Monday, August 18, 2014

Restaurant Day in Finland

So you have a great idea on a food dish?  You always wanted to share your special recipe with others but never had your chance?  Well, you can in Finland, because Restaurant Day, which takes place approx. 3 x per year means that you can set up and advertise your "restaurant" and you don't need a license to do it.  The awesome concept of Restaurant Day is sweeping across Finland and other countries in rapid pace.  "Restaurant Day is a worldwide food carnival when anyone can set up a restaurant, café or a bar for a day. It can happen anywhere: at your home, at the office, on a street corner, in your garden or inner courtyard, at a park, or on the beach – only your imagination is the limit". - 

My wife and daughter always wanted to try to sell their own cupcakes, so they finally decided to make a batch of 100 for the final Restaurant Day of summer 2014. The menu for their cupcake stand in Espoo was 1) vanilla and lemon, 2) chocolate hazelnut, and 3) raspberry.  The cupcakes turned out very well and were purchased steadily during the few hours the stand was open.  To our surprise, even on a slower Sunday afternoon they sold 100 cupcakes in just 2.5 hours time, exceeding our expectations.  My son and I journeyed over to Helsinki for part of the day.  We went to one of the parks in downtown Helsinki where we saw at least 50 pop-up restaurants.  Countries from all over the world were represented in Helsinki.  There were treats from Turkey, falafels from the Middle East, bratwursts from Germany, tapas from Spain, burritos from Mexico, chorizo sausage from Argentina, Cuban food, ribs, sushi from Japan as well as many Finnish dishes and options. You name it, you could find it.  My son and I only covered a park which is just one city block in size, but that was plenty for us to choose from. The Restaurant Day map showed hundreds of pop-up restaurants all over Helsinki, so we barely scratched the surface.  This really cool concept is perfect for new entrepreneurs or folks just trying to have a bit of fun selling what they love to make.  The great thing is that you don't need a permit and can set-up shop just about anywhere you want during the day - even in shopping centers and other commercial (but public) areas.  I am excited that this Finnish invention started and is spreading over to other countries.  However, I would be pretty surprised to see it enter the United States, which has much stricter laws about who can sell what and where.  This grassroots organization is not for profit and definitely is giving back to the community in great ways.  I really hope that this amazing concept continues to grow and continues to encourage others to participate.  If you live in Finland or another country that participates, I definitely recommend that you visit during the next Restaurant Day.  For more information check:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer vacation part 6, a quick waltz through Vienna

The next stop on our tour of Eastern Europe was Vienna, the capital of Austria.  Vienna would be the only official "Western" European city on this trip and it is a city that I had always wanted to visit since my post University European backpacking/Eurail days.  Vienna will always hold a special place in my heart as it was featured in one of my all-time favorite movies, "Before Sunrise".  Vienna is known as the capital of classical music of the entire world.  Mozart, grand coffee shops, elegant buildings and tourist shops are lurking around every corner. We would only have about 30 hours in Vienna, so we had to plan our days with laser like precision.  The first day we arrived in the afternoon and after checking in to the hotel and orientating ourselves, we journeyed by metro to the downtown to stroll around and later visit the Music museum (Haus der musik).  The museum was a "hands on" treat and featured several interactive exhibits as well as information on everything to do with classical music and classical composers.  We started the second day in the downtown and made our way to a classic cafe for some Austrian sweets.  Soon afterwards we ventured over to the famous Prater amusement park which features a classic Ferris wheel built back in 1897.  Of course we "had to" take the Ferris wheel up and enjoyed the amazing views of the city from the top.  Later the kids did some carnival style rides and then a bit later we went to see the gardens of the famous Schonbrunn palace.  This grand palace is known as one of the main highlights of Vienna.  We enjoyed strolling through the gardens and going through the human maze with the children.  After literally racing through Schonbrunn, we walked to the nearby Vienna Zoo.  The Tiegarten Schonbrunn is known as the oldest zoo currently in existence and was originally established in 1752.  Although we barely had time to scratch the surface of Austria's grand capital, we really enjoyed the sites and sounds of the city.  Vienna is a charming city and another capital city that I can thoroughly recommend.  Just make sure to give this city at least 3 days or you also will be racing through like our family.

Gardens outside Schonbrunn palace

Schonbrunn garden's maze

Schonbrunn Palace

Inside the Vienna Opera house

Ferris wheel circa 1897

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer vacation part 5, Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled in Slovenia's Julian alps is a little piece of heaven on earth. Slovenia was quite different from the other former Yugoslavian countries that we visited on our Summer trip.  It has been in the European community the longest and it's location close to the alps near Austria certainly makes it feel like the most Western of the 4 former Yugoslavian countries we visited on the trip.  Lake Bled is a picture perfect lake in the mountains near the Austrian border.  It features a fairy tale like castle on the top of a steep cliff as well as a little island in the center of the lake complete with an old church.  During our brief stay here we hiked around the lake to the castle and rented a row boat to get to the little island in the center of the lake.  Our children had fun taking some chairlifts up the mountain in order to bobsled in tracks down to the bottom.  The views, peaceful nature and clean mountain air made this a perfect respite from the busy cities we had already visited.  We only spent around 24 hours in Lake Bled, but it was totally worth the visit and highly recommended should you decide to visit Slovenia yourself.  Lake Bled is around a one hour train ride to Slovenia's capital Ljubjana.