"In Summer 2015 we spent three amazing weeks in Finland. We are lucky enough to have friends there as our son married into a Finnish family, so we got a good idea of what it’s like to live in Finland.
The first thing that strikes one on the first night in Finland is (of course!) that the days are very long. In Helsinki it gets almost dark for an hour or two. Just an hour or two further north it doesn’t get dark at all. We were fascinated. Helsinki is a very pleasant and friendly city, scattered over many small islands. There are plenty of interesting sights:
- the church built into solid rock. There is always a pianist playing in this church, so that visitors can appreciate the acoustics
- the Sibelius monument which resembles an organ and sits in a pretty park near the water
- the Ataneum, national art gallery
- the Music Centre, where the introduction to Sibelius (with two pianists playing extracts) is not to be missed
- the wonderful Old Market Hall which sells fish, cheese and other foods and is a miracle of beautiful display and endless choice, and the Market Square on the quayside where you can buy all manner of crafts and wonderful food treats. Cakes and buns in Finland are delectable!
There are many more sights that can be found in any guide book, so I’d like to share some of the things that struck me about private homes. I live in Switzerland so I’m used to good insulation in buildings, but the Fins have taken this to another level. In the apartment we stayed in the windows were all triple glazed. Only a very small section of the window can be opened, and this small window is very clever: two of the panes open together, leaving the third one still closed between the warm inside and the frigid outside air. This final pane can be opened too if the weather is warm.
Every kitchen has a cabinet above the sink that is fitted with racks into which you stack the washed dishes. The cabinet has no floor, so the dishes drip dry over the stainless steel sink. I found this extremely practical, even though most kitchens also have a dishwasher!
There is always a small hand shower near the toilet. This turns every toilet into a sort of bidet. Incredibly practical and very much cheaper than the smart 'shower toilet/washlet' that I have at home. The cardboard centre of toilet rolls is biodegradable and flushable. Amazing.
Out and about there were things I loved too. You can order a glass of milk in any restaurant, it’s one of the drinks on any drinks menu. Particularly wonderful if you’re travelling with children! There are stalls selling fresh berries all over the place, and they also sell fresh peas! I love eating peas right out of the shell so I found this fabulous. Fish soup is on almost every menu and it’s always superb – very much like a Scottish Cullen Skink, it’s a safe bet if you don’t know what to order!
Every home in Finland has a sauna (above). We soon came to appreciate what a marvellous thing that is - that heat makes you feel clean from inside out and is fabulous for tense muscles! In winter when it’s cold and very dark, a regular sauna must be something of a life saver .
A home exchange to Finland is a truly fascinating experience!"
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.