Hel yeah Finland! I finally found you amongst Europe and enjoyed your beauty in full winter swing. Thank you for a great yet freezing and utterly magical time. Do you want to hear why I loved you so much?
First of all, lets realise you’re actually pretty big for the size of your population. There are only approximately five million people in an area of 330,000 km²! To add to that, there are over 180,000 lakes and over 2 million saunas in the country. Pretty impressive if you ask me, Finland!
I had the privilege to visit one of my best friends who is lucky enough to spend a year on the Nordic land (I am so grateful for these invitations!). I have started off on the southwest coast, in the city of Turku. Once upon a time Turku has actually been the capital, and is also Finland’s oldest city as it dates back to the 13th Century! My first night and the morning after consisted of trying some of the Finnish delicacies ( 😉 ) the Karjalanpiirakka, Pinaattiletut and Koskenkorva Vodka.
I was lucky enough to come at a time of this part of the country being covered by snow. I haven’t seen a similar amount of snow since I was about ten years old, during Polish winters. The least I can say is that I missed it a lot more than I thought.
Do you remember what I’ve told you about saunas? There are over 2 million saunas in Finland, and (fun fact) there are a lot of Finns which were actually born in it – this gives you an idea of how popular they are among the locals! During my getaway I was lucky enough to get the full Finnish experience at one of the public saunas at Ruissalo. I can’t explain it any better than it being the best experience I’ve had while travelling. The grin never left my face and I was so grateful for just being there!
Not to miss the beautiful sunset among the trees…
Not only was Finland covered in snow, we were also surrounded by water. Can you guess what we’ve done next?
It doesn’t just feel extremely exciting, there are actually some great benefits to swimming in freezing cold water and sitting in the sauna:
- Switching from cold to warm and back to cold again improves your circulation as the hot temperatures bring your blood to the surface and cold ‘pushes’ it back to the organs.
- It is beneficial for the skin as it aids in exfoliation – I have scratched my arm while in the sauna and my dead skin has peeled right off (it was a little traumatic too)!
- Extreme temperatures cause your body to release endorphins which are often called ‘the happiness hormones’ – maybe that was the reason I couldn’t stop smiling?
- Swimming in cold water helps burn calories due to the fact the body has to work twice as hard to keep the body warm.
The whole two hours of wellness has only cost me €5.50(!). The freezing evening called for a hot cuppa at the reception and a walk through Turku and river Aura (they had me at the fairy lights…).
After discovering Turku and plunging into some of Finland’s traditions, it was time to visit Helsinki. What’s a visit without checking out the capital? As my time in Helsinki was limited, we chose to focus on main landmarks such as the Helsinki Cathedral (Helsingin tuomiokirkko), the Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki waterfront and the Helsinki City Museum.
A snowman was compulsory! Meet Gemma!
The Helsinki City Museum was holding many exhibitions, one of them which focused on SMELL.
A passing smell sensation may take you instantly back through the years or trigger a riot of emotions. People sense and interpret smells in different ways. Scents also have a subconscious effect and power over people’s everyday life—over choosing a partner, for instance.
The fourth floor of the museum, and my favourite, describes Helsinki through different smells. The purpose of it is to stimulate certain emotions through them. You can record your memories associated with them in a book, which at the time I thought was just an ordinary guest book.
The museum was free to enter, so we treated ourselves to a €4 photo shoot! 😉
To me Helsinki differed from a typical capital-city experience. It was quiet, and felt like a normal-sized city, if not town. It does after all host only about 600 000 people, which for a capital city is very small. I also found it to be really hard to get lost in.
The next morning included a really early start for both of us so we had to cut the night short and spent some time bonding rather than doing touristy activities. The most important part of this trip was catching up and spending time with my best friend. We enjoyed many deep talks about psychology, history and the Frozen and High School Musical…
Some of my overall thoughts on the parts of Finland I have seen (because it was only a 0.5% snippet) are as follows:
♥ The Finns have got a plug on every corner. Super random and probably damaging to the world, but I consider that a real help and a great gesture when you are desperate for a quick charge of your gadgets.
♥ The Finns seemed to be very chilled out. I haven’t once felt judged at the sauna, and have found body image isn’t as big of a deal as it is for example in the UK.
♥ The NATURE. For the first half of my life I have lived right beside a forest so I really appreciate and miss it. After all it is ‘only’ nature, but it is actually quite hard to see the same density without it being called a National Park in the UK.
♥ The snow (depending on season). I’m still a child at heart and refuse to complain about snow.
♥ I struggle to find negatives, so I will just mention that if you have really high expectations of attractions and the metropolitan feel you might be a little disappointed by Helsinki – it is way more peaceful and quiet than you would expect.
Tips on visiting Finland:
♥ DO NOT leave Finland without visiting a public sauna. It will feel glorious. Don’t fear if you see naked individuals – this is often a norm.
♥ If you’re travelling from the airport, book your bus tickets in advance with OnniBus rather than other providers – a two hour journey has only cost me €4!
♥ Take a walk through a forest. Finland is mostly covered in trees so it wouldn’t make sense not to walk through the national pride of the country.
♥ I usually recommend to stay in an AirBnB over staying in hotels or even hostels – if you are staying with a friend or a partner it is always cheaper to rent a room from an AirBnB host rather than going for large companies – and you’re benefiting the local economy too!
♥ Again, similarly to Norway, I wouldn’t recommend taking a cab – 5 minutes or travel has cost us €19!
As always, all views are my own.