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
||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
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.
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
- 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
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