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When in Finland…

June 12, 2012

I spent most of the month of May on holidays because I had visitors from Canada: my dad, step-mother and two sisters. For three of them it was their first visit to Europe, for another, it was an opportunity to become re-acquainted with Finland after more than ten years. I had to balance the visit among different interests: sports, art, music and military history. In just over a week and half, I gave them a dose of Finland that they will certainly never forget. My dad had a longer visit, but I had to cram in a week and half of Finland for the female contingent.

All things hockey

The main motivation for my dad to come over was to take in some of the Canadian round-robin games at the World Hockey Championships in Helsinki. In the end he got to see seven games, the crown jewel in his visit to Finland. While Canada bowed out in the quarter finals, it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the semi-finals – thankfully Finland made it that far!

Photograph everything!

Having lived in Finland for nearly 14 years I have stopped taking pictures of everything, so I had forgotten that feeling of experiencing something totally new. It has been a long time since I have spent an extensive period in a new country. My sisters and my step-mother took a lot of pictures. I took a lot too, but my count doesn’t rival theirs – not even close!

The costs

What caught my family off guard was how expensive things were. This generally is the one thing that catches the eye of most visitors to Finland. It is enormously expensive to eat out (and we did that rarely). With six us of on the go, it was much easier to pack our own food and bring it along.

Fortunately my in-laws lent us a car as well, so we were able to get around much easier and faster than we would have without it. It also saved us all a LOT of money.

Where did we go?

When I have so-called “Finland greenhorns” visit me I try to introduce them to certain places. Living in Espoo means that Helsinki is a sure bet on any tour. I almost always take my visitors to the following places (time permitting of course):

–       Suomenlinna*
–       The Lutheran Cathedral*
–       Uspensky Cathedral*
–       Esplanadi*
–       3B/3t tram route*

It’s an added bonus if we can get to:

–       Olympic stadium and the Sports Museum of Finland*
–       Temppeliaukio Church, or the Rock church in Helsinki
–       Nuuksio National Park
–       Lapland

* We did indeed make it to these places.

We also made it to:

–       Hämeenlinna Castle
–       The Military Museum of Finland (Hämeenlinna)
–       The open air Cannon Museum (Hämeenlinna)
–       WeeGee Talo (Espoo)
–       Tallinn, Estonia
–       Puijo Tower (Kuopio)
–       The new Valamo Monastery in Heinävesi
–       The Mechanical Music Museum in Varkaus
–       The Villa Elfvik Nature Centre in Laajalahti, Espoo

Overall it was a pretty good mix of what they wanted to see. I visited some new places too, so it was equally good for me, as my goal in living in Finland is to visit a new place that I have never visited at least once a year. And it was with almost military precision that I had them out the door and on the go for a prescribed amount of time and back home in time for supper. While they did appreciate the chance to look around and browse things, shopping was not a priority; but somehow they did manage to fill their suitcases with things that are not easily had in Canada. I saw a lot of candy and chocolate, some handicrafts and Finnish-made glassware. You can’t go wrong with those things in your suitcase!

So… Where do you take your visitors when they come to Finland?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    July 25, 2012 11:04 am

    I (somewhat) randomly stumbled to your blog, and found it a really nice read. I just recently had visitors from Scotland, who were here for an unfortunately short visit (long weekend) so we really had to cram as much sights in as possible. However, it was actually rather exciting for myself as well. Although I am Finnish, I have only recently returned to live here (lived away for nearly 14 years.. and I am only 27) so it was great to get to know things about my home country I had not known before!
    We went to pretty much the same places in Helsinki. However, I also recommend the city museum of Helsinki (free entry 😉 ) and the National Museum. That is of course if you like history!

    • July 31, 2012 2:15 pm

      In the nearly 14 years that I have lived here, I have only been to the National Museum once… And I didn’t even get to finish going through it. I must get back! 🙂

  2. Katherine Leppälä permalink
    August 24, 2012 4:49 pm

    This list is much appreciated! I am also a Canadian-Finn and I am always trying to think of different places to show my Canadian visitors 🙂

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