food in finland, part three: the beautiful market square of helsinki

beautiful buildings and market square

I absolutely adore markets. I love farmers markets with overflowing stalls of freshly dug, dirt-spattered vegetables and sun-ripened fruits.  I love prepared food markets with sizzling grills and enticing smells and people shoveling food into their mouths on the street corner.  I love talking to producers and sellers and seeing what people have made and grown and created and trucked all the way in from the countryside in the middle of the night to sell to people as the sun rises.   I love how the identity of the location, the culture of the area and the possibilities of the landscape all come together in the items sold for consumption and enjoyment.

Unsurprisingly, I loved Helsinki’s Market Square.  Bags still in hand, I serendipitously stumbled upon this maze of bright orange tarpaulined stalls on my way from the central train station to my hotel.  Entranced by the brand new and exciting foods and the absolutely incomprehensible Finnish signage, I had to tear myself away to go check into my room and get some work done, my heavy suitcase bounce-bounce-bouncing forlornly against the cobblestoned streets as a reminder of all the tasks at hand.

But not to fear – over my three days in Helsinki, I returned multiple times daily to conquer the as-yet-undiscovered foods of my edible explorations. Next to the old world of blueberries lay the uncharted territories of mistletoe-red lingonberries and mango-bright cloudberries…

blueberries, lingonberries and cloudberries

I also stared in awe at the overwhelming abundance of chanterelles, just begging to be whisked away from the market and cooked into a risotto. Alas, traveling and kitchen-less, I had to be content with merely fantasizing about luscious mushroom dishes.massive amounts of chanterelles

There were numerous stalls selling prepared food, including expectedly Finnish items like reindeer sausage with potatoes and salmon soup, and unexpectedly, paella. After purchasing their plates, people huddle in tents against the sometimes-biting Finnish wind, clutching cups of steaming kahvi and shielding their food from thieving seagulls on the hunt for snacks. Can’t say I blame them (the seagulls, that is).

Another reason I love markets? Flowers!And enormous Russian churches in the background…

flowers and the russian church from market square

Suitcase in hand,

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