Sunday Special – √Öland Islands, Finland


Want to practice you Swedish while in Finland? Then head to the autonomous Finnish archipelago of √Öland, just off it’s southwestern coast, in the Baltic Sea. This region of Finland is completely neutral, demilitarized, and is strictly Swedish speaking and has been since 1921. It is comprised of 6,700 named islands and 20,000 that they haven’t named (that would be a big project). I’ve heard you can even rent an island if you so wish.

The capital of Mariehamn is a wonderful starting point and is best explored by foot. It seems a quaint city with plenty to explore and cafes to rest your wandering feet.¬†¬†Island-hopping is a popular way to see a number of these islands. Take a ferry and go off to see the Franciscan monastery on¬†K√∂kar or explore the historical paintings on the church in¬†Kumlinge.¬† Looking to stay active? Then cycling, hiking, fishing, and spending time on the water in a canoe or kayak are available. And don’t forget to try some of the local craft beer produced by Stallhagen with many varieties. They have even recreated the world’s oldest known beer when a crate of the beer was salvaged from a shipwreck at least 170 years old. Now that is a brewery that I can admire.

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Stallhagen’s historic beer – looks tasty! – Photo credit:¬†Jonnie Nord,¬†Stallhagen Historic Beer,¬†CC BY-SA 4.0

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View of ship in Mariehamn, capital city of the Aland Islands, Finland РPhoto credit: Digr, AX Mariehamn view, CC BY-SA 4.0

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Kokar Island, one of the numerous Aland Islands in Finland РPhoto credit: Muymuymyu, Kokar, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

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Sunday Special – Finland’s Saunas


‘What an odd post to showcase on the Sunday Special?’ you may be asking. Well it is an integral part of the Finnish culture. Also, you may be invited to experience this steamy little room on travels to Finland. Finally, I am of Finnish descent. In fact, I am a first generation Canadian as my parents were born and raised in Finland. They eventually immigrated to Northwestern Ontario where I was raised in one of the largest Finn populations outside of Finland.¬† I grew up with a sauna (pronounced “sow-nah”) in our home and miss having the accessibility to one here Vancouver.

The use of this type of bath in Finland goes back for centuries. Historically it was not only a place to bathe but also to prepare foods, childbearing and to treat illnesses.¬† These days a sauna’s purpose is aligned more with relaxation and cleansing oneself yet still a deeply ingrained part of the culture, history and mindset of the Finns. It was and still is a place that makes a home and is to be treated with respect.¬†Using a sauna is not an occasional occurrence. It is something that¬† is used several times a week. When I visit my parents it the first thing I do!¬† Sitting in a hot room pouring water onto heated rocks is only part of the sauna ritual.¬†¬† Birch branches gently slapped on one’s skin is an invigorating treat. Once the heat gets a bit to much it is time to cool down by jumping into a nearby lake, rolling in some snow, or plunging oneself in a hole cut into a frozen lake. The contrast is surprisingly refreshing. In modern times and urban areas taking a cool shower is a reasonable substitute. In fact, I myself have never jumped into a snowbank or dunked myself into a hole in a frozen lake after a sauna. But I would should the opportunity present itself.¬† After this startling contrast you head back in for some more heat and repeat the whole process. Should you find yourself in Finland make certain you take part in this very important part of Finn culture.

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A smoke sauna (wood-fired) – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Teemu Markkanen By Teemu Markkanen ((WT-shared) TeeMa) [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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A modern (electric) sauna – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Todtanis By Todtanis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

SUNDAY’S SPECIAL SPOT – PIHTIPUDAS CHURCH (FINLAND)


It was my momma’s birthday yesterday! So in her honour I am posting a photo of the church that is well known in her home town. She grew up in the region of Central Finland, in the small village of Pihtipudas. As a child I can remember her lovingly working on a needlepoint project of this very church. She told me how lovely it was and that she had fond memories of it. One day I will visit this church that holds a spot in my mother’s heart (even though I myself am not religious) to honour her.

Pihtipudas Church


This area of Central Finland (Keski-Suomi) has numerous lakes, 140 in all. The village also entertains an annual javelin carnival. I can not wait to visit. 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. Owned by Elijas Walteri

Sunday’s Special Spot – Helsinki


This week’s picture takes us to a special monument in Helsinki, Finland. For those of you who don’t know, I am of Finnish ethnicity. I’m a first generation Canadian – yes, I am the daughter of immigrants. I am proud of my background almost as much as I am proud to be a Canadian. So here we go, a great photo of the Sibelius Monument in Helsinki:

Sibelius Monument, Helsinki, Finland (designed by Eila Hiltunen)


Born in 1865, Jean Sibelius was a talented and celebrated composer and musician and one of Finland’s greatest talents. He is credited with affecting the National Identity of Finland and having a strong influence on symphony and sound. He lived to a ripe old age of 91.¬†

Photo courtesy of www.traveladventures.org. Photo is owned and copyrighted by them.