Relax, Xmas atmosphere, quietness, nature.
What binds these 4 things better than a Scandinavian country?
We picked Finland as our destination for a long weekend in December.
And it could have not been a better experience!
Things that we loved the most:
- Finns. Locals are brilliant: welcoming, polite, chatty, interested in your stories, incredibly kind. From the old lady that starts talking to you at the tram stop and the young shop assistant of the photography shop, to the bunch of guys you’re sweating with in the sauna and the bartender that serves you breakfast.
- Saunas. Good old stereotypes! What better than a sauna after a cold day spent exploring the woods or the city? Especially when it gets dark at 3.30 pm and it becomes a bit pointless to wander around. Saunas are everywhere, and, for Finns, they represent a proper social activity to share with friends or colleagues after work, quite as pubs for Brits. However, their attitude towards strangers is much different from the one we’re so used to. Everybody’s trying to make friends and, as soon as they find out that you’re a foreigner, you become the centre of their attention and their best mate, to the point you end up being whipped with birch branches from strangers while in the sauna, offered drinks and lifts back home on a hippie van! Plus, it’s healthy and reinvigorating. Just try stepping outdoor with -10 °C in between sauna sessions with only a towel around your waist. You’ll love it!
- Shameless nudity. Finns have no issues with it and it’s actually mandatory in saunas (quite a big deal considering that in the UK people don’t even have a shower at the gym after a training session!). Which is brilliant because, once naked, there are no prejudices due to social ranks, we’re all the same and relating to each other becomes, surprisingly, much easier. Fun fact: while in Kallio on our second night in Helsinki, we got stopped by a guy that asked us if we were at Hermanni Sauna the previous night. We nodded and realized who he was, just in time for him to exclaim “I actually had to ask, it’s hard to recognize you with your clothes on!”
- Spectacular nature. the suburbs are made of forests and lakes and you can easily get to breathtaking spots, such as Nuuksio national park, where you can hike and lose yourself in the sounds of the wood. Just a quick tip: avoid getting lost in it when it gets dark.
- Helsinki’s livable and chilled out attitude and its concrete/nature contrast (huge rocks are found in between the buildings!)
- Our Airbnb flat in Limingantie, an idyllic neighbourhood located 20 minutes from the city centre. So stunning to be featured on the front cover of an internal design magazine. Our hearts cried when we had to return the keys!
- Porvoo and its traditional colourful wooden houses and Christmassy atmosphere.
- Cinnamon buns.
- Polly and Jacopo (aka Lintustudio) and the time spent together on a photo walk in the forest and in their beautiful downtown flat eating pizza, listening to their stories about how they moved to Helsinki and the reasons that pushed them to settle down there. So great talking with them about photography, travels and projects for the future… Really wish we didn’t live this far.
Lubitel 166+, Rollei 400 (120) / Kodak Portra 400 (120), 10-13/12/2015, Helsinki (Finland)
Olympus OM-10, Kodak Superia 200 (35)