Finland, oh wonderful Finland, how I enjoyed thee! You were less of what I thought you were and so much more of what I’d love to see…
I was so fortunate to have been treated more like an adopted family member, than a typical tourist. I was showered with hospitality, food and gifts from the second I stepped onto that big ship, which provided a sunset cruise from Stockholm to Turku. The booking system and my budget landed me in a small cabin with three female strangers. Since I knew neither Swedish nor Finnish, there was a definite language barrier, but the universality of the smile won out in the end. It did help that one of the chefs was a friend of a friend and he provided me with a free buffet that came with all of the wine I could drink… and I did!
When we docked, I was whisked away in a chariot by a dashing man bearing local flowers in bloom. Okay, not really. But I was met by a friend who did his very best to make me feel comfortable amid the many curious looks I received. I guess they weren’t used to seeing “New Yorker’s” up close and in person. First stop was getting something to eat and the full Finnish experience took off from there.
It was superstar treatment and even an exclusive tour or two from locals who pointed out the very best their town had to offer. After a darn near heart stopping, huffing and puffing ascent to the highest heights in Turku, which showed me that there is much more to this lovely town than meets the eye, I was able to fully appreciate just how spectacular this part of Finland really was. The sights, the food, the people… all make Finland a necessary stop in the Scandinavian region of Europe.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear Finland, I think cold, snow, and long words with multiple vowels. While all of these things have their own allure, the thought of being in a place that often dips to 40 below 0, and I’m talking Celsius not Fahrenheit, was fairly low on the bucket list. So imagine my surprise when this home to the Suomi people turned out to be one of the most beautiful group of islands I had ever visited.
I had known absolutely nothing else besides the notoriously long periods of darkness during the cold weather. But, since I visited just in time for the longest day of the year and the celebratory Mid-Summer’s Night Party in the countryside, this archipelago was full of fun, surprises and history.
I heard that the Lapland experience is not to be missed but unfortunately that wasn’t something I could swing this first time around. Honestly, I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, but greater Turku and Helsinki provided so many amazing glimpses of Finland that I’d definitely love to return someday.