A waiter in a wine red vest shows a party of ladies to their seats. “Maybe a glass of champagne as an aperitif?” Tall windows with gold-rimmed curtains rise behind the dining tables revealing a spacious white balcony where another group from a private party is enjoying the view out to the archipelago. It is all very grand, yet it all fits into the scene perfectly well.
Romanovs and the Haikko Manor
The scene above is from a fancy restaurant at Haikko Manor near Porvoo, Finland. The history of the manor dates back to the year 1362 although the current Manor House was built much later, in 1913. The white building with pillars and full-length balcony looks majestic from the outside – and the inside is just as luxurious. This place could almost be considered royal, as far as anything in Finland can be considered royal.
Indeed, the Manor House was good enough for Russian royals; The Grand Duke Kiril Vladimirovits Romanov escaped to Haikko after the Russian revolution in 1917. His son Vladimir Kirillovitš, who become the head of the Romanov family, was born in Porvoo and christened in Haikko. Of course, it is good to remember that Finland was part of Russia until December 1917 so it was not extraordinary for noteworthy Russians to visit Finland. Nowadays Haikko Manor has a dining room called Romanov Hall, where red curtains, indigo carpet and golden details remind the guests of the colours of the Romanov family.
The Manor was turned into a hotel in 1966. It was the first of the sort in Finland.
A green spa weekend?
Next to the Haikko Manor is the conference centre and spa. Most of the hotel rooms are situated in the conference centre are less grandeur than the rooms in the Manor House – we stayed at this more modest accommodation. The place is ideal for a leisurely weekend. For people who are looking to participate in some sort of activities outdoors, enjoy a relaxing sauna and spa evening and want to visit Porvoo for one day. Indeed, you could fill your day with all sorts of activities from frisbee golf within the grounds and short walks on the nearby nature trails to visits to a celebrated Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt’s atelier, which is right around the corner.
The hotel has a Green Key certificate, which means that they aim to run the business in an environmentally friendly way. In Haikko, green thinking is part of most everyday aspects: they recycle and use biowaste to create compost for garden use, they use ocean thermal energy for heating (alongside gas) and try to minimise water usage (although the spa sort of goes against this ). Also the restaurant focuses on dishes with seasonal ingredients, and vegetarian options are always available – and those vegetarian (and vegan) options were delicious.
Mini yoga holiday
My mum and I were staying at Haikko because of a yoga course we attended. I wouldn’t call it a retreat as we only had two Astanga yoga classes and the weekend didn’t include a vow of silence or media detox or other such things typical to yoga retreats.
The classes were delightful and the teacher encouraging – a shout-out to Riku Kantola. He was the kind of a teacher who explains things properly but does it in his own way without sounding like he is reading it from a textbook. During the class, I would have liked more action and less talk, but maybe the slow pace was better. I should probably focus on the exercise and acrobatics less; Yoga could teach me a lot about patience and meditation.
I’ve been doing yoga because it feels good and my body appreciates the movements so I’ve just let the “feel how the energy flows into your body” talk go in through one ear and out of the other. But recently I’ve started to understand the benefits of relaxation, meditation and breathing exercises as well. This yoga weekend at Haikko was relaxing and pleasant and I learned more about Astanga yoga. Maybe I would like to attend a longer, more intense retreat someday.
- What: Haikko Manor and spa hotel
- Where: Haikko, Porvoo, Southern Finland
- Why: Fine dining and a luxury weekend or a relaxed spa/active fun weekend
- Special: Yoga holiday and other special weekend packages