‘I’ve never had a crayfish in such polite society,’ said husband as the friendly waitress tied our bibs on and asked if we wished to order some schnapps. We looked at each other and smiled. ‘Of course,’ he said.
We were sitting at a window table in a restaurant called von Knorring in Mariehamn’s East Harbour. We’d picked out one of the few days it rained on Åland during our holiday to go out to dinner a deux. The town was deserted, partly because the season was coming to an end and the tourists were leaving, partly because of the weather, and partly because the islands’ most famous philanthropist and business mogul was hosting a concert in his acres of prime coast-line in Järsö. Some 3,000 people attended the charity concert in aid of The Baltic Fund. That’s a lot of people for Mariehamn.
|Indigo, a popular cafe/restaurant/bar – empty.
But to our surprise von Knorring was full. We’d heard from the locals that the food was good here, and obviously a few other people thought so too. I saw online the restaurant on board a steamer was serving crayfish and immediately phoned to pre-ordered some for us. (The season officially starts in early August). After a few moments a plateful of native Åland river crayfish arrived at our table, smelling of the sea and decorated with dill flowers. Then two glasses of chilled Marskin Ryyppy were placed in front of us, followed by two glasses of locally brewed beer, Stallhagen.
|I can still taste them.
|We had a rainy view of Österhamn – the East Harbour in Mariehamn
While the rain poured down outside, we chose our first crayfish. They were fresh-tasting, large and delicious. The brine was just right, not too salty or sweet. The dill was fresh and the cumin-spiced cheese, traditionally eaten on toast with crayfish, was excellent.
|Me tasting the crayfish
Then it was time to taste the schnapps. Husband raised his glass, leaned across the table and in a low voice started singing,
I joined him, in a whisper. Not because I was embarrassed but because I really, truly cannot sing. But it seems it’s physically impossible not to sing when taking schnapps with or without crayfish, whether in public or not.
Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lejHelan gårSjung hopp faderallan lejOch den som inte helan tarHan heller inte halvan fårHelan går
We drank the purest tasting vodka there is and continued,
Sjung hopp faderallan lej!
|The post-schnapps beer to dull the hit…
Strangely the other diners hardly batted an eyelid as time after time we sang our schnapps songs. There were a few envious glances directed at the crayfish but none at us. We left the restaurant happy and just a little worst for wear. The town was still deserted so we decided to head back to Lemland where a bottle of champagne somehow got opened and drunk.
|The Esplanaden. This was 11 pm on a Saturday night in early August…deserted
Oh, I wish I was still on the island!