Apparently it’s a “thing” to rent a cabin by the water in Finland during summer, so, of course, we had to do it. It helped tremendously that we went with friends, one of whom is Finnish.
Flying into Helsinki I was shocked with how green it is. To be perfectly honest, I had never really imagined what Finland looked like in summer, winter – sure – frozen wasteland, right? Summer was just a blank slate, I had seen pictures of the cabin before we arrived but I had nothing in mind, it was quite strange but also nice not to have any heavy preconceived notions for good or for bad. First impression of Helsinki…land of the big box stores. In part because they have so much land per capita that why not have huge stores.
We had a rented a car since it was about a 2 hour drive to cabin. Taking in all the sights, the terrain looked much like northern California near Lake Tahoe, tons of trees and lots of rock outcrops. Bizarre to think that 6000+ miles away looks much the same, the world is smaller and simultaneously larger than we think. We stopped at a grocery store on the way there for provisions. The store was like a really nice giant Walmart…haven’t been in a single story store that big since being in the states. Finns are know for their sweet tooth and licorice, this store did not disappoint Alcohol is quite expensive; a single can of cider was about 3 euros. We had heard that things in general are rather expensive in Finland but that is always hard to gauge until you are there. All told I think we wound up spending about 200 euros total for the week for 4 of us, we ate like kings though. My favorite thing that we were shown by Jenni (the native Finn) was Karelian pies that you eat warm then spread this butter egg mixture over – to.die.for!! The food there is rather simple but in that simplicity is great flavor.
I digress, we arrive at our cabin in the woods that is also right on the sea. To me it seemed more like a lake as the water was almost glassy it was so calm. We were about 50 meters from the water with our own beach, row boat and 2 kayaks. It was breath-taking! Right outside our front door were blueberry bushes that Andrew and Jesse picked for blueberry pancakes. The cabin was tiny but so cute, complete with a wooden sauna (an absolute must, say the Finns) and an outhouse. I was a little thrown by the outhouse but I have to say it was not nearly as traumatic I thought it was going to be, the sauna on the other hand – whole other brand of trauma.
So the proper way to sauna is nekked – we were with another couple so I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to work. I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to like it as I have a really hard time breathing in hot, moist air. I had no clue how hot these saunas got, I was quickly educated. The ideal temperature is about 175* F – that is just absurd and wrong. I passed using it the first night but Andrew sweet-talked me into it for the 2nd night. The proper way to do this is you rinse off (there was a shower head inside) and then you sit and sweat, then as if it isn’t miserable enough you take water and pour it over these hot stones which makes the air feel like it is on fire. Bless Andrew for trying to indoctrinate me but I totally freaked out when he put the water on the stones, I thought my skin was going to combust, it was awful! Now mind you I was completely nekked and trying to get out of this literal hell hole as fast as humanly possible and poor Andrew was still trying to have me conform to protocol by saying I need to rinse off before leaving, so I did, somehow. Needless to say, once I got out I was beside myself. It was such a strange experience. I waited a couple days before attempting again but insisted on NO water added. By doing that, the sauna was more or less tolerable but really not my thing.
Ok, the water…amazing! We absolutely loved having boats at our disposable, like LOVED! The first time we took the row boat out we rowed out to all these tiny little islands that are part of the archipelago, we would tie up the boat and wonder around checking things out. What we thought was just a quick jaunt out proceeded to be an all day affair but so fun and so relaxing. Really love rowing, so much so I am thinking of trying to find a crew here in Berlin. Andrew took the kayak out everyday and was happy as can be! We both adored being right on the water with easy access to to boats. It was actually a big ah-ha moment, realizing how much we love the water and boats – eventually we want to live someplace where we can be near the water and therefore boats! So much fun!!!
Traveling with friends can always be interesting. We went with Jesse, Andrew’s childhood friend, and his girlfriend Jenni. Since we’ve never traveled with them, I was a little nervous. Surprisingly, we had an amazing time…everyone was super chill and we had time to do our own thing with no pressure. We are planning on going back next year to the same tiny cabin, it was just perfect!