Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ascension Day climbing and piss poor pizza

An odd thing about Finland in comparison to the UK is that public holidays remain on what ever day the original religious holiday falls on, unlike the British practice of the moving the bank holiday to the nearest monday. This sounds fine, except for when the holiday falls on the weekend and you get no extra day off. This is, though, balanced by there being shed loads of national holidays, which probably means that the Finnish worker comes out ahead of most other European toilers. Anyway, what better named national holiday is there for climbers than Ascension Day (or helatorstai in Finnish)? We headed off to Haukkakallio, avoided most of the drizzle, and got a bunch of climbs done.

Me getting the jams in on Zero (MVS 4c/Fin 5-)

Simon on Tramontana (F5+) and amusingly odd route

Gear to go

Diana leads Its the End of the World as We Know it (VS 4c/Fin 5-)

Simon leads Konna (F6a)

As I have mentioned numerous times before, stopping for donuts and coffee is an integral part of the day climbing in Finland, and our normal stop on the way to Haukkakallio has completed it's transition from nondescript ESSO station to brand-new and shiny ABC. ABC service stations have spread across the country like a rampaging wildfire of convenience supermarkets, cafés and petrol pumps in the last few years, flattening all competition before them. At first I was non-plussed by their emergence: the donuts are reliably ok, the coffee just fine; but their increasing monopolistic intentions are clear and I am now rapidly joining those who see their dominance as a bad thing. I had a pizza there for the first time on Thursday night and, frankly, it was shit.

I've decided it is just pointless being defensive about Finnish food culture any more, because it simply is appalling. If Berlusconi has ever got anything right, it is that Finland has bad food. And before any Finnish nationalists or foodies spring up to attack me, of course you can get good food in Finland. You can buy OK stuff from big or specialist shops. The supermarkets are much better than when I first came here in the 1990s and there are good restaurants in central Helsinki if you can afford them. But leave the city and the choice is burgers, pizza or steak'n'chips - possibly kebab if you are passing through a town with requisite Kurdish refugee family. That is really it. So when the company that is approaching a monopoly position in roadside food provision makes pizzas with tomato kethup instead of tomato purée, and with those crappy pickled mild chilis on them (much loved in cheap Finnish restaurants as an "exotic" addition to the normal "salad" made of shredded vegetables) soaked in brine, you just start losing the will to live. If anyone reading this is thinking of visiting Finland for a touring holiday, I suggest preparing yourself for lots of picnicking to avoid death by over-burger meal consumption, or just the depression that will stem from stopping at yet another ABC.


Dr.Strangeglove said...

I have to say Toby I had an excellent kebab in helsinki when visiting in march. The cafe in the giant greenhouse was pretty good.

Jonas said...

France apparently has the least overweight people in the EU. And that could clearly be seen in their burgers. I ate a "Giant" burger at Quick on the airport in Nice, and it was probably smaller than the childrens' burgers here.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Dr Strangeglove - where was this cafe in the giant greenhouse? Is the one on the north side of the highway between Helsinki and Turku? That's a fun place, although the donuts aren't great, but it will probably go out of business now the new motorway is open and lined with bloody ABCs!

What made the kebab good? My feeling is that any kebab is good but I can't distinguish much between them - the reasons for this are contained within this older post dealing with the wonderful world of kebabs.

janne said...

And what you get in U.K. many places is bad fish and chips and not nice curry. But hey I think that is well known fact without Berlusconi. :)

Kasvihuoneilmiö Greenhouse-effect can be found here:

See also how Heka the rabbit is advertising place after they didn´t get sign alongside of motorway. Tiehallinto said that it is illegal advertising!

You can also find some other Heka videos. ;)

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

I love the Heika the rabbit with an RPG. I have absolutely no idea why he has an RPG though... :-)

I had forgotten all the army surplus stuff at the Greenhouse place. I'll have to go there next time I'm on my way to Kustavi!

Anonymous said...

You can get crap food anywhere but in Finland that is pretty much all you get.