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Helsinki Tastes, From Vorschmack To Garlic
by Fred Ferretti

It is not possible to wander around Helsinki without happening upon some memento of Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. All over the open, airy capital of Finland are recurring images in bronze and stone, street signs, photographs, and etchings of his austere mustached face — lest any resident forget, or any traveler fail to inquire about, this quintessential European aristocrat who was, in the early part of this century, field marshal of Finland's armies, the country's regent, architect of its independence, and president of its first republic.

Through the heart of Helsinki runs a broad boulevard and tram route, and its name is Mannerheimintie. In front of the city's main post office, just off Mannerheimintie, is an equestrian statue of Mannerheim, several times larger than life-sized. On a bluff overlooking Helsinki's harbor, on an arc of a street called Kalliolinnantie, is the Mannerheim Museum, once its namesake's home, which draws visitors through the public life of this remarkable man who is without question Finland's national hero, the beloved "Marski."

Born in 1867, Mannerheim was of Finnish-Swedish-Dutch ancestry and grew up in Finland, then part of Russia. He was commissioned in the czarist cavalry after graduating from the elite Nikolai Cavalry Academy and served in the Russo-Japanese War. From 1906 to 1908, on an information-gathering assignment from the Russian General Staff, he journeyed on horseback eight thousand miles through the northwest frontier of Turkistan to China, all the way to Peking. This trek is preserved in a multitude of photographs, many of which are displayed in his house, along with rich carpets, silks, tapestries, porcelains, gold tiles from the mosque of Samarkand, and Tibetan Buddhas, truly an awesome display of the breadth of one man's desire to collect.

Mannerheim rose to become major general; then cavalry brigade commander; and, in World War I, lieutenant general and then corps commander. But after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917 he returned to Finland, there to be appointed commander-in-chief of the so-called White Army in his country's civil war, a struggle that led to Finland's independence from Russia. Mannerheim was the nation's regent in 1918-19, was made field marshal in 1933; and became supreme commander of its defense forces with the onset of World War II. At the age of seventy-two he commanded the Finnish forces that twice in 1939 repelled massive Russian attempts to invade Finland in what the Finns call the Winter War; and at seventy-five, in 1942 he was named marshal of Finland. From 1944 to 1946 he served as Finland's president. He died in 1951, by all accounts a stern, proper, unyielding man, a rider and a hunter, until the end.

On my most recent stay in Helsinki I went to his house-museum for the third time, to spend a couple of hours simply musing upon and marveling at his life; to admire his huge roll top desk and his library filled with books in Russian, German, French, Swedish, English, and of course Finnish, all languages he spoke fluently; to appreciate his aesthetic eye, which could evidently spot the artistry and integrity of a carved ivory miniature, a small gilded Buddha, a patch of woven carpet, or a desert tent. Mannerheim was nevertheless an ascetic man, it is said, a disciplinarian and a hero in every sense of that overused word. Visit him in Helsinki.

Perhaps eat with him as well. In his later years, Mannerheim would often dine at the restaurant Savoy, which opened on what happened to be his seventieth birthday, June 4, 1937, and has remained unchanged for more than a half century. This extraordinarily beautiful restaurant — with its hedged terrace jutting out over the trees lining Helsinki's Esplanade shopping street — was the creation of Alvar Aalto, surely one of Finland's, and Europe's most influential and honored architects and designers. The décor is of carved and rounded, stained and polished, birch; the seating padded with black leather. Ceilings and walls are of olive-wood-grained blocks. Aalto's free-form vases, know throughout the world, adorn the restaurant. The lighting fixtures, the serving stations, even the coat racks are Aalto's — the same as when the Savoy opened.

At the far end of the restaurant is a corner banquette, and on the two walls that meet there is an etching of Marshal Mannerheim, in full medal, and a small bronze plaque identifying the bench as his customary luncheon seat. To be sure, was my reply when I was asked if I would care to sit in the marshal's seat for lunch. And, I added, I would like as well to have the dishes that Mannerheim would have eaten then.

"Agreed," said Gero Hottinger, the Savoy's chef de cuisine. "Starting with a schnapps, the way Marski had it." He explained that the first time the field marshal came in, the story goes, he asked for a schnapps, "but he didn't like what was served. So several schnapps were tested and mixed, including one we now call Marskin ryyppy," or Marshal's schnapps, to create a taste he would like. Also, he preferred his schnapps very cold and insisted that the glasses be frozen. If not, he would send them back to the kitchen. And the glasses had to filled until the schnapps rose above the brims. He had a steady hand and wanted to test all other hands." Like many other things in Finland, this Marskin ryyppy is often called simply Marski.

I told chef Hottinger that I possessed a steady hand and also preferred my schnapps cold. A frozen glass arrived, with schnapps beading the brim. I brought it to my lips and drank, without spillage.

"Good," chef Hottinger smiled. "The marshal's memory approves."

Mannerheim was an unwavering creature of habit, the chef said, noting that the marshal's breakfast, first served to him by his mother, never changed during his lifetime. "Always he had two soft-boiled eggs in a glass, coffee with milk, and toasted homemade bread with marmalade. And his newspaper. For lunch it was vorschmack."

Vorschmack was either a Mannerheim creation "or it was brought from the Russian court — we are not sure," Hottinger said Lamb and beef are roasted with onions. When done the meats and onions are ground together with salted herring and anchovies. The mixture is heated with a bit of water and garlic until it boils. Then it is allowed to simmer for many hours. Gravy from the roast is added, along with black pepper, and the vorschmack is ready to be served. It comes in a mass, quite like a hash, with smetana (sour cream), the way Mannerheim enjoyed it, and with potatoes.

My vorschmack was brought as I sat in the marshal's seat. I tasted it and decided that Mannerheim had known his food as well as his battle tactics. The wonderful, pungent preparation, redolent of its ingredients, was a satisfying dish, but chef Hottinger insisted that Marski always ate it as a first course, and therefore I was obliged to have some of the other Mannerheim favorites. Following the vorschmack came a fillet of pike perch, grilled, brushed with butter, and served with grated horseradish — marvelous, direct food. As was a dessert of apple baked in a ramekin with vanilla sauce and a touch of Madeira. "We call it Marski's apple pie," said the chef.

I await with eagerness my next visit to Helsinki, so once again I may share a vorschmack with the marshal of all Finland.

Around our wooden benches were beds of chives and oregano, four kinds of mint and two of tarragon, thyme, lovage, lavender, dill, and the sorrel that in Finland is called "salt grass." On a grill nearby lay a fat wild salmon and a sea bream (fish the Finns call meri-lohi and lahna respectively), cooking gently. Salt had been rubbed into the fish three hours earlier, and the aromatic smoke enveloping them came from the alder wood chips burning beneath them and the cubes of sugar that had been dropped into the chips and filtered through the matted layers of chervil on which the fish rested. We were in the fragrant backyard of Kati Nappa, who is best described as Finland's Julia Child.

Each morning in Helsinki, Kati conducts a televised cookery program, "Katin Keitti," or "Kati's Kitchen," demonstrating on Good Morning Finland the many ways to prepare Finland's indigenous meats, the exquisite fish that swim in native lakes and rivers, and the fine vegetables and fruits of the country. My wife, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, had earlier in the day been a guest on "Katin Keitti" and had steamed a Finnish salmon trout in the Chinese manner, with spring onions, ginger, shredded pork, and sesame oil, as Kati translated her English commentary into Finnish for the television audience. It was after this that she invited us for lunch at her home in Espoo.

Espoo is a rustic suburb of Helsinki, about ten miles west of the Finnish capital, and we had arrived to the aromas of Kati's herb gardens, of fish grilling — courtesy of Pertti, Kati's husband — and of morels and nettles steaming together on a stove. Pertti is a city planner who took an old rooming house, now their home, and personally finished its interior with varnished birch and pine slats; built a small sauna, the efficacy of which I can confirm, and added a glass-enclosed porch, where he placed Kati's homemade benches and her grandmother's rattan chair.

The house, the herbs, and the earthen terraces of the grounds are shaded by tall oaks, firs, and birches. It was in this mottled light that we sat and smelled and watched as Kati cut up tomatoes and cucumbers into a bowl, pulled sprigs of chervil and oregano from a garden bed and dropped them in, sprinkled with salt and pepper, added olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and mixed our salad. When Pertti pronounced the fish done, we went to the porch, where on the table Kati had already set steamed yellow potatoes dressed with feathery dill along with the morels and nettles tossed with butter and nutmeg. "We have so many nettles we have to eat them or we will be overrun," Kati said.

We lifted sections of the fish onto our plates. It was absolutely moist and magnificent, tasting of salt and smoke, and perfectly matched with the accompaniments. We drank icy bottles of Alsace wine with the meal. "Good?" asked Kati.

"Very," I replied. "Very, very."

"Thank Pertti."

"Thank you Pertti."

Then Kati brought out her kakku. A kakku is a popular cake. Kai's variation of it was basically a layer of baked meringue spread with créme fraîche, this in turn covered with a thick layer of cooked rhubarb, and finally topped by more meringue, dusted with crushed almonds. "I usually do it with berries, but I wanted to try the rhubarb, which I boiled with sugar. Do you like it?" Kati asked.

"I am smitten," I replied.

Coffee followed, then a drop of brandy, and we sat under the trees for a while, enjoying another afternoon in Finland.

Kynsilaukka is a most unusual restaurant in Helsinki. It would be, as a matter of fact, odd anywhere, for kynsilaukka is an old Finnish word for garlic, and that is what this small establishment is all about. Virtually every dish from its kitchen contains garlic in some form, and in varying amounts, a circumstance, that pleases greatly patrons such as myself. The menu is adorned with bits of romance and humor for those who require enticement. Thus such preparations as "heart sweet," "passion forever," "secret desire," "sonata for whitefish," and "flirting chicken" lure the reluctant.

Leif Lunderstrom, a fiercely dedicated gastronome introduced me one evening to Kynsilaukka, located on a side street called Fredrikinkatu, or Freda for short. He contended that the place is significant to Finland's culinary posture as saunalenkki — a pork sausage one eats while in the sauna or dressing room after grilling it in a foil bag on the sauna coals (a food to which Leif is addicted).

So off we went to Kynsilaukka. We sat down, and three crocks of condiments were set before us — puréed garlic, garlic-flavored mustard, and pickled garlic cloves — to enjoy with bread and a drink, concocted by the restaurant, of garlic-flavored schnapps, and cold beer. It was explained by the chef, Hannu Lautam▀ki, that, at Kynsilaukka, garlic finds its way into everything from fish soup to chicken with raspberry cream sauce (the "flirting chicken.") "You must taste my garlic jam," he said.

Later perhaps.

For our first courses we were served liemitietty, or "heart sweet" (a cream soup with garlic) and loistavat lätyt, or "fantastic small crêpes" (filled with a salad of diced mushrooms and with sour cream garlic sauce). All good. "How about some 'overwhelming passion'?" Leif asked.

I could use some of that, I agreed.

The ikuinen intohimo ("passion forever") was a gratin of beef and mushrooms with, of course, garlic, crushed. Would it, I asked, induce passion? It would not, but it tasted just fine. Next came salahalu, or "secret desire," slices from a loaf of salmon and pike perch with minced garlic. Why "secret desire?" chef Lautamäki was asked. "I am not responsible for the names, only the cooking," he said. Aha. Siikasonaatti, or "sonata for whitefish," a braised whitefish dotted with garlic slices, was next. "Enough?" Leif asked.

"I guess."

"Dessert?"

"Do they have garlic ice cream?" I asked.

No, the chef said, but his garlic jam was good on top of ice cream with cloudberries. He urged me to try it.

I did. It was good, and I wondered as I ate it how it might taste with scones.

A FINNISH SOJOURN

Most of my first afternoon in Finland was spent sitting in the sun on a shelf of water-smoothed rocks jutting out into Jaajalahti, a protected cove of the Baltic Sea on the northwestern edge of Helsinki. The waters of Laajalahti are tidal and come lapping in against the rocks of a shoreline dense with tufted fir trees and silver birches barely twenty yards from the lovely, unobtrusive hotel the Finns call KALASTAJATORPPA, the "Cottage of the Fisherman."

Kalastajatorppa, is made of slabs of white marble set so artfully into descending ledges of granite that it is virtually unnoticeable from the road above the water. It is, however, one of the finest of all Finnish hotels, and one of the best equipped saunas in Helsinki is built into its lake level. And that is where I spent the rest of that first afternoon, alternately poaching myself, perspiring in rivulets, and diving into the cold waters of Laajalahti.

I recall that afternoon squinting through the steam clouds of the sauna at a tall Finn sitting next to me on a bench and commenting to him with a good deal of enthusiasm that the ritual of sauna was to my mind more than merely invigorating, it was really quite wonderful. "Yes it is," he agreed. "That is why we have over a million of them in Finland." (Which works out to one sauna for every four people.)

That brief exchange established a pattern that would be repeated throughout my visit to the country the Finns call Suomi — gasps of wonder, the happiness of discovery, expressions of delight, all acknowledged laconically with subdued satisfaction.

For reasons that are quite sensible the Finns don't boast all that much about their country. With a landscape of such lean and unsullied beauty, of equal measures of rugged red granite, dense green timber forests, and coldly blue-gray waters, they simply don't have to. They allow their pure water and their sixty-two thousand lakes, their uncountable miles of firs and spruces and birches, the clean widths of low-profiled cities with boulevards open to the sun, their dynamic sense of environmental design and style, their efficiency and an assured self-effacing wit to speak for them.

Clinging stubbornly to their geography, resisting changes that would alter their environment, the Finns relish their country's shifting moods, the essence of which has perhaps never been captured so ably as by their best-known composer, Jean Sibelius, in his tone poem "Finlandia." The land, like the music, encourages solitude and introspection, and, as you travel about the land you find yourself wishing over and over again that you might stay here, in your evergreen-decorated hideaway of a Helsinki hotel, or here, in a forest cabin near Rovaniemi just below the Arctic Circle, or perhaps here, up on the ramparts of a castle in Turku, watching the busy, bobbing traffic up the Aura River, for some limitless measure of time.

If a visitor would understand Finland, I was told more than once, then he or she should think of the country, of Suomi, in terms of the letter "S." "We are Sibelius, Sauna, and Sisu," a man told me one evening over an iced glass of koskenkorva, the Finnish schnapps. Sibelius because his music has captured the many moods of the country, Sauna because this is indispensable to the Finns, and Sisu, for this is the word that the Finns say defines the essence of their character — courage, stamina, and stubbornness. It has been these characteristics that have seen the Finns survive, first as a partitioned possession of Sweden, later as a duchy of czarist Russia, still later as the fiercely independent nation it is now, which coexists with the Soviets along a shared seven-hundred-mile border.

The Finns, tough reserved, are friendly, given to tending to their own business but willing to share their country, their table, and a koskenkorva with you anytime. A Finn may be reticent initially, but if you ask his or her help the response will be one of generosity, offering not only what you have requested but the hospitality of home and food as well. The Finns are proud of their food, which is basic and hearty, and of their food markets — pockets of unsurpassed freshness — stocked high with salmon and crayfish, chanterelles, dill, new potatoes, thick and heavy rye breads, smoked trout and pork and sausages, and the dense meat of the reindeer, raised by the hundreds of thousands in Lapland just as we raise domesticated cattle.

On my recent visit I was invited to roam about this country, which retains many historical vestiges of Sweden and Russia, and a varied trip it was, encompassing ten different flights of Finnair, its state airline; crisscrossing Helsinki by metro, tram, taxi, and bus; riding Finnrail to Turku, once Finland's Swedish-dominated capital; traveling through fourteenth-century Porvoo and twentieth-century Tapiola by tourist coach; and sailing overnight aboard a giant two-thousand-passenger cruise ship from Stockholm to Helsinki.

It was a visit of images clearly retained, of serendipitous experiences well remembered. I recall an evening at WALHALLA, a restaurant fashioned from a portion of the old-stone fortress walls of Suomenlinna, the eighteenth-century Swedish version of Gibraltar that sits on six connected islands guarding Helsinki's harbor. The restaurant is a series of arched domes, formed by sandblasted old brick and stone. Its floor is of waxed bricks, and its chairs and tables are polished birch. Its table settings that night were remarkable — Arabia porcelain sitting on Saarinen wood plates, Iittala glassware and Hackman stainless, and the vases holding sprays of fresh daisies were classic Savoy by Aalto. The table linens — a pattern of black waving reeds on beige — was Marimekko. It was quite simply dinner in a living museum, a setting so breathtaking that I almost neglected, but not quite, the cold smoked salmon, the marble-sized potatoes with dill, and the compote of fresh Finnish berries that was our waterside dinner. Imagine the subsequent shock of pleasure when, on the very next morning, in the Museum of Applied Arts, Helsinki's museum devoted to Finnish industrial design, just off the Esplanadi, I discovered every item from that restaurant setting on exhibit, including the Marimekko cloth, which was draped in great rolling folds overhead at the museum's entrance.

Other memories are as vivid.

There was the somewhat frantic observance of the beginning of the crayfish season, an annual event that begins the last week of July, when crowds of Finns with net shopping sacks come pushing into the old Kauppahalli Market hall in Turku like so many lemmings to pick up the little, nipping creatures, which they then boil Louisiana-style and serve with icy beer and icier koskenkorva. It is an event the Finns love to share with the rest of Europe, and so the signs in restaurants like Havis Amand and Kappeli in Helsinki fairly shout, "Krapuja! Kräftor! Crayfish! Ecrevisses!"

I recall my wonder at the massive railroad station in the middle of Helsinki designed by Eliel Saarinen and the excitement of watching the daily evening train to St. Petersburg chug out to the east. I recall the clean, mustard-yellow neoclassicism that Carl Ludvig Engel left in his buildings in Helsinki and Turku, and I remember biting into the fresh sausage of pork, rice, and raisins called rusinamakkara in the Turku market. There was pleasure in watching families scrub their household rugs on floating docks lashed to Baltic Sea piers and seeing the sun still up at midnight through the clear roof of a bus rambling along a Lapland highway.

And I remember the odd juxtaposition of the four spirited American students from Tulsa, singing with guitar and tambourine that, "Soon and very soon we are going to meet the king," oblivious to the masses of tourists inching their way through the spectacular underground stone, concrete, and slate church, Temppeliaukiio, blasted out of the bedrock of central Helsinki.

I remember the fun of the tongue attempting to cope with the Finnish language, a language in which easily enough a bank is a pankii, the police are poliisi, a hotel is a hotelli, but where a railroad station is a rautatieasema, your luggage is matkatavara, a waitress is a tarjoilijatar, and a telegram is a sähkösanoma. I experimented with it but was thankful that virtually every Finn spoke English, which is taught in all of the country's schools as a second language.

And there was always the recurring sense of space. In the Helsinki planned by Engel the buildings are massive but low, the streets and the boulevards extraordinarily wide. The market squares in every city from Helsinki to Turku, from Porvoo to Rovaniemi are vast open areas, and parks seem to be everywhere, all of them seemingly fronting on some body of water, either a patch of the Baltic or a lake.

In the best of parks like the one dedicated to Sibelius and dominated by a giant steel and aluminum paean to music, which looks like a pipe organ suspended in space, an effort is made to keep them atmospherically natural. Thus grass is tended but grows free and unedged, walks are of packed dirt or gravel, and trees are in clumps or in groves, not artificially placed for effect. All of this is simply because the Finns prefer it that way; their country is not one of soft beauty. Finland seems rather to take your breath away, and it does so with its waters, trees, and boundless space which its cities seem merely to interrupt. In the south it is all archipelago with thousands of treed islands offshore separated by zigzagging currents. Inland Finland is a variation on the theme of forest and lake beneath a sky that is cloudlessly bright for long periods during the short summer, coldly brittle in winter when it is constantly altered by scudding clouds.

All routes through Finland, except of course if you're coming south from the Arctic, begin in Helsinki, the capital and home to one tenth of the population. The city sprawls, constantly spreading from its historic waterfront in all directions to its quite considerable suburbs. A large, modern city packed with museums and markets, with a clean and highly efficient public tram system, it is remarkably free from crowding and urban blight.

Surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is a city wedded to the sea. Each day the fishing boats, large and small, pull alongside the quays of Market Square, nets filled with fish that are carried directly to nearby kiosks for sale. Around the peninsula that is Helsinki sprawl long commercial piers, equally lengthy receiving ports for container ships, huge dry docks, and giant shipyards. Still farther along are the piers from which the massive ships of the Silja Line depart on their overnight trips to Stockholm. Thousands of pleasure boats dart about the harbor between Helsinki and Suomenlinna, and all along the shore there are parks, restaurants, and promenades facing the water, for it is to the water that the Finns come for sustenance and holiday pleasures. As you travel about Helsinki you are never far from some glimpses of water, and , in the summer on the sunniest days, the blue sky and the reflecting waters impart to the city a brightness that enhances its vast open spaces.

Great is the pleasure of walking around Helsinki in the sun, to the grand railroad station and the Art Museum of the Ateneum across the street, a wonderful Baroque building filled with Klees and Mirós, Ernsts and Henry Moores, Arps and Yves Tanguys, Picassos and Légers; or to the Mannerheim Museum in a lovely park called Kaivopuisto, the home of the late Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim, Finland's national hero and former president; or along the Mannerheimintie, the broad avenue named for him, past Alvar Aalto's Finlandia Hall to Stockmann's, Finland's largest department store, at the head of Aleksanterinkatu, a street for Italian shoes, Icelandic sweaters, Russian fur hats, and Finnish Lapponia jewelry; or to the next block, the Esplanadi, with its fine shops of Marimekko, Vuokko, Arabia and iitala.

How delightful to lunch in the delicate Russian-built gingerbread pavilion called KAPPELI on the Esplanadi facing Market Square, a one-hundred-year-old café of copper-sheathed roof and colonnaded front from which to watch the brass band concerts in the mall of a park that separates the two sides of the Esplanadi. The restaurant has a horseshoe-shaped buffet table that may include such specialties as fried whitefish with dill, mushroom broth, and fresh strawberries that come from the market just outside.

A walk among the orange awnings of that food and flower market is a party of color and taste. All around are bunches of yellow, red, pink, even orange roses, as well as red, white, and pink carnations and the pale purple Arctic brambles. Stacked alongside are piles of fresh mint, dill, basil, salvia, and parsley and leeks, onions, lettuces, white beans, and cucumbers. I buy small baskets of strawberries, raspberries, and lingonberries and eat them as I stroll among the kiosks with their potted violets and rush baskets filled with beets, carrots, cauliflower, and radishes. Or the granite steps leading down the quay into the harbor waters the fishermen sell salmon fillets and steaks from the bow of their boats.

How fine to walk through the market before dusk and watch the tents fold, the trucks with mechanical brushes clean the cobbled square, and the men with hoses bathe the stones clean, ready for the next morning. Then I walk back up the Esplanadi to the climbing street called Kalevankatu to the restaurant SˇKKIPILLI, "the Bagpipe," and my first totally Finnish meal — a soup of salmon, potatoes, and dill in cream, called lohikeitto, served with a heavy rye roll called a limppu, the stew of shredded reindeer meat and morels called poronsienipata, and tiny crêpes filled with lingonberries and napped with raspberry cream — an excellent meal but, oddly enough, in a restaurant where one is greeted by a portrait of Prince Charles in Royal Stewart tartans and served by waitresses similarly clad. Excellent nevertheless.

On another such bright day we are en route westward out of Helsinki over a series of causeways to Tapiola, a thirty-year-old planned community five miles outside the city's center. In Tapiola, housing and shops and buildings of the Helsinki University of Technology blend into the greenery to produce an unobtrusive, self-contained, self-supplied city within Helsinki's borders. It is a prestigious address and a perfect place in which to immerse yourself in the essence of Finnish architecture. Buildings are of brick and poured concrete, of stucco and fieldstone, of slate and wood, of copper sheathing and glass. Roofs soar, timbers and steel frameworks jut out from thickets of firs like the prows of ships. Broad open greens surround the town and the Hotel Dipoli, governed and operated by the university students. Tapiola is home to only about twelve thousand of Helsinki's people, which I am told with a smile is "the way Tapio, King of the Forests, would have liked it."

Tapio, you see, is the hero of Finland's national saga, the Kalevala, an enchanted, unwritten folktale passed along by poets and storytellers for centuries. Often compared to the Iliad, it encompasses what the Finns think of themselves, their sisu. In it, the people of the kingdom of Kaleva, ruled by Tapio, constantly fight against an enemy called the Pohjola for possession of a powerful symbol called the Sampo. The stories evoke Finland's forests and lakes, its customs such as the sauna, and its traditional occupations of lumbering and seafaring.

These mythical struggles, only put down in writing less than a hundred years ago, have come to symbolize to the Finns not only the battles of long ago against the Laplanders of the north but conflicts of more recent times such as those with the Swedes and the Russians. Nor do the Finns attempt to erase in any way their subjugated past from their consciousness. Russian architecture abounds in Helsinki's Senate Square and in the icons of Uspenski Cathedral, under whose thirteen golden domes sits the largest Orthodox church in the West. Statues of Czar Alexander II stand in Finland's cities as a mark of respect for a ruler who they believe was kind to them. In cities such as Helsinki and Turku street signs and location names are in Swedish as well as Finnish, because Swedish is still one of the country's official languages. These days the boats and planes go between Helsinki and Stockholm, Helsinki and St. Petersburg, and there is a large and receptive audience for the food, drink, and products of Russia.

We talk of Finland and Russian and the uneasy coexistence between these countries after World War II as we bus eastward the next morning along The Kings Road, a direct route to Stockholm and St. Petersburg. We are going to Porvoo, founded in 1346, the second oldest city in Finland after Turku, a traditional settlement for writers and artists with tiny eighteenth-and nineteenth century gingerbread houses. Much of The Kings Road stretches through dense tree growths, and we see traffic signs warning that moose occasionally cross the highway. We are told that Finland is home to an estimated 150,000 moose as well as a few bears and wolves, which have become an endangered, and protected species.

Porvoo was an old harbor town, and along the banks of its river are red-painted wood houses, which were built originally to store salt. Today, preserved, repainted, and with roofs zinc-sheathed, they are desirable weekend cottages for people from Helsinki, who often go out to Porvoo by river steamer. The town is small and pleasant to walk through. The rough exteriors of its wood buildings, painted powder blue, yellow, and cream, with dainty, decorated tin awnings over their entries, some dating back four hundred years, are protected by law, and any new construction must blend with them. Porvoo is basically a Swedish town, a reminder of what Finland was like during the period of Swedish domination from the twelfth to the nineteenth century. To this day even many Finns refer to Porvoo as Borge, its Swedish name, and relish walking to its market square through the street called Välikatu, because it is dated 1346 and the oldest existing street in the country. Most notable in Porvoo is the cathedral, built in the fifteenth century but with a base structure that proves there was some sort of a house of worship on that site as early as the thirteenth century.

Constant restoration has uncovered medieval frescoes in the stucco and stone church, which because — when the Russians made Finland a Grand Duchy — a symbol of its Protestantism, which the Russians were obliged to tolerate. We stop for morning coffee and pastries in the Wanha Laamanni, a tiny restaurant of several rooms with white stenciled walls and handmade furniture, which is just next to the cathedral. Then we depart Porvoo, doubling back a few miles toward Helsinki to the HAIKKO MANOR hotel for lunch. The Haikko, just downriver from central Porvoo and a regular river steamer stop, is one of Finland's finer resort hotels, reminiscent of an English country house. It is colonnaded, commands a view of lawns so sweeping they can contain a golf course, has twenty-seven utterly beautiful rooms all furnished with antiques, and is home to two ghosts, the friendly sort we are assured, who annoy only those guests whom they suspect may be averse to paying their hotel bills. The 1871 building also houses a quite satisfactory smorgasbord that contained, among other things, a delicious roast fresh ham stuffed with apples and prunes.

It is not a long drive back to Helsinki and our sauna at the Kalastajatorppa, and a nap, before taking a late tram into central Helsinki to hear some American jazz at a restaurant called Groovy. The music is New Orleans, the drink is koskenkorva, or the wonderful tangy beer called Karjala, and we finish the long, long day with pizza. The Finns must love pizza, a conclusion to be drawn simply by noting all of the pizzerias scattered about, one of which is the RIVOLI and supposedly Helsinki's best. We shared that night a "Quattro Stagioni," an adventurous pie covered with tomaattia, juustoa (cheese), herkkusienia (mushrooms), kinkkua (ham), paprika, sipulia (onions), parsaa (asparagus), cayennepippuria, valkosipulia (garlic), and oreganoa. It was, to be sure, a most memorable gastronomic adventure.

The next morning, we entrain westward to Turku, the capital of Finland until 1812. It is a large city, with 165,000 inhabitants, and quite similar to Helsinki because of the dominance of its architecture, which was also designed by Engel along neoclassical lines, and because, like Helsinki, it was virtually rebuilt in the nineteenth century after a series of devastating fires. The reconstructed Castle of Turku overlooks the Aura River, which divides the city. On the river's eastern side is the cathedral, an amalgam of styles that include thirteenth-century stone walls, fifteenth-century Gothic vaulting, and the clean, square lines of Engel, who redesigned the church after a fire destroyed it in 1827.

And no more than a hundred yards from that church, just down Bishop's Street, is still another different piece of architecture, the Sibelius Museum, an open-to-the-sky square of poured reinforced concrete and stone. Its official name is the Institute of Musicology at Abo Akademi, but it is known by just about everybody as the Sibelius Museum. It contains a collection of antique musical instruments, photographs, paintings, drawings, and memorabilia of Sibelius and a sound system that surrounds you completely with his music as you sit in the open center of its auditorium. Still another, newer aspect of Turku is the nearby town of Naantali, a fishing village turned summer sailing resort that also happens to be the summer residence of the president of Finland; and there always seem to be more sails billowing, more boats tacking into shore when the blue-cross-on-white flag is flying from the waterfront house, because then the Finns know that the president is at home.

Of consuming interest are Turku's two markets, a huge, open square filled with vegetable kiosks and a tiny gambling tent where the farmers play a form of roulette for fresh coffee. And there is the enclosed Kauppahalli, a true kaleidoscope of Finnish food products. A good deal of reindeer meat — noisettes, loins, chops — is for sale in this extraordinarily beautiful market, restored just two years ago. And there are the sausages, those blood sausages called verimakkara; a rice and fat sausage called uunimakkara; even reindeer sausage, which goes by the name of porolenkki and the pork sausages called lenkkimakkara, which are to be eaten only after being grilled on the stones of the sauna.

There were karjalanpiirakka, so-called Karelian pasties, half-moons filled with either seasoned rice or potatoes, a vestige of Finland's gastronomic past when Karelia was part of Finland, not Russia; kalakukko, loaves of bread with lake fish, such as perch or pike, baked inside of them; and omenapiirakka, a sugarless tart filled with apples. In markets throughout Finland an inquiry will immediately result in a taste — often quite generous — and that afternoon in Turku was certainly no exception.

From Turku we went north, far north, just below the Arctic Circle to Rovaniemi, the city that is the heart of Finnish Lapland, or Lappi as it is called. The landscape changes markedly: The forests seem unending and the towns and cities, the clearings of civilization, mere interruptions in the pattern of trees and lakes and rivers. The Laplanders will tell you that in the many hundreds of square miles of the north there are only 200,000 people, one for each of the 200,000 reindeer. Actually, what is known as Lapland is a long stretch of country that encompasses parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia, and the Lapps, descendants of northern aborigines, have become minority inhabitants of all of these countries. In Finland it is estimated that only four thousand of the people in the province of Lappi are true Lapps. Where the south is flat, northern Finland is rolling, often steeply hilly. It is a land for loggers and, for the Lapps, reindeer herding.

One can drive to Rovaniemi via the Arctic Highway (Route 4) from Helsinki, but we flew, and with one stop en route it was just an hour by air. Rovaniemi is basically a new town reconstructed upon ashes left in 1944 by the retreating German armies, home to thirty thousand people. Historically it was a lumber and trading center for both the Swedes and the Russians. Reindeer pelts are piled high in front of stores that sell all sorts of lumberjack paraphernalia from cleated boots to chain saws. In the spring the two rivers that meet in the center of Rovaniemi, the Ounas and the Kemi, are impassable because so many logs are being floated southward.

The redesigned city and the spare, lean Rovaniemi parish church with its vast, impressive altar mural of Christ in a cloudy Heaven was planned by Alvar Aalto, who then farmed it out to other architects, leaving its civic center, Lappia House, to himself. This poured-concrete, glass-domed complex houses an extensive library, Finland's northernmost theater, and a Lapland bird and mineral collection. Inside and out, it is worth a visit.

More mundane is the "Trading Post," which sits precisely on the Arctic Circle five minutes outside of the city. A must stop for the busloads of tourists, it contains souvenir shops as well as a small log cabin that was built in just six days in 1950 as a guesthouse for Eleanor Roosevelt, who flew to Lapland to monitor the reconstruction of Rovaniemi. "They were hanging the door when her plane landed," said a caretaker with a grin. There is also a pole just outside from which hangs a sign reading, "Napapiiri, Polcirken, Polar Kreis, Arctic Circle," and visitors stand beside it to receive their Arctic Circle certificates and to have their pictures taken.

But not far away is a stretch of fir forest, which hides the Teno River and an underground spring-fed lake. One evening we went there, to a huge, caulked log cabin called Karhunpesä, or "Bear's Den," where we sat before a burning pine log fire, sipped wine, and ate reindeer tongue in aspic and large pieces of a thirty-pound salmon that had been caught only an hour earlier and grilled slowly over smoldering coals — but not before we perspired in the cabin's sauna repeatedly and then dashed down to the lakefront and dived into the cold water. The after-dinner fire and the touch of cloudberry liqueur that accompanied it were a most welcome, and admirable, prelude to our midnight return to Rovaniemi, with the sun shining in the night sky.

Early the next day we flew south from the forests of Lapland back to the boulevards of Helsinki. Aptly enough my first visit that morning was to the Museum of Finnish Architecture, where the exhibit was of inground and log structures built during the lean years of World War II. The logs, the earth, the roughness of the terrain brought Lapland back to me with a rush. We had Arctic Bramble ice cream in an Art Deco establishment called the Casino on Helsinki's outskirts, and then I went a-marketing, first to the Hakaniementori, an old two-story food market in an elaborate brick building in the northern part of the city, then back to Market Square and Helsinki's meat market. It was again sampling time.

At Hakaniementori I ate a lovely bread lanttukukko, stuffed with roast pork and a duxelles of mushrooms; smoked mackerel liberally dotted with peppercorns; and a white, flat, mozzarella-like cheese called aito pohjalainen juustoleipa, not to mention powdered sugar-covered donitsi. Then I hopped aboard a tram and made my way back to the meat market housed in an 1889 peaked building on the shore from which the ferry sails out to Suomenlinna. This is still another Russian-era building, with a very high corrugated tin roof supported with thin steel struts and cables. The individual stalls are quite ornate, with knobs, moldings, and newels all of wood, all brightly enameled, all framing the names of the meat purveyors — Kosonen, Neumat, Roslund, Kulinaris. And in front of them lay sianliha, smoked pork, boudins and special Medwurst, white-breasted chickens raised without pens and called kananliha, a special knackwurst called Suomi-lenkki, very little beef, which is not all that common in Finland, and packages of reindeer meat.

The market visits were a perfect prologue to my last night in Finland, a feast at the Kalastajatorppa, that "Cottage of the Fisherman," which consisted of platters of boiled, peppery crayfish, a smooth fish mousse napped with a crayfish-based sauce, and bowls of strawberries. And darned if we didn't take our glasses of lakka, the golden liqueur made from cloudberries, and walk out onto a pier to look at the moon reflected in the waters of Laajalahti. Along about this time I had become somewhat adept at bits of basic Finnish, especially "kiitos," or thank you, simply because of the generosity I had experienced. I had learned that Finns teach foreigners to say "kippis" when toasting, but say "hei" or "terveydeksi" when cheering each other. I also discovered that Finns do not say thank you to a host or a friend for a visit or a kindness. Instead, when next they meet, they say, "kiitoksia viimeisest," or "thank you for the last time." I'd like to say that.

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