This bountiful space provides space of mind, space for activities, land for food to grow and a wilderness habitat for animals. There are 188,000 lakes and 75% of the country is forested. Cue images of wooden cabins standing proudly above glistening waterways; kayak excursions, paddle boarding, sailing and sunset cruises. Think about bears, roe deer, moose, reindeer, hares, rock climbing and zip-lining. All of this, and more, can be found and enjoyed.
As with their Nordic neighbours, Finland has adopted ‘every-mans-right’, a right to roam from the Baltic Sea to the Lappish borders with Russia, Norway and Sweden. As a visitor, you are free to explore as you desire. The only stipulations are that you treat the nature with respect, leave it as you find and only pick that which is growing; forage for mushrooms and berries to your hearts content. It is a refreshing and admirable concept that instils a desire to protect and preserve the natural world for generations to come.
The close bond between Finns and the nature is apparent in the food. There is no national dish per se, dishes evolve with the seasons and are dependent on the fresh, local produce available. Fresh fish and game are, of course, staples of the diet, but for us it is the country’s vegetarian and vegan dishes that steal the show: charred cabbage, grilled leeks, roasted carrots, creamed mushrooms, caramelised onions, rich berry sauces, fresh salads, fruits – strawberries, blueberries, garnishes of wild herbs, flowers and leaves… heavenly, wholesome and tasty. And, we can’t forget the bread. Oh, the bread, it is scrumptious.
Finnish cuisine has been influenced by cultures far and wide - a fusion of cultures. Owner-managed companies reign supreme here, with few chain restaurants and even fewer international chains.
It is not just Finnish food that tantalises the senses, it is also their breweries, distilleries, roasteries and juice makers. Micro-breweries, artisan gin makers and independent coffee houses can be found in most cities and towns, and many offer tours and tastings, often teamed with a local food producer.
To be the happiest nation on earth requires a connection with your surroundings and the ability to rewind and enjoy headspace. On travelling across this wondrous country, you will get the sense that the Finns are masters of this mindfulness. Their relationship with nature provides space to escape, unwind and forget their woes. Their carefully-managed work-life balance appears to stimulate productivity, creativity and a sense of teamwork. Their uncongested cities stand in stark contrast with our rush-hour chaos. They are innovators in this field, creating smart cities and making technological advancements to improve all our lives.
Hand in hand with mindfulness and happiness comes the Sauna, of which there are 2.3 million in the country. Sauna and ‘to Sauna’ are entwined with Finnish life and Finnish culture. Most Finns own their own Sauna and it is used frequently and for special events. In fact, all major life events are celebrated by taking a Sauna: births, christenings, weddings, birthdays, midsummer, Christmas, New Year. Rain or shine, -0C or +30C it is always the perfect time for a Sauna.
No visit to Finland is complete without visiting one and there are plenty of public Saunas for you to try. Some are segregated but most are open to all (with bathing costume). Sit back and feel the heat penetrate deep to your bones and ease the tensions away. If you’re brave enough, follow with an invigorating dip in the lake or sea.
Creativity and design:
Innovation, creativity and sustainability are championed in Finland, and none-more-so than when all three aspects are found together. Finnish brands are challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries and, in their wake, laying down the gauntlet to all those with whom they come into contact to expect better and do more to safeguard our planet. Head to Helsinki’s smart city and Oodi Library to observe new concepts taking shape.
It is not just about looking towards the future. In recent years there has been a resurgence of traditional craftmanship and techniques and a sense of historical pride re-instilled.
Whether visiting Finland on a city break or exploring the wider country, we promise that you will return feeling relaxed, refreshed and reinvigorated.