When people ask me what would be the right time to visit Finland, the answer is easy: summer. It never ceases to amaze me – the shades of green of the trees, blue of the lakes and yellow of the turnip fields. And the light. The land and its people come alive again, and even the nature points out that sleeping is a complete waste of time. Every year, after having survived yet another harsh winter, you remember it again: this was definitely worth the wait.
Before booking your flights to Helsinki for a weekend in July, there is something you should know: there is absolutely no one there. The citizens’ mass exodus takes place usually during the last two weeks of June, and lasts until early August. The tourists are welcomed by flocks of seagulls hovering over the market square and cheery notes on the doors of restaurants saying “On vacation, back in August!” If you want to experience the Finnish summer in all its beauty, you don’t want to stay in the city, but do what the Finns do: flee to the countryside!
Home is where your cottage is
There are half a million summer cottages in Finland, and for most Finns it is the Number One place to spend your vacation in. A typical summer cottage is situated on a lakeside or by the sea; proximity to water is definitely a priority. Travel kilometres to cottages are a staggering five billion per year, which makes it 1 000 km for each inhabitant. For many Finns cottage environment is the natural habitat and the perfect counterbalance for a hectic city life, a place where neither schedules nor fashion demands apply. The cottages are usually rustic in appearance – furnishings are relics from the previous decades, as is the clothing. Makeup is also a definite no-no. The rule is that everyone can be just who they are in the countryside, and let go of all the usual hustle and bustle that dominate our everyday.
One cottage in four is without electricity, and this is a conscious choice. Without the tight leash of the TV people have time for other kinds of summer activities, such as fishing. There are almost 2 million leisure fishermen in Finland, and to many it is an integral part of vacation activities. Gathering mushrooms and berries in the woods is also popular, as are hiking and playing all kinds of cottage sports (e.g. mölkky, croquette and tikka). Sauna is of course inseparable when talking about cottages, and swimming. Lake water feels soft on your skin and makes the hair silky and smooth, and you’ve never felt cleaner in your life than after a sauna and a (skinny) dip in the lake. There is also more time for cooking, and mealtimes conveniently set the rhythm for the unhurried, leisurely days.
All in all, the cottage is a place where both the mind and body get a well-deserved rest, and definitely a must-see if you want to experience Finnish summer. After the following video, how can you really say no?