Thursday, August 15, 2019

Finland and the Finns

We're on the ferry across the Baltic to Estonia. Back to the mainland of Europe. I know that's not quite correct, but you know what I mean.

The Finnish tourist authorities, parliament and bilingual president will be delighted to know that the Pillion and I heartily approve of the country, its people and all that these entail.

From north to south we've found politeness, a ready sense of humour (when provoked) and general friendliness. But they don't intrude. They're great folk.

They have two official languages; Finnish and Swedish. The latter is the residue of 650 years of Swedish rule. They were then governed for 100 years by Russia, which amongst other things left them with a pretty splendid Russian Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki.

Arty cathedral shot #1
We did get told off for attempting to cross the road other than at a zebra crossing when in Turku, but it was done politely. I guess that's the flip side of being in a rule-abiding country.

Some facts
a) The Finnish name for their country, Suomi, translates as 'Our Swamp' - and 'Finland' is suspiciously close to our 'Fenland', the name we give to the low-lying, swampy areas of north-east Norfolk. Go figure.

b) There is a Finnish word that means 'staying in alone getting drunk in one's pants'; such a useful concept.

c) The Finns finished paying WW2 reparations to the Russians in the mid 1970's. The effort of meeting this requirement to supply finished goods and raw materials was the catalyst that created modern, technologically, socially and educationally advanced Finland.

d) The Finns have two official languages and when the president addresses the nation he does so in both languages simultaneously (sentence and sentence about).

e) Karaoke is huge here.

f) The official religion is Lutheranism. They have a cathedral, too.

Arty cathedral shot #2
I wrote the people here some verses. Here's the first.

Caught between the Russians and the Swedes / The Sami and the Hanseatic League / Eking out a living from our trapping and our trees / Shipping and shipbuilding and the offering of the seas / Up here where the western ethos ends and east begins / We are the Finns.

Also, this bloke rowed from Copenhagen to Helsinki. Maybe he couldn't afford the ferry.

Man & row boat (being applauded)
Also, we met some great folk on the camp site in Helsinki. John (cyclist), from Sweden (originally 'made in Korea' as he put it), Miriam (motorcyclist, Germany), Leen (motorcyclist, Holland), Thomas (cyclist, Finland), nice French chap whose name I didn't get (cyclist) and Timor (motorcyclist [Africa Twin as it happens], Germany - though originally 'made in Turkey' [which, lacking both John's wit and self-deprecation, he definitely didn't say]).

We sat together in the camp-site gloom, swatting away the insects, drinking beer and talking about travelling, people, life and everything. Great to meet you all!

Tallinn in one hour!


  1. Beautiful. Looking from the outside in, that feels a bit like the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Love the blog posts. Cheering you on from a rain-soaked Blighty. X

  2. I look forward to the song: "The Finns". Great that they have embraced diversity by having a bilingual president. I'm slightly concerned by the concept of 'staying in alone getting drunk in one's pants'. Keep it up, and enjoy being relatively insect-free...


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