"You must be crazy to go up north!" - "The
Polar Circle is nothing less than vastness, solitude and monotony"
- "And all those annoying mosquitoes! ". This is
the verdict I hear all the time, even from weather-beaten
adventurers. Is it a prejudice? Or are local people just being
concerned when they claim that the charm of the barren north
lies only in the idea of the traveller? One thing for sure,
the Norwegians I met while touring the fjords frowned their
brows when I unfolded my plans to travel northbound to the
Polar Circle. Not a single local travels more northerly than
where one lives.
Maybe its about time I listen to some sound advice and
reschedule my trip. Like the majority of the Scandinavians
Santa Claus will have left for his summer house by now. Moreover,
thanks to Anita Pesonen, a Finnish colleague of my Dads,
I have a most welcome real bed waiting for me
in Helsinki. Anita, who is working in Belgium, has invited
me to stay at her home in Helsinki. Her parents will be waiting
for me there. What a treat!
The crossing over the Botnic Gulf from Stockholm to "
the land of the thousand lakes" takes 12 hours and a
long and sleepless night.
There are about 188.000 lakes in Finland, with that record
Finland has hit the world stage. The Fins are keen record
breakers. Did you know they are the worlds top library
visitors! And Im sure you must be thinking Im
pulling your leg by telling you that nothing less than the
passionate southern tango plucks many a Finn's heartstrings!
There are even some Finnish gossipmongers pretending they
were the ones learning the Argentineans how to dance a tango!
In Turku, an important port city and the most ancient city
of Finland I start my 170-km long and supposedly flat trip
to Helsinki. But in this ancient agriculture area where fields
and woods alternate with scattered lakes the hilly terrain
and the persistent headwind make me discontinue my trip after
107 km. Deadbeat I stumble into my sleeping bag. Not even
the noise of the lorries racing along can keep me from catching
up on my nights rest. Anyway tomorrow Ill sleep
in a comfy bed. An unfamiliar luxury in these times of hardship!
moment I reach Helsinki its quite difficult to find
the correct address. Luckily the Fins are very helpful and
friendly and after a small detour via the post office and
a valuable call to the city information help line I end up
one hour later at the front door of my Finnish host family.
Obligatory to the Finnish costume I take of my shoes immediately,
ground rule number one to be on friendly terms with the Finns!
I meet Anitas friendly mother who happens to speak English,
which is quite a relieve for me.
After dinner Im off to town. Like the other Scandinavian
capitals Helsinki is intimate and clean, green and surrounded
At the local supermarkets checkout I pay my daily pint
of fresh milk with hard cash. There's no King Albert on the
back of the brand new Finnish Euro but a slender swan as a
symbol to the Finnish nature. Shopping is not that easily
as in Norway and Sweden. The Finnish language is incomprehensible.
The pint of fresh milk Ive just bought falls with a
thud in my mug: full dairy yoghurt! My rule of thumb for the
rest of my stay: shake before purchase and youll hear
immediately whether its milk inside or not. Arriving
back home I see my laundry and sleeping bag on the washing
line, blowing in the wind. I hadnt realised it was that
urgent! Im feeling quite at home as this lovely couple
is pampering me all the time. After two nights under the Jokinen
roof I take leave of the most hospitable family although saying
goodbye to father Jokinen who only speaks Finnish is quite
a challenge. Open up a Finnish dictionary and youll
see what I mean.
P.S.: I would like to say thanks once more to Anita and her
parents for the warm welcome they have given me! Hope you
all keep in good health and for Anita, I sure owe you a drink
once Im back home! See you!