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September 7, 2013

Travel: A look at Finland's design riches

(Continued)

McALESTER, Okla. —

Every villa has its own sauna and fireplace, and guests can order in-house meals, a chef, a beautician or a massage therapist with a simple phone call. A locavore advocate, Chef Markus Maulavirta has been incorporating fresh local ingredients into his cuisine for 25 years.

I got to sample some of his fare during a knock-out lunch that started with ember-cooked sweet and sour whitefish served with pickled cucumbers and watercress dressing, slow-roasted Kuvala pork belly, served with sauerkraut stewed in Huvila beer and tangy butter and carrot sauce, and a wonderful milk chocolate terrine with raspberry sorbet and honey cream.

Like other Nordic countries, Finland is designer friendly. Its capital, Helsinki, served as the World Design Capital in 2012, and the country has had a noteworthy design reputation around the world for decades.

In the 1930s and 40s pioneers like Kaj Franck ands Alvar Aalto led the way. Today, Helsinki has its own design district with around 200 designer shops, boutique and antique stores, and trendy restaurants. A good place to start a look around is on the Esplanade, a fashionable avenue with a long park-like swatch of green in between lined by shops with names like Artek, Aarikka, Marimekko and llitala.

A good way to get acquainted with the Design District is to take the two-hour guided tour in English called the Helsinki Design Walk, or do it yourself by picking up a map at the Tourist Information Office at Pohjoisesplandi 19 on the Esplanade.

To learn more about Finnish design history, visit the Design Museum on Korkeavuorenkatu 23. The museum dates back to 1873, making it one of the oldest design museums in the world. In 1978, the museum moved into its current location, a Neo-Gothic, former school designed in 1894 by architect Gustaf Nyström.

Besides a permanent exhibition that chronicles Finnish design from 1870 to now, the museum stages changing exhibits from its collection of over 75,000 objects, 40,000 drawings and 100,000 drawings. If you have the stamina, the Museum of Finnish Architecture is located on the same block.

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