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

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Sunday Special – Tribute to My Travel Mascot


This may appear as an odd choice for the Sunday Special, yet my missing friend has been a vital part of my travel experiences. For those who have not read about my recent loss (which was posted on the Facebook page), I carelessly left my beloved Ms Brown in the seat-front pocket when flying from Taipei to Kuala Lumpur. I had removed her from her usual spot on my purse, hanging from one of the strap loops, in order to take a few photos. As takeoff commenced I quickly stowed her on the seat-front pocket. Upon disembarkation I left her there as I only removed my book and overlooked her tiny stuffed self at the bottom of the pouch. It was not until I was at my hotel that I realized my error. Too far and too late to return to the airport in search of her, I realized my travel mascot was lost to me. I can only hope that she is on a grand adventure of her own. Fortunately, we live in an online world and I hope to buy another – a Ms Brown 2.0.

Below find some of Ms Brown’s previous adventures around the world. 

All photos owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World 

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Ms Brown in Dublin, Ireland on a bench that a tree grew around

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Ms Brown peering into the glass of beer she downed! What a lush! 😛

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Enjoying frites in Belgium

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Hanging out with Robin Hood in Nottingham

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Enjoying a swim in a pool in Santorini

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Wowed by the beauty of the Taj Mahal

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Ms Brown back during the big travel mascot decision which she won

 

My Heart All Over The World


When I set off to Chicago after visiting my folks I expected to see the sites, try some good food and hopefully come away with an appreciation for the Windy City. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. What actually happened was far greater – I forged new friendships with people I genuinely enjoyed being with. People I want to get to know better; who I want to visit and have visit me. We laughed, talked, goofed around and had fantastic camaraderie. I miss my new friends. And that is how it can be with travel. You can meet kindred spirits, those who truly become part of your tribe regardless of where they live in the world. Sharing that common experience and hoping to connect with one another at another place, another time.

With travel this type of connection does not always happen so I value it when it does. There were times on my big trip that I did not connect with people (yet enjoyed time by myself as a result). Other times I met people who were cool and we hung out for the day or weekend or week. It was like that was our purpose of knowing each other – doing stuff together while away.  We would get on okay though we were more like acquaintances. Then there were those who I know, over time, we could develop a good friendship. And finally, as mentioned above where those who we hit it off right away and we knew we kindred. And it’s all okay. I am grateful for all the people I have met, though the latter are the ones I think of the most. Heck, in some cases I’ve even seen them again. How cool is that?  In the end, I have friends all over the world and memories that have woven themselves into my soul. And that makes me smile.

St Patrick’s Day in Dublin 2015

 

Goofing around at 360 Chicago

 

When R visited

Half of the crazy Dublin crew

It Made My Mouth Water


We must eat in life in order to survive. Sustenance is a requirement, so might as well enjoy what you eat. While on my big trip I did just that. Now of course there were times when the food was not so great – like the time I made a horrible pasta dish at my hostel. I don’t know how I mucked up pasta but I did. Then of course there were some dishes that just were not to my liking due to my taste buds. But then….oh then, there were some amazing dishes. Many were homemade and others were at restaurants. Below is a list of some of dishes that appeased my palette and made me want seconds. They are in no particular order, however, it bears mentioning that the food I loved the most was in India. Homemade vegetarian food in Punjab was the single best food moment of my life. True story. It rocked my mouth’s world.

So here is my list of fav foods and where I had them:

  • Halusky – potato dumplings with sheep’s milk cheese & bacon. Comfort food at its best! I went here 4 times.  Old Slovak Pub in Bratislava, Slovakiahalusky
  • Rasam Rice – My friend Vidya made this while I stayed with her in England. It’s a southern Indian dish that has kick and flavour. OMG it was good & spicy. Actually all her cooking was good!
  • Svickova – meat and dumplings in a yummy sauce/gravy. Again, comfort food that is great. Only problem was that it was so filling that I couldn’t finish it all. My friend Vilem took me to a traditional Czech restaurant in Prague for lunch and I tried this at his suggestion. It was so yummy.svickova
  • Lettu – So this one isn’t really part of my big trip but it is. Lettu are Finnish (buttermilk) pancakes. They are similar to crepes in that they are very thin however they kick those crepes’ butts. I add them to this list as I did have them, at home visiting my parents. My mom makes the world’s best lettuja (plural for pancakes) and I must include them.  And don’t argue with me who makes the best ones – my mom does. You won’t win this argument.
  • British Ham – forget what you know about ham. My sister and I went for a pub lunch with some friends while we were in Chester and it was suggested to me to try the ham and eggs. Wow – tender, not very salty and definitely not like processed ham that you can buy in the grocery store. The only ham that tastes better is a Finnish “Joulu kinkku” (Christmas ham that is brined and then cooked low ‘n slow).
  • Almost all the food in I had in Punjabb, India – okay so I don’t know the names of my fav dish, I think it’s Bhindi Masala (it’s made with okra) and then pretty much all the dahl recipes. And Roti…homemade roti. The family Dempy & I stayed with grew just about everything and it was so fresh that it made all the difference. I miss that food and it is what I remember most about my time there.
  • samosa

okra dish

  • Belgian Waffles & Frites – These 2 are a tie for this country. The waffles really are amazing – light yet crisp. I had mine with just a dusting of sugar and it melted in my mouth. The frites were equally good. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Add a side of spicy mayo and they may very well be the best fries you’ve ever tasted.wafflesfrites

 

  • Crepes – had sweet ones (nutella and banana) while in Paris at a cafe near the Notre Dame. It came with a sparkler. A perfect amount of sweet.

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  • Shopska Salad – simple is best. This salad I enjoyed in both Macedonia and Bulgaria on a couple occassions. It is similar to a Greek salad but way better. I think it may be the sirene cheese that makes it so good. Cucumbers, tomatoes, onion and peppers tossed with the cheese. Add a splash of oil and it is heaven. I tried re-creating it here at home. It failed miserably (sad face).
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  • Tarator – I had this cool yogurt soup while taking the free Balkan Bites tour in Sofia, Bulgaria. Wow! I loved it. I made it a home too as they share the recipe. Not bad at home but way better in Sofia! Actually, all the foods I tried on the Balkan Bites tour were fantastic.

tarator ms brown

 

  • Smoki – okay so not really a food but junk food. They are basically like cheese puffs but peanut flavoured – and so addicting. Love them.

smoki

 

  • Belgian chocolate – need I say more?
  • Beglian Chocolate

That is my list of fav foods while I was away. I wish I could describe to you the wonderfulness of it all. I hope the few pictures I have can give you an idea of how happy my mouth was. So, what are your favourite food memories from travelling?

Next up – best drinks…

All photos taken and owned by Wanders The World/Eeva Valiharju