Travel broadens the mind, as the saying goes. I love finding little nuggets of information about new places when I visit them. Here are 10 random facts I learnt about Finland when we went to Helsinki last year.
1. Finland is a Young Nation
Having become independent in 1817, Finland is still a young nation. It’s long been a part of Sweden and then Russia, and still retains many links to these two countries. Swedish language is used quite commonly. For example, street names are in Finnish and Swedish both.
The Russian culture is also clear to see, with a number of Russian churches in Helsinki and a statue of Tsar Alexander II in Helsinki’s central Senate Square. The largest minority in Finland is also Russian.
2. The Language is Difficult (at first glance, at least)
At first glance, Finnish words appears to be very long and complex, but that’s until you realize that in Finnish, individual words are stringed together to form new words, which in essence are phrases. For example, Kaukokaipuu in Finnish means a strong impulse or longing to travel. Kauko = Remote, Kaipuu = Longing. So, once you know a number of Finnish short Finnish words, you can put them together to form longer words.
Nevertheless, Finnish is one of the more difficult Scandinavian language to learn. It is also very different to other Scandinavian languages. Its closer to Estonian than Swedish. Finnish and Estonian share many common words, but sometimes they mean completely different things. But, like all the Scandinavian countries, everyone speaks perfect English, so it’s not difficult to get by here.
3. They still have Emergency Sirens
In Helsinki, on the First Monday of each month, there is an emergency siren test at 12 noon. This is to keep public prepared in case of emergencies, including invasion.
4. They love fish.
Like many Scandinavian countries, Finland has fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can get fish cooked in every imaginable type at local markets.
5. Don’t arrive on a Sunday Evening
If at all possible, don’t arrive in Helsinki on a Sunday evening. We did, and discovered that only a very few places to eat and drink are open here on a Sunday evening. everything closes early on a Sunday, including the Christmas Market and hotel restaurants. As we discovered later, one of the reasons for this was that as wages are so high in Finland, (and Sunday its usually triple pay), it is not cost effective for retailers to employ staff on weekends.
6. Sauna Hats – are a real thing
In Finland, they also sell all sorts of things related to Saunas, including Sauna Hats. These are light felt hats to wear in the sauna or steam room. You lose most of the heat from the top of your head, so wearing a sauna hat will keep your head dry and cool, allowing your body to heat up without getting overheated. Saunas are really popular in Finland. Sauna’s are open late into the evenings, allowing people to go in after work and may be even after dinner.
7. Blueberry Juice
I tried Blueberry Juice for the first time on Finnair, on the way to Helsinki. Once we got there, it was everywhere. At breakfast, in cafes and you can even buy dried blueberry powder.
8. Finland has the second largest ice breaker fleet in the World
After Russia, Finland has the largest ice breaker fleet in the World, which I am sure comes in handy in the long winters with temperatures below zero.
9. They have a Prison Hotel
Or rather, a former prison, now converted into a hotel. Hotel Katajanokka, used to be a prison dating back to the mid 1800’s. The prison closed in 2002 and the hotel opened in 2007. Former prison cells are converted to hotel rooms. Each bedroom is made up of 3 former cells. Couple of the former cells have been left as they were as an exhibit. The hotel restaurant uses tin crockery, in keeping with the prison theme.
10. Sarah Alto is Finnish
The UK X-factor 2016 runner-up Sarah Alto is from Finland. Now, I realise that this is not news to millions of people, but I only found out when we stumbled across her homecoming concert in the Senate Square in Helsinki. All the locals there asked us to vote for her when they realized we were from the UK.
So, there you go. 10 little nuggets of information about Finland, which I would not have discovered if I didn’t go to Finland. Have you got any interesting pieces of information about Finland? Please leave a comment below and let me know.
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