Monty Python wrote their “Finland Finland Finland” song when I was a speck in my fathers eye, eventually after marrying a Finn I know I’ll be spending more time there. So here goes my top 5 Finnish “must do” holiday activities… until I find more favourites.
1. Whipping in the sauna
Finns seem to love congregating in a small hot room and sweating together. Nothing gets rid of the stress of your day like sitting in a 80 degree room and whipping your partners back and legs with branches of birch leafs . It is said that it gets the blood flowing, but for me its more about the fragrance they give off… although Heini seems to take pleasure in hearing me yelp in pain.
Another addition to sauna in the winter is “Avanto”, this involves leaving the comfort and warmth of the sauna and jumping into a nearby lake’s “hole in the ice”. This seems like a heart attack inducing activity which I’m not sure my family jewels would ever recover from, so I opted to roll around in the snow before running back into the sauna.
2. Summer cottage
Everyone in Finland seems to have access to a summer cottage, these range from small huts, a sauna and a lake close by. Others are more like a fully functioning holiday bungalow with all the boys toys you need… basically a “man cave” by the lake.
My first trip to Heini’s families cottage was in the winter, with no running water and the lake being a sheet of impenetrable ice and probably bears! For some reason Heini wanted me to walk on the iced up lake and take a photo… Gingerly I walked onto the ice, even though I wasn’t so confident of the ice strength. Thankfully it held, along with my dignity, and I’m here to tell the tale!
Fast forward a few months to summer and the cottages are the dogs bollox, swimming in the lakes, BBQs, hiking, and also basically sitting around the fire talking crap over a few cold beers. I absolutely loved it. Mid summer weekend empties the cities like a scene from the movie “28 days later”, most head out to their family cottage for the weekend with their cars laden with food and beer.
3. People watching at park and castles
The extra long days of Finland’s summer opens up a new city to explore in Helsinki, but holy shit, does this place ever get dark! The bonus to all this light and warmth (as long as you stay in the sun, for god sake don’t sit in the shade!) is that all of Helsinki’s parks and outdoor cafes open up for the summer.
Public transport is really easy to use with even the president of Finland using it. It seems free, and as long as you don’t get caught it kind of is, but for those who want to avoid the 80 euro fine, buying a ticket is a safer bet.
Head over to the harbour and a quick 10 minute boat trip takes you over to Suomenlinna Castle which is perfect, we took some wine and a picnic over enjoying a few cold drinks and food whilst taking in the view and history of the castle which is still home to Finland’s marines in training. Its a great way to laze the day away and catch up with friends whilst chomping down the best food in Finland – the Karjalanpiirakka, a snack so addictive I’m sure it contains crack cocain.
Summer festivals start around June through to September, with something for everyone to enjoy at the weekends. We headed over to Provinsi Rock festival in Seinäjoki town, some of Finlands and the worlds great rock bands provide thousands of people attending great music and atmosphere.
Camping there was so easy to arrange with the area having ample toilets, food stalls, and BBQ pits for roasting a potato or two. Of course the beer and shots flow starting early in the morning until late at night, although most people chose to break up the music and booze with a dip into the lake. And with every lake there is a sauna not too far. Booking early helps you manage your summer weekends as to get to your favourite festivals.
5. Vegan Choices and Restaurants
Helsinki has so much to supprise and tantalise your tastebuds in between taking in the sights. Previously when we’ve visited I always enjoyed the food, but the transformation of restaurants and cafes all offering so many healthy options has been huge. We enjoyed donner kebabs, Ethiopian food at Addis, falafels, wraps, almost everywhere had something exciting to taste.
So many great places to share with you, they’ll have to wait for a later time. Thanks for reading. Al