Tag Archives: forest

Finland: A Place You Belong

Since I was a kid I’ve always been sort of a little forest fairy or nymph. I spent the first few years of my life in Finland, the second half of my childhood in Sweden, and now that I’ve gotten to do a bit of traveling, I couldn’t be happier to have got to grow up in the north.

Tampere in summer, picture taken from  cliffs in Pyynikki. Photo by Emilia Brändh.
Keskustori at night. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

So many moments lost and found in the woods, magic discovered in hidden ponds and adventures made in wet swamps, on steep cliffs and misty fields.

My nationality is something I’ve always kinda thought about a lot, and never really been able to pinpoint what I am. What I should answer when someone asks me where I’m from. Here and there? Is that good enough of an answer? Being a bilingual dual citizen and culturally confused kid, I’ve spent a lot of my life wondering who I really am, and what country I really belong to. Because even though technically it’s just a word on a passport or ID, it still matters and means a lot to us.

Lush green pine forest in Ylöjärvi. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

If you’re a bit of a “citizen of the world” instead of belonging one country in specific, nationality can be tricky.

But when I swim in Finnish lakes in the golden evenings, run through Finnish woods in the foggy mornings, light candles on Finnish cemeteries around the cold, harsh Christmas times… I feel like yeah, this is who I am.  I am really Finnish, and I feel like I am home.

It’s like a tangible magical dust floating in the air.

Keijärvi in summer. Finland is THE PLACE to have deep thoughts in nature. Full solitude. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

Finnishness is something I can feel on my skin.

It’s the light on summer nights when the sun doesn’t set. It’s the raindrops on your face when you leave your umbrella at home because there’s no way it will suddenly start raining when the sky looks so clear (but this is Finland we’re talking about, so you should know better and always be prepared!). It’s the chilly breeze in the autumn. It’s the frost biting your cheeks, and it’s the wet pine branches slapping against your body when you take a brisk morning walk in the forest.

Finnish people value honesty, silence, responsibility, cleanness, calm, loyalty, security and determination.

I love how our nature and the beautiful, peaceful landscapes around us are a constant reminder and expression of all those values.

That’s the kind of Finnishness I want to be a part of.

Frosty trees and frozen Iidesjärvi lake seen from Kalevankankaan hautausmaa. Photo by Emilia Brändh.
Golden strolls in the evening sun. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

Finnishness

Finland is a very beautiful country and I think it reflects on our relationship with nature and animals. There seems to be a general respect for the forest and it’s inhabitants. Hiking and trips to nature are a normal thing to do. Of course the city folk won’t have the same opportunities in everyday life like the people in the countryside do, but the forests and the hills are never far away. I guess that is one thing about our country that I really admire. Having visited other countries and their capitals, seeing an endless sea of buildings and roads is impressive but kind of sad at the same time. In Finland you will rarely see a place that doesn’t have some form of nature in the horizon.

This kind of close proximity makes it a normal thing for us to see forests everywhere. I often find it funny how amazed Chinese tourists with the Finnish nature, but I tend to forget that they usually come from some of the largest urban areas in the world and this is something they might not have seen ever before. Our country is a beautiful place and it should be preserved at all costs to give future generations the ability to enjoy nature like we have been able to so far.

Winter view with Aurora Borealis

Countryside view in the summer, cows chilling in the field

Maybe our past  generations living mostly alone or in small farming communities for centuries contributed to our culture of being solitary and quiet. Silence is golden here, and words don’t have to be used if they are not needed. I think is connected to the whole forest thing – it’s a place one can escape the chaos of modern life to both literally and figuratively breath in fresh air to refresh oneself. At least for me it is important, like a temple of trees where no one will bother you and your thoughts can run freely. Hiking, biking, camping and natural parks are a big thing and they all offer this escape to the ones who yearn for it. I believe all that is in the core of the Finnish spirit, to be content with what is around you and respect it.

Pictures by me.

Samuel Almgrén

Finnish mental landscapes

It is widely known that Finland is land of a thousand lakes. Over 187,000 lakes can be found in Finland which is a lot for such a tiny country. Forests cover 75 percent of Finland’s land area which makes it Europe’s most heavily-forested country. This can be one reason why Finns have been described as a forest nation. Every time when I´m on plane and returning to Helsinki-Vantaa airport I feel like landing right in the middle of a forest. So, it is not that difficult to guess which kind of mental landscape people might have here in the northern hemisphere.

Finnish people´s mental landscape lies mostly on the countryside by the lake although most of the people are packed to the cities. It might be in our DNA to feel relaxed surrounded by the nature. This comes out on summers when punch of Finns wanders to their summer retreat places. The cottage is an institution in Finland. And cottage life can be described as a part of the Finnish identity. It is called mökki or kesämökki in Finnish. These simple wooden cottages or log cabins are usually situated close to water. Nowadays some cottages can be like people´s second homes with all the necessities. Cottage slow life offers chance to recharge your batteries. Most of the Finns would mention it to be the most ideal way to spend summer holidays with 24 hours of sunlight. I really agree this. The following picture is taken from my father´s summer cottage house which is located in Hirvensalmi. There are more cottages than residents in this tiny town.

It is remarkable that almost all cottages have a sauna. Finnish people are crazy for saunas. There´s over three million saunas in Finland which tells that it is significant part of Finnish culture. Mostly if you visit someone’s cottage you may be end up to sauna. Sauna has long history in Finland. It used to be cleanest place in households so many babies were born in the sauna back in the days. It is still considered almost as a holy place. Nowadays it is a place to relax alone or with friends and family. In public saunas, this experience can be shared with punch of other sweating people. Documentary movie called Steam of life (Miesten vuoro) was filmed in different saunas. Sounds exotic filming location, eh? The movie is recommendable if anyone feels curiosity towards the mindset of a Finnish man. Finally, in summary the Finnish mental landscapes lie alongside the lake and middle of woods where the birds are humming, and water is licking. Such landscapes lead to Finnish zen where the words are not needed.

 

 

 

My home country, Finland

I think Finland is a very good place to live. Maybe it is because I am used to live there, but I also think it is great how everything works here. For example we have a high quality of education.

Even though the world is getting crazier every day, I feel Finland is quite safety and peaceful place to live. We don’t have massive earthquakes or some other natural catastrophes here.

We have a beautiful nature there, which is one of the most important things for me here. Finland is a land of thousand lakes and forests. I live now almost in the middle of the city, but I can still see trees and plants on my window.

Climate here is a very  variable. In winter we usually have snow on the ground and almost minus twenty degrees. In spring, summer and autumn it might be hot weather, or rain or snowing or anything at all.

Last but not least, I would like to also say few things about people who live there. Finnish people are often called shy and quiet. We don’t talk with strangers on the bus stop or sit next to someone you don’t know in the bus, if there are any free places left.  I am Finnish so I do those things for myself too, because it is maybe part of our culture and behavior. Silence doesn’t mean that someone is rude, of course we speak if someone ask something. In my opinion, that is not a bad thing, because we have some other important features like honesty and punctilious.

-Maria

Finnishness to me.

Finland and Finnishness are so many things that it’s hard to put them in to one blog text, but I’ll write about the things that matter the most for me personally. And that is our nature. Almost everyone else has also brought this up but it’s simply because it’s our greatest and purest thing. For now, at least. The most important things about our nature are big forest and field areas, and of course our lakes. I’m originally from the countryside and I believe that it has a big influence in my love for nature. Even if I live in the city of Tampere right now, I must walk less than a kilometer to get in the forest. And I just love that.

This foto is from Tampere near my home.

Like I mentioned, with that great nature comes water and that water we have plenty. And it is clean. When you have travelled a lot of different places, you notice that not in very many countries can you drink the water that comes in to our homes and houses. Of course, that is because our water cleaning system is ahead of some others. Main point is still a water you can drink without dying, and after that, the fact that our country is advanced for example in things like water cleaning.

This foto is from our summercottage in the island of Attu.

Many people bring up how Finnish people are shy and kinda awkward, at least at first you try to get to know them, but I don’t like bringing that up so much.  I think that our “silence” culture is getting little bit old and we are going towards more social and talking kind of culture. I’m afraid that many foreigners don’t have the courage to approach us because they might believe that we are not interested or something like that. But it’s not true. We are kind and trustworthy people and you should definitely get to know us 😊

I think that also our school system, healthcare and social services deserve own little chapter. Of course, there is always something to do better and could be cheaper and stuff like that. But fact is still that you cannot get these kinds of services almost anywhere in the rest of the world in this way that we have them. There is little something I hope that will change. Peoples appreciation towards our services.

Like I said at the beginning, there is so much to write about but now I’m gonna end it here. I hope that my writing is readable, thank you for reading and all the pictures are taken by me.

This is also from our summer cottage in the island of Attu. There is suppose to be couple of deer but I think that they melt in that picture. Or can you see them? 😉 

 

Humble and honest

The icy shores of lake Pyhä

Finnish people are humble and honest, but not very talkative. We don’t make a big deal out of ourselves. Finnish are gentle and thoughtful like the Moomins. Our education and public health care system are high-class and funded by taxes. In Finland we have a very good waste recycling system and we appreciate our nature. The Finnish passports is one of the best in the world: You can get to 175 from 218 countries with the Finnish passport without a visa.

A frosty winter day

The nature has a huge impact in the Finnish mentality. We live in a country of 200 000 lakes and almost every family has a summer cottage (by the lake of course). The best way to spend the summer vacation is to go to your summer cottage, have a sauna, swim and eat barbecue food. The Finnish sauna there is hot (preferably 80 to 100 Celsius) and the best ones are heated with wood rather than electricity.

Pure and bright waters of the lake Saimaa

Finnish people are people of the woods: We pick berries and fungus from the forests during the fall and spend our vacations doing activities in the nature, such as skiing, fishing and hiking. In Finland we have these Everyman’s rights, which allows us to hike, pick berries and camp in the nature, no matter who owns the land, as far as we don’t make a damage or disturb others.

Finnish summer

In Finland we have four seasons, which all come with their unique beauty. In the Finnish Lapland the sun doesn’t set at all during the summer and in the winter the polar night lasts about 50 days during which the sun doesn’t show at all. But you don’t have to go all the way to the Lapland to experience the beauty of Finnish nature: In the winter, if your lucky, you can spot the aurora borealis for example in Tampere also. The Finnish summer is short but lovely: The people come out of their shells, there’s a lot of laughter and joy, and people spend their time outdoors as much as they can.

The springtime in Finland

Finland has it’s own national epic, the Kalevala, compiled in the 19th Century by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish folklore and mythology. The tale begings with the traditional Finnish creation myth and is followed by a lot of magical spell casting and singing. There are stories of lust, romance, betrayal and seduction and the nature is present throughout the story in the scenery and dialogue. J. R. R. Tolkien has told that he has taken inspiration from the Kalevala to create the elf language to his famous fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

A beautiful summer night in Tampere

On a nightout, Finnish people love to drink beer, tell bad jokes and sing karaoke. Finnish is the only language that has a word for getting drunk at home wearing only your underwear, it’s “kalsarikännit”.

 

General opinion of Finnish people?

I’m trying to wrap my head around the general opinion of Finnish people. If I think about it from an “outsiders” point of view, I see a nation that is doing quite well, people who might be a little bit reserved but who are still very helpful, kind and are open minded.

When talking to people who are not from Finland and asking, “What is your opinion of a Finnish person?” sometimes the answer is that we are shy and quiet and sometimes that we are loud and talkative (this one usually happens if you drink alcohol).

Some have a language barrier with foreign people, maybe their English is not so good, so they seem shy and quiet, even though maybe they would like to get to know the person.

Something that I’ve been wondering a lot is why do the Finns need so much space, where does it come from? Even when we talk to each other we keep our distance. For me, it’s funny, it’s just how we are. A funny example of the need for personal space you can see in this picture where Finnish people are waiting for the bus.

 

I also recommend visiting a blog called Finnish Nightmares. It is one of the funniest pages ever! There is so much truth in the posts, but it really is just funny!

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares

I will end my post with telling you my favorite thing about Finland.

So for me it really is the summer, going to the cottage with my family, going to sauna and going for a swim in the lake. I can’t experience this often since I usually have been away the summers, so when I get to go, it makes me so happy. The forrest surrounds me and it really feels like you can just forget about all your problems, they seem so far when you are so relaxed.

/Katariina

My kind of Finnishness

I started this assignment by thinking what I understand by the term “Finnishness”. To me, it’s all the things that make me feel like myself the most. Places where I can be me, food I love to eat and hobbies I absolutely love to fill my spare time with. Things that give me a deep sense of satisfaction and peace of mind.

Forests

Nature in general is still very near to Finnish people, even in the cities. Lakes, forests, fells in Lapland… They are all places people seem to gravitate to. I grew up in the eastern part of Finland where there is an abundance of woods. Even today forests are places where I go to relax and quieten, to ground myself in a sense. I especially like to hike in the woods with my dogs.

Scenery from a forest, flavored with my doggie. (Image copyright is to me, do not copy.)

Karjalanpaisti

Nothing says Finnish food to me more than Karjalanpaisti (Karelian stew or hot pot in English). The stew has its roots in Karelia, the eastern region of Finland. It contains meat, usually pork, beef or lamb. I personally love the combination of lamb and beef. Root vegetables such as carrots and onions are added to the meat. The stew is seasoned with whole black peppercorns, allspice berries or bay leaf.

The meat is first seared and then placed in a big pot with the other ingredients. The pot is then filled with water and placed in an oven to braise. The cooking takes several hours in a low heat. The best oven for cooking is the traditional masonry oven, but not many have those these days.

I absolutely love this stew, it’s so yummy and perfect in its simplicity. I don’t have an image to add to this post, since the stew is always eaten before I manage to take pictures of it. It’s that good.

Crafts

Finland has quite long traditions in crafts. Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to learn the really old traditions, I still love different kinds of crafts. Especially knitting and crocheting are some of my favorite ways to relax and concentrate. My mother and both my grandmothers all knit and crochet, so it makes me feel close to them as well.

At the moment I am participating in an event called Kalevala CAL. CAL is an abbreviation of the words “Crochet Along”. Basically a CAL is a project where a lot of people are taking part and crocheting the same pattern. This particular CAL is a lovely tribute to Finnish culture and traditions, because it draws inspiration from the Finnish national epic Kalevala. The end product will be a large blanket where each square is inspired by different stories and characters from Kalevala. I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate Finnishness than this crafts project.

If you’re interested in the Kalevala CAL project, you can find more information here: http://www.arteeni.fi/kalevalacal-en

Some of my crocheting from Kalevala CAL.
(Image copyright is to me, do not copy.)

All in all, Finnishness to me is not one or two separate things. Rather it’s a variety of things which define me as a Finnish individual. In addition to these three subjects, there are a bunch more I find dear to me.

 

Balance between nature and urban city life

I have lived my whole life in Finland, in the bigger cities and also on the countryside, almost half and half. While I’m in Tampere I feel like a proper city girl, all urban and fancy. And then I go to the countryside or to the nearest forest and find my inner eräjorma (there is no translation for this word, but I feel ranger would be the closest alternative, someone who can survive in the “wild”).  And I love it! I love that I can feel fancy or down to earth whenever I want. I live relatively close to the city center and yet the closest forest is less than 2 kilometers away.

To me this is the strength of Finland and in particular the strength of Tampere. The nature is everywhere. I was devastated when some of the trees on the main street, Hämeenkatu, were cut down because of the building of the tram, that damn tram. Those trees had been there for decades, and where a big part of why I loved Tampere. I get why they had to go but still *insert crying emoji*. Thankfully there are still parks near the center and it hasn’t yet become a total concrete jungle.

SEE THOSE TREES?! THEY ARE GOOONE!!

 

And now quick before you think I’m a crazy treehugger I’ll jump into one of my favorite topics, fashion and design. Finland is the Mecca of simplistic design, among the other Nordic countries. Especially the current theme in all designing is simplicity, eco-friendliness and nature. For example, the clothing and fabric company Marimekko is well known for their nature inspired and/or simplistic patterns.And the glass and tableware company Iittala is most known for their modern design.  To me this speaks very loudly of us finns. We like simple things, we love the nature and we let it show.

*The factuality of these statements is unknown

 

In conclusion to me Finnishness is taking care of the nature, enjoying the simple things in life, like being able to go to the forest and listen to the silence and breathe in the clean air.(Funny story; I was at a concert a while ago and the singer said that the first thing they noticed in Finland was how clean the air is! Haha so funny..) Finnishness is also not liking the God damn tram worksite, which is making me crazier by the hour. Finnishness is being crazy, too!  Most of us are more or less crazy.

WTF, Welcome to Finland.

 

My experiences of Finnishness

In this text I want to tell some things that mean “Finnishness” to me.

1)      Summer and summer cottages

I absolutely love summer in Finland. Going to festivals, having picnic outside, jogging in forest, having breakfast on the terrace, coming home during the light night, eating strawberries at the market etc.

Summer is (too) short in Finland but people really enjoy it. During the summer it’s very light. The more north you go the lighter it is.

Many people have their own summer cottage. My family’s summer cottage is in Northern Finland. It takes many hours to drive there but it’s worth it. There is for example “smoke sauna”. And after going to sauna you can swim in the lake.

Turku Ruisrock 09-11.07 2010

www.festarit. org

2)      Food

There are some delicious typical Finnish foods and goodies. I love chocolate called “Fazer’s blue chocolate”. Blueberry pie is also very Finnish thing.  Many people go to the forest during summer and pick up blueberries and to make a blueberry pie. Then is also bread cheese, whipped lingonberry porridge, salmon soup, cabbage rolls, gingerbread cookies, rice pies, cinnamon buns, meat balls, rye bread…

fazer_sininen-levy_rgb_1600x600

www.fazer.fi    

3) Nature

Nature in Finland is really beautiful. I love to go to forest for a run or walk. And it’s said that Finland is the most forested country in Europe. 70 % of the land is covered with threes.

There are also many lakes in Finland. Some people say that Finland is “the land of thousand lakes”. Because there are lots of lakes there is also fish.

Nature is important for many Finnish people. We go there to relax and enjoy the silence.

Suomi

www.rantapallo.fi