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Finland has always seemed to be in the shadow of Russia, yet surveys show it to be the most competitive corruption-free,  and business-friendly country in the world.   We found it to be a modern country with friendly people and beautiful land and lakes.


Finland - The Country

Friends we met in New Zealand had invited us to Finland, so we started with a little local knowledge - and found this part of Scandinavia to be a wonderful country.   We reached Finland after a long ferry ride from Rostock, Germany and immediately found a beautiful camp ground with views of the Baltic Sea.

Finland, or 'Suomi' as it is known in Finnish, has maintained its independence and neutrality despite having Russia on its longest border.  The language is unique, with no recognizable words - all we managed to learn was 'hei', or 'hello' and 'hei hei'; 'goodbye'.  But many Finns speak English so we had no trouble as we made our way around the country.

Many families have a lakeside vacation cottage since much of the countryside is covered in water, thousands of lakes with numerous rivers and canals interconnecting them.  We were lucky to have whiled away a day on one of the lakes, enjoying the view and wildlife.  


On the outskirts of the capital, Espoo is the home of our friends and is a typical suburban town.  Streets are wide and well-maintained, houses are neat and well-insulated (it does get cold here) and you know you are in a modern country.  Our friend's house was built on a large rock with a beautiful garden surrounded by birch trees.  Except for the triple-grazed windows it would feel at home in any US suburb.


The capital, Helsinki, is a modest-sized port city with good shopping, cafes, government buildings, and concert halls.  We wandered the streets and were impressed by the number of marinas and yachts around the city.  One marina had several large wooden schooners, work boats from another era.  Our friends led us on a whirlwind week that included:

  • Dinner at a Lapland restaurant with reindeer and trimmings on the menu.
  • A visit to an interesting art museum with works by Gallen-Kallela, a famous Finnish artist.
  • Walks through nature preserves along one of the many sea-front parks.
  • A concert at the Finlandia Center with high quality performances by local composers and artists. 


This is a cute small town in the middle of the lake country complete with a castle and several art galleries.  One of our more memorable evenings was watching the Bolshoi Ballet perform Swan Lake in a medieval castle - a very classy performance!  During the day leading up to the ballet, we enjoyed a traditional Finnish meal at a cottage in the woods, interspersed with sessions in a sauna, dunking in the cold lake, and watching a moose swim across the lake.


Northern Finland, or Lapland, is noted for snow, cross-country skiing, and a nodding acquaintance with Santa Claus.  Much of Lapland is north of the Arctic Circle and we felt we had to experience it, although at a benign time of the year. Rovaniemi is on the Arctic Circle and is home to large reindeer population and a zoo with many animals of the north as well as a Post Office dedicated to making Santa's job easy by accepting his mail, or letting visitors drop off mail to be posted in time for Santa's annual trip around the globe.  Check some of the zoo occupants below


Alert owl watching us


We found Finland to be an outstanding example of what a country, with modest natural resources but an entrepreneurial spirit and strong social conscience can achieve - it is a wealthy, honest, and secure society where hard work is rewarded and bad luck is handled with sympathy.  It was easy for us to get around and to communicate - we liked it!

For more information about Finland see our May or June 2004 Journal entries or check out some of our many Finland Photos.



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