Steff: I don’t often do guest blogs here, because I’m a bit greedy about sharing you guys, and after the 500th email request from guest bloggers wanting to write about SEO or penis enlargements, I am somewhat jaded about their value. However, I make exceptions for awesome people, like Death & Misery here.
My friends Death and Misery married in November 2011, on the stage at the Kings Arms, a venue they’d spent many nights playing with their band, Forsaken Age, and partying with friends. Theirs was the first ceremony I performed with my newly minted celebrant’s license, and it was an epically short 5 minute jobbie where I proclaimed them married by the powers vested in my by the Gods of Heavy Metal. So that was cool. Many guests, including us, donated some money in lieu of wedding gifts so these two could have an epic metal honeymoon.
Earlier this year, they finally got to take their trip. Tickets to Manowar at Magic Circle Fest in Finland were procured. Plane tickets were booked. Black t-shirts were neatly folded into suitcases. And as the pictures of their shenanigans started rolling in on Facebook, I thought, “Ah, I’ve written a bit about travel in Finland before, but it would be cool to have an article with some firsthand experiences.” So they wrote up a diary of their travels, which I’ve published below – it includes links and tips for some wicked stuff to see and do and eat in Helsinki, Finland.
We arrived in Helsinki at 6.35am, I had emailed our hotel ahead of time to see if we would be able to leave our luggage with them while we waited for check in at 2pm. We stayed at Hotel Cumulus Olympia, and they were awesome to deal with. They emailed me back the same to day to advise that we could leave our luggage in a secure area and if our room was ready, we would be able to check in early.
Luckily it was ready for us, as after an 11.5 hour flight to Singapore, 5 hour layover which basically consisted of sweating, eating, showering, and then sweating some more, then a 12 hour flight from Singapore to Helsinki, we were ready to change our clothes, and freshen up.
Handy Hint: DO NOT eat Texas chicken in Singapore – it was gross!
We chilled out for a bit, then decided to go and locate the bar where Sabaton was playing that night. We googled the tram system and the bar location, worked out what tram to catch and went exploring. We found the general area of the bar, decided we were hungry and headed back to the hotel for a burger from Hesburger which is opposite the hotel. I highly recommend Hesburger – it’s one of the cheaper meal options in a land of expensiveness. We renamed it Heisenberger (or Blue Burger).
We had a really small nap after eating, just enough to take the edge off our tiredness, and woke up just as our friends arrived from London. They’d left NZ to work in London many months ago, so it was surreal being on the other side of the world and seeing them face to face again.
We had some dinner at the Irish bar attached to the Hotel, called Parnells. Their meals were also an OK cheaper option. Then we headed off to see Sabaton, hoping that we would be able to get in as there were no presale tickets, and it was first in first served. We arrived at the bar to see a long line of metal brethren waiting with beers in hand; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that many battle vests in one place. (apart from Manowar, but that comes later)
We were a bit hesitant about standing in line as it seemed we might miss out, but I got really stubborn and we took our place in line. While the boys saved our spot, Kylie and I went in search of beer. We found a “Kioski” selling beer, had a bit of a language issue with the lady behind the counter about the fridge being locked, until she realised we didn’t speak Finnish and then found it hilarious – beer obtained, we headed back to the link.
Great success! We got in to Sabaton, awesome show! Awesome bar! We walked out of the bar expecting it to be dark, it completely threw me to see the sky still light, like a 9pm twilight summer evening in NZ.
Our Finnish friend, Marja showed us around the city. We sussed out how to use the Metro, went to the Kvlt Store, Hellsinki Rock Shop and walked … and walked. We averaged about 8kms a day while we were over there.
We decided not to buy too many things on our first trip to the record stores as we were sure that we would find more that we wanted and we had to make sure we didn’t run out of money. (although because I am in love with spreadsheets, we had a daily budget tracking spreadsheet on Google Drive, which I would update each night at the hotel, so we knew if we had gone slightly over budget or if we were tracking okay).
Google was our saviour on this trip. I uploaded all the photos each night, so I didn’t lose them. Death got us around Helsinki using Google Maps for the trams and bus information. Our budgets and links to things we wanted to see were all on Google Drive and Gmail. Passports and all important information we had uploaded to Google Drive. We were prepared for anything.
That night we went to the Amusement Park, which was just down the road from our hotel. Roller coasters are not my thing, but I loved the atmosphere and the sideshows. I won Whacka-mole! Achievement of the year!
Our kiwi friends were going home to London in the afternoon, I was dying in the heat because I hadn’t realised it was going to be so warm over there, so we went in search of markets and a place for me to buy a couple of skirts and some cheap shoes. I discovered H&M! Very cool store. We went to some flea market but it was not great, then we went in search of souvenirs so Kylie could take something home. It was a bit of a fail and before we realised it, we were saying goodbye to them – it dawned on me that we wouldn’t see them again for at least a year.
Day 4 – Market Square
I could have spent many hours and all my spending money in this place! There was a vast range of local souvenirs, hot food, reindeer and fox furs, leather goods, jewellery, toys ….. we had an amazing caricature done of us by Boris, who entertained us while he studied us and captured us perfectly on paper – he also pointed out pickpockets to us.
We visited Market Square a few times, as this is where the ferries leave for the Zoo and Soumenlinna – each time I had to be restrained from spending more money. I did secure a few treasures without blowing the budget; two stainless steel thumb rings, a toy reindeer for my grandson, some tourist shirts, and a couple of cool leather wristbands. The reindeer fur items and leather wallets were a bit more than our budget allowed (as we were saving our spending for the record stores) but there were many many things I wanted! The food smelled amazing and there was reindeer and various fish and local delicacies available.
Day 5 – Soumenlinna Fortress
We visited the the fortress on the day that our other kiwi friends arrived. After everyone had found suitable coffee and breakfast sustenance, we grabbed some beers and water from the supermarket and headed down to the Ferry to head over to the island. It was a picture perfect day and the ride on the ferry was amazing, with the water sparkling and a nice breeze giving us relief from the 29 degree heat.
We walked around the fortress for hours, it was amazing with dungeons, remains of the fortress and epic views all around. It’s something I can’t really easily describe – you have to be there to experience its awesomeness!
Hindsight moment: I will definitely read the history of the fortress a bit more so when I am standing amongst the epic-ness, that I can comprehend why the fortress has so much meaning.
The Rest of Our Trip
These first five days are the ones that really stand out for me, Lee and I spent a lot of days riding the trams, exploring the city and doing touristy things such as visiting the zoo and Museums etc. I added a lot of the local metal bars to my facebook and followed their updates so I could see any events that we might want to go to. Basically we wrote ourselves a list of things we wanted to do and then highlighted the MUST do things … everything else we decided as we went.
The other highlights we had over our 11 days were:
- Lee and I getting on stage at a jam session in a local bar and doing Sabbath’s “Paranoid” – I was slightly drunk, forgot the words but had a blast!
- The breakfast at the hotel every morning – sausages and meatballs and all sorts of other yum.
- Eating at a Viking Restaurant called Harald’s – so much delicious!!
- The record stores!
- Everyone thinking Lee was from Lord of the RIngs – especially the guy who said Lee was the biggest dwarf he’d EVER seen!!
- All the awesome friendly Finnish people who helped us and drank with us – especially Marja and Tomi and Alona, having someone with local knowledge to tell us things made our trip so much more amazing!
- Meeting the lovely people from all over the world who are part of the Manowar Official Forum “House of Death” and all the other Manowarriors who we are now in contact with and will see again when we travel to see Manowar again
- Eating Reindeer and Elk – this was one of Death’s goals for our trip and he said it was worth every expensive bite!
- Koff and Karhu Beer! we both would drink this all the time if we could get it in New Zealand.
- MANOWAR!!!!!! Watching them soundcheck was amazing!! The show was amazing! The other people there were amazing!
Some places of interest
We went to this bar on the night we arrived in Helsinki to see Sabaton play. They had announced the show a few weeks before we travelled and we tried to win tickets on a local radio station. We discovered via Facebook that the gig was actually free and we only had to pay the standard 3 Euro Coat Check charge (which is something you often have to pay in the local bars regardless of free entry for the show or the event being part of a festival ticket).
This bar was awesome and had a large amount of photos and memorabilia around the place. Beer prices started at 6 Euro. Sabaton were wicked! An epic way to start our holiday!
I could have spent many hours and all my spending money in this place! There was a vast range of local souvenirs, hot food, reindeer and fox furs, leather goods, jewellery, toys. The food smelled amazing and there was reindeer and various fish and local delicacies available.
If you’re into more extreme metal, this is the place to be. Make sure you have plenty of spending money, especially if you prefer buying vinyl. They also have online sales, but there is nothing quite like flipping through a nice range of vinyl records and then choosing from your “wishlist pile” to reduce it to a “must have” pile. Lee signed the toilet wall, leaving a message for other Kiwi travellers. We decided to buy 2 vinyls here, and intended to come back, but didn’t want to blow our entire budget in the one place, in case we discovered more “must haves’ in other places.
(Vinyl records are quite heavy, so if you have a small luggage weight limit on your flights, you will need to put them with your carry on bags)
This shop was incredible, it caters for a large range of music lovers, extreme metal sections, hard rock, heavy metal – there is also heaps of merch including t shirts and wallets and a bunch of signed (and rather pricey items). We spent ages looking through all the shirts and records, and finally managed to pry ourselves away, I think we bought about 8 or 9 records, Iron Maiden and Motorhead wallets, a keyring, a Fear of the Dark t shirt ….. we discovered they also do online sales, so we will be doing some online shopping at a later date.
Other music shops to visit: Hippie Shake Records http://www.hippieshakerecords.com/ and Hellsinki Rock Shop http://www.hellsinkishop.com/
Another awesome bar we visited.
Amazing food! Amazing place, with a lot of effort to create a viking dining experience.
We left Helsinki by bus to the airport, sat and watched an epic thunderstorm and began our journey home. It was nice to be heading home, but we left a bit of our hearts in Helsinki. It’s an amazing place and we will definitely be going back – we now have friends that we must visit again, and more of Finland to explore. We’re planning on travelling in 2016, and Helsinki is definitely on the list!
Have you ever visited Helsinki? What other places and things do you recommend? And most importantly, what does elk taste like? I’m dying to know …
Check out Death & Misery’s band, Forsaken Age!
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