In 2011 I moved to the USA and married an american man. Already before that, and after, he had done many trips to Finland, my home country. We have been travelling around the country at different times of the year. We have seen new places and returned to some that we liked the most. We ate all kinds of treats and brought some home. But what have been the most memorable things about Finland for an American? Here are some of them...
1. NORTHERN LIGHTS
Those damn northern lights! We have been hunting for them for years now and my husband still hasn't managed to see them. We listened to the news, followed the northern light forecasts and just randomly checked the sky during the night by stepping out to the porch. But no, we have not been lucky! He has slowly started to imply that we Finns have just made them up, and they don't actually exist. But I think that is part of the magic; not everyone will be able to see them! But they are very real!
If you can't manage to see them while in Finland, you can check them out from Google Maps Streetview.
2. NIGHTLESS NIGHT
The nightless night we spent in Finland is still being remembered, or the midsummer night as we locals call it. It was a beautiful day at Lake Evijärvi. There were no clouds so we were able to enjoy the sun all day and night. In the "palju", the old fashioned wood-fired hot tub, one could totally forget what the time was. The only thing ruining this perfect moment were the mosquitos. The mosquitos made sure that the men were sort of stuck at the palju until 2 am. But no worries, they had a cell phone which they could use for calling to the house for the wives to make a beer run to the palju.
3. WALKING ON THE FROZEN OCEAN
For someone who is not used to the snow and ice, it is hard to believe that a whole ocean can freeze over. And even harder is to believe that you can walk or drive a car on the ice of the frozen water. "Those crazy Finns" said my husband, when he saw some people cross country skiing on top of the ocean. Every time we travel to Finland during the winter, we do go for a walk on the ice though. And he is not the only tourist I have taken for photographs of the ocean.
4. FROM SAUNA TO ICE SWIMMING
My husband has never been a huge fan of the Finnish invention Sauna. But when you add swimming in the icy lake or ocean to it, it is definitely something you brag about back home, and something you will never forget! This picture has been shown to all the relatives and friends... twice! And of course you can't say no to it, when the crazy Finns go in first.
We have also got to try different kinds of saunas from an old fashioned sauna to smoked sauna. I'm pretty sure that I have been enjoying these experiences more than my husband, even though he always wants to try everything new.
5. THOUSANDS OF LAKES
Driving through Finland can be quite an experience for a foreigner. There are a total of 188 888 lakes in this tiny country, and it is impossible to count them during your drive. It is hard to know where a lake ends and a new one begins, and many times there is water on both sides of the road.
6. CASTLES AND HISTORICAL BUILDINGS
This might not work on Europeans, but Americans are always interested in castles and old, historical building. Many medieval castles and buildings have been on our travel list for a long time already.
When driving around Finland the last few years, we visited several old churches. My husband was very interested in Finland's church history. Finland is 90% lutheran and religious traditions are affect us deeply. Every town or village has it's own church, and they all look different. There is also something called pauper statues which my husband was interested to learn more about. Paupers are wooden statues in front of the church which often represent poor beggers. You can insert your alm into a slot in the middle of the pauper statue.
Finnish cuisine is not very famous and some traditional foods can seem a little strange to people from abroad. However, there are some treats that everyone seems to enjoy like seafood. My husband especially likes these little fried vendaces in the photo below, and salmon soup. He also really likes the Finnish style pancake. Finns eat the most ice cream of anyone in Europe, so there are plenty of good ice creams and candy to choose from.
Finland is conveniently located very close to four neighboring countries. Three of them you can reach by ferry. So people often go on cruises from Finland. You can do a trip to Estonia, Sweden or to Russia. We have done all those trips together.
10. SUMMER HOUSES
I don't think many other countries have the same kind of summer house culture as in Finland. When the weather warms up, people head to their family summer cottages to spend time over there. It's a totally different kind of vibe than being at home in the city. Most summer houses are by the lakes or on the coast, close to nature. If you visit Finland during the summer time, you should definitely hook up with a Finn to get an invitation to their summer house.
Have you visited Finland? What did you like or dislike there?
5 turn offs in Finland (by my husband)...
- FINNISH FAST FOOD FROM THE "GRILLI"
- ARCTIC SNOT FREEZING
- SHORT OPENING HOURS FOR RESTAURANTS AND BUSINESSES