Finland is awesome. We had an absolute blast with our college friends Sara and Tony (and all of Sara’s family, thanks for letting us crash the family vacation). We spent the first 2 days in Helsinki after taking the red eye from Iceland, and Sara was super generous and got us rooms at a nice hotel which ended up working out really well, more on that in a bit. We then took a bus out to Sara’s family’s farm in the country near Loppi and spent the next 5 days there before heading back to Helsinki to fly to Stockholm and see Tony and Sara off to Italy.
We checked in and dropped our bags at the hotel that Sara booked in the morning, not long after Cara and I got into town. We then headed off to walk around for a bit and stopped at a small market and got some makkara (sausage) and pastries, including an introduction to Karelian pastries which were a staple for the rest of the trip (also, make sure you try them with egg butter, which is hardboiled egg chopped and mixed into butter). We walked around another open air market and then took the ferry to Suomenlinna which is a cool historical site with lots of old buildings, cannons, and even an old Finnish submarine. It is kind of like the Finnish version of historical Williamsburg. We hopped the very back to town and ate some awesome food at the open air market, including some small fish that were fried whole.
Now for the best part of the time in Helsinki: we went back to the hotel and cleaned up, intending to go out for drinks and dinner. The main entrance to the hotel was under construction so you had to go in and out through their restaurant, and as we cut through they were pouring drinks and people were just milling about, so we stuck around for a few minutes to try and see what was going on. Sara got the courage up to just grab a drink and see what happened, and we all followed soon after. Then they put out a big spread of burgers and sausages, plus lots of other food and desserts, which we helped ourselves to while trying to figure out what was going on, but we watched people just walk in off the street and help themselves, as well as people that seemed to be guests of the hotel. A DJ started playing and then they made an announcement that it was their grand opening and everything was free until 8 pm, so we made more trips for drinks and food of course. Then it got even better: what I can only describe as the Finnish Macklemore started rapping, and even did Gangsters Paradise (in Finnish of course). After the free drinks and as much food as we could eat, plus some pretty awesome live rap, we tried out the hotel sauna, which wasn’t very hot, and retired for the evening.
The next morning Sara’s parents met us at the hotel, which also had free breakfast (budget travelers dream stay!) and we went to the rock church and Seurasaari which is another historical area, similar to Greenfield Village for our Michigan Peeps. We then took a bus out to Sara’s family’s farm and got to see this “rustic” cabin we would be staying in. The only rustic part was that you had to walk outside to get to the toilet, but even that was nice!
While staying at the cabin we went to Häme Castle and a church from the 1400s. The church was the oldest thing I have ever been around, and they even had a baptismal font from the 1400s, sitting right out in the open in the church. The paintings were incredible and it was an awe-inspiring place. Definitely the oldest place we have ever been, nothing in the USA comes close. We also stopped by the Aulanko Tower, which is a pretty tall tower built on a hill giving you a really nice panoramic view of the country side, even if it is a bit random in style and location.
We spent the midsummer celebration at another family members cabin, having crepes and relaxing into the night, even though it felt early since the sun never really sets. We also went back there for a giant brunch on Saturday morning and coffee on Sunday. I felt like we ate pretty much continuously while we were in Finland, but I’m definitely not complaining about it. On the topic of food, I do have to mention pickled herring. I thought it would be gross, but it is actually really good, especially with potatoes. We had some fresh from the ground potatoes that were extra delicious too. The herring comes in a variety of flavors, and we tried the dill (relatively plain, but tasty), tomato (not as good), and a variety with onions, allspice, carrots, and that was the best!
All in all, Finland was awesome and I would recommend Helsinki and the rest of the country to anyone looking to visit a place where the sun never sets. Or barely rises if you choose to go in the winter…
Modes of transportation used: Plane, bus, boat
Total amount spent in Finland (including flight from Boston to Iceland to Finland): $1480.53 USD, without the flights we spent $357.03 (includes some euros we took out to start the trip that we didn't spend all of and will hold until Germany, cost would drop a few dollars a day if we didn't include that)
Avg.: $59.51 USD per day (Doesn't include airfare, big thanks again to Sara and Tony for helping us keep this number LOW!)