"If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to spend some time in a Finnish holiday cabin – a Mökki - you will experience something unique. The cabin we stayed in was on one of the myriad lakes that punctuate the endless birch forests across the southern part of Finland. The nearest railway station is at Jyväskylä (one of the things we found endlessly intriguing was the language!). From there we drove by car to the most amazing summer home we have ever seen. First we had a two hour drive through literally millions of birch trees. The forest is so dense and the countryside so flat that the lakes only become visible now and then.
This particular holiday cabin consists of the original log house, a cosy little building with an open plan kitchen and living room, and three tiny bedrooms. The bathroom isn’t in the sauna, the sauna is the bathroom! This was a separate log cabin with two rooms – one is the sauna, with two huge cauldrons of water (one hot, one cold) and a wood burning stove. The other room is the changing room cum spare bedroom. All the bathroom and laundry bits and pieces have a home there. The toilet is a separate tiny hut, prettily painted in blue and white inside, and traditional red outside. The seat is a wooden box, beneath which is a composting toilet that gets emptied every three months or so. You throw a shovelful of peat into the box after every visit to help nature get the composting work done. We soon discovered that it’s not the solid stuff that smells, it’s the liquid! You learn a fascinating new fact every day!
There is another separate cabin that contains a wood-fired iron range, where you can cook for quite a crowd if you know how to handle the monster. Water comes from a well, which in this particular case is connected to a pipe that leads the water into the kitchen. A huge luxury when one considers what it would be like to have to carry every bucket inside!
Firing up the sauna every other day became a loved ritual, as we learned to appreciate the pleasures of dry heat followed by a good splashdown. After a few days of acting like the prissy townsfolk we were we began to wander the ten meters to the lake edge in our birthday suits to cool off. Why worry when nobody takes a blind bit of notice anyway, and you never see sight nor sound of any human being outside of your family? If we did see anyone they were way out on the lake, fishing, and not interested in people doing what the locals do all the time. Most refreshing!
We ate fish out of the lake, whose clear peaty brownish waters were clean enough to drink, berries that we gathered from the springy, mossy hillsides, and wild mushrooms gathered in the forest. Other supplies were bought at the nearest little shop, half an hour’s drive away.
We spent the most peaceful time in Finland’s forests – not a sound, except for birds. Scarcely any people, light nights with a magical atmosphere. But there is one serpent in this paradise – mosquitoes! Millions of them! Out on the water there are none, but on land they’re a constant pest. We protected ourselves with sleeves and anti-insect spray and actually got used to them. We just made sure they didn’t get indoors! By the way, a good hot sauna is a miracle cure for itchy bites! Apparently, if the weather gets really hot (which can happen!) the mosquitoes go to ground and you can sunbathe in peace. Pesky little buzzers or not, we had the most wonderful time ever and would go again like a shot! We’ve been in the bush in southern Africa, and the contrast with Finland’s forests could hardly be greater. There are vast expanses of nature in both places, but with no water and few trees at one end, and nothing but trees and water at the other. What a wonderful world!"
Bea Fitz is a long-term Home Base Holidays member and experienced home swapper. Click here to view Bea's home swap offer in Niederuzwil, Switzerland.
Some of Bea’s previous articles published on Travel the Home Exchange Way: