Finland, Saunas, Style & the Midnight Sun
Words by Rachel Trevarthen
Finland is a lesser-known European travel destination and so the devouring eyes of hungry tourists have not robbed it of its authenticity and charm.
It is undeniably Scandinavian, in style, in function and in form.
As a society, Finland leads the world for its comprehensive and inclusive social services and progressive education system that focuses on learning and equality over competition and test taking.
So why visit? Here are five great reasons.
A people proud
What stands out most about Finland is the people’s pride in their country. They are keen to share their culture and willing for foreigners to understand it better.
They want to know why you are there, how long you’ll stay and what you think of their country. They will share with you points of interest, funny anecdotes and historical stories about Finland that can only be known by locals.
If you spend some time in Finland you’ll be sure to be asked questions about your experience out of an eagerness to ensure you have a pleasant time.
Midnight sun and white nights in the summer
The trade off for the bitter Nordic winter is endless twilight in the summer. During midsummer in Finland, the sun doesn’t set for about two weeks and you can really see the Finns compensating for the winter vitamin D deficiency. Parks are full of sun-exposed bodies, beaches are frequented and festivals, parties and park sauntering continue day and night.
Undeniable Scandinavian style
Helsinki represents the facets of Scandinavian style sought after around the world. A fusion of simplicity, elegance and functionality creates a timeless effect where people, place and design can interact with ease.
Transport runs effectively and efficiently, buildings are well planned and placed, the people are elegantly dressed and there is plenty of green space for people to relax, meet and interact.
Reindeer racing, traditional carpet washing and various unique craft traditions mark some of the customs of Finland.
Simple everyday activities like the washing of carpets on Helsinki’s foreshores have become curious attractions for tourists and the Finns still practice and make many custom crafts including crochet, bobbin lace and straw made octahedrons known as Himmeli for celebrations and decoration.
Saunas are to the Finns what pubs are to the Irish. It’s where people go to unwind, drink and cleanse their pores at the same time. Yes that’s right, I said drink. People can and do drink at Finnish saunas which certainly seems contradictory to the cleansing intent. This occurs at Helsinki’s newest and most modern sauna establishment, Loyly. It is the only sauna in town that is mixed sex so a couple of rule changes apply. Firstly, you wear swimsuits whereas the custom in saunas is to be nude (if you aren’t people will think you’re a pervert). Secondly, rather than getting under a cold shower straight after the sauna you can jump straight into the Baltic sea. By stimulating blood circulation, endorphins and replacing dead skin cells, sauna and sea dipping is a wonderfully healing activity.
Finland is indeed a happy coexistence of modernity and tradition. If you make it to this beautiful Nordic land be sure to indulge in tastes of both.
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