Friday began with an amazing breakfast buffet at our hotel. It was a veritable smorgasbord of Nordic staples: pickled herring, mustard herring, marinated salmon, little pancakes, organic spelt/barley porridge with lingonberries, eggs, freshly baked bread, cheese, pastries, nuts/seeds, and fresh fruit. None of this wimpy continental breakfast for us – these Finns know how to start the day off right!
To be more precise, Friday actually began by waking up at 4:30 AM – my body was still getting used to the new time zone. Normally I might be able to roll back over and go to sleep in the dark. However, it was already very light out! This far north they have very little actual darkness in the summers. While we were there the sun generally set ~11 PM and rose ~4 AM – I can’t imagine what it was like back around the summer solstice!
Because of this early morning wakeup, we found ourselves spending the rest of our morning after breakfast napping instead of exploring the town – oops! We roused ourselves in time for the first event of the wedding weekend, though: soccer! We walked down to the south end of the peninsula (Helsinki is incredibly walkable and there is public transportation to take you anywhere that’s out of range.) and met the families of the bride and groom in a beautiful green park.
The groom’s side would be playing the bride’s side in a “friendly” game of soccer in the park. However, it was immediately evident that the bride’s side was very sporty and pretty competitive to boot! Having not played soccer since I was ~5, this made me a little nervous. Also, I didn’t have any cleats, just the Vibrams Five Fingers that I had brought for walking/jogging, so changing direction might be hard. Oh well, even if I made a fool of myself and totally let Tuomas down, I would at least get some good exercise!
Before the match started we energized with Finnish home cooking and plenty of beer – my kind of pre-game ritual! Then the match began on a [fortunately] shortened field. Long story short: I managed to score three of our five first-half goals – two kicks and one header – so hopefully I acquitted myself well. They were mostly blind beginner’s luck, but I’ll take them! The highlight for me, though, was a jumping scissor/bicycle kick to clear the ball out of our side. It just went out of bounds but at least it connected and it felt pretty cool! The groom’s side had more people than the bride’s side so I sat out the second half and got to know some of the other attendees – including two other Houstonians, one of which was a Rice Owl!
Dinner that evening was organized at The Sea Horse, a traditional restaurant near the wharf that serves classic Finnish fare. We began with cocktails and Katie and I both tried ones that we thought we could never find back home. She had one that was like a kir royale but with rhubarb liqueur. I had a martini-like drink with blueberry liqueur – they were both delicious!
To eat, I tried the traditional Vorschmack while Katie had a very creamy mushroom soup. Then, for our main courses, we both had freshly caught local fish . . . for the third time that day! Dinner was delicious and was followed by some drinks at a local bar. Once again it was good to catch up with IMD classmates but this time it was also great getting to know some of the Finnish friends and family of the wedding couple. We called it an evening by 1 AM as we needed to rest up and bring our A game the following night!