What Finland tastes like
Finland tastes like a wild strawberry picked on an island in the middle of the Baltic sea. Or chive picked on a hill somewhere in a forest. It also tastes like fresh fish. A lot of fish.
One week in Finland has reminded me what fresh air and nature smell like. Freedom. Not to mention, Finland also smells like burnt wood from all the saunas everywhere.
One of the best thing that comes with travelling and living abroad is that you always get to meet people and make friends from all around the World. All travellers also know that these friendships are very often cursed : chances that your new bestfriend will move back to his own country sooner or later are big.
However, this can also turn into your chance to go and visit a new country every now and then. In this case, Finland came to my rosbiff boyfriend while studying at university, and luckily, that friendship seem to be as solid as a Finnish lake in Winter time. Yes, that solid.
We were hence cordially invited to spend Midsummer in Finland. Midsummer for the Finns is simply one of the biggest event of the year – I would even go as far as saying it is bigger than Christmas for some of them.
In Winter time, Finland gets really dark ; Helsinki, which is in the South of the country, only gets about 3 or 4 hours daylight each day, the rest is darkness. Going up North, some people never see the light at all for two months. However, this is completely reversed in Summer time.
But what’s the weather like in Summer, you ask?
Well if you’re lucky, it could be sunny with a very comfortable 25°C. If you’re not, it could be 5 °C and rainy, or even snowy (yes, snowy!). We were lucky enough to enjoy a few days of heat and sunshine, with a few days of rain and 14°C (but that did not bother us much considering the fact that we came from The Netherlands…).
Midsummer in Finland
I would like to set the record straight on something: all the travel agencies and websites will tell you that it never gets dark in Finland in Summer. It’s bullshit. It does get dark in the Southern part… for about 2 hours, between 12 a.m and 2 a.m. That’s not what I call never, I’m sorry.
So much light can be quite confusing for your brain though, especially if you have the same tendency as me of waking up in the middle of the night and finding yourself blinded by the sun light at 3.30 in the morning.
Unsurprinsingly, the Finns love Summer time ; hence, Midsummer is traditionally a time to celebrate the Summer solstice. But certainly not in the city: every Finn owns or knows someone who owns a summer cottage, somewhere far away from noise and pollution.
So I’ll give you a tip: if you want to visit Helsinki, going for Midsummer will ensure you a very quiet time as almost everybody will be out of the city for a few days.
A cabin lost in the woods
Ok, let me be clear here: what they called a “cabin” to us was actually two houses bordering the sea and an outside sauna (I mean a proper little house just for a sauna). So that was a pretty fancy “cabin” to me!
We spent the most amazing 3 days there, enjoying the beauty of Finnish nature, the sauna experience, swimming in a 15 degrees water and relaxing with the most friendly people. That was a pretty awesome holiday. Let me show you.
The view from the “cabin” was pretty amazing.
And when the sun sets on a landscape like this, there is only one thing you can do: sit back, relax and enjoy the show while it lasts.
Finnish food delights
If you like fish, you’re in for a treat! (If you do not like it however, you will also find plenty of other delicious things to eat don’t worry.)
I tried one of their specialities, which is basically a whole little fish (called Smelt) that’s been deep fried.
Yes I know, that looks a bit gross considering the fact that they still have eyes… but if you can pass this, it is actually pretty tasty! People eat them like fries, and I thought it was going pretty well with a glass of white wine… Still healthier than salami too!
Generally speaking, I would describe Finnish food as fresh, healthy and oh so damn tasty. Especially if you love a good fresh salmon on the grill (yum).
A God named sauna
Saunas are a huge part of Finnish culture – and that’s a pretty awesome one too! It is estimated that there are 2 millions saunas in Finland, for a population of 5,3 millions!
All the saunas I tried before were always the “dry” ones; that’s what the Finns call a Swedish sauna apparently. In Finland, the saunas have hot stones on the fire place, on which you regularly pour water to get a nice and hot steam.
Now, I hate steam rooms from Hammam (or Turkish bath), because I simply cannot breathe in them – it is too steamy, you cannot even see what’s right in front of you. But in a Finnish sauna, it is absolutely bearable, and actually quite nice to breathe because it is a little bit… salty.
As a good adventurer that I am, I also tried the full Finish experience with jumping in “cold” water (well 15 degrees is cold!) right after the steam room.
Not easy the first time, I have to admit; I almost feared a stroke because my heart was beating so incredibly fast. But it was actually a really good experience, all this blood rushing to your head gives you a bit of a funky feeling for a few minutes. I do not believe however I could ever jump in an icy water in winter, as the Finns do (I guess they really need that funky feeling too…).
Of course, our holiday would have not been completed without a tour of Helsinki!
We did not have so much time to visit the city as we were busy doing nothing in the countryside, but Helsinki is a beautiful and colourful city, full of life and friendly people (in Summer, that is).
It also has several islands which you can easily visit as boats are going regularly. We went to visit the island called Suomenlinna, also known as the sea fortress.
It is a UNESCO World heritage site, and the view you get from the boat on Helsinki is simply breath-taking.
The only down side is that everything is pretty expensive there, so don’t count too much on going shopping unless you made a separate budget for it.
But with all the beautiful spots you can visit, even for free, I doubt that you would even have time to consider wasting your time in too many shops.