• Mario Alberto Gonzalez Robert

Finland: Savitaipale

Finland during the summer was amazing; its natural landscapes full of incredible lakes in conjunction with its clear skies and warm weather make it a place close to true paradise, except for the huge amount of mosquitoes.

At first I arrived with my Spanish friend in Helsinki and we were hosted by one of my friends I met while studying in Spain a few years before. We did a lot of sightseeing and my Finnish friend made sure we got an authentic experience of his country by inviting us on the first day to a sauna, which at first I thought would be a big public style of sauna but instead was a small one at the office where he worked. He explained to us that in Finland they have saunas everywhere and it is not uncommon to have one at the office for the people working there, to relax. He started the heater and we went outside for a while to play a Finnish game called “mölkky” which I found very fun. Basically he told us that our experience couldn’t be more Finnish than that. He also invited us to go to the filming of a zombie short film scene past midnight but after all the exhaustion of the trip and the amazing relaxation the sauna provides, we simply couldn’t make it.

I spent there only a few days and then I stayed at the home of a couple in a small town called Savitaipale, not very far from the Russian border. It was all surrounded by beautiful forests and hundreds of stunning lakes everywhere, where we could swim and refresh from the warm temperatures of summer. They had a huge garden where we had almost every day barbecue meals, many of them which I prepared Mexican style.

The main thing I helped them with was the firewood for the sauna and winter, as well as some loan mowing and animal feeding, because they had some sheep and two calves. One day I was removing some blue plastic protections they had put on all the trees of their backyard forest when they were still small, which helped them have some protection at first but now were mainly trash and needed to be taken away. That day the weather was really hot but the amount of mosquitoes and horseflies was so huge and annoying that I had to wear a long sleeved jacket and a hat with a net covering my face as well as gloves, because there were some nettles lying around everywhere as well. I looked so funny, my hostess laughed and asked me to take me a picture which, of course, I agreed.

On another day we decided to go to a lake with some other friends and I would go back home by bike so my hostess was showing me the way to go back. I noticed a red farm with white rims where I had to make a turn and the rest of the way seemed pretty straightforward so I thought it would be fine. Later on, when everyone left to work and I went on my way back home, I realized that most farms are painted red and white and look exactly the same, that, added to the fact that I started my way on a different path from the one we took on our way in, made me get completely lost and after about four hours of wandering around, I received a call from my hostess asking me if everything was fine to which I answered that I was pretty lost but I knew my way back to the lake so if her partner could pick me up there, it would be very good. He arrived in a short time and we headed back home, they both apologized a lot saying it was irresponsible from them to let me go back alone but I kept telling them it was completely my fault and besides, nothing bad happened at all, I even got to explore more of the beautiful surroundings and get a fair amount of exercise.

Close to my departure date, a good friend I made there invited me out for the night to hang out at the only two bars in town and after that, pretty late during night, we went with a couple of her friends to a small cottage in the town’s lake . It was already close to sunrise because over there in summer the night is quite short, they were all pretty drunk, the guy suddenly disappeared and his girlfriend said he would be going to get the boat and we would meet at the docks. After a few minutes he came, we hopped on and started a slow ride through the lake, colored by the sun rising sky, enjoying the soft but chilly wind (well I was kind of freezing). We got to a tiny island with a single cottage and while heating up the sauna we got ourselves into some fishing to see if we could get some breakfast or at least just some fun while we waited, so I got back on the boat with the guy and we left the girls on the island, each trying to catch something and while we were away having some nice deep conversations.

He was showing me how to fish because I had only tried it once before and it was a different style of doing it, two fish bit the bait but after pulling trying to get them out, they escaped. When we went back, we found out the girls had caught a small one, although we had the suspicion that they had taken it from one of the fishermen’s nets nearby.

When the sauna was ready we enjoyed several sessions of heat followed by a cold dip in the water until we were tired and relaxed, later they had the idea to grill the fish on the stones of the sauna which gave off a horrific scent making the fish inedible, however, they tried to make it better putting some sugar on it… then one of them tried it just to prove that it was, in fact, disgusting.

It was already the next day’s morning and I was exhausted therefore I went inside the small kind of living room next to the sauna, lay on the couch and took a small nap after watching my friend falling asleep on the bench outside while texting and in the meantime, the couple went to the sauna again to do what couples do… rocking the place so hard I thought it was going to fall down, but without any energy to even care, I went back to sleep.

When I woke up, everyone was ready to go back home so we cleaned everything and left on the boat again, enjoying this time of a little bit warmer weather.

One cool thing I also remember was that one day there was a storm and while I was reading on my bed, at the small cottage where I stayed, I suddenly saw everything illuminate in white like a strong flash, felt everything shake and heard something like an explosion follow it. I then came out to see what happened and ask about it to my hosts and they told me it was a thunder that struck in the garden, right in between the house and the cottage and we began then to look for some damage and check the animals which were all perfectly fine, just a bit scared.

The sheep were pretty funny, some of the baby ones liked to jump like goats and go on top of their mothers which made us laugh quite a lot. They were usually separated from the calves and had the bigger place, in the backyard forest. One day my hostess decided to put them together to make them get used to each other because later on the plan was to have them all in the same area. Panic was unleashed amongst them, the calves were terrified, the older sheep as well and the baby ones curious and approaching the calves which tried to run away as fast and far as possible. Moreover, one of the sheep decided not to follow the group at the beginning so it stayed in the other area, separated from the rest and the yelling caused by that big drama was hilarious. After just a few hours, they were put back in their space and all was fine again.

Sunset in lake in Savitaipale

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