Exquisite September, Beguiling Birgitta

If you are in Helsinki, you should be outside right now. The weather is painfully beautiful. The temperature perfect, the light mellow and golden. The days are at a humane length. It is a Goldilocks moment before the bears of winter return.

This month is also the last call for Cafe Birgitta, which will purportedly close for the winter at the end of September. The terrace looks out over one of my favorite swimming spots, but the inside is equally beautiful. Really, they could be serving anything, the setting is so perfect, and the fact they are actually offering interesting, well-presented food (towering burgers, chia seed parfaits, tempeh salads) explains the growing crowds that encompass everyone from what look to be exquisitely dressed business people to joggers in disreputable footwear who appear to have been seduced into taking a respite from their seaside rambles.

But it is the placement and construction of this summer cafe that is most wonderful; it creates a little sanctuary in a spot on the border of an old industrial area with one of the best and most open views of the water available in Helsinki. The building itself was constructed with oiled timber, reminiscent of old piers and lights inside are made from old fashioned glass buoys. A beach shack with a wood stove in modern Scandinavian design: just enough protection and warmth to shield from approaching autumn. The spot inspired this lament for the end of summer:

A low fire lips its iron cage
August hails the end of summer
Sun bounces back from shining waves
The Earth is flush from lengthened days
The city turns towards winter.

Rushing autumn now bundles limbs
once warmed by fleeting summer.
Shaking sand, bodies rise again
and fold themselves in shells
of wood and metal.

Footnote: Just noticed that in the picture above of pastries and korvapuusti (those delicious chewy not gooey cinnamon rolls spiked with cardamom) the words Honolulu and Valhalla are juxtaposed in a single frame. This seems a rare event… Yet, there is a strange consonant resonance between the two place names, pointing to something fantastical!

Helsinki Nova: The Exhibitionists

I have a new crush: The Exhibitionists Cafe in Töölö. An international, french influenced place with used books, very peaceful. Free wifi. Small, though, and they are also a little shop with some nicely designed paper items, coffee supplies and used books.

Last week I went there for the first time to recover after a visit to the hospital, during which an otherwise very nice nurse dug around in my arm for a vein unsuccessfully for a while before giving up and switching arms, as I tried to make her feel better about it all, while I submited to the drilling of my second arm. At least there was symmetry in the bandages. And wonderful coffee and food to follow:

Latte at the Exhibitionists

The show stopper was the lunch. Not pictured here: a giant pile of fresh herbs (mint, thai basil and cilanto). Yum!

Salad at the Exhibitionists

It held up to a second visit as well. And I like the music they play. They have aeropress, frenchpress, kalita pour-overs, and a nice tea selection, too.

On the road: Art Cafe

I have been doing some traveling. It is one of those weeks that has involved planes, ships and three different countries. But first there was Turku and a visit to one of my favorite cafés, Cafe Art or Art Cafe along the Aura River.

Coffee and archipelago bread

Free wifi, good coffee, lots of space. A wonderful place to work. I had an entire room to myself with a view of the river and cyclists zooming by…

Window if Cafe  Art

Their only fault is parsimonious hours.

Cafe Art, Turku