My parents and sister decided to vacation in Finland this summer and it’s causing some major envy over here. (Never mind that the idea of taking my young kids on an 11-hour plane ride sounds insane.) The birch trees, the idyllic lakes, the smell after it rains. Picking wild berries. Relaxing in the sauna. Karl Fazer chocolate and rieska bread. A summer sun that never truly sets. I miss it all.
It’s been 10 years since my last trip to the Land of a Thousand Lakes and it’s like a part of my soul was left over there. Finland is so beautiful and peaceful, clean and safe. It’s no wonder that it ranks as a top country in many categories.
I was too young to remember my first time in Finland, but some of my favorite and most vibrant memories happened during my other three trips there.
When I was five, my grandpa’s fishing net got caught with someone else’s, leaving me, my mom, and her stepsister to spend half the night cuddled up on the lake shore while my grandpa and the other fisherman untangled their nets.
When I was ten, I practiced the tradition of going from the almost 200° sauna into the 65° lake. I baked mustikkapiirakka with my great-aunts and played badminton with second cousins.
The last time I was there, I was in my early twenties. A cousin took my mom and me to the capital city, where we visited the neoclassical Helsinki Cathedral, got fake tattoos of Kalevala symbols at the flea market, and took a ferry across the Baltic Sea for a day trip to Estonia.
We got to see the giant sandcastles built every summer in Lapeenranta; that year’s theme was the Wild West.
I watched from shore as a bright blue day with cottony clouds morphed into a quick-passing summer storm, with bolt after bolt of lightning flashing on the other side of the lake and the glassy water becoming dark and choppy.
Much of our time was spent at summer cabins. I’m not exaggerating when I say the majority of Finns own summer cabins (and saunas and porch swings). My grandpa even had one on the same lake as his regular home. I went boating, read books under the mellow Northern sun, made flower crowns, ate crepes for dinner and sandwiches for breakfast, drank hard ciders, and practiced my Finnish.
One day I’ll go back. I’ll show my husband and kids the house my mom lived in as a young child and the farm where my grandma and her nine siblings grew up. I’ll introduce them to extended family and a slower-paced lifestyle. Maybe we’ll even venture further north into Lapland where we can see reindeer, the northern lights, and Santa Clause Village. One day. But for now, I’ll live vicariously through the pictures my parents and sister take, the stories they tell, and the chocolate they bring back.
Tell me, where is your favorite place? What makes it so special?