I just love visiting Finland. Like Portugal, Canada or New Zealand, this country runs with a spirit of humbleness, genuine hospitality, and warm-hearted delight when taking the time to truly meet the locals. “The Fins, they take a bit of a time to ‘warm up’. Especially to small talk … Well actually, Fins don’t really do small talk after all”, we muse, laughing with my new Finnish friends after attending #NBEFinland Nordic Bloggers’ Experience.
“But once they open up, they will hug you from the heart. That’s when you’ve really made a connection with a Fin.”
So true. When we left our local host Ari at Lehmonkärki, right at the southern shores of Lake Päijänne, Finland’s second largest only about an hour’s drive north of Helsinki, warmth & a genuine sense of farewell linger all over the place. That’s after two intense days together, and a time where Ari cared to cook for us, to take us out on several walks, to have us experience a true Finnish sauna, to race across the lake on his snow mobiles .. that’s when you really bond here, I believe.
“For us Fins, everything starts with and in the sauna. People are born here, people heal, negotiate, or celebrate here …”
says Maaria, a traditional folk healer who treats us to a rather special whisk bath at Lehmonkärki’s outdoor sauna, right by the ice swimming pool. I just love my time with Maaria, her treatment reminds me of a slight cross-over between a Turkish Hammam and a traditional Finnish Sauna Experience, where steam, gentle massages & scrubbing, birch tree branches for the (also gentle!) whisking, and temperatures in the range of 50-60°C are primordial. Check out this wonderful travel video produced by my friend Lola Akinmade Akerström, describing an experience with Maaria the sauna lady in more vivid detail:
The next warm welcome awaits us in a place called Mukkula Manor. It is also the home of Bekka, a friendly Fin who has been credited as the inventor of snow kiting on Lake Vesijärvi.
Humble as Bekka is, he will admit to his international recognition only in by-passing, focusing instead on teaching us how to ice-fish, drilling holes in the frozen lake, and fly kites. “It’s what we love”, he says laughing, then continues with a stern expression, “When we go out ice fishing, we won’t talk for several hours straight. Only you, the frozen expanse of the lake, perhaps a little fire and some tea, then nothing. You wait. Patiently. There is nothing else to talk about”, he tells a rather shocked group of international people, used to talking almost constantly.
Luckily also for my chatty manner, Bekka does talk to us, especially when teaching us more about his passion, snow kiting. And so does Anu Kärkkäinen, the recently appointed manager of Mukkula Manor, who just loves the fact she can now look after a small group of guests in this beautiful countryside manor house. Another beautiful homecoming. Check this out.
Last but not least, when in Finland, brace yourself for a Nordic “wildlife” experience: Huskies, foxes, reindeer – even a noble wolf that greets our path at Koira Kikka. Right next to beautiful Kinnari Farm in a place called Hollola!
Yes, Finnish (place) names are sometimes hard to remember, but almost always a fun way to bond with the local language. Or did you know that “susi” is wolf in Finnish, but a girl’s name in German? (I wrote about this when visiting Lapland last winter. Learning with the locals is fun.!).
The best way to communicate with the Finnish is through warmth of expression, anyway. Or cooking – creative travel, that is, baking typical rye cookies with the local couple Terhi & Teemu at Kinnari farm, a favourite activity of the entire trip for me! There is not much else in the way of communication needed, than some simple kitchen tools, a well-kneaded dough and some smiles and laughter.
But then, the husky puppies are something out of this world, too …
Check out all my travel photos from Lahti in Southern Finland here:
Disclaimer: We have been invited on this trip by #VisitFinland #VisitLahti as part of our #NBEFinland Nordic Bloggers’ Experience. All opinions are my own.