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Kiitos, Finland - lakes, sauna and Santa

Kiitos, Finland - lakes, sauna and Santa

Written by am on 09.03.2018 at 18:23.

More than 1.600 km lie between Helsinki, from where we started our journey through Finland, and the Norwegian border in Finnish Lapland. So much land, so many trees - but we never felt bored while looking out of the window.

Water and forests abound in Finland. A perfect combination to generate an army of mosquitoes. The bad reputation of the Finnish mosquitoes precedes them - whenever we talked to experienced Finland travelers before our departure, we were warned against the little bloodsuckers. Luckily, when we arrived in Finland in late September, we did not notice any of them. The more we were able to enjoy the seemingly endless country roads through colorful forests and hundreds of lakes. 

The Finns and their addictions - an outside (and subjective) observation

On the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki, we witnessed a Finnish phenomenon for the first, but by far not the last time.  Slot machines. At gas stations and in some restaurant they may have a certain right to exist, but finding them in almost every supermarket across the country was totally unexpected.  Whether old or young, man or woman, we repeatedly observed that after shopping the change was immediately gambled away in the slot machines located in the exit area of the supermarket. This (hopeless) investment seemed to us to be almost a popular sport, since we made the same observation in supermarkets from south to north. 

In Tallinn, where we had a heavily drinking Finn as neighbor in the hostel, we obtained a first insight into the relationship of Finland's inhabitants to alcohol. He had come to Tallinn for one reason only: alcohol. In Finland, he explained to us, alcohol is terribly expensive. Hence, Finns regularly accept the three-hour ferry crossing from Helsinki to Tallinn to do their alcohol shopping in Estonia. Nevertheless, in Finland "Alko" shops are a dime a dozen. The Finnish state holds a monopoly on the sale of alcohol - only in these shops spirits with an alcohol content over 4.7%vol. may be sold. Weaker alcohol such as beer and cider can be found in grocery stores, gas stations and kiosks, but can be purchased only between 9am to 9pm.

The Finns are also addicted to another liquid. Finland is a country of coffee drinkers, with supposedly the world's highest consumption. Yes, "Kahvi" was omnipresent in Finland, but we were not very fond of the black gold from filter machines. Quite a setback,  after we got so spoiled with fantastic coffee in the Baltic States.

Among sauna enthusiasts

The sauna is known to be an elementary part of the Finnish culture. Nevertheless, we must confess to our shame that we visited the country of the sauna world champions but have not only once sweat in a sauna. On the one hand, we have not actively sought to visit a sauna, on the other hand, when we had the only real opportunity, namely a free sauna at the campsite of Oulu, we let it pass unused. 

A maze of lakes

After we had left Helsinki in a northeasterly direction, we soon arrived at the Finnish Lake District. The Lakeland is a blue labyrinth of lakes, islands, rivers and canals, interspersed with forests, stretching for hundreds of miles in a placid and staggeringly beautiful expanse.

Wild campspot in Finland

We spent one night near the town of Lappeenranta on Lake Saimaa, the largest inland water in Finland and settlement area of the rare ringed seal of the same name. Unfortunately, we did neither spot the freshwater seal there nor in the lakes around Linnansaari National Park, which is located further north. Nevertheless, the waters of this national park were dotted with lush green islands and rocky islets and definitely worth a visit. 

Holidays in a cabin by the lake - this is an essential part of Finnish life, and the Lake District is a popular destination for locals and strangers alike. Mailboxes on the roadside were a practical hint that the narrow, inconspicuous paths into the forest led to one of these cabins. In fact, finding a free camp spot in the wilderness was in Finland much more difficult than in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Many times we had to turn due to the fact that a trail which we drove along led to a private property. 

From the Lake District in the the southeast, we continued our journey to the North and were excited to cross the Arctic Circle to explore Lapland, the home of Santa Clause.

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