A short time away

Yesterday we left Helsinki and Harry drove us to Hanko, the most southerly point of Finland, it’s almost the most southwesterly place as well.

It’s a picturesque town, at the end of a peninsula, with beaches facing south, west and north. This, along with the many, many islands, would be a great area to explore by sea kayak. Close to the waterfront are a few old and pretty villas, some were visited by the Russian nobility in the late 19th century when the town was a popular spa resort. Also close to the water are new apartment blocks, apparently favoured by wealthy Helsinkionites.

We didn’t have a lot of time in Hanko, it’s a place to which I would happily return to wander the local beaches, parks and streets. Harry drove us further north to where our friends have their sea-side summerhouse. Again, to me, this “sea” appeared lake-like. They had prepared the sauna for us so it was divine to sit on the timber bench and allow the heat and humidity build. And no, we didn’t brave a dip into the sea afterwards! Standing in the cool air was sufficient.

Dinner started late, and lasted well into the early hours of today. Time spent eating, drinking, chatting, discussing and laughing.

This morning we returned to the table for more companionable feasting with these fine friends. Then we visited a local church constructed from granite, wandered the graveyard and walked a trail through the forest. The Finnish tax on religion was discussed. All taxpayers here pay tax, via the tax office, to the Lutheran Church, or to the Finnish Orthodox Church. It is possible to opt out. In our friends’ time they had to make a formal declaration that they were leaving the Church. (This process was simplified in 2003). It interests me to learn of how our countries are different despite the many similarities.

Whilst driving through the Finnish countryside we observed many tractors out working the fields, busy at the start of the growing season. The birch trees have suddenly sprouted out a light-green fuzz of leaves.

From the bits that I have seen, the country landscapes of Finland are quite homogenous. Same species of trees, same brown tilled soils between low clumps and hills of trees. Houses and barns of mostly oxide red, with some in pale yellows and a smattering of light blues. No fences, apart from those protecting the motorways from moose and deer.

Returning to Helsinki was a smooth ride along the motorway at 120km per hour.