In 2017 we decided to do a trip down memory lane and visit some good old family friends in Finland. Off it was to Helsinki. Helsinki has really changed in the past 20 years. The harbor area has brought up some nice restaurants, coffee shops, food corners, etc. which made it even more lively than it already was during the summer days. Not only is the temperature warm enough to walk around in a shirt, but also does the extended daylight make it easy to forget the time of the day.
Browse around the city of Helsinki and enjoy strawling around with no final destination. Enjoy being part of the people and let yourself drift into different places of the city. Sit down, enjoy a glass of wine, a cool beer, or a typical coffee with a sweet. There are many great things to see within the city, for me the most fascinating place is Kauppahalli close the the harbor on Eteläranta. This little mall has some great local food products to offer and a great restaurant. Also check for local festivals and the local food market.
Then we hit the road to go north for Tampere to visit friends, who have their mökki right on the lake Jouttesselkä. If you have a chance to get invited to a mökki, this is for sure something special. A mökki – which is a typical summer cottage and a second home to most Finish people – is something special. It is a priviledge first off to get invited to someone’s home, and second you will dive into a world of relaxation and peace. Also you will get confronted with “comfort” you did not think about for a long time. On this picture you see a typical outdoor toilette.
Next stop was close to Varkaus, which is famous for its wood industry. Again, during the summer time you will find most people in or at their mökki, and enjoying local food, such as river lobster, served with a typical Finish vodka, Norwegian salmon, and typical berries for desert. But have a look for yourself.
We left the middle of Finland to drive north-east, to get to a place close by the Russian border. During the war in 1917, when Finland got independent from Russia, many people had to leave their home due to the war on the borders. This house was and is practically on the border to Russia. So in order to get there, you need to register with border patrol to gain access to your house. Although the house is in the middle of nowhere, mosquitoes are among the few animals that will find you. And they did … but we had very good protection. When traveling to Finland I can recommend Ballistol Stichfrei Mückenschutz. This stuff does smell ok, yet it takes care of the mosquitoes. The other thing that helps is smoke. My son bugged me since he wanted to have an open fire and a typical Finish sausage on the stick. So we started a fire outdoor and due to the wet grass we used to produce smoke, the mosquitoes left us alone.
Then and when you still find monuments, signs or alike, remembering the heroic success over Russia. Accompanied with this are the site remembering the men who lost their lives. Close to Suomussalmi you find Talvisodan Monumentti. A very impressive museum, remembering the time that shall never be forgotten.
When driving in Finland, you will get used to the speed limit which makes traveling also more relaxing. Especially on roads further north, you don’t have so much traffic. Yet, this is the time and place to pay extra attention, because you will at some point get across a reindeer herd. You have to come to an absolut stop, as those animals don’t care too much about traffic. It is their country, so why move. Further up North we came across Kuusamo and continued to Ruka, a famous ski resort. During the summer time you need to check back which restaurants are open, as during this time of the year most shops are closed, or have limited opening hours. On our way most times we did not try to take the shortest route, yet we prefered the “most scenic” route. So in order to get to Rovaniemi, we drove further north on the E63 to Kemijärvi, which is a magnifisant drive along lots of water. Here you will understand why Finland is called the country with the 1000 lakes. If you have time, just buy some bread and some cheese and sausage in a supermarket and enjoy a lunch time close by any lake. There are numerous restareas, where you can stop and enjoy the beautiful countryside and lakes. And – depending of the time of the year, you will find enough blueberries to have a nice desert.
Rovaniemi has a lot to offer. Especially during the warm summer days people tend to spend most of the time enjoying life in one of the plenty coffee shops around town. So hop’ in and enjoy life. One thing I need to point out here is that if you have a chance to visit Marttiini Oy – a knife factory – be sure to go there. You will find one of the best knives Finland has to offer. Especially if you are a chef and enjoy cooking, you will find a great offer of knives you need for your kitchen.
On our way back to Helsinki – which in general is a pretty long drive – especially due to many road constructions which happen during the summer, I want to point out one of the many great coffee shops along the roads. Even if you don’t feel like a break, and have been on the road for not more than 2 – 3 hours, just use this “excuse” to stop for a coffee and a sweet. You might be able to “dive” into another world you have not seen. This happend to us when I felt like I needed a coffee. We was a sign, stopped and actually stayed there longer than expected. It was great to meet and greet the locals, and get to know a little about them. And the home made cakes, bagles, etc. are just outstanding. Have a look for yourself.
Before it was back to Germany we visited friends in the southern part of Finland, and left thie beautiful country by having one last great cake of berries. What a great journey. And to be honest, with only 5 mosquito bites in three weeks, I cannot complain.