Kid in a Candy Store – Christmas at the Fazer Visitor Centre
Surrealism engulfs you and curiosity peaks your interest as you walk into the brand new Fazer Visitor Centre in Vantaa. The soft rounded shape of the building invites you in to a playful, geometrically intriguing space that delights adults and children alike.
You flow through the building stopping every few metres to examine the many hands-on attractions related to Fazer’s large scale production. In fact, it’s more than that. It’s like gliding through a nucleus of Finland from the food, through design, architecture, traditional materials and history. A little taste of the grand picture.
You are engaged, all five senses of you and in this case a sixth one as well. It has to be the giant bunny that invites you to “Come, let’s play!” Made out of 9330 white eggs, and no, they’re not filled with chocolate as they are at Easter time, it took the artist 2 months of fulltime work to stick them together.
The greenhouse will undoubtedly warm you up as you gaze at the trees, shrubs and plants that are used in the many food products the company manufactures. The cocoa tree with buds flowering directly from the bark is an obvious choice since what would be their most well-known product but Fazerin Sininen or ‘blue’, the milk chocolate bar that is up there in the running as one of the best in the world. Thriving too in this tropical environment is the chillie, pepper and cinnamon plants, all amazing in their natural state.
Further along are the 3-D masks that make you shriek with fright when you look down into the abyss of the factory where real people are baking bread or making cookies. The 3-D printer on the other hand, works slowly creating delicate decorations to adorn cakes right next to the suspended balls that you can look into to get another, less frightening glimpse of the processes used in the plant.
Smell is explored in the many tubes that show you the raw form of the ingredients that make up the candy, bread and other goodies. The disco lights that sweep over you while you wend your way through more tubes of colourful sweets sweep you into a wonderland of good humour. But all of this would be empty entertainment if it weren’t for the smartly clad staff with their science overcoats with round pockets matching the roundness of the building. They are more than eager to share their knowledge and experiences with you in the most hospitable way possible.
Christmas is celebrated with a huge ball that takes up space in the exhibition part of the building and the Wunderbox which tells you the whole story from the beginning with the old-fashioned gingerbread cutter, the drawings by Moomin author Tove Jansson and tins illustrated by Karl Fazer’s friend Akseli Gallen Kallela. Each box has a delightful story to tell and the ‘inside’ is full of retro posters from the past. Don’t miss the music of Finnish composer Tuomas Kantelinen.
And if you were wondering about the fox that appears from time to time, it dates back to the oldest candy called Pihlaja, a red berry that the fox couldn’t reach and hence, spurned. It’s on the wrapper and the contents are as delicious as they always were.
After a full-on exploration of sight, smell, touch and hearing, it’s taste that pulls us all together in a common desire for gratification and survival. The café has always been an integral part of the company’s operations ever since Mr. Fazer opened the first one on Kluuvikatu, Helsinki. Maintaining a delicate balance between old and new, the culinary expertise of the chefs show a willingness to stick to the tried and tested recipes while innovation is not far from their imagination. Try a ‘potato pastry’, a gooey sweet mix of potato flour, chocolate and rum, a traditional confection that most Finns grow up with. Or a Toast Skagen, heaped high with prawns, mayo and egg on a slice of homemade, of course, white toast. You can even watch them through the window while they prepare the daily offerings or if your group is large enough, join them in the cookery school for a real education in how it’s done.
And if you’re here just for a couple of hours waiting for your next flight, there’s the Stopover Finland option, a package deal including transport from and to the airport, a guided tour and a meal included.
Fazer Visitor Centre is open 7 days a week. To join in the fun however, you have to join a guided tour but the café and shop are free of charge.