Saturday, 8 December 2018

ROVANIEMI | FINLAND: 10 THINGS I LEARNED IN FINLAND


1. Their melting horseshoe tradition: So, on our first night in Finland, we went on an excursion to hunt for the Northern lights a few hours away from the city. Around the camp fire, we were told about a Finish tradition where they melt a metal horse shoe on a spoon over the fire (they used lead up to this year). Then you must drop the melted horseshoe from the spoon into a bucket of water. Whatever shape is made in the water, is personal to the person who made it and is said to tell your future. 

If there are dusty, crumbling bits then it is said to mean that you will make good money. If there are sharp peaks, then you will make your important dreams in the year to come and if there's a smooth surface on it then you will be lucky in love. I got all three, not everyone did, but I was still thinking 'yeah, yeah, sure thing, this is just silly'. Then, they said we had to shine a light on our piece and the shadow will mean something to each person. Sure enough, mine was an opera mask (see Instagram). I burst into tears, because this actually means more than anything in the world to me. My late father was absolutely obsessed with Phantom of the Opera and it is something that we have shared many precious memories and messages over. So, I learned about the tradition and I learned that there could indeed be some truth in it after all! 

2. On our second night, we went Ice floating and I learned that ice floating is actually amazing. They put you in these baggy wet suits and you float around in an icy lake. The suits were originally designed as safety suits for sailors and are designed to keep you warm for at least twelve hours, so they literally prevent you from freezing to death. It doesn't mean your toes and fingers don't get freezing though, so don't expect complete cosiness! Floating along in the pitch black in a random lake in Finland was definitely a liberating feeling. I found peace in those moments and really just took a moment to enjoy the randomness and madness of what we were doing. I would 100% do ice floating again in a heartbreak and I recommend it if you haven't tried it yet!

3. Did you know that Firefox - as in the internet browser - was named after the Northern lights? - Well you do now. It was founded in Finland and they called it Firefox because, throughout history in Finland, women have worn Fox's fur scarves and clothes to keep warm, and apparently whenever the Northern lights would show, the fur would go static. Apparently, people said the Northern lights looked like a fox's tail across the sky, a fire one at that, and thought that the angry fire fox had returned to take back it's fur...

4. Another valid life lesson I learned in Finland was that meeting Santa Claus as an adult is awkward AF. Honestly, it was the weirdest moment of my life to date. Apparently, when I was younger I hated Santa and refused to go and see him. Whenever I was dragged along, I would just cry until we had to leave. So, maybe I just took some old feelings from my childhood with me, but seriously, it was just strange. We had to take a picture with him, and he put his hand on my shoulder and even though I am a twenty-seven year old woman, I still had the passing thought of 'per-vert' (Vicky Pollard voice). He then tried to make conversation with us about what we wanted for Christmas - to which I should have answered 'nothing because I'm not a consumerist freak who buys into this bullshit', but I instead said 'A nice Christmas for my Nieces & Nephews' - which is actually the truth. However, my heart felt response made me cringe even more, because I was talking to Santa and saying it like he would be able to sort it? Then he took that as an opportunity to tell me what biscuits to buy and leave out for him? Okay then Santa. Yeah, unless you're five or you have a child to bring along - don't visit Santa. 

5. It's the people you go with that make a trip. I learned this the hard way on the Trans-Siberian Express a few months ago, but my theory was reconfirmed in Finland. I went on the trip with a lovely friend from my current university course. She was kind, laid back and funny. She made me laugh a lot about things I should and shouldn't laugh at and she genuinely made the trip what it was. It was so nice to be travelling with such an open-minded, kindhearted and quick-witted girlie. This trip most definitely solidified our ever-growing friendship and gave us both some beautiful memories to cherish. 

6. Finland is amazing for vegans. When I say amazing, I mean amazing. The McDonald's there even has a McVegan burger, which I tried. Demand and Supply my friends. If a huge multinational company has something vegan on their menu, then it is really spreading the word of veganism and can only be a positive. If we're not making these companies produce more, they will continue to make what they already do and some of their loyal customers may not even hear of the vegan concept... just saying. 
Anyway, the supermarket had so many vegan products - from cheese, to meat substitutes, to plant milk alternatives... It was a vegan heaven. We ate out a few times too and in Santa's office they had a vegan cheese sandwich. We went to called 'Ravintola Roka' a few streets away from the main square, and they had a few vegan options. I got the sandwich, which was kind of like a BLT, but made with tofu instead. 

I did expect this of Finland because, I have travelled all of the Nordic/ Scandinavian countries and they have all been the same. They were all so forward thinking about veganism years ago, before half of the English population even knew what vegan meant! 

7. This trip taught me to check the weather before you book a Northern lights tour. They're expensive and if it's cloudy, you will not see a thing. I didn't mind that I didn't see the lights so much, because I have seen them twice before. However, I would have loved to have had the belly flips and seen the beautiful display again. I would have also loved to have saved myself £90.00 too. Check that the weather is looking promising before parting with too much of your hard earned cash to not see anything!

8. Glogg is super yummy. I think you can get an alcohol version of this, but of course I had the alcohol free one. It is kind of like mulled wine. So, it was red grape juice, cinnamon, spices, almonds and grapes all heated up together to create the yummiest, warming drink. I want to recreate this again at Christmas and share it with my loved ones - it was that good!

9. You can sleep, swim, sail, fish or forage anywhere you like in Finland (like in most Scandinavian counties as there's freedom of movement). We met a guy who had been hiking for a few weeks in a huge nature park. He hadn't spent a penny, he just stayed in the little huts with free fires and cooked the food he had brought with him. He said it was an amazing experience and that he had been walking alongside wild moose, buffalo and reindeer. How amazing does that sound? This and El Camino de Santiago are two walking trips on my list now! 

10. Siberian huskies run best in -75 degrees. The colder, the better for huskies, which makes sense because Siberia is very cold (they were brought to Finland in the gold rush), however I did not know they liked it THAT cold. Apparently minus 20-30 still feels like Summer to them and they have been known to casually lay outside or on the roof at temperatures of as low as -75. They are truly beautiful amazing animals, but you won't find me anywhere near them in that kind of climate. I despise the cold, so huskies are definitely not my spirit animal after all!

I hope you liked the little things I found out in Finland, it was a truly wonderful trip to a truly wonderful country. Once I am done with my degree here in London, I am definitely considering moving to this part of the world or another country in Scandinavia. They know how to do things properly, with education, salaries, lifestyle, customs, traditions and so much more. They're such a forward-thinking country and although cold, you never feel like you're being given the cold shoulder. Everything about the place is warm, welcoming and cosy - just how I like it!

Peace Out Potatoes! xo




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