Hotel Oscar in Varkaus welcomed us earlier this fall on a cold Monday with our car full photography gear. On our way from Helsinki, we tried to remember if either one of us had ever been to Varkaus. I remembered driving through the town on my way to Eastern Finland but neither of us recalled actually ever visiting the city. Clearly it was high time to fix that!
One of the few times we don’t miss Vancouver is when we think about the hellish traffic of a Friday afternoon in downtown when it took us half an hour just to get to the hotel from the right direction. Luckily none of that is a problem in a small town in Northern Savonia! Hotel Oscar was easy to find and parking could be found right in the back lot.
The hotel staff knew the expect us and gave us the warmest welcome and showed us to our rooms. One of the first things we noticed was the beautifully comfortable beds. Trust us, when you get to this age, a great hotel bed and a good night’s sleep is one of the main criteria when choosing where to stay. We like getting up well-rested and not sore from a bad bed, especially if we have a long day and a long drive ahead of us.
As it was already evening once we got to Hotel Oscar, we headed straight for dinner in the hotel’s own Restaurant Oscar. We’re quite used to settling for fast food when we’re on the road, both for lack of time and money. Most of the time we even like it, playfully calling ourselves #fastfoodies and joking about comparing different McDonald’s locations with each other or weighing the merits of a Panda Express and Taco Bell (just FYI, Panda Express wins by a mile).
However, having a nice meal in a high-quality restaurant and being able to enjoy it without any sense of hurry is a very welcome change of pace for us.
And the food, oh my god the food. While Tiia opted for the traditional pepper steak with mash potatoes, I had the parmesan chicken. I’m a firm believer in the “anything is better with cheese” philosophy and this time was no exception. Of course, our favorite part of any meal is dessert and Restaurant Oscar certainly delivered in that department as well. While Tiia’s chocolate cake was very good, my cheesecake was absolutely divine. Just the right balance of sweetness and creamier than anything has a right to be. It went straight to my top three of best ever cheesecakes and trust me, I don’t say that lightly.
While we were waiting for our dessert, Tiia decided to get artistic with the remnants of sauce on her plate. The end result might not have been as Instagram-worthy as she intended, but the message came across loud and clear: We love our food.
Part of our visit to Hotel Oscar was so that Tiia could photograph some of the staff for their official employee portraits. My little car was packed to the brim of her studio equipment and as usual, I ended up being the test model until she found the perfect lighting. Fun fact: I used to be really squeamish about being in front of a camera. Then I became best friends with a photographer and really had no choice but to overcome said squeamishness. I still look like a dork most of the time but I’ve come to accept it. We shot the photos at Hotel Oscar’s comfy and inviting Pub Oscar and lamented not having more time to spend there. All the pictures were missing were a nice glass of whiskey in front of the fireplace!
We had a very last-minute chance to try Oscar’s old menu (and I’m glad we did because MAN that cheesecake) because the very next day they introduced a new menu. While we didn’t have time to sample it, Tiia got to take some pictures of the new beautiful portions. Based on looks alone, we might have to go back pretty soon to taste them as well…
We ended our visit to Varkaus on a high note – literally! The Mechanical Music Museum is one of the most bizarre and entertaining museums we’ve ever been to, and it just might be the funnest tourist attraction in Finland. While it’s nowhere near as massive as House on the Rock in Wisconsin, USA, the eccentric music machines and the cacophony they can create reminded us heavily of this other bizarrely awesome destination. So much so, that we officially dubbed the Mechanical Music Museum as Finland’s House on the Rock.
While the variety and sometimes sheer size of the music machines is something to be seen all on its own, what makes the museum so thoroughly entertaining is the guided tour. Run in parts by both the father and son who own and operate the museum, it is a feast of comedy. They are both extraordinary entertainers, who make the machines come to life in the most fascinating and fun ways. There are even some interactive bits! Trust us, if you’re ever in Varkaus and have time for only one activity, make it the Mechanical Music Museum. You’ll thank us later.
For even more pictures of all the amazing detail in the museum, check out Tiia’s Finnish blog.
This is a collaboration post: Our stay at Hotel Oscar was done in collaboration with Prime Hotels and Mechanical Music Museum, but the experiences and opinions and the Mechanical Music Museum, but the experiences and opinions are our own. You simply can not buy our love!