Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: March 2019

St. Patrick’s Day in Helsinki 2019: A Trail of Guinnesses-es (and a Murphy’s)


In what is becoming a “coincidental” yearly ritual, Mrs. Horizons left me alone to ponder my Oirish existence on St. Patrick’s Day. In Helsinki this time. At least in Singapore I could sweat out the extra calories as I drank through my yearly ration of the black custard.

Anyway I decided instead of celebrating our lord saviour on a Sunday I would trudge through the brown-gray sludge of downtown Helsinki and darken the doorsteps of the handful of Irish bars that exist. Tasting a pint of black in each one. Two if they were any good. Three if they were as good as a pub in a field in the hhwhessttt of Oireland. I brought my bank card as I don’t carry enough money that would be able to pay for pints of Guinness in Finland.

Molly Malone’sYeah…
Molly Malone’s has a yearly family fun day from 2pm on St. Patrick’s Day. I went at 12:05pm. To give me time to get out of there before the younglings arrived with weary and thirsty parents. Drinking in peace is a comfort I don’t take lightly. Malone’s is a narrow bar; yearning for more width. I can only imagine its physical demands when heaving with punters. It has an upstairs area but early on in the day it is cordoned off lest you see something you shouldn’t. A pint costs €8.10 . That’s right. I like to call prices of Guinness in Finland (and around the world) Irish tax. Or bullshit prices.As I struggled sideways through the narrowest door in Helsinki into the establishment I was greeted by nobody and that continued until a member of staff appeared out of the gloom to help me out my thirst pit. That level of service kept up as people lined up and the barkeep made the art of serving drinks a monotonous chore, finding more solace in their phone.
The Guinness itself was served with the opposite of relish. The head a disappointed concave work of non art. With air bubbles at no extra charge. Taste wise it was sub par; a tad watery but with hints of home emerging from time to time. No food served here either to distract you from sub par service.

At one point the bar girl ran out the front door leaving some bemused customers waiting mid order.

Flogging Molly was the order of the day background music wise with similar faux Oirish American bands following suit. Made me want to leave quickly. An English bloke sidled up beside me and ordered a pint of coke and a pint of water. Another English lady asked for a half a Guinness with blackcurrant. Barkeep didn’t know what she was talking about. “We don’t have”. “Oh I think you have”. No they bloody don’t. Piss off. Next.

Actually I would have had another pint here if I was asked if I wanted another one as I pondered over the dying remnants of my Guinness. I wasn’t asked. I wasn’t surprised.

Kitty’s Public House

Kitty certainly owns a lot of bars around the world. So she does, to be sure. Don’t be fooled by the name as this is a Scottish bar. Their website mentions the word “British” a lot. Anyways I went to see if I could score a pint of Guinness. If not I would denounce it as any sort of Celtic bar and spend my life making sure everyone knows.It’s got tartan undertones in its decor so I’m definitely going for Scottish. Although I think it really doesn’t want to admit any nationality. It has Murphy’s on draught (and a wide range of other beers) so fine, okay, I will let it slide.Service was prompt and to the point. I asked if they had stout, he gave me the options, and we made the transaction. That’s fine. And €8.60 vanishes from my bank account ne’er to be seen again.

Murphy’s has an additional taste that Guinness doesn’t have. I don’t know how to describe it. Okay I will try. It’s a little malty…kick. There. I don’t mind it at all.Strangely enough with it not being an Irish bar the most Oirish dressed up person came in shortly after. Kiss me I’m Irish? Never thought that statement would work ever.

Kitty’s is a nice refuge from the city centre hustle and chill factor. It’s dark, subdued, and quiet with little cubby hole seating areas around. All things a bar should be to escape reality.

O’Malley’s Torni

Torni means “tower” in Finnish. It’s the only word when translated into English that has the same first letter and doesn’t expand and mutate into 57 letters. Fact. O’Malley’s actually looks like a normal Irish pub that you would find in Ireland. It’s also part of the Tourni Hotel which has a tower look to it. No piles of Oirish crap hanging off of every perceivable nook and cranny. Which is always welcome.


Back to the Guinness. €5. Very reasonable for this city at this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country. Service was fast but the pint was poured in a hurry which left the head a little depressed. I was asked if I wanted anything else like a Jameson… steady on there sunshine, it’s still a Sunday the last I checked. Work happens tomorrow. I think.Taste wise the Guinness was ok but slightly watery. The head was thin but stayed alive throughout sups. I guess at €5 there has to be some quality drop. Drinkable though.I used this establishment as my nose bag stop. Fish and chips. €10. Perfect.It must be said it feels like O’Malley’s actually went out of their way to celebrate the day that was in it. From the floppy Guinness hats strewn around the bar for people to adorn to the live traditional session they had on from 3pm. Fair play to them.If you find yourself in Helsinki on Saint Patrick’s Day and want to get a decent vibe then I believe O’Malleys is your best bet.

Kaivopihan Dubliner

A late opener this one. 3pm. Actually scratch that….4 pm! Google is wrong! I know this because I rattled their doors at 3:52 pm and felt like a worthless hobo drunk. Oh well I wandered around a nearby household goods store to bide my time and get some feeling back into my hands. Freezing. Did I mutter “Worth waiting for” ala Ice Cold In Alex by the time I got there? Not really.At €7 a pint of black it’s not the most expensive. Or least. Pint was poured with haste which left the head quite thin. Taste was fine with the head being a little too bubbly for my liking.This place is huge and links up with the next door bar Praha. Lots of seating in little corners and snugs around the floor. They even have a small closed off booth for smokers so that they can kill each other. There was no evidence of the day that was in it unlike O’Malley’s.Bon Jovi warbled out of the speakers at a reasonable level. If Bon Jovi can ever be at a reasonable level.

 


It started pouring down as I tackled the Guinness here and my appetite for the gargle waned somewhat. However a shining knight from my workplace decided to join up. So I had another. Then another. And then one more for the ditch.

So all in all, if you find yourself in Helsinki on St. Patrick’s Day you won’t be found wanting with O’Malley’s probably being the pick of the litter due to their actual celebrating of the day.

Taking the Train to Lapland (and back)

So I’ve detailed what we got up to in Lapland, let me tell you how we got there and back without taking to the skies.

It may not be known to people outside of Finland (it wasn’t to me) but there is an excellent rail network in place. One of the most popular trains is the night train to Rovaniemi (and beyond) otherwise known as the Santa Express. This train (IC 265) leaves Helsinki train station at 1849 daily and takes roughly 12.5 hours to reach Rovaniemi at 0713. Or 0714 on a bad day. You can decide on the level of comfort and privacy you require by choosing the following:

A regular seat – are you insane, it’s 12.5 hours!?
Facing seats  – are you and your partner insane, it’s 12.5 hours!?
Sleeping compartment with shared bathroom – if you’re ok with this.
Sleeping compartment with en-suite bathroom – if you absolutely, positively don’t want any human contact. We went for this. It worked out at 145 Euros per person. Which is cheaper than the 2 hour flight we could have taken.

The compartments with the en-suite bathrooms are upstairs. They are tiny so don’t bring a cat to swing. You won’t be able to. The bathroom has a shower behind a hidden door which is very cool, Kanye. I would like a little more space to have two seats at the window table but what ya gonna do? The beds were comfortable and cosy with electric sockets for the important charging of devices. Free wifi for the journey was excellent.

The restaurant/bar carriage is very popular at the beginning of the journey and tapers out as the witching hour draws near. The queues were nearly enough to put me off getting a few beers. But not quite. We didn’t bother with food as we had brought our own snacks with us. A lot of people just camp out in the bar for the journey or for the majority of the journey. Makes sense if you only have the seat. Alcohol makes all problems go away.

As the journey is all through the night there aren’t any spectacular views and after a few beers the only thing to do is get a good night’s rest. And that we did. Waking up about half an hour before arrival in Rovaniemi.

Be aware that you would think taxis would be lined up waiting for the night train to pull in. They aren’t. You might need to pre-book travel to your accommodation. We were lucky a taxi pulled up about 10 minutes after we arrived and we had cemented ourselves at the top of the taxi line. Also be aware you arrive very early and your hotel will probably not have a room ready for you until later afternoon so you might want to book some tours and keep yourself busy.

All in all, a pretty cool way to travel to Rovaniemi, especially for families I’m assuming. We took the 8.5 hour train back to Helsinki in a what they call a first class seating carriage (free tea and coffee and that’s about for the perks!) and leaving at 0603 (exactly) and arriving at 1435 (ish). It was very doable, cheaper, and during the day so we could see some lovely snowscapes. See video below of what that looked like.

As always, bon voyage ‘laineys.

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