Go to Helsinki!

I only know about Finnish (saunas) baths, and pretty Finnish girls.  And not much else, though I will try to find out on a short layover in Helsinki, Finland on May 24th.
Aside from being the most populous city in Finland, it was the home of the 1952 Summer Olympics.  And it has been, at least lately, one of the best urban standards for living, always ranked high in livable cities indexes.  And it is ranked by the UN as the happiest country in the world.  There are 187,888 lakes in Finland.
The tendency, for us westerners, is to lump Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark together.  But having grown up in a mostly Swedish hamlet in California, I have been schooled repeatedly about their difference.  The Danes in our little town took great exception to being called Swedes.  The language is not similar to Swedish, Danish or Norwegian.
Yet, Helsinki was established as a trading center by King Gustav I of Sweden, back in 1550!  We probably owe it to the Russians for reducing the Swedish influence, and helping create the Finnish persona.  So, bottom line, Russia and Sweden kept taking turn running this country, until their independence, in 1918 shortly after WW1.
Helsinki has a population of about 1.1 million, the entire country 5.4 million.  But Swedish and Finnish are the official languages, with Helsinki slang serving as the regional dialect  of the city.  Helsinki also serves as a regional gateway, with over 140 nationalities represented.  They are in the European Union, but not NATO.  Go figure!  But it is the most sparsely populated country in the EU.
IT seems to be the biggest money maker here, having taken over heavy industry and shipping.  Music and the arts thrive here, along with sports, and nude sun bathing!  I think I should come back here when I have more time??
There are a few famous Finns over the years:  Linus Torvalds (Linux), Esa-Peka Salonen (new director of the San Francisco Symphony),  Teemu Salanne (hockey), Paava Nurmi (track), Lasse Viren (track), Jari Kurri (hockey), Jean Sibelius (composer),Eer Saarinen (architect),  and Kimi Raakonen (race car driver).  Yet their most popular sports are: wife-carrying championship, mosquito hunting competition, mobile phone throwing, swamp football, and air guitar.
Finland seems to be famous for its glassware, with littala one of their more famous brands.  Cabbage rolls and pea soup seem to be their most well known food items.  The local lakka, is their favorite beverage, made by soaking cloudberries in alcohol for two to six months.  Sima is a fermented, sparkling beverage, once semi-poplar in the U.S.  And of course, Finlandia Vodka is produced from six row barley. For long cold winter, Glogg is their national warmer upper.  Finland is also known for great beers, Koff and Karrhu.
Yet, the average Finn consumes 12 kilos of coffee annually.  And the world’s highest milk consumption per capita!  There are more heavy metal bands here per capita than anywhere in the world.  There are more saunas than cars here.  Even Burger King in Helsinki has a sauna.  Angry Birds was created in Finland.
And perhaps most importantly, Santa Claus resides here, in a house built right on the Arctic Circle, in the town of Rovaniemi, in the northern province of Lappland.  They receive over 700,000 letters to Santa each year.
The Finns have free education, up through the university level.  When a Finn gets a Ph.D., they also get a top hat and a sword!  The Finns love salmiakki, a salty licorice.  And the experts say it is the third best passport behind only Singapore, Japan, and Germany.  It was the first country in Europe to give all women the right to vote.
My only problem with being here?  I would not like being called a Finn.  But Finnish is not much better.  How about a Finlander?

Leave a Reply