10 Things I Learned About Finland

Sauna in Finland on Island
Sauna in Finland on Island. Hans Bjurling.Johner Images Royalty-Free/Getty Images

I enjoyed a walking trip to Finland to learn about Nordic Walking with walking poles. Along the way, I learned many interesting things about Finland and its people.

1.    Over 80% of Finnish families own a lake or island where they have a summer cottage.  Prices are low and stock is high, there are over 187,888 lakes in Finland and thousands of islands.  Finns love to enjoy a holiday "in the nature."

2.    The tango is very popular in Finland and most Finns know how to tango and enjoy doing it often.

3.    Most Finns have a sauna in their house or apartment.  The best sauna is considered to be the smoke sauna.  This is a one-room wood hut where rocks are heated by a wood fire, the smoke escaping through a small hole in the roof.  The inside is coated with soot.  When ready for use, the room has a delicious scent.  The bathers enter naked and generally take along a sheet of paper to sit on.  A fresh branch of birch leaves is dipped in a pail of water and the bathers bat each other with it on the back to release the oils.  Water is thrown on the hot rocks to generate steam.  After about 15 minutes, the bathers rise up and run down to the lake for a dip in the cool water, then return to enjoy another round of sauna.  A final dip in the lake and the experience is done.  The annual Sauna Sitting Contest seems like a bad idea to me.

  The temperature is taken up to near 100C (212F), with the top woman lasting 13 minutes, 10 seconds and the top man lasting 20 minutes, 22 seconds

4.    Moose and reindeer are road hazards  in the Finnish countryside.  While reindeer dent your fender, moose come in through the windshield with often fatal results for both moose and motorists.

  From personal experience I can say that they make good steaks and I had some excellent mooseloaf baked in the smoke sauna.

5.  Finland had the most mobile phones and the most email addresses per capita of any nation in the world in the year 2000.  It is home to Nokia, which is named after a town in Finland where the company has been in existence for decades before becoming a cell phone leader.

6.    Finland was the first nation to give women the vote. At the time of my visit, both the president of Finland and the mayor of Helsinki were women. 

7.    Military service is compulsory for all young men (but not for women), or they may serve alternate community service.    While we were at Vuokatti, a NATO exercise was going on, and the generals were going to enjoy the lakeside sauna the evening after we had our sauna "in the nature."

8.    Sonkajärvi, Finland is home of the yearly July Wife Carrying Championships.  The winners for 2000 were for the third year in a row a couple from Estonia, with Imre carrying Annele the 253.5 meters in 55.5 seconds, beating the competition by 5 seconds.

  I don't know what Women's Rights activists would say about this, but I am sure my husband's bad back would prevent us from entering this one.

9.    With all of the lakes and woods, 35 species of  mosquitoes keep the country humming during the brief summer.  This has inspired the annual Mosquito Killing Contest, a timed event of 5 minutes with the champion causing the demise of 21 mosquitoes.  While this may be troublesome to Animal Rights activists, I have no problem with it.

10.   Helsinki is the northernmost national capital in the world.  About a third of the country above the Arctic Circle, with long months of darkness and the Northern Lights.  In the summer they have long months of midnight sun.  While in Finland in June, it never got dark and it was full sunlight at 3 am.

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