It’s always interesting to spend time in another country, especially one that is same-same-yet-different to my one. It’s often the subtleties in how the small bits of life get lived.
Ladders to the roof
All Finnish homes have ladders to the roof, specifically to the chimneys. Harry reckoned it was for cleaning the chimneys. We confirmed this over dinner with our friends. Insurance requires regular cleaning of chimneys. Simple.
I spent most of my youth in the UK and Ireland where chimneys were common, but ne’er a roof ladder. I do remember the chimney fires 🔥
Apartment blocks at home in Australia have all the letterboxes in a cluster outside the building. In Finland each apartment door has a letterbox, amazes me. Although my sample was small, two apartment blocks in fact, so subject to further research.
I’m pretty sure that Helsinki day travel pass also includes access to shared-use bicycles (further investigation needed).
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.
We’ve made it, flown from Sydney to Helsinki via Singapore. Well-masked all the way, hopefully avoiding the SARS2 virus, I guess we’ll know for sure in a few days. At Sydney International terminal, the busy departure area was well-organised with plenty of staff at hand to direct travellers to the correct check-in desk. The chaos of travel at Easter not in evidence.
The journeys went well. Only seven hours for the first flight. A few hours in Singapore felt surreal. We did step outside the terminal, though not for long with 30’C and high humidity. The second flight was about thirteen hours, many of them spent in twilight as the plane was kept dim and the passengers mostly slept.
We arrived at Helsinki, the nicest of the three airports. Its calm and quiet, especially the toilets (no noisy hand dryers), was just what I needed being in that zone of sleep deprivation and travel fatigue. A lot of the public furniture was soft and inviting to lounge on, unlike the hard and make-you-sit-straight offerings of many airports. A final wave of paperwork and we were outdoors and finally unmasked.
Our rental car is a hybrid Toyota Yaris. With cries of “Keep right!” and the onboard sat-nav set, Harry took off.