I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Helsinki, a city that tends to sit properly and quietly in the back row of the European theatre discreetly allowing all of its neighbors to take the global stage.
Quaint and charming? Check.
Clean if not a bit sterile? Absolutely.
The city had a kind, design-infused vibe but at first glance, nothing jumps out immediately. So, after a few laps around and a visit to the token tourist stops, we were content to venture outward in the capable hands of a stoic yet kind tour guide who gave us no indication as to what lay ahead.
The emerald green hillsides and farmlands begin almost immediately where the city ends, where roads twist and turn over canals, through fresh-scented pine forests and curiously clear traffic-free highways that pass by charming villages.
As we made a left turn into what appeared to be woodlands, she welcomed us to Saviärvi , a manor house on a stately farm about a mile down the lane yet a complete century away from real-time. This place is a truly unexpected slice of peaceful haven that somehow magically charms visitors over, leaving them fantastic fans of Finland for life with the simplest of actions and the warmest of hearts. Arrive and you’re met by young ladies dressed in traditional old world costumes, proffering glasses of fresh berry juice as you make your way to the green lawn, past the lily pond and just at the edge of the rolling hills where the owner’s daughter and her son come to greet you personally with a kind smile.
Together, they take you through the journey of how the farm came to be, its journey from dairy farm to home to those in need from the fallout of WWII, to an equestrian paradise complete with bred horses, riding lessons and even equine therapy for children with special needs. The beautiful horses are soon paraded around the circle just before you’re called inside to a century-old home decorated with love.
Embroidered linens line the tables set up for guests across the first and second floors, where guests are first treated to a prelude by the lady of the house who provides a bit of background on the health benefits of the homegrown food you’re about to eat which just makes you feel healthy, and then lunch is served. The lovely host reappeared to tell us exactly how she prepared each dish with care and the freshest of ingredients grown both on the farm and locally- adding that she doubted our mega cruise ship's culinary team was not taking good care of our hemoglobin, so she was indeed going to rather to it for us. Delightfully creamy homemade nettle soup which we learned was beneficial for the blood, followed by a unique fish casserole and then the most divine cakes complemented by freshly grown berries and hot caramel sauce taken with coffee outside on the patio.
Walking the grounds is extremely peaceful, and for those feeling a bit homesick (or pet-sick for some), the hosts bring out their kind dogs for a run outside and a little game of fetch. It’s an absolutely special way to spend half a day, and a most unforgettable display of genuine hospitality we’ve ever encountered.
Worth the jaunt for the experience (and the nettle soup recipe!) www.savijarvigard.com