Due to Dimitris love for trailrunning, I find myself ending up in beautiful new places and meeting interesting people over the past year. Last month it was Finland I discovered and it was quit a "meet cute"...
“In film and television, a meet cute is a scene in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time.
The term has existed since at least the early 1940s.”
Dimitris had signed up for the Nuuksio Ultra Trail, a race of 70km at the Nuuksio National park just outside of Helsinki. It would be his first time ever to run this (crazy) distance and I had never visited Finland before. Two very good reasons to join him on his journey. On top of that: Finland is the homecountry of our very dear friend Lotta. So we decided to go to the race and stay for an extra week to meet her as well.
We spend the first weekend at Hotelli Nuuksio, the starting point of the race. Less than 30 minutes outside of Helsinki and positioned at the edge of the Nuuksio National park. A dense beautiful forest started right in front of the hotel. Trails covered in roots, joined by slippery rocks, tons of moss and surrounded by tall trees. In between you could find blueberry bushes and many mushrooms popping up. At 6 o'clock in the morning Dimitris started while the sun was rising. It took him in total 9 hours to finish this amazing 70km trail and he loved it. Still fit after finishing, we stayed the entire day welcoming even the last runner at the finish line. You can read Dimitris' personal experiences in this article.
After leaving this magical place and turning north towards Jyväskylä, we soon discovered that Finland exists completely out of forest and lakes. Only 5 million people live in this huge country. Helsinki is the biggest city and yet it is home to only 600.000 people. As soon as you exit the city, you hit those huge forests and vast lakes. There is so much space and nature. And the locals are used to it. I have never been in a country in Europe where it is such part of the culture to be in nature. You will find small cabins and campsites, free to use, everywhere. While I was walking through the forests, I met old people who where hiking, families with kids carrying their camp equipment on their backs to stay the night, people of my age, roaming between the trees. In Finland it is part of life to go into the nature on your spare time. Everybody is used to it from a very early age.
Of course we also encountered the real Finnish tradition: the sauna. At the cottage we had rented, a separate small house was build at the shore of the lake containing a small room with a fireplace and a couch, next to it the sauna running on woods and a porch overlooking the lake. Lotta could tell us all about how it works. Finnish people are often described as a bit cold and distant. Hugging isn’t the most common thing to see, let’s put it like that. But when it comes to sauna… That is a whole different story. There you will visit the sauna all together and you will squeeze next to each other to fit in. Don’t look weird when you will have a thigh pressed up against you. Or someone taking his seat on the bench below you, in between your legs, while being completely naked. This is normal. I guess ‘prudishness’ does not exist in their dictionary.
We spend an evening heating up in the sauna and cooling off outside. Lotta even persuaded us to take a dip in the cold lake. I was reluctant at first and just watched her going into the sereen water while the full moon was rising above the trees. But well: I could not turn down such a unique experience and I followed her. We were the only once out and the moon provided enough light to see the wrinkles we made in the water while the rest of the lake was still completely still.
Finland was magical and charming. We received such a warm welcome and enjoyed the beauty of the country intensely. It was an experience I will always remember.