O’Karva Rinta Raventola (Restaurant) in Kivijarvi, Finland, looks like an old cement fortress or castle with two WWI canons in front, so it is rather ominous looking. You enter through a strange hallway which is dark and turns, like a castle keep. Pass through the bar, then a living room with a cozy fireplace and many statues and pictures of ominuous little characters from gargoyles to a long-horned steer skull. Then you go up some steep stairs to an amazing banquet hall, like one in an English castle, set with formal tables for 180 in all.
The room and balcony were eclectic in decor, with collections of many different kinds of beautiful, handmade linens, fine antique china, various kinds of tapestry upholstered chairs, and heavy carved wood tables. There are hundreds of paintings around the gallery walls of the balcony, all for sale. At first it struck us as a hodge-podge, but then it became very inviting and fascinating. An ancient looking fireplace, an old grandfather clock, a fully stocked bar in one corner, It was impossible to take in all the sights.

We elected to sit in the far corner in the sofa and armchair seating at a secluded table for four, but we were the only ones there because some diners left as we arrived, and the next day was to be the formal re-opening of the restaurant for the season.

We were warmly greeted at the top of the stairs by a huge, gypsy looking man dressed like a pirate, except no hat or sword….white formal shirt, black tux pants tucked into huge white Russian Cossak type boots. With frizzy, shoulder length hair, he was very handsome, had an inviting smile, and spoke a little English with great effort He made us feel very welcome as if in his home. We found out later, in fact, he does also live here. The castle was built by an eccentric artist friend of his many years ago. The builder was a teacher of mechanics and also a very fine artist, Artemento, whose beautiful landscapes art hung for display and not for sale in the library.
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To our surprise and delight, the owner perched on a stool near our table and seranaded us with his accordian and his beautiful singing during our meal. On week-end nights they have a live band. His wife joined him several times in a lovely peasant costume with a wreath of flowers in her hair and they sang love songs together, obviously still very much in love after rearing five grown children.
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Happy Singers and owners are Tuula Pesonen and Juhani Niemi. Kanerva Laitinen serves the wine.
The food was as superb as the atmosphere, and the service by Kanerva Laitinen was very gracious. How we wish we lived close enough to return for such a special evening weekly! When you are in central Finland, do not miss this unique restaurant!

LAHTI’S AMAZING SKI JUMP

The town of Lahti, Finland, about an hour from Helsinki, has an amazing ski jump and sports complex, used for Olympic training and try-outs. Finland is so flat that cross-country, instead of downhill, skiing is the specialty. The jumps must be built of steel piers.
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After seeing this amazing structure, we ate supper at the Santa Fe Restaurant. We were hesitant to try our favorite Southwest food in Europe, but decided to risk it. We have been disappointed in other places with non-authentic Tex Mex. In the entrance we were greeted with a Texas flag on the wall, so we couldn’t resist trying the food, and it was FABULOUS!!…the best Southwest food we have had anywhere, including Santa Fe and Texas! A real find to return to, and moderate prices. We have been grateful to find that the restaurants have no-smoking areas.
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Four hours drive from Helsinki, the Hotel Sokos Alexandra in Jyvaskyla is centrally located, comfortable and spotless, a very nice place to stay. We found a nice bar, restaurant, sauna, and plenty or parking on site. It is affordably priced and has all the amenities, including a wonderful breakfast in the price of your room.

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