Actually it's not so much that night walking occurred so much that whenever you're walking anytime after say, 5pm, you're bound to run into darkness, whether it's actually night time or not. Such is the life of living in Finland, where once it gets past midsummer, it gets darker by a horrifying 27 minutes a week, give or take. Just as it gets lighter by the same amount of time as we reach the zenith of the summer, so the light gets taken away as we reach into the depths of winter.
It's actually not so bad though, as long as it's dry and not raining. I'm starting to learn though that the clear and sunny days? Definitely the coldest. No cloud cover means no heat gets trapped for your warm-loving enjoyment. This mean a cold night. A very cold night.
A very wise and wonderfully contemplative friend asked me to go walking after work one day, and I happily accepted. Having not so many buddies who actually like to walk (most of my friends love to bike, something I'm horrifically accident-prone for), there aren't many opportunities for me to just walk and talk to someone. So I take them where I can.
Since I'm still a noob to the city and my friend knew this, he took me on his favorite walking path. It follows a very beautiful and scenic path down Ruoholahti (the western part of Helsinki) and basically curls around the shoreline until it hits Esplanadi, then turns back into town. We walked along this path, talking of life and other things, and watched as the very clear moon hit the water. Helsinki really is a beautiful city at night. And one of the quietest I've ever been in.
Eventually we got hungry, being out in the cold (it was probably just above freezing at this point), so we decided to head to dinner (which is against my normal plans, but well, when in Rome...or in this case, Helsinki...).
He decided to take me to one of his favorite eating holes; a place he used to frequent at least once a week before his eating buddy moved out of the country and oddly to nearby Poland. Since then he has only been to this place maybe once a month. I hate it when that happens.
This place sounded charming from his description - it was an order-it-and-they'll-make-it-in-front-of-you pasta, pizza, and salad place. Sounded lovely. So in we went. It's called Vapiano's, and apparently it's a German chain.
I'd actually passed this place several times before, commenting that they have garnishes growing right at the tables that you can pick yourself for your dining pleasure (we're talking basil, parsley, and something else I've forgotten...probably oregano). They also have wonderfully fresh bottles of olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar.
They have a genius method of payment as well - you go and order what you want from the chef, watching him as he makes your meal in front of you in a pan. You can ask for extra ingredients (as I did) and when you're through ordering everything, they pass it to you over the glass divider (since you don't want to get cooking oils and ingredients splattered all over your nice self), you press a little magnetic card they gave you when you came in against a little reader and poof! You're done. No paying with your credit card right then and there - you're free to move to other stations and get other food and add it to the same card. At the end of your eating, you go to the cash register, give them this little magnetic card, and pay everything all at once. Wonderful, elegant, and simple. Why don't more places work like this?
Anyway, having basically walked 7 kilometers in the cold, I was actually decently hungry by this point. And what does my mind tell me whenever I have the chance to order pasta? Cream sauce. I'm definitely a cream sauce ho. Sauce boss.
So I ordered the funghi pasta - mushrooms with onions in cream sauce, with extra arugula (my favorite green).
And it was beautiful. The chef man even put in some extra garlic and chilies for me:
Did I mention you got to choose your shape of pasta as well? Corkscrews it is! My normal go-to is bowties, if given a choice if non-long pasta, but alas, it was not a choice this time, and this one tends to hold sauce a little better (like I said, Sauce Boss).
It was lovely. Surprisingly not heavy, considering it was cream-based. I was thinking it would be thick, creamy cheese sauce, as I'm used to from the States. Nope; thin, light, and surprisingly flavorful. I think it was the extra chicken broth that the chef threw in at the end, to make sure my arugula actually was wilted a little. Power to him.
Contrary to my normal non-dinner eating ways, I finished the entire thing. I felt a little overly full, to be honest, but well, I'm trying not to be such a failure at eating, and this is one way to do it. Plus it's been really cold out (and is only going to get colder, from what I understand), so might as well go into slight hibernation mode and start storing the fats.
Plus I ended up walking home from there, being properly dressed.
Another well-worth-it adventure in Helsinki. :) Checked off the list of life.