Finland is one of the most mysterious European countries. Most of the people know it for having many lakes, saunas and for being the homeland of Nokia. I discovered more things about Finland!
We are talking about a country whose territory is a bit larger than Italian, while the number of inhabitants is not much higher than Croatian. This country has about 187000 lakes with at least 50 square meters in area and lots of other stories to tell. We are introducing Finland and the Finns, beyond their usual sauna, Nokia and Santa Claus keywords.
We chose the winter season for travelling, in order to learn more about this culture and lifestyle by experiencing the polar night. Six amazing discoveries that we prepared are related with 6 museums that are fun, however, we had these experiences in combination, between museums and related real life topics. For that reasons we can say that this series shows museums outside their strict walls.
1.Unusual National Museum
There is a common expression that Christmas is not every day, but we shouldn’t forget those amazing holiday experiences we had while travelling at this time.
Finland is a highly environmentally conscious country. The Finns always try to separate each type of waste and prepare it carefully for recycling. Furthermore, they find a lot of creativity in reusing, the way everyone should do. The park in front of the National Museum of Finland was fulfilled with a temporary project named Christmas Tree Forest, while every single Christmas tree has its own decoration design. Take a look at the picture and find out which kind of decoration is that.
The winter is not only Christmas. This museum provides the exact information you want to get when visiting Finland. There is a beautiful antique room you can enjoy and explore inside the museum, and during our visit, we had the luck to catch a temporary exhibition about the composer Jean Sibelius, where we could see many unknown musical sketches from his working processes, and find diverse sources of musical inspiration. While the exhibition was organised to celebrate the artist’s 150th anniversary, many of pieces were exposed for the very first time to the public.
By exploring the natural landscapes of Finland, you can connect them with the Sibelius’s music. We also noticed an interesting piece of creativity, a huge object someone wanted to become a perpetual motion machine.
2.Exclusive Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle is the planet’s area situated above the latitude of 66º32’35”, also known as Northern polar circle. A large part of Finland’s territory makes part of Arctic Circle, while the distance between Helsinki and the beginning of these zones is much bigger that we imagine before planning such a trip.
We travelled the whole night before we arrived in Rovaniemi, the largest city in the Lapland region, at about 9:30am. The magical night with contrasts between snowy landscapes and the illuminated building of the Arktikum Museum were just in front of us. We started exploring this highly interesting museum, and the feeling was something like:
It looks like one single country. The Arctic, I mean. That whole circle on the Earth’s top. Nothing else is similar to that, and being here is a life-changing experience.
Rovaniemi is a city with a relatively new urban structure because a large part of the city was destroyed in the WW2. A great tourist attraction here is the fact that Rovaniemi is recognized worldwide as the Santa Claus Official Residence. The Santa Claus Village is situated strictly on the line of Arctic Circle, and it’s a kind of amusement park.
Arktikum Museum provides a learning atmosphere. Inside a large exhibition space, there are two parts: natural/scientific and social/ethnologic. On the same place, visitors can enter deeply into the distant and usually unknown issues of life on Arctic. Here you simulate the northern lights, the freezing polar winds, and you can play interactive games about diverse topics, such as polar days and nights or energy efficiency.
3.Meeting and Feeding Reindeers
You can do it. You just need to go beyond every usual itinerary, away from Rovaniemi, from the Santa Claus Village or anything else and reach a village named Inari. The trip from Rovaniemi to Inari takes about 4-5 hours and you’ll reach the extreme North of Lapland and get almost to the Norwegian border.
Travelling within the Arctic zone is a magnificent experience for many reasons, one of them is the traffic. It’s better to say – no traffic. The tiny roads of Lapland are empty and covered by deep snow in the winter. When you see three vehicles in the row, it’s called “rush hour”. It’s more probable that you see a reindeer than a car on the road. All the vehicles are equipped differently than it’s usual in the moderate climates.
The typical population density is about 2 humans per square meter, while the population density for reindeers is much higher. Inari is a big village, and it has about 300 inhabitants. The access to health care, schooling or jobs in these lands works much differently than we are used to. People living in these areas have a lifestyle. But not the one we usual call “lifestyle” 😉
We slept 4 nights at this area, and we enjoyed it a lot. Although the temperatures were freezing and after two extremely cold days, a temperature of -10 degrees celsius felt like summer for us. We even took some swim after sauna, in the warm lake whose water was about 4 degrees celsius.
There is a museum in Inari, and it’s a place to learn about the history of living in Lapland, and about the Sami, Lapland’s indigenous people. But before visiting the museum, we were on site, in their natural surroundings, meeting and feeding reindeers. Our hosts were so welcoming, nice and interesting, that we were all happy after meeting them.
After having a real life experience, we went to the museum, where we could learn how the Sami people express their creativity and wisdom.
After having a ride with raindeers, we could see this museum exhibit as a simple creative interpretation:
The Museum’s name is Siida – Saamelaismuseo ja luontokeskus, and it’s dedicated entirely to the history, natural environment, issues and creativity of the Sami people. Here you learn when they arrived in these lands, how they settled here, how the technology evolved and made they life easier and what they do today. The Museum shop has a plenty of great useful and beautiful products you can buy for a memory about the Sami.
4.Alvar Aalto. This guy was one of those who shaped the Scandinavian Design.
Not too far away from Helsinki, there is a town named Jyvaskyla. Even though this toponym is not widely known worldwide, there a name related to it, that surpasses even the brand awareness about Finland as a whole – his name is Alvar Aalto. He was an architect and designer. He was one of the founders of the well-known Scandinavian design concept. He was born in Jyvaskyla, in the time when it wasn’t a town, but rather a village.
As there were no higher education facilities at his land at that time, he went to Helsinki to study architecture. During his long and successful life, he designed lots of Finnish housing and industrial projects, as well as health centers. He is also responsible for many famous chair designs. Everything is now summarized in a museum which was created to hold his legacy, the Alvar Aalto Museum in his hometown.
This museum tells many stories about his projects of diverse kinds. There are real pieces of his design as well. By visiting the museums, you can understand his logic and typical forms. There are some experiences which could even be suitable for school children and teenagers, because of their fun and playful character.
5.Hotels and Restaurants in the local culture
In Helsinki, a bit outside the historical center, there is a nice cultural center. Situated in the middle of an industrial area, and surrounded by working factories, this complex provides unique experiences of meeting the creativity in progress and things which are past.
There are several small museums and galleries in the complex, but the one we chose to visit was the Hotel and Restaurant Museum. This museum literally shows the history of the Finnish hospitality industry. It shows how the development of this industry occurred along with a rising life standard. Sure that it does not tell stories about extreme travellers or travel writers. It tells a lot about what regular people want and need while making their travel choices. In this case, we talk about travel and tourism inside a home country.
This is a beautiful example of a vintage professional kitchen. This cute museum will awaken your emotions for more and more travel and discovery. You can even act as a tourism worker because most installations are interactive.
6)In the Helsinki city center
The last discovery we chose for this trip was the Helsinki’s most prominent museum, the one that lies in the very city center, next to the railway station. The museum is named Ateneum; it’s the large monumental building visible behind the ice skating ground on the picture bellow.
At the moment of our visit, there was a large retrospective exhibition of the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. We respected the museum’s no-photo policy, although I personally disagree with such practice. Anyway, I don’t think I would take any decent pictures, because the whole space was very crowded, and the exhibition principles are quite classical in comparison with other museums of Finland described in this post series.
This is one of the most visited museums in the city, and it’s largely visited by local people. Tickets can be purchased online, and the entire program can be followed on Facebook and Instagram on a daily basis. The museum has also a great shop and restaurant.
Travelling to Finland:
Finland is one of the rare countries in Europe that does not have any low-cost flights or low budget airlines operating there. Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport serves many international and intercontinental flights; to come from Croatia to Finland, I had to make one stop both on the way there and on the way back.
Other airports are not served with many international flights, but if you pretend to travel to Lapland, flying from Helsinki to Rovaniemi is a good idea since the distance between the two cities is about 1000km. Many bus and train lines are available as well.
This is the route we did. I visited Helsinki and Jyvaskyla with my sister, while for the trip to the far North we had another companion.