraction?



What to eat and drink in Vappu (and recipes)

Talking with Finnish friends on Facebook, they reminded me that the Labour Day, Vappu – which in Finland is also a common day for graduation parties – is just some days ahead. It is, as usual, on the 1st of May and it’s a day where all Finnish flags are high on their masts.

It might be the most important Finnish party if we look at how much people enjoy it collectively. Christmas and Juhannus (midsummer) are more family oriented or celebrated with a small group of people, while Vappu is a day where all Finns take to the streets and celebrate together.

In our previous post about Vappu we told you what the celebration is about and why it is so important. Today we take it a step further and tell you the right things to eat and drink during Vappu in Finland.

If you are visiting the country, be sure to order them in restaurants or at food stalls when you see them! Or, if you are staying in Finland for a longer time, you can follow this post for instructions how to make these dishes yourself. They are sima for drinking, and tippaleipä and munkki for eating.

It's Vappu time, folks

Sima, the Vappu drink

Sima is a sweet and mildly alcoholic drink that is mainly consumed on Vappu, and mostly home-made. Its color is orange and you’ll always see some raisins floating on top of it. A nice refreshing drink for a day that is, hopefully, one of the first days of warmth in Finland.

In order to prepare Sima – a kind of Finnish mead – you’ll need: 8 liters of water, 400 grams of sugar, 400 grams of brown sugar, 0,2 liters of golden syrup, 3 lemons, some raisins and 1/4 teaspoon of yeast.

You prepare it like this: Boil half of the water. Put all the sugar and the syrup in a pot, then slowly add the boiling water while stirring until everything is dissolved. Wash and cut the lemon. Add the rest of the water to the pot.

When the water is lukewarm, add the yeast and the lemon. Let it ferment a day at room temperature.

The next day, add a teaspoon of sugar and some raisins to the mix. Pass the Sima through a strainer, then bottle it. Close the bottles (not too tightly) and let them rest in a cool place. The Sima will be ready for consumption two or three days later, when the raisins rise to the surface.

Tippaleipä

“Tippaleipä” can be translated as “funnel cake” – and that’s what it is. The batter, coming out of a funnel such as a pastry bag, is poured into hot cooking oil and deep fried. Afterwards it is sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Tippaleipä and Sima
Some Tippaleipä, along with a glass of Sima. Source (CC: by).

This Vappu dessert will need the following ingredients: 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, 0,3 liters of milk, 0,4 liters of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of sugar. You’ll also need powdered sugar for sprinkling the Tippaleipä at the end and oil to fry it.

Beat the eggs and the sugar in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the yeast and the milk at room temperature, then add salt and flour and mix all of it with the beaten egg. Put the mix in a pastry bag with the smallest funnel. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or pot.

Pour the batter into the hot oil and, with a spoon, move the batter slightly so it acquires curves before hardening. Keep on adding batter until it becomes a more or less rectangular shape. When the batter has a golden color, turn it around so it can fry on the other side. Take the Tippaleipä out of the pan and place it on some kitchen paper to drain the oil. Make as many Tippaleipäs as you want. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar (or Nutella or marmelade, up to you).

Munkki

The third recipe for Vappu is for Munkkis: the Finnish doughnuts. This is what I ate during my first Vappu in Finland, with great pleasure. It is a home-made donut.

Some Vappu doughnuts: Munkki
The Vappu donuts. Source (CC: by)

The ingredients for making Munkki: 1 cup of milk, 25 grams of yeast, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of cardamom, 2,5 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of oil.

In order to make this Vappu dessert, you have to mix all ingredients and leave them in a warm place, until its batter doubles its size. Make small rings and let them grow again. Heat up the oil in a pan or pot, and when it is hot put the Munkkis – one by one – into the oil. Turn them around several times until they have a golden or brown color (have it your way). Take the Munkkis out of the oil and let them dry on a plate with some kitchen paper, so the excess oil gets drained. Sprinkle with sugar and you are ready to go (and eat).

If you want to go further, you can try the Berliininmunkki. It is a hole-less doughnut that is filled with marmelade and that is actually called Berliner in Germany.

If you had to pick your favorite food or drink from this post, what would it be? What do you do on the 1st of May?



Finnish Bands: the top 10

How can I make a post about the top 10 Finnish bands? It is a herculean task and it will be polemic: Such a list will bring controversy.

In order to write something other than my own opinion, I asked for the opinion of Big in Finland’s friends on our Facebook page. In the comments of today’s post you can share your opinion too.

Here we list the top 10 Finish bands that you said were the best. They are mostly Finnish rock bands and metal bands. No indie or pop bands made the cut.

The top 10 Finnish bands, by the readers of Big in Finland

There were no rules when we did the Facebook post, so anyone who answered could vote for more than one band. The top 10 is as follows:

1. Nightwish: the band you voted the most. With or without their old vocalist, Tarja Turunen, Nightwish is the most beloved Finnish rock band by the friends of Big in Finland on Facebook.

Finnish bands: Nightwish.
Source (CC: by).

This is their most heard song on their label’s official Soundcloud account.

2. Sonata Arctica tied in votes with Nightwish, so they are as much the number one as the previous band. This Finnish metal band has been together since 1995 and is known worldwide as well.

Sonata Arctica - a Finnish metal band
Source (CC: by).

This is their most played song on their label’s SoundCloud account.

3. Apocalyptica: joining Finnish metal and cellos? The four members of Apocalyptica thought it was a great idea and started this musical adventure in 1992. They are classical music graduates from the Sibelius University of Helsinki.

Apocalyptica - one of the best Finnish bands
Source (CC: by-sa).

This is the most played Apocalyptica song on their official SoundCloud account.

4. Ensiferum play metal music with a folk twist. They are from the capital of Finland and they have been playing for 20 years, since 1995. They have five albums, and being number four in this list made by you means that their style really connects with people.

5. The Rasmus are, along with the number six of this list, one of the first Finnish bands that were recognized outside of Finland (or at least that was always my personal impression). Founded in 1994 and led by charismatic Lauri Ylönen, these Helsinkians have sold millions of records and broke thousands of hearts. Most likely, The Rasmus are one of the reasons why many people got to know – and got excited about – Finland.

6. HIM is another of the best known Finnish bands in the world. Like The Rasmus, they feature a lead singer that has captured the human blood pumps – a.k.a. hearts – of girls worldwide. His name, of course, is Ville Valo. Founded in 1991, HIM is a Finnish rock band that performs “gothic rock”, and has sold millions of records throughout the world too. Another Finnish bestseller.

7. Teräsbetoni is a heavy metal music band. Founded in 2002 – they are therefore one of the youngest bands in this list – their style is influenced by bands such as Manowar. The name of the band, translated from the Finnish language, means “reinforced concrete”. They published four albums so far.

8. Finntroll, founded in 1997, has brought together different music styles, which makes them quite unique. They fusioned folk, black and death Metal (two metal music variations that are quite extreme), and the humppa, a kind of Finnish polka.

9. Stratovarius are perhaps the oldest band in the list: they’ve been around since 1984 (as I’ve been too). Their style combines elements of classical music with a kind of melodic power metal. In their long career – quite successful as proven by the number of votes they got from the friends of Big in Finland – they have released 17 studio albums, four live albums and four “best of” albums.

10. Children of Bodom: We close the list with a band that borrows its name from the murders that took place at the Bodom Lake, in the 1960s. From 1993 onwards, these guys from Espoo – a city neighboring Helsinki – have published 10 albums so far.

We have to give a special mention to 69 Eyes, who tied in score with the previous three bands, but top 10 lists are like that: We have to choose.

The bands that didn’t make it into the top 10 list of Finnish bands, but had more than one vote, were the following: Rubik band, Apulanta, Uniklubi, Korpiklaani, Ahola, the very popular and “Eurovisive” Lordi, Turisas and Northern Kings.

Our post about Finnish music groups
This is the post we put up on Facebook about Finnish bands: “Come hear. Finland.”

The top 10 Finnish bands according to Google

There is a second (and perhaps more democratic) way to know the number of fans that the bands have.

I went on Google and checked how many people, worldwide, look up the names of these bands during an average month. After the results went in, I re-did the list and this is what it looks like. These are the most beloved Finnish bands worldwide:

1. Nightwish, with 368.000 monthly searches, is also the number one Finnish band worldwide. Congratulations for their good job!

2. HIM, with 165.000 monthly searches.

3. Apocalyptica with 110.000 searches per month. As we can see, two out of the three best bands according to the readers of Big in Finland are also the most popular worldwide.

4. Tarja Turunen, ex-singer of Nightwish, rides along the band’s fame to boost her solo career and scores 90.500 searches per month.

5. Lordi, the monsters, average 74.000 searches/month.

6. Children of Bodom: 60.500.

7. Sonata Arctica: 60.500 searches.

8. Stratovarius: 49.500 searches.

9. The Rasmus: 49.500 searches.

10. Korpiklaani close the list with 33.100 searches/month.

The data came in, and we reported it.

Which list do you agree most with? What are your favorite Finnish bands? Tell us in the comments!



How to photograph the Northern Lights

We already spoke about the Northern Lights a couple of times here at Big in Finland. For instance, we told you about the forecast and predictions to not miss them if you are in Finland. We gave you the, statistically proven, list of best places to see them in Finland and Lapland and the best moments of the year. But once you are there and actually seeing the Northern Lights, what you probably want to do is to snap a great photo. And since now is one of the best times of the year to see them, here it comes: a guide on how to photograph the Northern Lights.

Photographing northern lights in Joensuu, Finland

Photographing the Northern Lights

I haven’t been so lucky to see the Northern Lights yet. The only time that this phenomenon happened while I was in Finland, I was sleeping and I missed the chance. What a pity, I think every time I remember it. Since it’s one of the things I still have to do, I want to be prepared and I want to know how to photograph the Northern Lights in the best posssible way.

I am not the best photographer – in fact I am more drawn to Polaroids lately than to digital cameras. I went from having a half-decent fixed-lens camera to simply snapping photographs with my Nokia 625 (with which I am quite content). But when I finally encounter the Aurora Borealis, whatever camera is at hand, I want to be able to put the right settings to the camera in order to take the best possible picture.

Now that the Spring equinox, one of the best moments to see this phenomenon, is approaching, I thought it to be a great time to write this post. Let’s go.

Northern Lights Photography
This Northern Lights photograph was made with 30 seconds of exposition, f/2.8 and a 160 ISO Source (CC: by-sa).

The recommended settings: how to photograph the Northern Lights

The number one advice is of course to have a tripod. The Northern Lights are only seen at night and the light they emit, while being well visible for a human eye that is used to darkness, is not enough for a camera and any movement of the hand will make the photo shaky.

It is possible that the tripod will freeze at some point and will be hard to close, so you should take two if you can. Be careful with the moving top of the tripod, its head, which can also freeze. If you can snap the photo with a cable, do so, because it’ll reduce the camera movement even further.

The best camera, of course, is one where you can select the shutter time manually. Between 5 and 40 seconds are the best settings to photograph the Northern Lights. Try different times and check out the results.

A lens brightness of f/2.8 or faster will give you the most professional results. Regarding the film, an 800 ASA or equivalent in ISO (800 too) will provide the best results.

A photo of the Northern Lights above Ruka, Finland
6 seconds, f/3.2 and ISO 800. Source (CC: by-sa).

Northern Lights in the Oulanka national park
8 seconds, f/3.5 and ISO 400 with an Olympus E-M5 camera. Source (CC: by).

The lens focus should be adjusted to “infinite” or right before infinite. If your lens is a wide-angle lens, the photos will be even more spectacular. It is also good to include part of the landscape in the photos instead of photographing nothing but the sky. The trees or hills will provide a visual reference for the size of the Northern Lights and the photos will be better.

If your camera is digital you can choose the option of noise reduction and set the white balance to “automatic”.

Two things to pay extra attention to: The batteries last much shorter in he cold and it is recommended to take several of them. You should also be careful with the condensation on the lens: As it happens with the condensation on glasses when you go from one temperature into another, the lens will also get covered with condensation if you change temperatures. You can carry the camera in a bag to reduce the effect.

Incredible Northern Lights photography
A great photo of the Aurora Borealis. Source (CC: by-sa).

TL;DR : Summarizing

All said, the idea is to have the camera prepared beforehand at home or in the hotel. Start with an exposition time of 30 seconds. Make sure that the film is ISO 800 and with f/2.8. Put the camera in a bag to prevent condensation of the lens and have a tripod ready. Have a couple of battery sets ready, since cold drains batteries faster.

Of course, make sure you are prepared for the cold. Our post for what to wear in the Finnish winter will come in handy.

If you want to dive deeper into how to take photos of the Northern Lights, I would recommend to go to the source of the photos in this post and to click on “additional info“. You can then see the EXIF data of the pics and get an idea of how others did it.

How to photograph Northern Lights
40 seconds, f/2 and ISO 100. Thus, the light of the photo. Source (CC: by-sa).

The main source of information for this article was wikitravel. And here you can find a very comprehensive guide if you already are an expert on digital photography.

What’s your best photo of the Northern Lights? Show off in the comments! Do you have any other recommendations?



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