Tuesdays program was to visit the capital of Finland, Helsinki, and also one of the biggest companies in Finland’s food industry, Fazer. Fazer is famous for its chocolate and liquorice but they also produce breads and pastries. Their new Visitor Centre had just been opened so we stopped by on our way to Helsinki.
The Visitor Centres' building itself was really modern and attractive and seriously cooler than we had expected. The exchange students were divided into three groups by their home countries and the Finnish hosts went with their guests. All the groups were given a guide who led a tour around the centre. The groups started from different points but every tour ended at the tasting area. The guide told us about the history of the Fazer company, the history of making chocolate and how the production actually works.
The guest were given opportunities to try things by themselves too, which made the tour fun and interesting. You could plaid loaves, assemble a plateful which a computer would rate by its healthiness or you could “visit” the actual factory area with virtual reality glasses.There was also a sort of a greenhouse planted in the middle of the centre. It contained tropical plants (a cacao tree, an orange tree etc.) which are crucial for the production of chocolate.
As mentioned before, the tour ended at a tasting(more like eating) area. There were these huge pipes or tubes filled with all kinds of Fazer chocolates and liquorices. There was also a sort of a “christmas tree” made from plastic bowls full of chocolate. We were allowed to eat as much as we wanted/could. And that we did. Sadly you weren’t allowed to take any of the chocolates with you nor return to the area later. Some of Fazer’s newest breads were also available for eating but our main focus was on the chocolates.
After eating ourselves full we did a bit of shopping at the Visitor Centre’s shop and then funnily enough had lunch at the café. I think the majority of us were ready to puke while waiting in the line, but the lunch was still good.
We continued our journey with the bus and were still on schedule as we arrived to Helsinki. The bus stopped at the Senate Square where our bus tour guide was waiting for us. She told us about the Helsinki Cathedral and the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square. She also informed us of the places we were going to see during the two hour bus tour. We took a couple of group pictures and got back to the bus.
Our second stop was Helsinki’s Rock church, which was a new experience not only for the guests but also for some of the Finns. The church is quarried out of the natural bedrock and has great acoustics(which we however were not allowed to test).
We drove on past the public beach and Sibelius park in which the monument for Jean Sibelius, our national composer, is located. Our next stop was at the Seurasaari islands’ bridge. After some more groups pictures we started driving back to the city centre but this time using another route. Among some other sights we saw the Olympic Stadium and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Whenever we were inside the bus the guide would point out different places or share some basic/”fun” information about Finland.
At last after two and a half hours we were back at the Senator Square. We were behind on our schedule but the guide still insisted we had to hear some last facts or suggestions on what we should do during the free time we were going to have. But as the tour had taken so long, our free time was a lot shorter than planned. A lot of people had thought about going shopping or finding a nice restaurant where to eat(and not visiting the Ateneum Art Museum as the guide kept on suggesting) but as we had less than an hour time most of us settled for staying within a short distance from the Senator Square. We were however promised more shopping time in Turku on Friday, which made things a bit better. On our way back to Loimaa the guests had a chance to take part in an incredibly cool and awesome quiz about the stuff they’d learned during the day and the winner got an equally cool and awesome chocolate prize.