Modesty is sometimes overrated

Until recent days, paper mills have been at the heart of everyday life in Kouvola for thousands. According to Wikipedia, paper has been produced in Finland since the 1600s although it was not until the 1860s that the industry started to grow. We live in Valkeala which used to be an independent county, large in area but small in population right next to the cities of Kouvola and Kuusankoski. A few years back politicians decided to join the counties and along with a few other to make one large county now called Kouvola. The making of large counties in the name of saving expenses has been strongly trending in recent years. Whether this will be a good long-term decision can be determined perhaps in a few years as we will all be so much wiser in hindsight, as the case usually is. Finland has long been and still is a welfare state, but things are changing. And with change there is always some good, some bad.

kymintehdasalueI actually think that it is probably a good thing that more room is made for the private sector, giving space for healthy competition. Maybe the best thing would be to have the best of both worlds. A safety net for those that need it as we might all be in that situation someday but an environment that encourages entrepreneurs and hard work. One of my largest criticisms of the current Finnish systems is that unemployment benefits are so good and seemingly endless that some decide it is better to just stay at home doing nothing instead of working. My second criticism is that modesty is over-rated. Finns are really quite good at many things. They need to believe that others might think so as well. One good example of this collective way of thinking is Angry Birds. For the longest time after Rovio succeeded with their angry chicks the following collective comment could be heard, “Just wait and see, it won’t last long.” Slowly this attitude has changed towards Rovio and it has attained an iconic status. Why do you think the Swedes succeeded with their IKEA and H&M? Finland is full of wonderful little companies full of new designs and ideas.

old paper millsThey just need to own it.

brick wallThese old Kymintehtaan paper mills would not have ever achieved what they did without some risks. Operation first began in 1874 and it has continued until recent years. Industries, societies and economic situations change. Today some of the buildings are empty but quite a few are being used by small business. One building is full of creative entrepreneurs. In another building there is one of my favorite organic bakeries called Tuomon Luomu. They make the best handmade rye bread and I really think that they would really have potential to grow.parkway kymintehdasThe entryway into the area is a bit forbidding as there is an old guard house with mirrored windows. For the longest time I did not even know that the area was open for the general public. The area is much more friendly after passing the entrance as it has a lovely parkway with old trees forming a canopy over the lawn. Partially hidden behind the trees is an old house that reminds me of Anne of Green Gables.

vanha talo kymintehdasI tried to do some research and find out the history behind the house and it’s name but it has remained a mystery. Perhaps it has been used for company social occasions and receptions. On one side of the wall was a hydrangea overflowing with blooms.

hortensia hydrangeaMy new favorite food is perfect for fall when the mushrooms are in season. I bought a package of portobello mushrooms from the grocery and thought to make burgers from them for lunch. I searched online and found some inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Jamie grilled his burgers but I broiled them in the oven as our cook-out season has pretty much come to a close. The version below is slightly different to Jamie’s, as I used what was on hand.

portobello mushroomPortobello burgers for two

2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2 small onions or one large onion sliced into fine rings
three glugs of olive oil
juice of one lemon
sprig of fresh rosemary
black pepper

2 good quality rolls of bread
olive oil
two cloves of garlic, halved

four sundried tomatoes in oil
black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh oregano and chives and a few leaves of fresh spinach
a few slices of your favorite cheese (optional)

Place all of the ingredients into a plastic bag and shake until the mushrooms and onions are coated. Allow to marinate for about fifteen minutes. While marinating heat the oven to 200 C/390 F at the broil setting. Place the marinated portobello and onions on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Take two good quality rolls of bread and slice them into halves. I used the Fazer grain ciabatta. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with a clove of garlic cut into half. Place the halved garlic into an air pocket of the bread and place on the baking sheet alongside the portobello and onions. Bake for about ten to twelve minutes, removing once the onions and bread have attained some color and the mushrooms have released some liquid. Make sure to keep watch that your rolls do not burn. If using a very light bread, remove the rolls after five minutes.

While the the mushrooms are baking, finely slice the sundried tomatoes and sprinkle with black pepper. Once the mushrooms and onions are done, remove from the oven and assemble the sandwich. Place two slices of cheese on the bottom half if preferred. Next place the mushroom and then finish with the onion and sundried tomatoes. Garnish with a few sprigs of herbs and spinach.

portobello mushroom burger


  1. Lovely photo’s and really interesting bit of history, I never knew Finland was known for paper production. I love the photo with the trees and then the gorgeous house and that hydrangea is so beautiful. I really love historic properties. Your portobello burger is wonderful.

    1. Thank you Suzanne. Yes, especially the South-East corner has had many paper mills in the past. Today there are still a few running, but many have been put out of work and have had to relocate into other industries.

  2. Beautiful photos. I couldn’t agree more. Excited to see what the Finnish entrepreneurs have to offer the world. We have a saying here in the States: nothing ventured, nothing gained!

    1. Thank you! And I couldn’t agree more with the saying. 🙂 I think that so many small entrepreneurs definitely have great things to offer. I think the internet has a great impact on the younger generations and maybe with the way do business.

    1. Thank you Alexa. I had driven past the old wooden house many times and just seen a little glance of it. Glad I parked the car and went for a little walk. The area is beautiful.

  3. Now, this burger is peaking my interest…had one at a restaurant that was nothing special…another idea for my list:) The pictures are great. So do you s’pose a company executive once lived in the house? Curious! Isn’t history great…

    1. I hope you have a chance to try it Gramma…would be interested to hear your opinion. Antti really liked it and we didn’t miss the steak one bit! 🙂 I’ll have to ask around to see what the previous life of the house was. I’m sure someone knows! ❤ Laila

    1. Thanks Anna! The thing I really like about blogging is that is makes learning about everyday life in a completely different corner of the world so easy and affordable. Don’t be ashamed! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

    1. Thanks Uru! 🙂 I suppose Finland is quite far from your corner of the world…I’ve been enjoying learning about Australia through your blog and some other Aussie blogs I follow!

  4. The philosophy behind welfare is commendable. There are sectors of society who do need help. However, like you, I am wary about extending benefits to those who are able to work and whose needs are not as dire as others. My brother lives in Canada and I have heard stories about how people turn down work because they get more benefit from the government. I hear similar stories here in the US, too. It is saddening that those who work hard in minimum wage paying jobs are worse off than those in welfare.

    On another thought, I think that people should be allowed to take pride and profit from their work. That encourages creativity and industry. .

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