Archive for July, 2010


Midsummer (Juhannus) – Lappeenranta

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My first week and a half in the country of my ancestry – Finland.  Already it’s been a full week, a week and a half spent doing pretty much nothing except eating and relaxing in amongst the forest on the shore of a beautiful lake. Eating extraordinarily good food and I can safely say Finns serve a phenomenal feast. Just one helping just isn’t enough, although the first serving is more than enough it seems that my relatives want me to eat more and then eat some more. I don’t quite know why but I have to say that the food here tastes a whole lot better than Australia.

After arriving last Tuesday week, the 22nd June – early morning Helsinki time, the air a little brisk and the sun shining like it was 10am rather than the half six it actually was, my first day was spent recovering from traversing a time zone and having been cramped on a air plane for over 20 hours. It was a relief to have my feet firmly planted on Terra firma again but I was in such a daze that I could hardly think straight, let alone appreciate that I was in Finland. My first impression was quite literally that I’d arrived in a forest and to be entirely honest it was a little underwhelming viewing it from the air. But my first impressions might have been a little jaded by travelling in what felt like a sardine can with wings. My flight on British Airways left me with little confidence in air travel with anything resembling comfort, however Finnair were, by far, miles ahead in clean and comfortable flying. If I ever travel overseas again I will most definitely give British Airways a wide berth.

I only spent a couple days in Tuusula with one of my other Aunts and most of that time was spent resting and getting into holiday mode after years of slogging it out in the office. It was so good to relax that I’d forgotten what it was like to actually relax. Before my Aunt Paula and I left for some other relatives mokki (holiday house) we did manage to see some  of the local Tuusula wildlife. I saw my very first squirrel that jumped on the window sill and I thought it was coolest thing in the world. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get it on film but I did manage to get a local pheasant walking in the front yard and down the driveway which was pretty cool too.


Now I’d read about how practically everyone in Finland owned a bit of forest and that paper consumption is never given a moments contemplation, but the view from the air plane as it came in for a landing at Vantaa was that I was landing in a forest. There were pine trees everywhere, and the landscape was just a green mass with a few lakes thrown in for a splash of colour. I’m just so used to the Australian landscape with it’s browns and earthy colours of reds, greens and blue hues of eucalyptus and the arid, sun scorched earth but Finland from the air was well, just green. Having also viewed the Finnish countryside from train now, I can confirm without a doubt that it is a green mass. The forest as viewed from the air is exactly what you see, everywhere, a matter of what you see is what you get. I have never seen so much forest in my life and when travelling by train it was a little monotonous but awesome by its sheer magnitude. Viewing it at speed is where it fails to impress anything but a green blur, however getting in amongst it is where it excels. It is a magnificent experience being enveloped in a forest and having the green swallow you and seeing not only pine but birch and numerous other nameless trees. It is awe inspiring when the summer night is shining its sunlight with an endless day and being in the forest without a sound. It is so incredibly still. Not a cricket stirs, nor any sound from the lake as if the frogs have been silenced by the beauty of the setting sun as it turns the lake into a giant mirror. If no wind whistles through the trees there is absolute silence. Still. Quiet. Just total peace. Nothing can describe the silence, just phenomenal!

The long days make the forest experience complete, with a lake mirroring the reflections of the forest and it feels as if you melt into the landscape and become a part of the stillness. Relaxation at its finest.


The long days are celebrated with the midsummer festival weekend which is called Juhannus where a bon fire or Kokko, as it is called here, is lit. Family and friends come together to drink and eat and party the weekend as the nation stops to celebrate the tradition of Juhannus.

My time at Lappeenranta will probably be remembered with a kokko and the incredibly peaceful and beautiful lake and long days where the sun never did quite set, even when the sun did eventually go down it was still light enough to see.


The sauna – lakeside pictured above.


Forest wild flowers pictured above.


Lappeenranta sunset above.

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