After thoroughly exploring Helsinki and taking a few day trips in the area, we drove up north for four days so I could see a bit more of the country. Our first stop was the city of Turku. We wandered around for a bit, the highlight being the Turku Cathedral, which was originally consecrated in 1300 (although it looks much different than the original after several modifications during the middle ages and renaissance).
One of the coolest things we saw on the way up were the bronze age burial cairns at Sammallahdenmäki. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and definitely worth a visit if you like history or archeology. After stopping in a few cute towns on our way up the west coast (including the Old Town in Rauma), we made it to the tiny town of Piehinki, right by the Gulf of Bothnia (less than a 3 hour drive from the Swedish border). We stayed three nights in Piehinki at the old farm of my boyfriend’s grandparents. They didn’t speak a word of English, but were happy to have us there. A short walk through the woods from their house led to a lovely beach, so we went swimming (or more like wading tentatively into the shallow, cold water) twice during our stay.
(Above: the farm) We stayed three nights/two days. On our second day, we drove three+ hours north into Lapland to Syöte National Park. Syöte is a chain of old growth spruce forests. One fourth of the park is mire/bog of some sort, so a good part of our hike was on duckboards (trail-width platforms) crossing the more open/boggy sections. There were lots of enormous anthills. Most were about waist height, but I saw at least one that was as tall as me (and so old it there was a bush growing up and around it). We went for a hike of about a 20km loop (maybe a bit more), but just past the halfway point, stormclouds rolled in and huge peals of thunder started. We ran for about 6km before it started to pour and walked back the rest of the way in the rain, soaking wet. At least it made for a great story. (AND: I saw reindeer several times on the way there! See top photo for proof!)
We drove back down the center of the country, so that I could see a different part of the country than on the way up. Up and back, most of the scenery was beautiful forests and farm fields dotted with lovely old farmhouses and barns.
On the way back, we stopped in the city of Tampere to have a proletarian meal at an old brewery and wander around. Tampere is the second largest urban area in Finland, and the most populous inland city of any Nordic country. It was once the center of Finnish industry, a history that can be seen in the many beautiful brick buildings and many sculptures celebrating the working people. (Above and below: Tampere)