During summer 2016, I had the opportunity to visit the wilds of Eastern Finland, near to the town of Kitee. I was invited to join Satu at her Grandparents’ old home, right on Finland’s border with Russia. During this trip, I found myself saying ‘yeah, I know about this, I covered it in the podcast’, for example; sauna with vihta, foraging in the woods, the evacuation of Karelia and Finnish ice cream.
I thought I’d share with you some pictures of these activities, and the podcast episodes they came from.
Sauna & Swimming
The lakeside, wood-burning sauna was impossible to resist. We’d spend the day lounging in the sun, cooking on the grill and then finish up with sauna and swimming (and washing) in the cool lake, accompanied by a beer or a shot of something stronger! Not exactly avantouinti, but still quite an experience.
- Just Why Is The Sauna So Important To Finns?
- Ice-hole Swimming & Sauna: A Natural High!
- Distilling, Prohibition & Koskenkorva Vodka
Vihta (or Vasta when you’re in the East!)
As part of my sauna experience, Satu taught me how to make the traditional vihta (or Vasta when you’re in the East!) This is the whisk made from birch twigs that is used to clean and exfoliate the skin whilst in the sauna. User instructions: beat yourself gently (or hard!) with a vihta that has been heated on the sauna kiauas.
Foraging in the Woods
I was more excited about this than anything during my short break. On the first morning, we discovered wild strawberries, blueberries and some chanterelle mushrooms, close to the house. When the family saw my enthusiasm, it was decided that we should venture deeper into the woods, to find more mushrooms. Satu’s Dad drew a ‘treasure map’ of where we’d find the gold, and within 10 minutes, we had a bucketful. Dinner that evening started with a lovely, chanterelle mushroom soup 🙂
Well of course, it’s been a good summer so ice cream has been essential for helping to cool down. I stuck to the safe flavours; vanilla, mint chocolate – I guess I haven’t been here long enough to develop a taste for salmiakki or terva flavours yet.
The Evacuation of Karelia
The land we were on is bisected by the Rajavyöhyke (Border Zone) that runs along the border with Russia. This means that the whole family needs a permit to access their own land. From the lakeside beach, the border was approx. 300 metres away, and you can see posts marking the border just across the lake. I was very careful to ensure I didn’t even swim too far from the shore, just in case.
There will be an episode covering events after the Winter War including the cessation of land to Russia, and evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Finns, within their own country . In the meantime, the two episodes below might also be of interest…
Finnish baseball is a very different game to traditional baseball; the bases are laid-out in a different shape, the pitcher stands next to the batsman and throws the ball up, home runs do not score any points and there are no boundaries to the outfield, the ball can run & run and is still in play! This will also get a future podcast episode, where all will be explained, but I did manage to catch a game whilst in Kitee, and there are a few snaps below.
Related Episodes (about Finnish sports)
- Salibandy* in Seinäjoki (*Floorball, Unihockey)
- Finnish Football Culture and the Rise of SJK
- High-speed Motor Racing On Ice at Botniaring
- Jokkis / Finnish Folk Racing – Motor Sport for ‘Everyman’
- The Magic of Midnight Golf in Finland
- The Finnish Football Show
Here’s to many more lessons in season 3, and many more opportunities to put them into practice!
◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊
Big thanks to Satu Pihlajaniemi for taking me East and taking some of the photos in this blog.