Late March this year, I went to Finland for 3 days over the weekend. As a first-timer, I was not expecting so much snow and ice this late in Winter. We had two sunny days, slightly above 0 degrees celsius. The third day was all snowy.
I got to visit Helsinki and Tampere, the two major cities of the country. I found these two cities incredibly empty, in terms of population. The country has only 5.5 million inhabitants. The artichecture is rather different than that we have in France, yet familiar. The cities were pretty small. I wished I could have gone out of cities to explore the countryside. Next time probably.
A few fun facts and pro tips
A weekend was more than enough to spot major differences between Finland... and the rest of the world.
R-kioski is to Finland what 7-eleven is to the USA. In other words, R-kioski stores are everywhere (I even found 2 or 3 stores inside the very same train station in Helsinki, separated from one another by a few meters).
Almost every house with more than one floor has its own wall ladder that reaches the roof. From what I heard it is used to remove snow in Winter.
Also, most houses have two doors and double windows, to protect them from the cold.
Public announcements are given in English on the train line that connects Tampere and Helsinki. I believe all main train lines have public announcements in English. Also, the train to Tampere is pretty cheap, I paid 18 euros for a one-way ride.
To get to the city center from the airport, ride the I or P train for about half an hour. You'll find the train station undeground, underneath the airport.
I was told that the sea shore and all lakes are completely frozen from December until April every year. Frozen to the point that people do activities on lakes, such as skiing, riding snowmobiles or four wheelers, ice skating, walking their dog, sledding, biking, and even kiteboarding (true story!). I also witnessed a smallplow that was making a road on the ice for bikes to ride.
There is a showerhead connected to sinks in every bathroom, apparently used to... better wash one's ass, after wiping it.
Oh, and saunas are a major thing there...
Nice places to check out
- Sibelius Monument
- Market Square
- Senate Square
- Helsinki Cathedral
- Uspenski Cathedral
- Temppeliaukio Church
- Kamppi Chapel
- St John's Church (though I did not get to go inside)
- Mikael Agricola Church (did not go inside either)
- Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (did not either)
For sushi lovers, check out "Fuku", close to the train station: amazing buffet!
- Tampere Orthodox Church
- Tampere Cathedral
- Näsinneula Observation Tower