I would like to welcome a friend and contributing writer to this Blog. I am excited to have Julie join in by sharing her stories…her views… I hope you will join me in welcoming her. I also welcome all of you to share your stories here.
|Pictures and Story by Julie Antunes|
I recently had the good fortune to return to Finland this summer. Finland, you say? Where’s that? Well, it’s just to the east of Sweden and to the west of Russia. No, it’s not a part of Russia although many years ago, it used to be. It’s been a peaceful, independent nation since 1917.
Some fast fun facts: Finland leads in the world education rankings as No. 1. It is also the land of cell phones with a population that has the most mobile phones and the most email addresses per capita of any nation in the world. It is home to Nokia, which is named after a town in Finland where the company has been in existence for decades before becoming a cell phone leader.
Although Finnish is the official language, a dialect of Finn/Swede is predominant in the cities and towns that are closest to Sweden. English is spoken everywhere. It is also the land of the Midnight Sun which is one of the reasons I traveled to Finland this time of year.
Having relatives in Finland makes it apparent to me why one would want to visit there but maybe not so evident to others. To begin with, they have a laid back lifestyle. Most of the population own summer homes somewhere on or near the water and I was fortunate to be invited to stay at my relatives’ summer home on the Baltic Sea.
The average Finnish worker enjoys many weeks of annual vacation so this affords them the opportunity spend lazy days at the summer house boating, fishing, sunning and doing what they most cherish - sauna! To ‘sauna’ is a verb to the Finns and is the most important part of the day, believe it or not. (I didn’t but I’m now a converted Westerner.)
So, our typical ‘summer house’ day begins on the Gulf of Bothnia/Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden just south of Vasa in a seaside town called Oravais. It starts with a typical Finnish breakfast of porridge (oatmeal to us) with fresh local berries including blueberries, raspberries and lingonberries, a specialty berry of Scandanavia. Always on the table are numerous tubes (not bottles) of relishes, spreads and cheeses for local crackers and breads in addition to cold cuts. And this is just breakfast!
After we eat, we’d take a bicycle ride through the woods to see the other summer homes, pick berries, bike along the shore or get an ice cream. Bicycle friendly, this area has a biking path system which is quite nice. Once that work was done, we’d come back, sun oursevles and swim, then have lunch (a big, hot meal)…sun and swim again then dinner. Dinner was either a smaller hot meal or lots of leftovers – way too much!
After dinner we’d go for a boat ride through the archipelago (an area of small islands with numerous places to camp for the day or night and even some with a little beach). Quite beautiful but also treacherous…one needs to know the local waters well in order to avoid the rocks found sometimes just a few feet below.
Then it is time for Sauna! I never realized now important this is to them but if a home does not have a sauna, it is unsellable I am told. It would be like our houses not having bathrooms. The sauna in the summer house is woodburning although they can be electric. I’m told electric is not as good but is what is typically found in the city areas-better than nothing. Once the sauna is hot enough, everyone goes in. If you are Finnish, your culture and upbringing allow for the entire family (regardless of age or sex) to go in naked to partake.
|No, this is not Julie’s family|