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There are lovely historic old Manor Houses in Finland —mostly in the southern areas.
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There are lovely historic old Manor Houses in Finland —mostly in the southern areas. The logic of location by population concentration is amplified by the unique historic evolutions of Finnish Church and State. One such Manor is less than 35 miles from Helsinki on the way to the beautiful, historic town of Porvoo right on the Gulf of Finland. Haikko Manor now houses a hotel, conference center, and spa.
Haikko sits on breathtaking, seaside grounds. Non-the-less, the crowning glory is the stately Manor House. The long entry road that leads to the majestic circular driveway with the white Rolls Royce parked in front of a light blue Manor House is the stuff of dreams.
A sturdy, tall, bright white flagpole stands proudly sporting the Finnish Flag snapping and waving in the ever present breeze that comes from the sea just below. A long, slow, deep breath is needed at this sight. In many languages there are words that are spelled the same but mean something different in context; other words are spelled differently but are pronounced the same—and so goes the linguistic roulette!
Its history dates back to when the Manor was owned by the Dominican Monastery of Vyborg Viipuri. One of its subsequent owners hosted members of the Russian Imperial Family. Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt was also a guest. For 24 Summers Edelfelt painted in his nearby studio, just a short walk from the Manor. When the exiled Grand Duke, his wife, and daughter were in town, they stayed at Haikko Manor. Son Vladimir was born and christened before they moved on.
Vladimir would go on to be head of the Romanov family. The Vuoristo family bought the Manor in and opened it as a hotel for the first time. Today, the old Manor House still brings guests back to the world of the Russian Imperial era of the Tsars and the Russian aristocracy. The oval Yellow Room with paintings by Edelfelt remains a lovely spot to entertain visitors for high tea. It is easy to conjure those days as you look past the terrace outside to the beautiful views of the Gulf of Finland and the Manor grounds.
Our guests were on their way to St. I hope we did not spoil the Hermitage for them! Having made the trip from the modern Finnish highway into the historic Manor grounds, I was warmly and graciously welcomed as an old friend would be.
As good as it feels, fantasy lasts only so long these days, so I did what I usually do after checking in to a hotel—I plopped on the bed in my room. It felt good. I felt good. Life was good. I looked out through the treetops and realized that I had been removed from harsh civilization and had been transplanted into a Finnish forest!
What had felt good, got even better. It is always fun to become familiar with the written materials, brochures, room service menu, and the like as you settle in to your temporary home. Then, a photo of our beloved Southern California resident Armi Kuusela [the original Miss Universe from Finland] jumped off of the page and demanded my attention.
With such folks in residence, I am sure all guests and staff used their best Manners at the Manor!! Of course, as a premier resort, Haikko rooms have premier amenities. I was interested in something more mundane. I found my fingers longing for channel surfing with the remote that is an everyday occurrence in LA.
Seemingly with the press of a button, I could go from Porvoo to LA and back—with no evidence I had left! Clicking channel to channel I found my actress friend Anna Easteden with her new show.. I was having way too much fun in my Haikko room—it was beginning to feel like a vacation! Not today. Not the way things were going. When my mail opened, there was a message from Anna Easteden. Is this fun—or what???
It is such a pleasure to follow the careers of the young fun Finns in our City of Angels. Anna Easteden has taken Hollywood by storm. Lively, lovely, and talented, Anna did a great job as Master of Ceremonies there and now is doing the same on an international TV show.
It was such a pleasure getting to know her and her husband Rob. Following her life and career is a delight. Much of the current Spelling episode showed Candy making decisions on how to compress her living space into only two full floors at the top of a new skyscraper being built in Century City—look for the shiny new oval building near where the Finnish Consulate used to be, but south of what was the Century Plaza Hotel.
I must admit that, even in my strange life, this is not usually the way it happens! Her recipe was for popovers, mine for muffins. Her recipe was for popovers, mine for muffins double click on picture above to view enlarge. Meanwhile: LA is known for having the most beautiful and spectacular swimming pools. The swimming pool at the Haikko Manor took my breath away.
Well, it happened. But, it happened because the pool was so Finnish! The pool is indoors for reasons that need no elaboration. When you get into the Haikko Spa pool, you are instantly in the treetops of a birch forest facing the Bay.
You are enveloped in water and are swept away by real currents. There is no edge to the pool, so a moment of panic can set in before you realize that you are not going to be driven out to sea! It is an infinity pool. The heated water moves and caresses you like a newborn just out of the womb. You feel like you are bobbing up and down in a Finnish lake in the Finnish forest while at the same time coming to life as a newborn Finn.
The Haikko Spa is a real adult playground. Since I was almost always by myself when at the pool, I could easily fantasize the Ronanov life—even if the Spa had not been built then. My Dad was the only one who made the trip from abroad. The War Veterans were all in their late 80s. The mini-platoon moved en masse. Breakfast and lunch were mere steps away from the Spa facilities which were mere steps away from the guest rooms when rest breaks were in order. The volume tended to be loud—whether that was because of hearing issues or enthusiasm was not apparent.
There was always a friendly hum and a warm greeting for new friends and familiar staff. The guys were having a really good time—buddies, one and all. Of course, their responses to my interrogation on their family traditions, on fishing techniques, and on preferred food preparation were eagerly absorbed and noted.
Most of the conversations I was privy to took place at the dinners at the Manor House dining room. Dinner at the beautiful Manor House in the exquisite main dining room was the highlight of the day. The Veterans who were received promptly at were always properly turned out in jackets and ties. I guess that is the American way. The white-gloved staff was there to respectfully serve these beloved War Veterans and Lottas.
Meals at the Manor proceeded with military precision. Salad, Sir; main course, Sir; dessert, Sir. Everyone evacuated as quickly as they had arrived. No lingering to absorb the ambience or to dally in idle after dinner conversation. My parents had many memorable visits to Haikko through the years. One year, the daily flag lowering ceremony was to be in honor of the gathering Veterans. Apparently my late Mother who had a beautiful singing voice was the only one who showed up.
No matter! Nothing was going to stop her Lotta spirit. She started belting out Siniristilippumme with all her might. Needless to say, she gathered quite an appreciative crowd in no time. There was not a dry eye around that flagpole that night. A national representative of the Lotta organization was there for that performance and made sure my Lotta mother was recognized and honored. The staff at Haikko is always welcoming and gracious.
But, somehow, I think they winked at each other in years past when they saw this cute elderly couple my parents arriving because they remembered them as the ones who kept regularly sliding out of bed onto the floor and calling for help. My Mother said the sheets were slippery. But, there may be more to the story than needs to be said here.
Cultural differences can be fun to observe and ponder. It is a fascinating subject. Really early, by American practice. It may be as a sign of respect for your host or the guest of honor; it may signal that you are happy to be there; or it may simply be because that is the way Finns do things.