Thursday, September 6, 2007

Finland: Hämeenlinna, Tampere & Summer Cottage (9/3 & 9/4)

Hey all,

Chris and I have had an amazing 3 days since I last posted an update. I'm going to try to make this short & sweet with more visuals (pictures) than before since I'm not sure how much time I have before we're off to Paimio, my Finnish "hometown". I am really excited to see my host-parents, Kassu and Sari, and other host-siblings, Noora and Henri. I have been staying with one of my host-sisters, Mette who is my age, and she now lives about an hour from Paimio so we have not yet seen the other family. Noora was 7 when I was here 12 yrs ago, making her 19 now!! I am going to feel soooooooo old when I see her!! LOL. Henri was older and had already moved out of the parent's house when I was there on exchange but we did see him regularly too. I am sure I will have pictures of them soon but for now there is a lot to tell everyone about our first days here.

Our first full day here was Monday, September 3rd. Mette & Pete had to work that day so Mette left us her car and we headed out to Hämeenlinna and Tampere.

Hämeenlinna is a small town with a lot of historical background. The main attraction there is the castle which dates back to xxx:

Chris and I walked around the main rooms of the castle and both agreed that we would not have survived long during those days. There were interesting deep pits (for lack of a better word, well-like holes might be a better description) and small, dark hallways (not good if your a little clausterphobic, like me!) and cold, echo-y rooms. We were both happy to be on the outside!

After visiting Hämeenlinna we continued to Tampere which is the third largest city in Finland. We started off by visiting one of Chris' favorite things ... a high tower that gives you a birds-eye view of the city. If the city we're visiting has a tower you can bet that Chris will find it and climb it! The picture to the right is Tampere and, as we later learned, it has quite an industrial history. The Finlayson cotton factory was the bread and butter for most of the residents. The visitor's guide that we had explained that the factory was a city within a city. There were material shops, doctors, etc. available for all employees - sounds a lot like the logging industry and industrial towns in the States! The Finlayson has since become a museum with shops and restaurants - again, a lot like our industrial cities too! Here are a few more pictures from Tampere:

Once we were back at Mette's place after seeing the sights at Hämeenlinna and Tampere, we immediately got in the car and headed to Pete's family's summer cottage (seen here)

Needless to say, the cottage was more like a summer house - much bigger than I expected. We stayed at the cottage Monday evening and all of Tuesday. Since we arrived later in the evening on Monday we were up very late and Mette & Pete were nice enough to build a fire in the sauna so that Chris could experience sauna for the first time! He wouldn't let me take a picture though!! LOL After sauna we ate dinner and drank beer, Mette even had us try the Finnish licorice vodka! Mmmm ... we slept very good that night!

After sleeping in until 10am on Tuesday we three (Pete had gone to work) launched the boat into the lake and went fishing. To Mette's disappointment we weren't getting any bites :( The lake was beautiful though - still, clear waters and we were the ONLY people on the lake! Both Chris and I enjoyed the Finnish fishing expedition. :)

After fishing Mette drove us to a horse stable to show us the "Finnish" horse, Finn Horse. They have recently passed the one-hundred year mark for having been pure-bred in Finland and were designed to be a sturdy, strong and brave horse. The picture here is of a male Finn Horse that reminded me of Tina Turner because of it's hair! hehehehe

Once we were done visiting the horses Mette drove us into town to shop for grocery. We then returned to the cottage and walked through the forest to gather birch tree leaves in order to make "vasta". It is a bunch of birch leaves that you use to "hit" yourself in the sauna and it stimulates circulation ... and smells great! That evening (still Tuesday) we went to sauna again and grilled steaks to go along with more beer! I loved the cottage life ... everything was great ... all except for the toilets! LOL I know some of you have been worrying about me since I thought that there was no running water in the cottage. Well, I was right. Sort of. There is a kitchen sink (regular faucet and all)that has cold water coming into it from a well and you can mix it with water heated on the stove or in an electric tea kettle - no problems there. The only difference was that the bathroom was an outhouse ... if you know me, you know I don't do outhouses. It is a "phobia" of mine, just as it would be if a clausterphobic person had to use an elevator! I am glad to report though that I got along just fine and essentially I conquered my dislike/fear of the outhouse! :) Here is a picture of it ... probably the nicest outhouse I've ever seen ...

We left the cottage on Wednesday morning so that Mette could make it into work and Chris and I caught the bus into Helsinki for some sight-seeing. I have more to tell about that but it is now 12:36 a.m. here and we have an early start. I will continue my "journal" sometime tomorrow and we will pick up at our visit to Helsinki :)


PS. Thank you for all of the birthday wishes (either as a comment here or through email)! I had a wonderful day and will tell you all about it in my next post.


  1. Mette looks great-and the same except for the shorter hair. How come it looks like she was rowing the boat and Chris was relaxing? LOL - part of Suomi courtesy? The out-house looks like a mansion compared to what we expected, you're so spoiled!! Aren't you a lucky girl. The weather looks wonderful - not rainy. Loving and missing you both - love. Mom

  2. Jen and Chris had a nice weather during their visit in Finland, usually it rains almost every day in fall.

    And for the record, I just showed how to row, Chris rowed us back to to shore, and did an good job. :)He was brave and tried almost everything Finnish spezialities I could think of. I give him 10 points for that and in general too.

    I just kept them so busy, that they haven't had the time to update this blog, sorry all. But now they are "on their own" so you can expect more updates, I hope.

    I really enjoyed having them here, and I hope I someday have enough money saved to visit USA.

  3. Mette- all you need is the airplane ticket - you stay here, we have food, wine & beer and lots to share... even a car!! I would love to have you as our guest.

  4. Thank you -kiitos-

    But when the plane ticket alone costs over 1200 dollars... it is not quickly saved... well, I'll make it my next goal and just start saving.

  5. Hi Auntie Jenn and Chris,

    Wanted to say hello. Looks like you guys are having a great time. I love the picture of the horse! Just wanted to say hi. Hope to talk to you soon.

    Miss you,